Tag Archives: Blists Hill Victorian Town

Welcome to 2013

This year will be an exciting year at The British Postal Museum & Archive. While many staff are working hard to develop our new museum and archive others are continuing to organise events and exhibitions.

Talks

The first of our talks takes place next month and features Chris West, author of First Class: A history of Britain in 36 postage stamps. In his talk Chris will discuss the book and go in depth on some of the stories. Last year Chris wrote a blog for us about how he came to write his book, and you can buy a copy from our online shop or purchase one at the event.

In March Oliver Carter-Wakefield of Kings College London will speak on Illness and Absence in the Victorian Post Office. Consumption, necrosis and mental derangement were just some of the reasons Victorian postmen called in sick – and they weren’t always skiving!

Postal Mischief with David Bramwell.

Postal Mischief with David Bramwell.

In April David Bramwell will present a slide-show talk on how the postal system was used for the purposes of mischief making, and in June BPMA Curator Emma Harper will explore a less weird but just as wonderful use of the Royal Mail when she explores the culture of letter writing in 19th and 20th Centuries.

Tickets for all our talks are only £3.00 (or £2.50 concession) and can be booked online.

Tours

Our ever popular tours will be held throughout 2013. Bookings are now open for three tours of the Royal Mail Archive and six tours of our Museum Collection. These guided tours are led by our archivists and curators, who will give you a rare behind the scenes look at our collections storage facilities and an insight in to what they care for. Book now for these tours as they sell out quickly!

Walking tours of postal London run once a month and are operated by our partners Cityguides. Tours start at Farringdon Station and end at Bank, taking you in to the City of London which was once the heartland of the British Post Office. There is no need to book for these tours – just turn up on the day. See our website for details.

See the sights of postal London on our walking tours.

See the sights of postal London on our walking tours.

Special Events

The Museum Store, where we are house our full of collection of pillar boxes and vehicles, will play host to two special events this year. The first, Pillar Box Perfection, taking place on 6 April, will offer a range of activities for all ages based around the iconic pillar box. The second, Museums at Night at the Museum Store, is part of an initiative taking place in May in which museums stay open in the evening. We’ll tell you more about this event nearer to the time. Both of these special events are free of charge.

Exhibitions

Visitors to the Royal Mail Archive in London can still see our Diamond Jubilee display of stamps from the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. We also have a permanent exhibition, The Museum of the Post Office in the Community, at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shorpshire. The Museum is located above a recreated Victorian post office – a fascinating place to visit in itself – and is free to visit as part of your entry to Blists Hill.

Part of our much-loved collection of General Post Office posters from the 1930s-1960s will go on display at the Great Western Hospital, Swindon in March. This is part of the Paintings in Hospitals scheme, and the public may visit the exhibition in the Hospital’s designated display area during their opening hours.

Please pack parcels very carefully, poster by Tom Eckersley - this will be on display as part of Designs on Delivery.

Please pack parcels very carefully, poster by Tom Eckersley – this will be on display as part of Designs on Delivery.

Also on tour is our exhibition Last Post: Remembering the First World War, which can be seen at the Museum of Army Flying, Hampshire from March and at Aysgarth Station Heritage Site, North Yorkshire in May. The exhibition looks at the role of the Post Office during the Great War.

Visit our website for full details of our programme of events and exhibitions.

Valentine’s at Blists Hill

In February, BPMA will be displaying a small selection of Valentine’s cards at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge. These will complement the Victorian Post Office as well as the family activities linked to the cards which will take place in the Goods Shed on the site from Saturday 11th to Sunday 19th February.

A selection of cards we may use for the display if they are in adequate condition.

A selection of cards we may use for the display if they are in adequate condition.

Despite the display being relatively small and only open for just over a week, a lot of planning and preparation is needed to make sure the items chosen are going to be interesting to the public, easy to transport and that they will be safe and secure while on the site.

This week, three of us visited Blists Hill in order to take some measurements in readiness for the arrival of the cards in February. This meant my first use of a hygrometer (sadly not the whirling variety) to test relative humidity in the display area, tests for light and UV, and taking some simpler length and width measurements of the room so that the appropriately sized case can be ordered.

Exhibitions Officer Dominique Bignall and Head of Heritage Chris Taft check levels in the Museum of the Post Office in the Community while we are on site.

Exhibitions Officer Dominique Bignall and Head of Heritage Chris Taft check levels in the Museum of the Post Office in the Community while we are on site.

It also gave us the opportunity to do some tests in the Museum of the Post Office in Community and determine which items might need to be replaced or refreshed to give them a rest from being on display.

The Post Office at Blists Hill.

The Post Office at Blists Hill.

Visits like these are really important to make sure we get more of our collection seen by more people. If you are in the area between 11 and 19 February, pop in and see the display – some unexpected interpretations of Valentine’s will be on show – and come and make a card of your own in the Goods Shed!

– Laura Dixon, Learning Officer (Events & Outreach)

The Post Office in the Community

Part of today’s episode of The Peoples Post on BBC Radio 4 was recorded at Blists Hill Victorian Town, in Shropshire. It is there back in 2009 that a reconstructed late Victorian Post Office was opened in partnership with The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA). The office itself is part of the much larger site, re-creating life in late Victorian England. On the upper floor of the office however is a much more modern exhibit for visitors. In this specially constructed gallery space is the Museum of the Post Office in the Community. The Museum was created by the BPMA and designed to tell the story of the vital role post offices have played throughout history and as a centre point of communities.

Inside the reconstructed late Victorian Post Office at Blists Hill (Photo courtesy: Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust).

Inside the reconstructed late Victorian Post Office at Blists Hill (Photo courtesy: Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust).

For towns such as Blists Hill the post office would have been a very important focal point of the community; a place not only where postal business would have taken place but also a centre for gossip and the arrival of news.

When the BPMA got the opportunity to develop a museum on this site the story of the Post Office and its community role was the obvious one to take. The exhibition space was divided down into four sections, each exploring a different aspect of the community story.

In the first part the exhibition looks at the rise and fall of the different services offered by post offices and places them in a chronology alongside other events in postal history. The next section looks at delivery methods and includes a display of the differing postal caps used throughout history, part of the iconic uniform of the postal worker. Also on display is one of the BPMA’s five-wheeled cycles, the Hen and Chicks, this remarkable machine was introduced in the 1880s when the post office took on the parcels post and it continues to catch the imagination of the visitor.

The Hen and Chicks on display at the Museum of the Post Office in the Community.

The Hen and Chicks on display at the Museum of the Post Office in the Community.

The third part of the museum looks at the letter box and how it has developed, brought about by the need to improve methods of using the postal service following the success of postal reform. In this section there is a rare survivor of a very early letter box, a green and gold, highly decorative roadside letter box. The final section looks at changing times and explores the more recent history of the post office and especially how that story fits with the community role.

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community is proving to be an interesting method of allowing visitors to the popular Blists Hill site to explore in depth the history of something very familiar and something still at the heart of many communities.

– Chris Taft, Curator

For more on today’s episode of The Peoples Post see our webpage A Community Hub. Further images can be found on Flickr. Use the Twitter hashtag #PeoplesPost to comment on the show.

Museum of the Post Office in the Community Receives Accreditation

by Chris Taft, Curator

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community, which is managed by The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA), has been awarded full Accreditation status. The Museum is situated on the Blists Hill Victorian Town site, at Ironbridge near Telford. This is a major achievement for the BPMA and one which all involved should feel justly proud of. The Museum is now an Accredited Museum, this is a reflection of the fact that the museum and its collections are cared for and the organisation governed to national standards set by the government agency for museums, the Museums Libraries and Archives council (MLA).

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community, Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community, Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge

To become an Accredited Museum applicants must demonstrate good practice across a number of areas including access to the collections, visitor services, collections management and documentation, museum governance and good forward planning. The BPMA had to demonstrate it met these standards when applying to the scheme and the application was followed up by two site visits, one to Freeling House where the BPMA are based and one to the Museum at Blists Hill. The assessor looks closely at the management of the museum and ensures staff have a good awareness of best practice and use this when managing the collections. The application is then studied and considered by a panel made up of experience museum professionals. Ultimately the panel can award provisional status and recommend areas for improvement to allow full Accreditation to be achieved but for the BPMA the panel agreed that full Accreditation could be awarded. This is not something all museums can achieve.

For those that have been with us at the BPMA since the closure of the National Postal Museum this achievement comes on the back of something started back then. When the Museum closed it had provisional Registration status (Registration was the forerunner of Accreditation). This it held till earlier this year. Until the opening of the Museum of the Post office in the Community in October 2009 the BPMA were unable to demonstrate full achievement of the standard as it did not have the public facing museum. The Museum at Blists Hill answered this and it is through this site the Accreditation has been achieved.

The BPMA can use this achievement to help support funding applications and to show to potential sponsors that it can run an Accredited Museum.

Since its opening in October 2009 the Museum has proved very successful with over 100,000 visitors going through the door. Into 2011 the BPMA plans to capitalise on Accreditation and seek ways of running events in partnership with the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust who runs Blists Hill. The BPMA also plans to run some evaluation of the exhibition and seek ways to better promote the Museum.

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community – official launch

On 4th December 2009, BPMA staff and guests made their way up to Blists Hill for the official launch of the Museum of the Post Office in the Community.

Among the guests were David Wright, MP for Telford, and members of the local postal history society.

Guests enjoy festive food and mulled wine before the speeches

Guests enjoy festive food and mulled wine before the speeches

Roger Green from Royal Mail using a special cancellation mark to commemorate the occasion.

Roger Green from Royal Mail using a special cancellation mark to commemorate the occasion.

The event started with mulled wine and speeches, and the opportunity to send a special cover marking the occasion. This was followed by tours of the Blists Hill site, and BPMA curator Chris Taft then gave more detailed tours of the Museum of the Post Office in the Community.

Speeches from Adrian Steel (BPMA Director), Barrie Williams (Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust Chairman of Trustees), and Brian Goodey (BPMA Chairman of Trustees).

Speeches from Adrian Steel (BPMA Director), Barrie Williams (Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust Chairman of Trustees), and Brian Goodey (BPMA Chairman of Trustees).

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust staff give tours of the Blists Hill site.

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust staff give tours of the Blists Hill site.

Chris Taft gives tours of the Museum of the Post Office in the Community.

Chris Taft gives tours of the Museum of the Post Office in the Community.

We were also joined by Colin and Margaret Bedford, members of the March Veteran and Vintage Cycle Club, who came dressed as a period postman and postwoman, complete with Hen & Chicks and parcels!

Colin and Maragret Bedford dressed as a Victorian postman and postwoman, with the Hen & Chicks pentacycle.

Colin and Maragret Bedford

Colin Bedford riding his Hen & Chicks outside the Blists Hill Post Office

Colin Bedford riding his Hen & Chicks outside the Blists Hill Post Office

The launch was a success, and the exhibition will now be open permanently to the public. To find out more please go to http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/visiting/ironbridge

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community opens

After several years work by our Curatorial team, The Museum of the Post Office in the Community opened to the public yesterday. The launch of the Museum was the final stage in our project at Blists Hill Victorian Town, which saw the BPMA collaborate with the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust to build a replica Victorian Post Office and a permanent exhibition exploring the history of the British postal service.

The replica Victorian Post Office at Blists Hill. The Museum of the Post Office in the Community is located above the post office.

The replica Victorian Post Office at Blists Hill. The Museum of the Post Office in the Community is located above the Post Office.

You can read all about the process of the project on this blog or by visiting our website. And for those unable to visit Blists Hills we have also produced an online version of the Post Office in the Community exhibition.

Below are some photos of the Museum of the Post Office in the Community, which is located above the Blists Hill Post Office.

The stairwell leading up to The Post Office in the Community exhibition

The stairwell leading up to The Post Office in the Community exhibition

The Counter Services display with GPO2 model and Hen & Chicks

The Counter Services display with GPO2 model and Hen & Chicks

Counter Services display

Counter Services display

Counter Services display with BSA Bantam motorcycle

Counter Services display with BSA Bantam motorcycle

Delivering the Mail display

Delivering the Mail display

Letter Boxes display

Letter Boxes display

The Hen & Chicks pentacycle, which was trailed for mail delivery in Horsham, Sussex in 1882

The Hen & Chicks pentacycle, which was trailed for mail delivery in Horsham, Sussex in 1882

Changing Times display

Changing Times display

Autumn Stampex 2009

The recreated Victorian Post Office at Blists Hill

The recreated Victorian Post Office at Blists Hill

This year’s Autumn Stampex starts next Wednesday and if you’re going make sure you look out for the BPMA. There will be displays on our re-created Victorian Post Office at Blists Hill, Ironbridge, as well as London 2010: Festival of Stamps. You will also be able to find a stall run by the Friends of the BPMA amongst the dealers. The Friends will be selling some of the products available in our Shop and can give you general information about BPMA activities and events. See you there!