Tag Archives: England

The inaugural regular air mail service from England to Australia, December 1934

The following article was written by John Crowe, who recently visited the Royal Mail Archive to research the inaugural regular weekly service from England to Australia, and in particular the ceremony which took place at Croydon Aerodrome on Saturday 8th December 1934…

The ceremony took place in front of the HP 42 “Hengist” and was presided over by the Secretary of State for Air, Lord Londonderry. He had received mail for despatch to Australia from their majesties the King and Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales. He handed the mail to the Postmaster General, Sir Kingsley Wood, who stamped it with a special Croydon Aerodrome steel date stamp with an ivory and silver handle. This special date-stamp is slightly smaller than the normal Croydon Aerodrome cancel with a diameter of 24 mm, compared with 26 mm for the normal date-stamp. The royal letters were then put in a blue silk bag which was handed to Sir Eric Geddes, the chairman of Imperial Airways, and he in turn handed it to the pilot of the aircraft.

Tractors towing Hengist out of the Imperial Airways’ hangar at Croydon, prior to the first service to Australia. (POST 118/201)

Tractors towing Hengist out of the Imperial Airways’ hangar at Croydon, prior to the first service to Australia. (POST 118/201)

A cover addressed to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Rt. Hon. J.A. Lyons, received the same treatment as the royal letters with the special date-stamp. The cover has an Air Ministry cachet and beneath it the cachet PRIME MINISTER.

Another cover which received the royal treatment together with the letter which was enclosed, are below. The letter is from the Postmaster General, Sir Kingsley Wood, to his opposite number in Australia. The Commonwealth Postmaster General at the time was Senator the Hon. Alexander John McLachlan.

Cover addressed to The Postmaster General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Cover addressed to The Postmaster General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Letter addressed to The Postmaster General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Letter addressed to The Postmaster General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

I purchased the letter and cover in 2002 from Maurice Porter. I do not know how it first came into the public domain. Presumably, the Commonwealth Postmaster retained it as a personal item and disposed of it at some later date. Maurice has told me that he purchased it in the Harmer’s sale of the late Alex Newall’s collection. He thinks Alex might have acquired it through one of his FISA connections.

Below is a cover which was carried on the inaugural flight and which was cancelled with the normal Croydon Aerodrome date-stamp. It was signed later (January 1935) by the Postmaster General, Sir Kingsley Wood.

A cover carried on the inaugural flight.

A cover carried on the inaugural flight.

This is the special steel, Croydon Aerodrome datestamp with an ivory and silver handle.

Special Croydon Aerodrome datestamp.

Special Croydon Aerodrome datestamp.

The story of the ivory and silver hand-stamp is an interesting one. It appears that after Sir Kingsley Wood had stamped the VIP mail the hand-stamp was sent with the mail to the Postmaster General of Australia, probably in the blue silk bag, to be retained as a souvenir.

First Australian Air Mail Bag, Dec 1934 (POST 118/205)

First Australian Air Mail Bag, Dec 1934 (POST 118/205)

The hand-stamp remained in Australia, presumably in the possession of the Australian postal archive in Melbourne, until 1984. In that year the curator of the National Postal Museum, as it then was, visited Melbourne to attend the philatelic exhibition known as “Ausipex”. As a result of his visit the hand-stamp was returned to the UK where it can be viewed, by appointment, at the Royal Mail Archive. The silver band around the middle of the hand-stamp reads “First England to Australia/ Air Mail/ 8th Dec 1934” and the metal plate on the top of the box reads “FIRST/ENGLAND TO AUSTRALIA/AIR MAIL/ 8TH DECEMBER 1934”.

John Crowe examines the handstamp during his visit to the Royal Mail Archive.

John Crowe examines the handstamp during his visit to the Royal Mail Archive.

The handstamp.

The handstamp.

Go to Flickr to see images of the First Australian Air Mail.

Acknowledgements

John Crowe thanks Julian Stray (Curator) and Barry Attoe (Search Room Manager) of the BPMA for their help in viewing the hand-stamp; also Stan Wheatcroft whose earlier work is the basis for much of this article.

BPMA thanks John Crowe and Peter Winget for allowing us to publish this article on our blog.

150 years of London Underground

It’s the oldest and one of the most famous railway networks in the world, now the London Underground celebrates its 150th birthday on Royal Mail’s first stamp issue of 2013.

Issued today, the London Underground issue features ten stamps; six charting the history of the network, alongside a miniature sheet of four long-format stamps focusing on the design heritage of its iconic posters.

London Underground stamp issue.

London Underground stamp issue.

London Underground miniature sheet.

London Underground miniature sheet.

The issue date coincides with the anniversary of the opening of what was to become London’s Underground: the steam-driven Metropolitan Railway running between Paddington Station and Farringdon Street via Kings Cross. On 9 January 1863 the Metropolitan Railway opened, passengers were able to use the service from 10 January 1863 and within months 26,000 people were using it every day.

Fittingly it’s the Metropolitan Railway that features on the first of two 2nd class stamps, while the other shows railway workers, or Navvies as they were known commonly, excavating a tube tunnel.

London Underground, 2nd Class stamps – 1863 - Metropolitan Railway Opens. A contemporary lithograph of a steam locomotive on the Metropolitan line near Paddington Station. 2nd Class – 1898 - Tunnelling Below London Streets. Railway construction workers, known as Navvies, shown excavating a ‘deep cut’ tube tunnel.

London Underground, 2nd Class stamps – 1863 – Metropolitan Railway Opens. A contemporary lithograph of a steam locomotive on the Metropolitan line near Paddington Station. 2nd Class – 1898 – Tunnelling Below London Streets. Railway construction workers, known as Navvies, shown excavating a ‘deep cut’ tube tunnel.

Edwardian commuters travelling in from the suburbs are depicted on one of the 1st class pair of stamps, while the other features the Piccadilly Line’s Boston Manor, an example of many art deco stations built in the 1920s and 30s.

London Underground, 1st Class stamps – 1911 – Commute from the Suburbs. A carriage of Edwardian ladies and gentlemen illustrated on their commute to work from the suburbs. 1st Class – 1934 – Boston Manor Art Deco Station. Suburban expansion of the Piccadilly Lines in the 1920s and 30s led to the construction of many iconic art deco stations.

London Underground, 1st Class stamps – 1911 – Commute from the Suburbs. A carriage of Edwardian ladies and gentlemen illustrated on their commute to work from the suburbs. 1st Class – 1934 – Boston Manor Art Deco Station. Suburban expansion of the Piccadilly Lines in the 1920s and 30s led to the construction of many iconic art deco stations.

Classic rolling stock travelling on the tube’s ‘deep cut’ lines in 1938 and Sir Norman Foster’s Canary Wharf Station make up the £1.28p pair.

London Underground, £1.28 stamps – 1938 - Classic Rolling Stock. The classic trains introduced on the tube’s deep cut lines in 1938 became a London icon. £1.28 – 1999 – Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf. Designed by Sir Norman Foster Canary Wharf Station is one of the most recent additions to the Underground network.

London Underground, £1.28 stamps – 1938 – Classic Rolling Stock. The classic trains introduced on the tube’s deep cut lines in 1938 became a London icon. £1.28 – 1999 – Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf. Designed by Sir Norman Foster Canary Wharf Station is one of the most recent additions to the Underground network.

Each of the stamps features a timeline across the lower quarter of the stamps using different livery colours taken from London Underground lines.

The miniature sheet features a total of 12 classic London Underground posters across four long-format (60mm x 30mm) stamps.

London Underground miniature sheet. 1st Class stamp – London Underground Posters – Golders Green, By Underground to fresh air and Summer sales. Reproductions of three classic London Underground Posters: Golders Green (1908) by an unknown artist 1908; By Underground to fresh air (1915) by Maxwell Armfield; Summer Sales (1925) by Mary Koop.

London Underground miniature sheet. 1st Class stamp – London Underground Posters – Golders Green, By Underground to fresh air and Summer sales. Reproductions of three classic London Underground Posters: Golders Green (1908) by an unknown artist 1908; By Underground to fresh air (1915) by Maxwell Armfield; Summer Sales (1925) by Mary Koop.

London Underground miniature sheet. 77p stamp – London Underground Posters –For the Zoo, Power and The seen. Reproductions of three classic London Underground Posters: – For the Zoo (1921) by Charles Paine; Power (1931) by Edward McKnight-Kauffer and The seen (1948) by James Fitton.

London Underground miniature sheet. 77p stamp – London Underground Posters –For the Zoo, Power and The seen. Reproductions of three classic London Underground Posters: – For the Zoo (1921) by Charles Paine; Power (1931) by Edward McKnight-Kauffer and The seen (1948) by James Fitton.

London Underground miniature sheet. 87p stamp – London Underground Posters – A train every 90 seconds, Thanks to the Underground and Cut travelling time. Reproductions of three classic London Underground Posters: A train every 90 seconds (1937) by Abram Games; Thanks to the Underground (1935) by Zero (Hans Schleger) and Cut travelling time, Victoria Line (1969) by Tom Eckersley.

London Underground miniature sheet. 87p stamp – London Underground Posters – A train every 90 seconds, Thanks to the Underground and Cut travelling time. Reproductions of three classic London Underground Posters: A train every 90 seconds (1937) by Abram Games; Thanks to the Underground (1935) by Zero (Hans Schleger) and Cut travelling time, Victoria Line (1969) by Tom Eckersley.

London Underground miniature sheet. £1.28 stamp – London Underground Posters – The London Transport Collection, London Zoo and The Tate Gallery by Tube. Reproductions of three classic London Underground Posters: The London Transport Collection (1975) by Tom Eckersley; London Zoo (1976) by Abram Games and The Tate Gallery by Tube (1987) by David Booth (Fine White Line Design).

London Underground miniature sheet. £1.28 stamp – London Underground Posters – The London Transport Collection, London Zoo and The Tate Gallery by Tube. Reproductions of three classic London Underground Posters: The London Transport Collection (1975) by Tom Eckersley; London Zoo (1976) by Abram Games and The Tate Gallery by Tube (1987) by David Booth (Fine White Line Design).

Philip Parker, Royal Mail Stamps spokesperson, said:

The London Underground has a unique status as the oldest and one of the busiest underground railway networks in the world.

For this first stamp issue of 2013 we have tried to capture the incredible history behind ‘the Tube’, which for millions of people is an integral element of their daily lives and an iconic part of London’s identity.

Both London Underground and Royal Mail share a rich and extraordinary design heritage, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a dozen classic Underground posters, featuring several artists who also designed posters for the General Post Office (GPO).

Please pack parcels very carefully, a poster designed for the GPO by Tom Eckersley. Several of Eckersley’s posters appear on the London Underground miniature sheet.

Please pack parcels very carefully, a poster designed for the GPO by Tom Eckersley. Several of Eckersley’s posters appear on the London Underground miniature sheet.

You can see a selection of GPO posters in our online exhibition Designs on Delivery. The Design on Delivery exhibition will be seen at the Great Western Hospital, Swindon, from 19 March as part of the Paintings in Hospitals scheme.

Royal Mail stamps and stamp products are available at most Post Office branches, online at www.royalmail.com/underground and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 08457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB.

American Independence Day

Today Americans all over the world are celebrating Independence Day, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776 and subsequent independence from Great Britain.

As many readers may already know the BPMA and Royal Mail Archive hold material relating to postal communications from a variety of countries, not just Great Britain, so this seemed an appropriate time to highlight two items in the BPMA’s collection with American connections.

A black and white steel engraving of Benjamin Franklin, c. 1865 (2009-0038)

A black and white steel engraving of Benjamin Franklin, c. 1865 (2009-0038)

This steel engraving of Benjamin Franklin, scientist, politician, Postmaster and ‘Founding Father’ of the United States features an inset image of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The scene shows Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both of whom went on to serve as President of the United States. Benjamin Franklin has also been featured on a Great Britain stamp, issued in 1976 to mark the bicentenary of the Declaration of Independence.

Letter from General Eisenhower to Captain Crookshank, congratulating engineering and postal staff on their contribution to the war effort (POST 118/1596)

Letter from General Eisenhower to Captain Crookshank, congratulating engineering and postal staff on their contribution to the war effort (POST 118/1596)

One of my colleagues showed me this signed letter from General Dwight D Eisenhower shortly after I started as a Cataloguer at BPMA. As an enthusiastic new recruit and having recently listened to our podcast on the Post Office during the Second World War, I was struck by the seemingly sincere appreciation of the Post Office’s hard work and dedication during the conflict.

Dated 22nd June 1944, whilst Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and addressed to the Postmaster General Captain H.F.C. Crookshank, the letter reads:

The build up of the necessary forces for the current operations has involved the construction of a vast network of communications radiating from key centers of vital importance in the United Kingdom. The greater part of this work has been undertaken by the Engineers and Staff of the General Post Office. It is my great pleasure, on behalf of the Allied Expeditionary Force, to ask you to pass on to them my sincere appreciation for their contribution and for the long hours they have worked and for the excellent cooperation they have given toward our success.

Sarah Jenkins – Assistant Cataloguer

Both of these items are available to view on our online catalogue.

A selection of lantern slides showing United States Post Office buildings can also bee seen on our Flickr site.

Thurloe and the Secret Room

As today’s episode of The Peoples Post highlighted censorship and the interception of mails remains a sensitive subject. As recent public outrage against phone hacking has shown, people expect their communications to be private and letters from one private individual to another were once seen as being as sacred as the voicemail messages of a celebrity or crime victim. However, at certain times in the past the government has covertly or overtly intercepted mail as part of its efforts to maintain national security. Through the records held here at the BPMA a special insight into this can be gained.

Very little material survives from the period of the Civil War but the oldest item in the Royal Mail Archive suggests a focus on centralisation and ensuring the correct monopoly for the postal service rather than on interception and spying on the contents of the mail.

Letter from Thomas Witherings to the Mayor of Hull relating to the establishment of the public postal service, by the setting up of new or improved posts on the five principal roads of the kingdom, those to Dover, Edinburgh, Holyhead, Plymouth and Bristol. (POST 23/1)

Letter from Thomas Witherings to the Mayor of Hull relating to the establishment of the public postal service, by the setting up of new or improved posts on the five principal roads of the kingdom, those to Dover, Edinburgh, Holyhead, Plymouth and Bristol. (POST 23/1)

However, as the Civil War progressed and in particular under the regime of Oliver Cromwell it became more widespread – particularly under the leadership of the first Postmaster General, John Thurloe, depicted in a print held in the BPMA museum collection.

The Right Honourable John Thurloe Esqr. Secretary of State to the Protectors Oliver and Richard Cromwell (2010-0398)

The Right Honourable John Thurloe Esqr. Secretary of State to the Protectors Oliver and Richard Cromwell (2010-0398)

Thurloe’s state papers, some of which can be viewed online, include letters from private individuals to others (so, not to Thurloe!) which he has clearly intercepted and kept because of the detail they contain.

Thurloe became a great survivor and his operation was so valued by his opponents that after the Restoration he was rescued from capital charges of treason on condition he worked for the new royalist regime of Charles II, which he did. His character anchors the Thomas Chaloner series of murder mysteries by Susanna Gregory, which bring to life the world in which Thurloe’s operations supported the British state. A real-life depiction is given in a biographical work held in BPMA’s search room library: the Dutchman Mr Dorislaus, employed by Thurloe,

had a private roome allotted him adjoyning to the forreigne Office, and every post night about 11 a clock he went into that roome privately, and had all the letter[s] brought and layd before him, to open any as he should see good, and close them up again, and there he remained in that room, usually till about 3 or 4 in the morning, which was the usuall time of shutting up the male, and in the processe of time the said Dorislaus had got such a knowledge of all hands and seals, that scarcely could a letter be brought him but he knew the hand that wrote it; and when there was any extraordinary occasion, as when any rising was neare or the like, then S. Morland [a secretary of Thurloe’s] went from Whitehall between 11 and 12, and was privately conveighed into that roome, and there assisted Mr Dorislaus, and such letters as they found dangerous he brought back with him to Whitehall in the morning.

– Adrian Steel, Director

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