Lions, Leopards, Unicorns & Dragons: The first “Regional” stamps

The current exhibition in the BPMA’s Search Room, Lions, Leopards, Unicorns & Dragons: The first “Regional” stamps, closes on 4th April. The exhibition follows the creation and development – from original artwork and unadopted designs, through to the final issues – of Britain’s first regional stamps.

The stamps were issued in August and September 1958 although the idea for regional stamps had first been discussed shortly after the end of the Second World War. Although the main feature on the stamps was still the portrait of the Queen by Dorothy Wilding, heraldic and floral emblems were used to distinguish stamps for the different regions:

The stamps for Guernsey (including Alderney and Sark) show the Guernsey Lily and William the Conqueror’s crown.

Guernsey 2.5d stamp  Guernsey 3d stamp

Jersey’s stamp features the Island Mace and the Arms of Jersey.

Jersey 2.5d stamp Jersey 3d stamp

The Isle of Man stamp shows the Three Legs on a Shield (the Arms of the Kingdom of Man), and the ring-chain pattern characteristic of the Manx runic crosses.

Isle of Man 2.5d stamp Isle of Man 3d stamp

The Welsh design principally featured the Welsh dragon (passant), but the “Leek in flower” was also incorporated into the design.

Welsh 3d stamp Welsh 6d stamp Welsh 1s3d stamp

There were problems creating the Northern Ireland definitives because of a lack of symbols representative of Ulster that weren’t undesirable features of political significance. Five symbols were eventually chosen:

  • the Red (right) Hand of Ulster
  • the Arms of Northern Ireland (without supporters)
  • the six-pointed Crowned Star with the Red Hand
  • the Flax Plant (with or without leaves)
  • a Field Gate with typical Ulster pillars

Northern Ireland 3d stamp Northern Ireland 6d stamp Northern Ireland 1s3d stamp

For Scotland, it was suggested that heraldic symbols should be used in the designs. These were:

  • Crowned Thistle (Scottish Crown)
  • Saltire (may be environed of an open crown)
  • Lion Rampant (in a tressured shield)
  • Sejeant lion (on or off a crown or part of him holding both sword & sceptre)
  • Unicorn (Crowned, may be collared and chained)
  • Any or all of the Honours of Scotland (Regalia with crown, sword, sceptre and cushion if desired)

Also suggested were Pictish or Celtic symbols and designs, and the national floral emblem of the thistle. The issued designs contained a mix of these suggestions.

Scotland 3d stamp Scotland 6d stamp

For further information on the first regional British stamps, including unadopted artwork, please see the Lions, Leopards, Unicorns & Dragons online exhibition.

You can view the Lions, Leopards, Unicorns & Dragons exhibition by visiting the BPMA Search Room. The Search Room is open weekdays from 10.00am – 5.00pm, and until 7.00pm on a Thursday. A special Saturday opening of the Search Room will take place on 4th April 2009, from 10.00am – 5.00pm.

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