Artwork and other material related to King George V definitive stamps has now been made available on our website. During George V’s 26 year reign (1910-1936) only three definitive designs were issued – the Downey Head, the Mackennal (or Profile) Head and the Seahorse High Values. Our webpages include material related to these three issues, with separate webpages devoted to the First Designs (1910) and the Photogravure designs (1933-36).
Barnett Freedman’s design for a proposed photogravure 7d or 8d value, November 1935. (GV-13-24)
For those with a special interest in stamps from the George V era there are links from these webpages to further material on our online catalogue.
Visit www.postalheritage.org.uk/kgv-definitives to see the new webpages.
Posted in Archive, Catalogue, Collection, Philatelic
Tagged Barnett Freedman, Bertram Mackennal, definitive stamps, Downey head, George V, high value definitives, King George V, philately, photogravure, profile head, Royal Mail Archive, seahorses, stamp design, stamp designs, stamps
As part of our continuing series of events on themes related to George V, the BPMA’s Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will give a free talk next month on the work of Bertram Mackennal. Mackennal was a noted sculptor who designed coins, stamps and medals during the reign of George V. Douglas Muir’s talk will include images from the Royal Philatelic Collection and the Royal Mint as well as the BPMA, together with examples of Mackennal’s work in sculpture.
The unpopular “Downey Head” (left), the frame of which was designed by Bertram Mackennal and G.W. Eve. George V disliked the three-quarter profile and the replacement “Profile Head” (right) was issued the following year. The “Profile Head” effigy of George V was designed by Mackennal and the frame by Eve.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1863, Edgar Bertram Mackennal received his early training in sculpture from his Scottish immigrant father John Simpson Mackennal and at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School. At age 19 Mackennal left for Europe, where he undertook further study in London and Paris and began to be commissioned to produce reliefs, figures and busts.
Having completed a number of significant works in England, Australia and India, including statues of monarchs and other notable persons, Mackennal was commissioned to design the medals for the 1908 London Olympic Games. Two years later, when George V ascended the throne, Mackennal was commissioned to prepare an effigy of the King for coins and medals. The Post Office was also keen to employ Mackennal to work on the new definitive stamps, and although initially reluctant, Mackennal agreed.
The popular Seahorses design depicts Britannia being driven through the sea on a chariot pulled by three horses. In her hands are a trident and a shield bearing the Union Jack. Mackennal took inspiration from Greek and Roman depictions of chariot races for this design.
Mackennal was involved in the design of all definitive stamp issues during the reign of George V, including the much-loved Seahorses design. Originally issued by the Post Office on 30th June 1913 this design was seen as revolutionary for its time, being the first British stamp to bear a pictorial illustration alongside the monarch’s head and the value. In many ways it can be said to be the pre-cursor to the first British commemorative stamp, issued to celebrate the opening of the British Empire Exhibition 11 years later.
Douglas Muir’s talk on Bertram Mackennal will take place on Thursday 7 October at the BPMA. Information on how to book can be found on our website. Tickets are free.
Douglas Muir’s book George V and the GPO: Stamps, Conflict & Creativity is available from the BPMA online shop.
Posted in Events, London 2010, Philatelic
Tagged Bertram Mackennal, British Empire Exhibition, coins, commemorative stamps, definitive stamps, Douglas Muir, Downey head, George V, London Olympics, medals, National Gallery of Victoria Art School, profile head, Royal Philatelic Collection, sculpture, seahorses, stamp design, stamps
by Stuart Aitken, Collections Assistant
The entire collection of King George V registration sheets is now fully accessible on our online catalogue. Registration sheets, often imperforate, exist as the very first prints taken from the printing plate for each stamp in sheet form. The collection consists of 1,027 sheets in total.
The reign of King George V (6th May 1910 – 20th January 1936) marked one of the most fascinating eras of British postage stamps; a period of change, progression and vast improvements with stamp production. The King himself was a proud philatelist so it is no great surprise that such diversity and experimentation occurred during this time.
2½d Downey Head 1911
The first King George V stamps, the ½d and 1d Downey Head, released on the 22nd June 1911 to coincide with the King’s coronation, immediately faced a storm of criticism as it was the first time a three-quarter profile of the monarch had been used (up to this stage all Great Britain issues had previously used a side-on profile). It was also argued that the use of a typographed image from a photograph had not been hugely successful. Consequently the Downey Head was replaced in August 1912 by the designs of Bertram Mackennal, which saw a return to the profile head. Since the Downey issues, all Great Britain stamps have used a profile head design.
½d Photogravure 1935
In 1934 a new design for definitive issues was introduced which was printed using the Photogravure process. Utilising high-speed production and at a lower cost, these stamps underwent subtle resizing and modifications over the years to allow improvements. Information such as this can be found in the description field of each catalogue entry, along with a scanned section of each sheet.
1d British Empire Exhibition 1924
The first British commemorative stamps were also issued during the reign of King George V to mark the 1924/25 Empire Exhibition at Wembley, featuring a Lion in a striking stance. Following this issue other commemorative issues were subsequently produced to mark the 1929 London Postal Union Congress and the 1935 Silver Jubilee of the King.
Also included in the collection are registration sheets of the high value Seahorse issues, the first ever postage due stamps, colour trials, black proof sheets and official governmental overprints relating to their official use in various British territories outside the UK.
Each catalogue entry in the collection is detailed, comprehensible and provides a great research tool and insight into this unique collection of British registration sheets.
Posted in Catalogue, Collection, Philatelic
Tagged Bertram Mackennal, British Empire Exhibition, Downey head, George V, online catalogue, philately, photogravure, postage stamps, Postal Union Congress, profile head, registration sheets, seahorses, Silver Jubilee, stamps
Today is National Stamp Day, marking the anniversary of the world’s first postage stamp, the penny black, first issued 170 years ago; today also marks the 100th anniversary of the accession of King George V – the philatelist king. In celebration, and to mark London 2010 Festival of Stamps, Royal Mail has issued a new miniature sheet.
The Accession of King George V miniature sheet
The Accession of King George V miniature sheet features a 1st Class stamp and a £1 stamp.
The 1st Class stamp features the familiar Machin profile of Queen Elizabeth II, superimposed over the profile of George V, designed by the Australian sculptor Bertram Mackennal and used on stamps from 1912-1936 (known as the “profile head”).
The £1 stamp shows the Mackennal profile on the right, while the left hand side shows the three quarter profile of George V engraved by JAC Harrison from a photograph by W & D Downey, the court photographers. Known as the “Downey head”, this profile was used on the first definitive stamps of George V’s reign, until the Mackennal head supplanted it in 1912. These are contained within wreaths with a crown centre top and a couchant lion on the lower edge.
The border of the miniature sheet features a detail inspired by the engraving of St George and the Dragon by Bradbury Wilkinson & Co from the 1929 ninth Universal Postal Union Congress stamps.
Two pictorial First Day of Issue postmarks are available; one features the George V crown, the other George V’s cipher.
The Accession of King George V first day of issue postmarks
The Accession of King George V miniature sheet is available from Royal Mail.
More information on the Downey and profile heads, and the commemorative stamps issued during the reign of George V can be found on our website.
Posted in London 2010, Philatelic
Tagged Bertram Mackennal, Bradbury Wilkinson & Co, Downey head, Elizabeth II, George V, JAC Harrison, London 2010: Festival of Stamps, Machin, miniature sheet, National Stamp Day, penny black, Philatelic, philately, postage stamps, Postal Union Congress 1929, profile head, Royal Mail, stamp collecting, W & D Downey