Tag Archives: British Post Office

What does the BPMA have about…India?

Today is International Archive Day. As part of the celebrations of this event our Archivists will be highlighting some of our records relating to overseas postal services on Twitter as part of #AskArchivists Day.

Staff load mail into large cargo nets at the platform of Calais Station.

Staff load mail into large cargo nets at the platform of Calais Station (POST 118/419).

Among the holdings of the BPMA are various records relating to postal services to India in the nineteenth century. In the 1820s Thomas Waghorn established an overland route between Alexandria and Suez. This resulted in a significant reduction in the time taken for mail to travel between England and India. Mails which had previously taken up to three months to reach India now arrived in just 35 days.

Detail of letter showing 'Carried by Waghorn' cachet, c. 1850 (POST 118/1017)

Detail of letter showing 'Carried by Waghorn' cachet, c. 1850 (POST 118/1017)

There was also a special India Mail Service for diplomatic mail between the countries. This involved specially appointed Post Office staff of higher grades accompanying the mail from London to Marseilles where responsibility was transferred to the P&O purser of a ship bound for India. These staff were known as India Mail Officers. They carried out three trips a year, and were expected to be on stand by for a further three.

Prior to the independence of India in 1947, the British Post Office also played a role in the operation of postal services within India. Mail services in the country were opened to the public in 1774 by Warren Hastings, the Governor General of British India. In 1850 a report was commissioned into the working of the Post Office in India. This report introduced uniform postage rates for letters based on weight, mirroring developments in England. In also recommended a Manual of Instructions to be issued to postmasters to encourage uniformity of practice. The reforms had mixed results with old practices continuing in many areas.

Poster promoting airmail routes to India, c. 1938 (POST 110/1167)

Poster promoting airmail routes to India, c. 1938 (POST 110/1167)

More information on the Postal History of India can be found
on our website: http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/india.
We will also be highlighting details of our international collections on Twitter today – follow us on @postalheritage.

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

40th Anniversary of the Post Office Act 1969

On Tuesday 13th October we will be welcoming author and historian Duncan Campbell-Smith to the BPMA to deliver a talk on the Post Office Act 1969. Duncan Campbell-Smith is well placed to speak on this topic as he is currently researching an authorised history of the British Post Office, due to be published in 2011.

The logo of the General Post Office

The logo of the General Post Office

The Post Office Act 1969 brought about one of the most momentous changes to the Post Office since Charles I allowed his subjects to use the postal service (or Royal Mail) in 1635. The 1969 Act meant that the General Post Office ceased to be a government department and became a statutory corporation. The office of Postmaster General was replaced by a Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and the word “General” was dropped from the organisation’s name. At the same time telecommunications were split from postal services, resulting in two separate entities with two separate budgets – Post Office Telecommunications and the Post Office – allowing each organisation to focus on its area of specialty.

Over the next four decades there were further structural and names changes, one of the most significant being that in 1981 postal and telecommunications services were separated entirely, resulting in British Telecommunications and Royal Mail (responsible for post and parcels, Post Office counters and National Giro). This complicated business history and the reasons behind it will no doubt be fully examined in both Duncan Campbell-Smith’s talk on the Post Office Act 1969 and his upcoming book.

To book for the talk 40th Anniversary of the Post Office Act 1969 please see our website.