Tag Archives: vehicles

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.

Stories from the Store

Last week we invited the public to venture off the beaten track and explore the treasures of our Museum Store at a special after-hours event as part of Museums at Night 2013.

Our Museum Store houses a wonderful collection of the BPMA’s larger exhibits including vehicles and letter boxes. These objects and the stories they tell were brought to life by the Big Wheel Theatre Company in the guise of a suffragette “human letter” and a World War I soldier postman.

Visitors also had the chance to get crafty in workshops with Craft Guerrilla, see our new “Blitz Hill Box”, which contains artefacts from World War II, and indulge in some tea-party style refreshments. Scroll down to view photos from the night.

Before Museums at Night we asked you to guess ‘What’s in the suitcase?’ All was revealed at our Stories from the Store event on Thursday 16 May.

Before Museums at Night we asked you to guess ‘What’s in the suitcase?’ All was revealed at our Stories from the Store event on Thursday 16 May.

The suitcase opened to reveal the story of how the post office went to war. In 1939 the General Post Office was the biggest employer in the country. It played a vital role to keep communication going on the home front and abroad.

The suitcase opened to reveal the story of how the post office went to war. In 1939 the General Post Office was the biggest employer in the country. It played a vital role to keep communication going on the home front and abroad.

Two visitors explore the suitcase, and share their memories of the ‘Save for Victory’ campaign. This public appeal encouraged people to save for the war effort.

Two visitors explore the suitcase, and share their memories of the ‘Save for Victory’ campaign. This public appeal encouraged people to save for the war effort.

Throughout the event stories from the postal past were brought to life by Roland and George from the Big Wheel Theatre Company.

Throughout the event stories from the postal past were brought to life by Roland and George from the Big Wheel Theatre Company.

Roland and George enlisted help from the audience to tell the story of the ‘human letter’. In 1909 two suffragettes ‘posted’ themselves to 10 Downing Street.

Roland and George enlisted help from the audience to tell the story of the ‘human letter’. In 1909 two suffragettes ‘posted’ themselves to 10 Downing Street.

The suffragettes took advantage of a clause in the postal regulations which allowed an individual to be delivered by express delivery. Their aim was to gain publicity for the campaign to gain the vote for women.

The suffragettes took advantage of a clause in the postal regulations which allowed an individual to be delivered by express delivery. Their aim was to gain publicity for the campaign to gain the vote for women.

An audience member takes on the role of the unwitting post boy charged with delivering his human letters to the prime minster.

An audience member takes on the role of the unwitting post boy charged with delivering his human letters to the prime minster.

The suffragettes were intercepted by a police constable who insisted the ‘letter’ had to be returned to the office of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

The suffragettes were intercepted by a police constable who insisted the ‘letter’ had to be returned to the office of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

After all that acting, our visitors were invited to a tea party, with complimentary refreshments served by Hannah, our glamorous Community Learning Officer.

After all that acting, our visitors were invited to a tea party, with complimentary refreshments served by Hannah, our glamorous Community Learning Officer.

Craft Guerilla were also on hand stitching up a storm, helping visitors sew their own suffragette rosette.

Craft Guerilla were also on hand stitching up a storm, helping visitors sew their own suffragette rosette.

Visitors could also wander amongst our collection and discover more stories from the store.

Visitors could also wander amongst our collection and discover more stories from the store.

Before home time there was one more performance from Roland, telling the story of the Post Office Rifles regiment in the First World War.

Before home time there was one more performance from Roland, telling the story of the Post Office Rifles regiment in the First World War.

We run regular tours of the Museum Store but these sell out quickly. More tickets will be available next week so keep checking our website for details.

Fawley Hill Steam and Vintage Weekend

Last weekend we went to the Fawley Hill Steam and Vintage Weekend, Henley on Thames. We took our 1927 Mail Rail car to the Weekend to raise awareness about our exciting plans to open a new postal museum in 2016.

The Weekend took place on Sir William McAlpine’s private grounds. Entertainment included a biplane flyover, traction engines, models, vintage buses, Morris dancers and a ‘heritage’ steam-driven fairground. Below are some we took at the event. You can find more photos on Flickr.

BPMA Campaign Director Jeanette talking to guests about our plans to turn Mail Rail into a visitor attraction.

BPMA Campaign Director Jeanette talking to guests about our plans to turn Mail Rail into a visitor attraction.

Camels dressed up in their finery, waiting for the afternoon race.

Camels dressed up in their finery, waiting for the afternoon race.

A Morris man dons an animal costume from a by-gone era.

A Morris man dons an animal costume from a by-gone era.

‘Boris’ the polar bear was on display: a life-size sculpture cast entirely in bronze, created to highlight the plight of polar bears.

‘Boris’ the polar bear was on display: a life-size sculpture cast entirely in bronze, created to highlight the plight of polar bears.

An old-fashioned gypsy caravan.

An old-fashioned gypsy caravan.

Display of wartime ephemera.

Display of wartime ephemera.

Pre-1970s Brabham Formula 1 racing car.

Pre-1970s Brabham Formula 1 racing car.

This steam driven fairground is over 100 years old.

This steam driven fairground is over 100 years old.

Flyover from a vintage biplane.

Flyover from a vintage biplane.

A vintage steamroller on the move.

A vintage steamroller on the move.

Pillar Box Perfection – Open Day at the Museum Store

Here at the British Postal Museum and Archive we are firm believers in hugging pillar boxes. Why, you ask? Because not only does it show your love for their intriguing history and vast variation in design of course, but it can reveal something very important about their story…

Join us on Saturday 6th April, 10am-4pm as we open the doors of our museum store to reveal some of these fascinating tales. There will be a range of activities for all ages to celebrate this British icon – the pillar box.

Pillar boxes at the Museum Store.

Pillar boxes at the Museum Store.

What can you do on the day?

Talks

We will be running a series of ‘spotlight’ talks, where you can hear about the stories behind some of our favourite pillar boxes. Highlights include one of the earliest boxes trialled on the Channel Islands and the ‘Penfold’. Why did Liverpool request a ‘special’ box? What indeed will you learn from hugging a pillar box? Come and find out more, with our staff on hand to introduce you to the wonderful world of pillar boxes!

Our curators will give you a quick introduction to pillar boxes.

Our curators will give you a quick introduction to pillar boxes.

Have a browse

Take a walk down ‘pillar box alley’ or take a look at our fleet of postal service vehicles illustrating the long history of moving the mail in a self led exploration of the collection. BPMA staff will also be on hand to answer questions.

Postal vehicles at the Museum Store.

Postal vehicles at the Museum Store.

Especially for families….

Trail

Past and present, the pillar box has played an important role in a process which has had a remarkable impact on the lives of many – communicating through letters! But what journey does a letter take from it leaving the hands of the sender to it being popped on the door mat of the receiver? Find out by having a go at our trail around the store! Hunt for objects and solve puzzles to reveal this amazing journey.

Here is a teaser from the trail – but you’ll have to come to the store to find out the mystery object!

Can you identify the mystery object?

Can you identify the mystery object?

Craft Activity

Get creative by designing and making your own pillar box! Celebrate the important role it played in the letter sending journey by designing it to hold your important letters – maybe it could store your post cards or letters from pen pals!

What will your pillar box hold? What about your post cards?

This post card from our collection was never delivered, perhaps the rather upset writer of the card received their trotters just before feeling the need to send it!

Tripe but but no trotters - an everyday postcard from the 1890s.(2010-0426/27)

Tripe but but no trotters – an everyday postcard from the 1890s.(2010-0426/27)

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday 6th April at the museum store!

Pillar Box Perfection is a free event taking place at The British Postal Museum Store, Essex, on 6 April 2013. See our website for more information and travel advice.

Postal Vehicles

When people come on one of our Museum Store tours they often remark on the wide range of postal vehicles we have in our collection. The vehicles we care for range from bicycles and motorcycles to large delivery vans.

Today’s Royal Mail vehicles fleet is sourced for a small number of suppliers, but in the early days a great many manufacturers were used. It would be impossible for us to collect and maintain an example of every different type, but we do have photographic records and other material related to many of these vehicles in the Royal Mail Archive.

Recently we uploaded a small number of photographs showing some unusual and interesting postal vehicles to our Flickr site. Amongst these are the first motor vehicle used for mails in Scotland and a Motor Parcel Coach, both dating from circa 1908.

First motor vehicle used for mails in Scotland, c. 1908. (POST 118/5725)

First motor vehicle used for mails in Scotland, c. 1908. (POST 118/5725)

Also of interest are postal vehicles in interesting settings, such as the General Post Office (GPO) trolley basket parked at the base of the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway in Devon and a Postbus parked near spectacular cliffs on the coast of Barra in the Outer Hebrides.

Lynmouth cliff railway and General Post Office trolley basket, Devon. (POST 118/1300)

Lynmouth cliff railway and General Post Office trolley basket, Devon. (POST 118/1300)

Finally, petrolheads may be interested in several images from the GPO repair shop in Harrow showing mechanics at work servicing vehicles.

For more on postal vehicles see our online exhibition Moving the Mail.

Open Day with the Post Office Vehicle Club

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Post Office Vehicle Club (POVC) whose members document, preserve and operate a wide range of postal and telephones vehicles. On Saturday 15th September there is a rare opportunity to see some these vehicles exhibited alongside items from our own collection at an Open Day at our Museum Store in Debden, Essex.

The Museum Store is where we house our larger exhibits, including letter boxes, sorting equipment, furniture and vehicles. Until we are able to provide a full museum experience at our new home at Calthorpe House the Museum Store offers the only opportunity to get up close to our collection. We run regular guided tours of the Store but these are very popular and only a few tickets are available for the remainder of this year. The Open Day will offer a great opportunity to see items from our collection as well as some of the vehicles preserved by POVC members.

Morris series Z telephone utility in original wartime colours with blackout markings.

Morris series Z telephone utility in original wartime colours with blackout markings.

On display will be 18 vehicles from POVC members including a wartime Morris series Z GGY 20 telephone utility (in original wartime colours, complete with blackout markings), the unique Commer Avenger/Harrington mobile telegraph unit SLO 24, a newly restored Minivan mailvan PTV 231M, and a Bedford HA mailvan KCJ 759P. A selection of Morris Minors and BSA Bantam telegram motorcycles are expected, while two Morris JB mailvans from the 1950s are promised along with a restored Dodge Spacevan television detector van CNJ 423T in arctic blue livery.

Dodge Spacevan television detector van in arctic blue livery.

Dodge Spacevan television detector van in arctic blue livery.

The Open Day with the Post Office Vehicle Club is a free event to which all are welcome. For the enthusiast there will be illustrated presentations from POVC members and our Curator Julian Stray, whilst children will be able to enjoy a range of family-friendly activities.

Pillar boxes at our Museum Store in Essex.

Pillar boxes at our Museum Store in Essex.

For further details of the event and information on how to get to the Museum Store, please see our website.