Tag Archives: BBC

Seasons greetings by radio

In the lead-up to Christmas we are sharing with you 12 Posters of Christmas, a dozen classic postal posters from the Royal Mail Archive. Today’s is…

Poster advertising radio telegram service; featuring a ship and the radio mast, November 1960. (POST 110/1406)

Poster advertising radio telegram service; featuring a ship and the radio mast, November 1960. (POST 110/1406)

Wireless or radio telegraphy was pioneered by Guglielmo Marconi and General Post Office (GPO) at the end of the 19th Century; we have previously blogged on its important role in saving lives after the Titanic disaster. While Marconi’s invention was originally implemented to transmit messages where a wired telegraph network did not exist (i.e. to ships at sea), radio was, of course, later used to broadcast information and entertainment (we have also previously blogged on the GPO’s involvement with the BBC and early broadcasting).

The above poster from 1960 advertises the GPO’s radio telegram service, where telegrams were sent overseas via a relay of on-shore transmitting stations and ships. International telephone calls were still prohibitively expensive in this period and telegrams were the most affordable option for anyone needing to send a quick message over long distances. This poster, which would have been a common site at local post offices, uses simple, stylish graphics to encourage the public to use this service at Christmas.

Our paintings on Your Paintings

The BPMA is the custodian of two main collections: the archive of the Royal Mail and the BPMA Museum Collection. The vast influence the postal industry has had in shaping British society, and the world, is reflected throughout our collections. They include photographs, films, ephemera, weapons, uniforms, vehicles, trains and letterboxes – and artwork, including a number of works in oil.

The subject matter of our oil paintings includes portraits of people who had a significant impact on postal services, such as past Postmaster Generals or Secretaries of the Post Office, as well of those of unnamed postal workers.

Portrait of a Postman (Alex Buchanan) by Thomas Patterson (2004-0077)

Portrait of a Postman (Alex Buchanan) by Thomas Patterson (2004-0077)

Specific historical events are depicted, such as the bombing of Mount Pleasant Parcel depot in the Second World War, while others are more general scenes of times past, including extensive representations of the Mail Coach era.

The Halfway House: A Mail Coach outside the 'Greyhounds Inn' by James Pollard (OB1995.519)

The Halfway House: A Mail Coach outside the ‘Greyhounds Inn’ by James Pollard (OB1995.519)

Changing transport methods, from the seas to the skies, and road to rails, is also captured in these works.

Mobile Post Office, Henley by Adrian Keith Graham Hill (POST 109/203)

Mobile Post Office, Henley by Adrian Keith Graham Hill (POST 109/203)

Landmark buildings – such as the GPO Tower and the old GPO building in the City of London – sit next to depictions of local post offices and more domestic scenes; the excitement of receiving a letter is portrayed more than once.

The Postman by Thomas Liddall Armitage (OBB 1997.5)

The Postman by Thomas Liddall Armitage (OBB 1997.5)

Recently our collection of oil paintings was made available on the Your Paintings website, a partnership between the BBC and the Public Catalogue Foundation which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings. Paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions appear on the site.

Visit the BPMA page on Your Paintings to see our collection of works in oil, or search the site to view postal-themed paintings from other institutions. We like Army Post Office 3, Boulogne by John Lavery from the Imperial War Museum, and Post Office, Port Sunlightby Keith Gardner from The Port Sunlight Museum. What’s your favourite?

30 Years of Postman Pat

Postman Pat has been a popular children’s TV series for 30 years. Today marks the show’s 30th anniversary; the first episode aired on BBC-1 on 16 September 1981.

The stop-motion animated series follows title character Pat Clifton on his daily rounds in the North of England. Pat is always accompanied by his black and white cat Jess, and he drives a red vehicle similar to those in Royal Mail’s real van fleet.

Postman Pat Book Toy (2002-616)

Postman Pat Book Toy (2002-616)

For much of Postman Pat‘s history the show was sponsored by Royal Mail, who saw the series as a marketing opportunity. When Royal Mail sponsorship of the programme ceased Pat became an employee of the fictional Special Delivery Service.

Within our collections are a number of items which reflect the breadth of Postman Pat merchandise produced. This includes games, books, toys and badges. Several items are from the Wilkinson Collection, a special collection of pillar box-related items collected by enthusiast Ian Wilkinson. Several badges show how Royal Mail used the Pat character to promote postcode use.

'Postman Pat says Please use your Post Code' Badge, 1982 (2002-618)

'Postman Pat says Please use your Post Code' Badge, 1982 (2002-618)

Today it was announced that a Postman Pat film will be made starring David Tennant, Rupert Grint, Jim Broadbent and Stephen Mangan, so expect to see more Postman Pat merchandise in the shops soon.

You can now see a selection of Postman Pat items from our collection on Flickr.

BPMA in the Lord Mayor’s Show

Those of us who participated in the Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday had a fantastic time. It was the first time our 1930s Mobile Post Office, GPO2, had been on the road in 30 years and its journey was undertaken without incident.

GPO2 in the parade. (Photo by Anne-Grethe Jensen)

GPO2 in the parade. (Photo by Anne-Grethe Jensen)

Staff and Friends of the BPMA along with a strong contingent from the Postal History Society walked alongside GPO2 carrying special umbrellas. The BPMA umbrellas will soon be on sale in our online shop.

Walking along with BPMA and Postal History Society umbrellas.

Walking along with BPMA and Postal History Society umbrellas.

Being cheered along by thousands of people was a unique experience, and from a museum point of view it was exciting to see the crowds point out the various details on GPO2, including the stamp vending machine advertising stamps for 1d.

The stamp vending machine and posting aperture, which are built into the side of GPO2.

The stamp vending machine and posting aperture, which are built into the side of GPO2.

Below are some photos taken by parade participants and those who watched us in the crowd. More photos can be found on Flickr. BPMA Friend Glenn Morgan has also uploaded some photos and videos to Flickr.

The BBC’s coverage of the Lord Mayor’s Show can be seen on BBC iPlayer (we appear about 45 minutes into the broadcast). Also available on iPlayer is a BBC London interview with our Curator Chris Taft about our participation in the event (fast forward 2 hours and 10 minutes to hear it).

In the cab and ready to roll: driver Clive and his son. In front: John from The Postal History Society, who dressed up in an old Post Office uniform.

In the cab and ready to roll: driver Clive and his son. In front: John from The Postal History Society, who dressed up in an old Post Office uniform.

Also in the parade were a number of black cabs from different eras.

Also in the parade were a number of black cabs from different eras.

Inspectors from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

Inspectors from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

One of several carnival groups.

One of several carnival groups.

Lions Club International had a huge inflatable Earth on their float.

Lions Club International had a huge inflatable Earth on their float.

The London Field Hospital move off in the parade.

The London Field Hospital move off in the parade.

The AA, with their fleet of old vehicles. Thankfully we didn’t need their assistance during the parade.

The AA, with their fleet of old vehicles. Thankfully we didn’t need their assistance during the parade.

This float was behind us in the parade. They sang the virtues of a new shopping centre in Cheapside the entire way – we still have their songs in our heads!

This float was behind us in the parade. They sang the virtues of a new shopping centre in Cheapside the entire way – we still have their songs in our heads!

Driving past the official party. (Photo by Peter Dare)

Driving past the official party. (Photo by Peter Dare)

The Lord Mayor’s Aide-de-Camp after he posted some mail in GPO2 on behalf of the Lord Mayor. In the stand above are the Lord Mayor and the rest of the official party.

The Lord Mayor’s Aide-de-Camp after he posted some mail in GPO2 on behalf of the Lord Mayor. In the stand above are the Lord Mayor and the rest of the official party.

There were big crowds watching the parade near St Pauls Cathedral, including many in specially erected stands.

There were big crowds watching the parade near St Pauls Cathedral, including many in specially erected stands.

The parade takes a lunch break in this side street off Aldwych.

The parade takes a lunch break in this side street off Aldwych.

Back on the road… A group representing Hong Kong.

Back on the road… A group representing Hong Kong.

Workers take a break from building Crossrail to watch the parade.

Workers take a break from building Crossrail to watch the parade.

This lady was happy to see us!

This lady was happy to see us!

We pass the Nomura building in St Martins-le-Grand, once the site of GPO Headquarters.

We pass the Nomura building in St Martins-le-Grand, once the site of GPO Headquarters.

The Lord Mayor’s Show 2010

The British Postal Museum & Archive are proud to announce that the 13th November 2010 will see one of the largest road vehicles in the BPMA collection, the Mobile Post Office GPO2 taking to the streets of London as part of the BPMA’s contribution to one of the longest established and best known annual events in London, the Lord Mayor’s Show. This contribution is in partnership with the Postal History Society who celebrate their 75th anniversary next year.

GPO publicity for the 1930s Mobile Post Office

GPO publicity for the 1930s Mobile Post Office

With over 6,000 participants, 200 vehicles, 21 carriages, 71 floats, 150 horses and 20 marching bands, the Lord Mayor’s Show is the largest parade of its kind with half a million people turning up to watch the parade and millions more watching on the BBC. It will provide the perfect opportunity to publicly showcase what we do here at the BPMA.

The parade will begin with a military flypast over Mansion House at 11am to celebrate the inaugural outing of the 683rd Lord Mayor of the City of London. The procession will then travel from Mansion House to St Paul’s Cathedral, where the new Lord Mayor is blessed by the Dean of St Paul’s before the procession carries on to the Royal Courts of Justice where the Lord Mayor swears an oath of allegiance to the sovereign before the Lord Chief Justice and Judges of the Queen’s Bench Division, as enshrined in the charter of King John (the original of which can be viewed at the Museum of London).

Ian Lider, Lord Mayor of London for the year 2008/9, waves from the State Coach on his way to swear loyalty to the Crown.

Ian Lider, Lord Mayor of London for the year 2008/9, waves from the State Coach on his way to swear loyalty to the Crown.

The procession then sets off at 1pm on the return journey along Victoria Embankment to Mansion House, where the newly sworn-in Lord Mayor arrives to be greeted by the City Aldermen and Livery Company Masters in their colourful gowns.

The day culminates in a fireworks extravaganza between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges on the Thames from 5pm.

If you would like to see an important piece of postal history make a striking addition to this historical event you can get a good view from anywhere on the processional route. For visitor advice, useful maps and timetables, tips on how to get to the parade and where to stand, details of the procession and lots of information about the history of the Show please see the Lord Mayor’s Show website.

Commemorative postcard

Handstamp created for use on the commemorative cover postcard based on the original GPO2 cancellation

Handstamp created for use on the commemorative cover postcard based on the original GPO2 cancellation

To celebrate taking part in the Lord Mayor’s Show, the BPMA has developed a limited edition commemorative full colour postcard which features the 1930s GPO2 publicity image above. These postcards will travel in the parade onboard GPO2 and later be cancelled by a special handstamp created by Adrian Bradbury, based on the original GPO2 cancellation design. The postcard will also bear a specially designed GPO2 cachet and a 47p Blackfriars Bridge stamp (2002 issue).

Only 150 commemorative postcards will be produced and these can now be pre-ordered. Each postcard costs £3.99 and is available by telephoning 020 7239 5125 or sending a cheque made payable to Postal Heritage Services Limited to Product Sales, BPMA, Freeling House, Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DL.

The Post Office and British Broadcasting

The Royal Mail Archive isn’t just about letters and stamps; recently catalogued records in the series POST 89 illustrate the part played by the Post Office in the history of British broadcasting.

The Post Office regarded telegrams as electronic letters.

Not many people would associate the Post Office with broadcasting, but until 1922 it held a monopoly on electronic mass communication. When telegraphy, and later, the telephone were developed, the Post Office argued that it controlled anything which involved delivery from a sender to a receiver. Telegraph and telephone switching stations were defined as electrical post offices, with the messages or calls regarded as electronic letters. Wireless telegraphy, originally used to send short coded messages, was also viewed in this manner, but later, when the technology started to be used for audio broadcasts, the medium, now known as radio, no longer fitted the sender/receiver definition.

In 1920 a number of commercial companies were granted licences by the Post Office to make experimental broadcasts. These were halted when the Armed Forces complained of interference with their communication systems, but as more and more radio services were beginning in many other countries, the Post Office came under pressure to reverse this decision and open up broadcasting to commercial interests.

In 1922 the Post Office was involved in the establishment of the British Broadcasting Company, a commercial radio broadcaster financed by six large electronics manufacturers. The Company began transmissions on 14 November 1922 (more details of this can be found in POST 33), but the Post Office continued its involvement in broadcasting for many years to come.

POST 89 includes the minutes and papers of some of the broadcasting committees which the Post Office contributed to – the Sykes, Crawford, Selsdon, Ullswater and Beveridge committees. These provide an insight into the development of British broadcasting and the introduction of the licence fee system. The papers cover issues such as the impact broadcasting may have on traditional newspapers, whether broadcasting sporting events would affect attendance at such events, and the benefits and drawbacks to commercial broadcasting (especially appropriate given the recent discussion of product placement).

A 1967 poster recommending the purchase of licences for televisions and radios, designed by Kenneth Bromfield

The Sykes and Crawford committees (which sat in 1923 and 1925-1926 respectively) considered the development of the British Broadcasting Company. The Crawford committee (whose members included the author Rudyard Kipling) ultimately recommended that the British Broadcasting Company be replaced by a non-commercial, Crown chartered organisation – the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The Selsdon committee (1934-1935) and Ullswater committee (1935) were concerned with the introduction of television and how this would be financed, while the Beveridge committee (1949-1950) conducted a review of broadcasting in the United Kingdom and recommended regional devolution, broadcasting of minority views, more political broadcasting and trade union recognition.

Another contribution made by the Post Office to broadcasting was that it was responsible for administering the licence fee system, and POST 89 includes various papers on this subject. These include reports on planned publicity campaigns and evasion statistics (for more on this topic see our previous blog on TV detector vans).

So the next time you think about The Royal Mail Archive remember that it is about more than letters and stamps – although we do have some very interesting stamps!

Four stamps issued in 1972 to celebrate 50 years of the BBC

BPMA on The One Show

NEWS FLASH

BBC-1′s The One Show will screen a story on telegrams, which was filmed at the BPMA, on Wednesday 9 September at 7pm.

Reporter Gyles Brandreth visited the BPMA to make the story, which is part of a series for The One Show entitled “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone”. Brandreth viewed a Victorian telegraph machine and telegrams about the sinking of the Titanic. He also interviewed Roger Green, a former messenger boy who works at Birmingham mail centre.

This edition of The One Show will be available on BBC iPlayer for one week after the broadcast.

TV detector vans – an urban myth?

by Jenny Karlsson, PR & Communications Officer

Since they were introduced in the 1950s, a lot of controversy has surrounded TV detector vans. Many people were (and still are) convinced that they didn’t work or never even existed. A new BBC Radio 4 programme on Saturday 13th June will set out to investigate this urban myth, drawing upon files from The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA).

An annual licence fee of 10 shillings was first introduced under the Wireless Telegraphy Act in November 1923 to cover radio sets. The first combined Radio and TV licence was introduced in 1946, costing £2 (the equivalent of £57 in 2006) and covering the monochrome-only single channel BBC television service, and the licences were initially issued and administered by the General Post Office (GPO).

As part of the Post Office campaign to track down users of unlicenced sets, the first TV detector van was constructed in 1952. The detection equipment in the van had been developed at the radio experimental laboratories of the Post Office in Dollis Hill, London. The van was then demonstrated in front of then Postmaster General, Lord De La Warr and Assistant Postmaster General Mr Gammans. In articles covering the demonstration, the Postmaster General was quoted as saying: “The equipment, which is suitable for fitting in a standard Post Office Radio Interference van, enables the majority of working television receivers on both sides of the road to be detected, and the houses containing the receivers to be located, as the vans move along the road”.

In May this year BBC Radio 4 visited the BPMA Search Room in London to conduct research and do recordings for a show about TV detector vans. The aim of the show is to expose the myths about TV detector vans, and is part of a series of programmes in which the comedian Steve Punt (famous from the sketch duo Punt & Dennis and shows like The Mary Whitehouse Experience) investigates urban myths. When the TV detector vans were introduced, many people were convinced that they were empty inside or that the equipment didn’t really work. The BBC team also went out to the BPMA’s Museum Store in Debden, Essex, to have a look at the TV detector van that is on show there. Chris Taft, BPMA Curator and Helen Dafter, BPMA Archivist were both interviewed for the programme.

The BPMA holds a range of records relating to TV licensing and detector vans, such as press cuttings, memos referring to difficulties caused by iron railings and iron girdles, and details of experimental combs, including number of TV sets detected, number of calls made and the results of these calls.

TV licensing was also promoted by poster campaigns. The earliest of these posters held in the archive is from 1951 and states: ‘Don’t be a pirate – A Television and Sound Licence costs £2 for a year’. In reference to this, the prototype detector van was known to some members of the press as “The Jolly Roger”.

Dont Be A Pirate! A Television and Sound Licence costs £2 for a year

Don't Be A Pirate! A Television and Sound Licence costs £2 for a year

Why not listen to the show and make your own mind up about TV detector vans?

BBC Radio 4: Punt Pl
Saturday 13th June 10:30am – 11.00am
The show will be available for one week after the broadcast on the BBC’s iPlayer service.