Tag Archives: British stamps

Auditing the Stamp Artwork Collection

The Philatelic team is busy auditing the BPMA’s post 1985 stamp artwork collection, in preparation for its move to a new storage facility. 

We are half way through checking the location and housing conditions of approximately 12,000 pieces of adopted and unadopted artwork. Every piece of artwork must be packed safely to prevent damage during transit and location control must be maintained so that nothing is lost.

An unadopted design by Ralph Steadman for Appearance of Halley’s Comet, 1986.

An unadopted design by Ralph Steadman for Appearance of Halley’s Comet, 1986.

The collection, which includes pieces by David Gentleman, Quentin Blake and David Hockney, comprises artwork across a range of forms and sizes including photographs, paintings, drawings, transparencies, digital images and plaster casts.

The stamp artwork collection is diverse in its subject matter and style, and it is intriguing to see how different artists have tackled the same subject. The proposed designs for the Appearance of Halley’s Comet issue, for example,  include scientific illustrations; images of the comet passing over earth in 684, 1066, 1301 and 1910; and bold, cartoon style artwork by Ralph Steadman – four designs of which were chosen for the 1986 issue. One can imagine the debates behind the final selection.

Boxes of stamp artwork in storage at Christie’s.

Boxes of stamp artwork in storage at Christie’s.

Our new home at Calthorpe House will allow us to showcase this fascinating design history resource, which, as yet, has been largely unseen by the public.

- Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

Classic Locomotives of Wales Miniature Sheet released

Today marks the release of the last in the series of four Miniature Sheets that began in England in 2011: Classic Locomotives of Wales Miniature Sheet. The Scotland Miniature was released in 2012 and Northern Ireland in 2013. The Classic Locomotives series pays tribute to the stream locomotives, assets to the railways before diesel and electric technology completely took over in the 1960s.

Classic Locomotives of Wales - First Day Cover.

Classic Locomotives of Wales – First Day Cover.

The earliest railways in Wales were built for commercial and industrial purposes and served collieries and smelting works. Classic Locomotives of Wales features steam locomotives used on the public railway network and  industrial settings.

LMS No.7720, 1st Class.

LMS No.7720, 1st Class.

W&LLR No. 822 The Earl, 88p.

W&LLR No. 822 The Earl, 88p.

BR 5600 No.5652, £1.28.

BR 5600 No.5652, £1.28.

Hunslet No.589 Blanche, 78p.

Hunslet No.589 Blanche, 78p.

All four Miniature Sheets and associated products, with the exception of the First Day Covers, are still available.

The Classic Children’s TV stamps can be ordered through royalmail.com/classiclocomotives and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in Post Office Branches across the UK.

Animals and Stamps

Animals have featured on British stamps at least once a year since 1960; either as the main focus of the issue or to symbolise cultural traditions. The recurrence of animals on stamps reveals their varied importance; as pets, as the focus of preservation campaigns, as sporting and working companions, in art and literature, in folklore, and as symbols of national values.

Depictions of animals on stamps from 1911 until the 1960s were often symbolic promotions of the strength of the Empire. In 1924 a lion represented the British Empire’s power; in 1929 a horse alluded to medieval chivalry; in 1946 a dove represented peace; and in 1948 a cart horse signified a perceived return to a pastoral ideal in liberated Jersey.

Channel Island Liberation, 1948.

Channel Island Liberation, 1948.

The 1960s saw a continuation of animal symbolisation, for example a squirrel happily embodied the message of a 1961 Post Office Savings Bank stamp. This decade also saw the first instance of animals as a stamp issue’s central theme with National Nature Week in 1963.

Post Office Savings Bank, 1961.

Post Office Savings Bank, 1961.

In the late 1970s a yearly animal routine was established, with British Wildlife 1977, Horses 1978 and Dogs 1979 issued successively, and this pattern has only increased in subsequent years, accompanied by the development of a number of themes.

Animal companionship is emphasised in issues such as the endearing Cats and Dogs 2001, Cats 1995, Dogs 1981 and Dogs 1979.

Cats and Dogs, 2001.

Cats and Dogs, 2001.

Conservation is advocated in issues such as Action for Species 2007 – 2010, World Wildlife Fund 2011, and the 1998 Endangered Species issue. The diversity of British species was explored in Sea Life 2007, Insects 2008 and Woodland Creatures 2004. The importance of animal welfare was championed in RSPCA 1990 and Battersea Dogs and Cats 2010.

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 2010.

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 2010.

World Wildlife Fund, 2011.

World Wildlife Fund, 2011.

Working Animals were the focus of issues such as All the Queen’s Horses 1997, Farm Animals 2005, and feature on the forthcoming Working Horses issue.

Farm Animals, 2005.

Farm Animals, 2005.

Birds of Prey 2003 featured astounding images of a barn owl and kestrel mid-flight, demonstrating wildlife photography techniques.

Birds of Prey, 2003.

Birds of Prey, 2003.

Animals’ connection with folklore was explored in Folklore 1981, which depicted love birds for Valentine’s Day and animal heads atop Medieval Mummers. Animals’ connection with superstition was explored in Good Luck 1991, which featured a magpie (spotting one, according to superstition, signifies impending sorrow, while seeing two means joy), a kingfisher (said to be able to forecast the weather) and a black cat (signifying good or bad luck, depending on who you ask). Cats and dogs rain from the sky in the 2001 issue Weather, in a nod to the traditional adage.

Weather, 2001.

Weather, 2001.

Images of birds symbolised migration in the 1999 Settlers’ Tale issue, and hope in the 1992 Protection of the Environment issue.

Settlers’ Tale, 1999.

Settlers’ Tale, 1999.

The prevalence of animals in British art, literature and theatre is demonstrated in issues such as Animal Tales 2006, Just So Stories 2002, Edward Lear 1988, Shakespeare Festival 1964 and British Paintings 1967.

Shakespeare Festival, 1964.

Shakespeare Festival, 1964.

This frequent return to animals in stamp design demonstrates the variety of ways in which we interact with animals and their varied role in cultural traditions.

 There are many, many more depictions of animals on stamps. Which is your favourite?

-Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

2013 Christmas stamp design competition : Winners announced

The winners of the 2013 Christmas stamp design competition have been announced today.

Christmas stamp 2013

‘Santa’, designed by Molly Robson aged 7 from West Sussex is to be featured on the first class Christmas stamps from 5th November 2013.

‘Santa’, designed by Molly Robson aged 7, from West Sussex, will be the 1st Class Christmas Stamp, and ‘Singing Angels’, by Rosie Hargreaves aged 10, from Devon, is to feature on the 2nd Class Christmas stamp. The winners will attend a prize-giving at Clarence House with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Royal Mail Chief Executive Officer, Moya Greene. The winning designs were chosen from over 240,000 entries received from children aged between four and eleven across the UK in response to the question ‘What does the Christmas season mean to you?’

This is only the third time in Royal Mail’s near 500-year history that children have designed the Christmas Stamps. The Prince of Wales led the judging panel that chose the winning designs. A new website has been launched for children, parents and teachers to view the entries submitted to the competition: www.royalmailstampcompetition.com.

Christmas stamp 2013

‘Singing Angels’, by Rosie Hargreaves aged 10 from Devon, is to feature on the second class Christmas stamp from 5th November 2013.

You can also find out more about the first ever Christmas stamps (which were also designed by children) at our website.

Dinosaurs

Today Royal Mail has issued 10 new stamps featuring Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs have not appeared on stamps since 1991 but as they are a perennially popular subject, especially with children, an examination of how they may have looked was considered to be a good topic for stamps. The stamp designs in this issue are printed such that the creatures ‘break out’ of the self-adhesive stamp frame, so there is not a clean straight edge to the stamp.

Over the past 200 years the fossilised remains of the skeletons of the dinosaurs featured in this issue have been found in the UK, mostly in southern Britain. The following dinosaurs feature on the stamps:

Polacanthus, 1st class.

Polacanthus, 1st class.

Ichthyosaurus, 1st class.

Ichthyosaurus, 1st class.

Iguanodon, 1st class.

Iguanodon, 1st class.

Ornithocheirus, 1st class.

Ornithocheirus, 1st class.

Baryonyx, 1st class.

Baryonyx, 1st class.

Dimorphodon, 1st class.

Dimorphodon, 1st class.

Hypsilophodon, 1st class.

Hypsilophodon, 1st class.

Cetiosaurus, 1st class.

Cetiosaurus, 1st class.

Megalosaurus, 1st class.

Megalosaurus, 1st class.

Plesiosaurus, 1st class.

Plesiosaurus, 1st class.

John Sibbick was the artist selected to produce the artwork for the Dinosaurs issue. He is one of the foremost illustrators of dinosaurs and has decades of experience. It was felt that Sibbick’s painterly approach gave a more detailed realisation of the animals than tests with computer generated imagery at stamp size.

Dr Angela Milner of the Natural History Museum, London, was the consultant for this issue, and advised on the species and the accuracy of the final images to be reproduced on stamps.

The Dinosaurs stamps can be ordered online at www.royalmail.com/dinosaurs and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in Post Office Branches across the UK.

Kings and Queens: Constructing a Legacy

The Kings and Queens series of stamps chronicles a 600 year history of British monarchy, from Henry VI in 1339 to Elizabeth II, and depicts portraits of each ruler in the houses of Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stewart, Stuart, Hanover, Saxe-Coburg and Windsor; an epic issue which was released over four years. This blog examines the legacy of two monarchs: Richard III and Lady Jane Grey. Evidence in the stamp issue reveals the construction of a history which legitimised the successive victor’s rule and propaganda which consolidated their power. This reconstructed past is still popularly bought into, highlighting the success of the original spin doctors.

The Houses of Lancaster and York stamps, issued 28 February 2008.

The Houses of Lancaster and York stamps, issued 28 February 2008.

Richard III: villain or victim? Opinion is split where this monarch is concerned due, in part, to successful Tudor propaganda. I ought to make clear that I do not wish to determine who was responsible for the infamous deaths of ‘the Princes in the Tower’ nor establish which monarch was most ‘wicked’ but to identify activities following Richard’s death which constructed an evil identity, actions which may have been orchestrated by the Tudors in order to legitimise their rule.

The animalisation of Richard in Shakespeare’s Richard III describes him as “spider”, “toad” and “hedgehog” in order to brutalise and dehumanise him; Richard’s “deformed” and “unfinished” physicality purportedly representing the monster within. Richard III was published during the reign of Elizabeth I, granddaughter of Richard’s conqueror. The play reinforced the Tudor lore that Henry VII swept away evil and brought justice to the land. Interestingly, a powerful patron of Shakespeare’s was Ferdinando Stanley; heir to the throne, following his mother, if Elizabeth died without issue. Ferdinando Stanley was a descendent of the brothers Thomas and William Stanley who had a reputation of playing for both sides in the Wars of the Roses and waited until the decisive victor of the Battle of Bosworth was clear until joining the Tudor forces. One might consider the plausibility of Stanley’s involvement in Shakespeare’s creation of monster-Richard in order to immortalize the role his family played in ensuring Tudor victory and retell their past Yorkist involvement in a more sympathetic light.

Richard III (1483-1485) stamp, issued 28 February 2008.

Richard III (1483-1485) stamp, issued 28 February 2008.

The portrait of Richard III used in the stamp issue was painted in around 1520, there is no surviving contemporary portrait of Richard, and has been the inspiration for most subsequent likenesses. X-ray analysis of the portrait reveals that the unevenness of the shoulders was a later addition. The painting was completed around four years after the birth of Henry VIII’s only child to that point: a daughter, Mary. This was a challenging time for the Tudors as stability was dependent on a line of male heirs. The negative portrayal of Richard III in this context is important as it reaffirmed the greatness of Tudor rule. One may imagine that the portrait was sent back to be made more hideous in order to further bolster the juxtaposition between the monstrous old rulers and virtuous Tudors.

Adding weight to the argument of Tudor propaganda is the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton; confirmed to be that of the monarch in 2013. The skeleton showed evidence of scoliosis and infers that Richard would have been quite stooped. This characteristic was exploited and enlarged in the Tudor period and Richard’s body transformed into a symbol of malignity, perhaps because successful lies are built on shreds of truth. Unfortunately the skeleton cannot prove or disprove John Rous’s assertion, made shortly after Richard’s death, that Richard was born with fully grown teeth and hair, but I am confident that this can be apportioned to Tudor monster making.

House of Tudor stamps, issued 21 April 2009.

House of Tudor stamps, issued 21 April 2009.

The Royal Mail press release for The House of Tudor issue describes the era as “marking the end of the Middle Ages [and]… the introduction of the Renaissance into England.” This simplistic statement is dependent on value judgements which reduce vast periods into categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Popular history buys into these sweeping judgements by maintaining the use of monarch’s nicknames such as Richard the Lionheart which denotes bravery and superiority. William I’s competing nicknames demonstrate the importance of victory to the construction of positive legacy as the nickname ‘William the Bastard’ vied with, and ultimately lost to, ‘William the Conqueror.’

Lady Jane Grey (1553) stamp, issued 21 April 2009.

Lady Jane Grey (1553) stamp, issued 21 April 2009.

Jane Grey, great granddaughter of Henry VII, was Queen for nine days in July 1553. On the stamp issue, and every website I found in a rudimental internet search, she is referred to as Lady Jane Grey; never Queen Jane. Regardless of how she became Queen, Queen she was. Regardless of the length of her reign, reign she did. That she is not remembered as Queen Jane reinforces the legacy of illegitimate rule. The ‘Lady’ title happily suits both historical identities constructed around Jane: either she was never the legitimate Queen hence she was only ever a Lady, or, the queenship was foisted upon the unsuspecting Jane hence she only ever wanted to be a Lady. Jane Grey is the only monarch in the series without the appropriate title. The maintenance of the ‘Lady’ title in the stamp issue compounds the identities most commonly attached to her: a pretender, seizing the position unjustly or a puppet, forced into power. The way that we refer to Jane Grey reveals perceptions regarding her personality which subsequently become accepted as fact.

Public memory of monarchs’ personalities is often constructed by their vanquishers through title, nickname, plays and portraits. This version of history belies complex events and their subsequent reconstruction. The Kings and Queens series is most interesting in the presentation of historical constructs which are accepted as fact but were carefully constructed historical fiction.

- Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

British Auto Legends

A new set of stamps issued today celebrates some of the most stylish and ‘cool’ British motor vehicles revered throughout the world. 2013 sees the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry Royce, motoring and aviation pioneer who founded Rolls-Royce with Charles Stewart Rolls. It is also the centenary of the founding of Aston Martin.

The stamp issue British Auto Legends explores two kinds of legendary cars – the thoroughbreds from the 1960s and 70s, many of which feature in experts’ lists of the greatest cars of all time, and four British workhorses – all classic and iconic vehicles.

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds

British Auto Legends - The Workhorses - 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail; Austin FX4, London Taxi; Ford Anglia, Police; Land Rover, Coastguard.

British Auto Legends – The Workhorses – 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail; Austin FX4, London Taxi; Ford Anglia, Police; Land Rover, Coastguard.

Superb examples of the six thoroughbreds were located in virtually factory fresh conditions, and all were photographed by the expert car photographer James Mann, involving specialist lighting and set up to capture the classic lines of the vehicles.

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - 1st Class: Jaguar E-Type, 1961

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – 1st Class: Jaguar E-Type, 1961

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - 1st Class: Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, 1965

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – 1st Class: Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, 1965

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - 1st Class: Aston Martin DB5, 1963

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – 1st Class: Aston Martin DB5, 1963

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - £1.28: MG MGB, 1962

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – £1.28: MG MGB, 1962

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - £1.28: Morgan Plus 8, 1968

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – £1.28: Morgan Plus 8, 1968

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - £1.28 Lotus Esprit, 1976

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – £1.28 Lotus Esprit, 1976

One of the workhorses, the Morris Minor van in Royal Mail livery, is the contribution to the PostEurop theme of 2013 (the Post Van).

British Auto Legends - The Workhorses - 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail

British Auto Legends – The Workhorses – 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail

For a country of such small geographical stature, Great Britain’s role in shaping the history of the automobile cannot be underestimated. From the kernel of the ‘horseless carriage’, grew an industry that once accounted for a quarter of the world’s car production and almost half of all vehicle exports. Today, car manufacturing remains a significant part of the British economy with several marques currently enjoying record sales. However, the road to prominence was littered with potholes.

An astonishing 221 firms entered the industry between 1901 and 1905. From this jumping off point, the British motor industry began to flourish, with the likes of Herbert Austin and William Morris applying mass production techniques as they bid to bring motoring to the masses. However, it was only after the end of Second World War that the UK truly became a car manufacturing powerhouse.

Initially afflicted by shortages of raw materials, the British motor industry soon found its feet as governmental controls channelled the supply of steel to firms that exported 50 per centlater 75 per cent – of production. The term ‘Export or Die’ was seared into the collective consciousness.

By contrast, France, Italy and Germany’s motor industries had suffered grievously and took considerably longer to recover from the conflict. British firms were all too happy to exploit this situation and export sales surged with demand in Europe, as well as North America, resulting in record production figures. Add in commonwealth countries where there was a ready-made market and it is little wonder that the British motor industry was in the driving seat.

Unfortunately, this situation could not last. A mixture of political intrigue, shotgun weddings between former rivals and union unrest served to bring the industry to its knees. Sell-offs and plant closures would become watchwords in decades to come, culminating in the collapse of MG Rover in 2005. Yet for all the pain and pratfalls, the British motor industry continued to build landmark classics while also creating and exploiting niche markets – this is the nation that invented the sports car after all.

Today, there are just seven volume producers and they are all foreign owned. Nevertheless, these and other, smaller manufacturers continue to build cars that appeal on the global stage; brands that marry style with ingenuity and quality with refinement.

The British Auto Legends stamps can be ordered online at www.royalmail.com/autolegends and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in Post Office Branches across the UK.