Tag Archives: Friends of the BPMA

Mail Rail Conservation Project – Documentary Film

For the past year the BPMA have been engaged on a project to conserve the rail cars in its collection acquired from the Post Office underground railway, Mail Rail. This project has proved really exciting and has been followed keenly by a number of people. Back in April 2012 the BPMA held an open day at the Museum Store which gave visitors the opportunity to come and see the work being done and meet the conservator working on the project and the BPMA curators.

Throughout the main part of the project the BPMA commissioned a production company to document the process and create a short film that helps explain the work done. This film is now being made available for the first time via the BPMA’s YouTube channel.

Making the Mail Rail film.

Making the Mail Rail film.

As well as documenting the conservation work the film also offers a glimpse of the Railway as it once was, including black and white footage of the Railway from the 1930s and clips from the BPMA collection. These more modern clips show the Railway in 2005, after its closure. It is the last filmed footage captured of the trains being moved using the electric network. The BPMA holds much more of this footage that it hopes can be used in future projects or films.

Also in the documentary record are BPMA members of staff and the contracted conservator talking about the work being done and interviews with members of the public who attended the special open day at the Museum Store.

The conservation work on two of the trains is now complete but there remains more to do and the final phase of the project is to conserve the 1927 car held by the BPMA. This car is the only surviving example in this form of the original cars used when the network opened in 1927. It is the intention with this car to conserve as it is today and not to attempt to return it to the appearance it was in during its operational life.

1927 Mail Rail car.

1927 Mail Rail car.

Once this work is underway more details as to the progress will be published online.

The project to conserve the trains was funded by grants from the Arts Council England PRISM Fund, the Association of Independent Museums/Pilgrims Trust Conservation Scheme and donations from the Friends of the BPMA. The film was made for the BPMA by Voytek Ltd, a London based production company.

– Chris Taft, Senior Curator

Autumn Stampex 2012

Stampex is starting again this Wednesday, 26 September 2012 and the Friends of the BPMA will be there to chat about upcoming events, activities and the latest postal heritage products.

Stalls at Stampex.

Stalls at Stampex.

The Business Design Centre Islington in London N1 will open its doors for the popular stamp show on Wednesday at 11.30am and will be open until 7pm on that day, 10am to 6pm on Thursday and Friday and 10am to 5pm Saturday, 29 September 2012. Admission is free – so come along to visit the Friends at stand 20 and browse the various stands by stamp dealers, see the display on Australasian Philately or Royal Mail’s range of Olympic & Paralympics Games Memories, Post & Go stamp issues and much more.

There will also be information about the BPMA’s plans for the new museum & archive in Calthorpe House at the Friends’ stand as well as the opportunity to buy tickets for the talk by designer Kate Stephens and Royal Mail design manager Catharine Brandy, in which they share the journey through the working process behind the Diamond Jubilee Stamps. The talk is taking place on Thursday, 27 September 2012 at 7pm in the Phoenix Centre, next door to The Royal Mail Archive.

Stamps from the recent Diamond Jubilee issue.

Stamps from the recent Diamond Jubilee issue.

Fascinating images from our touring exhibition The Post Office in Pictures will also be on display at the stand as well as more material based on our collections.

There will be special offers on BPMA products and the chance to browse through the latest publications such as Bob Wilcock’s The London 1948 Olympic Games – A Collectors Guide book, or a beautiful edition of the map of Mail Steamship routes, designed by MacDonald Gill in 1937, with an introduction by BPMA Curator Julian Stray. For the full selection of postal heritage products, see our online shop at www.postalheritage.org.uk/shop.

Friends of the BPMA stall.

Friends of the BPMA stall.

The Friends of the BPMA are looking forward to meeting you there!

Spring Stampex 2012

As the days are getting longer, there are also more and more events to look forward to – including Spring Stampex, from 22-25 February at the Business Design Centre (BDC) in Islington. Come and visit the Friends of the BPMA at stand 20 and learn more about upcoming BPMA events and exhibitions, get the latest postal heritage products or simply have a chat about some exciting finds at the stamp show.

Stampex at the Business Design Centre

Stampex at the Business Design Centre

Use your visit to Stampex to get more information about our new Diamond Jubilee exhibition which will offer an exclusive insight into the variety of the stamps released to mark the occasion. It will be on display at the BPMA Archive Search Room from 10 May 2012. One of the world’s greatest collections of stamps is the subject of a talk by Michael Sefi, Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection, on 23 February 2012 at the Phoenix Centre, for which you will be able to buy tickets at the stand, too. Another highlight of the postal heritage events calendar is the launch of The Post Office in Pictures exhibition at its exciting new touring venue. The exhibition (along with a host of activities) will be at the Lumen URC, London, from 19 May to the end of August 2012.

Among many popular BPMA products, we will offer a new postcard pack of six Mail Rail themed images at Stampex. On the occasion of Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee there will also be a beautiful collector’s item for sale at the stand: a Wedgwood Jasperware plate featuring one of the most famous portraits of Queen Elizabeth II – the ‘Machin head’.

Mail Rail postcard pack

Mail Rail postcard pack

Royal Mail will again have a substantial presence and offer the full range of current stamp issues and provide posting boxes for collectors to post covers for the special Stampex handstamps. On Thursday, 23 February, Royal Mail will launch the Britons of Distinction stamps and the following day will see the issue of new pictorial Post and Go Stamps featuring British sheep. As usual, admission is free and the exhibition opens 11.30am-7pm on Wednesday, 10am-6pm on Thursday and Friday, and 10am-5pm on Saturday.

The Friends of the BPMA are looking forward to meeting you there!

The BPMA at Autumn Stampex

Stalls at Stampex, 2010

Stalls at Stampex, 2010

As many of you will be aware this year’s Autumn Stampex will be held at Islington Business Design Centre from 14–17 September. The Friends of the BPMA will be manning Stand 20 throughout the event, where there will information about the BPMA, new postcard packs and a selection of our other products for sale, and this year’s stand will look better than ever – decorated with a range of memorable images from our collection.

Autumn Crocus from the Flower Photographs issue, 20 January 1987

Autumn Crocus from the Flower Photographs issue, 20 January 1987

At the present time were undertaking a review of our activities and services. It is important to us to work with philatelists, philatelic traders and postal history enthusiasts to ensure we develop our services in line with what you want, and to enable us to keep caring for these collections for generations to come – and we need your help! We know Stampex is a date which will be in many of our followers’ diaries and we’d like to meet as many of you as can we while we’re there this September.

Join us for a drink at Stampex and tell us what you think!
11.30am – 1.30pm, Thursday 15 September
Executive Centre, Ground floor – full details on the Friends Stand.

Whether you’d like to find out more about what’s in our philatelic vault, how you can see it, or our other services – or simply wish to tell us what you like about us, or what we could do better, then we’d love to speak to you – please drop by for a drink and say hello!

A Timeless Classic: The Evolution of Machin's Icon by Douglas N, Muir

A Timeless Classic: The Evolution of Machin's Icon by Douglas N, Muir

Win a signed copy of A Timeless Classic: The Evolution of Machin’s Icon by The BPMA’s Philatelic Curator Douglas N. Muir At Autumn Stampex

If you can’t make it for a drink, then we’d still love to meet you – staff from the BPMA will be at Stampex across the 4 day event so please do come and find us. Any visitors to our Friends’ stand also have the opportunity to win a copy of one of our most popular books, A Timeless Classic: The Evolution of Machin’s Icon, signed by the author! Just drop a business card in the pot to enter the prize draw.

Autumn Stampex 2010

 by Jennifer Flippance, 2010 Exhibitions & Project Manager

Stampex at the Business Design Centre

Stampex at the Business Design Centre

If your interest in stamps and postal history has been piqued by our blog posts or any the events that have taken place this year as part of the London 2010: Festival of Stamps, why not go along to Stampex next week.

Stampex takes place twice a year at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London. It’s free and 2010 Autumn Stampex is on 15-18th September.

There are many dealers’ stands, including a substantial presence from Royal Mail. Get the new stamps (Medical Breakthroughs) from their first day of issue on Thursday and from Friday you can get brand new pictorial Post & Go stamps. Don’t miss the instant Smiler booth.

I like to stock up on attractive commemorative stamps I’ve missed during the year to use on my own post. It’s always much nicer for someone to receive a special stamp.

Competitive stamp displays at Stampex

Competitive stamp displays at Stampex

Everyone who attends Stampex gets a free postcard and the opportunity to buy other special products only available at the show. There are also displays from the National Competitions of the Association of British Philatelic Societies.

The BPMA Friends will be manning a stand as usual. Pop over to say hello and pick up the brand new free 2010 postcard featuring George V. We’ll also have a selection of our postal themed products on sale, including the popular new Post Offices book by Julian Stray.

Kids auction at Stampex

Kids auction

One of my favourite parts is the children’s auction on Saturday, which is always great fun to watch. Any young philatelists who come along get the chance to collect points by doing activities and these can then be spent at the auction on stamps. There’s always a lot of tactical bidding!

For more details including directions and opening times see – http://www.stampex.ltd.uk/

A weekend at Bletchley

Several BPMA staff and Friends had a very enjoyable two days at Bletchley Park over the Bank Holiday weekend.  We were there as part of the Post Office at War weekend, an event organised as part of the London 2010 Festival of Stamps.

BPMA Friend Richard West and Exhibitions Officer Alison Norris staff the BPMA table

BPMA Friend Richard West and Exhibitions Officer Alison Norris staff the BPMA table

The BPMA had a table where we could meet visitors to Bletchley Park and let them know about the BPMA and its collections. Several of the BPMA Friends made a much valued contribution, helping to promote us and sharing their personal expertise on a number of different topics with visitors. 

They also helped us sell a variety of BPMA products, including books and postcards.  The new Shire Post Offices book by our curator, Julian Stray, was particularly sought after, selling out on the second day.

Some of the creative designs for stamps

Some of the creative designs for stamps

Our activities for younger visitors proved very popular, particularly designing your own stamp and making secret codes.

Curator Vyki Sparkes gave a well received talk about the vital and difficult work of the GPO Rescue and Salvage Squad during the Second World War.  They salvage squad had the responsibility of rescuing mail from pillar boxes that had been damaged or buried by enemy air raids.

Visitors enjoying the BPMA display

Visitors enjoying the BPMA display

It was standing room only in the cinema at Bletchley Park where films were being shown from our third collection of GPO films – If War Should Come.  We also took a graphic display of ten panels illustrating the essential work of the GPO on the home front during the Second World War.

1940s postman, complete with authentic bicycle

1940s postman, complete with authentic bicycle

There was much else going on during the weekend including tours, WW2 re-enactors, several other talks (including Christine Earle’s ‘The Post Office Went to War’) some rarely seen items from the Royal Philatelic Collection and other children’s activities, including letter writing and games with a former evacuee.

Bletchley Park is well worth a visit and your ticket allows admission for a whole year.

Spring Stampex 2010

Merchandise on display at the Friends of the BPMA stall at Spring Stampex 2010.

Merchandise on display at the Friends of the BPMA stall at Spring Stampex 2010.

The 2010 Spring Stampex opened today at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London. The BPMA Friends can be found at stand 20 this year. They will be happy to tell you more about the BPMA, and you can also become a Friend yourself.

Next door at stand 18 is Bletchley Park Post Office, who will be hosting an event as part of the London 2010: Festival of Stamps in August – you will be able to find out more about this nearer the time.

As part of their stand on the Village Green at Stampex, Royal Mail are offering visitors the chance to make their own smilers. The image below is a Smiler sheet created by Chairman of the BPMA Friends Cyril Macey. It shows the BPMA Friends stand, with 2010 Festival Manager Jennifer Flippance and John Chapman from Bletchley Post Office.

A Smiler sheet created at Stampex showing the Friends of the BPMA stall

A Smiler sheet created at Stampex showing the Friends of the BPMA stall

Admission to Stampex is free, and the show is on until Saturday (27 February). For more details visit the Stampex website: www.stampex.ltd.uk

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!

The British Forces Post Office

Recently a small group of BPMA staff and Friends visited the British Forces Post Office (BFPO). Based in an impressive purpose-built building at RAF Northolt, the BFPO provides a mail service to members of the British armed services, as well as a number of government departments and corporate clients.

The BFPO can trace its history back to 1799 when the office of Army Postmaster was established. Over time the service has formalised and expanded to become an important part of military life. From its initial beginnings as part of the Army it now ensures letters and parcels reach serving Navy and Air Force personnel too.

One reason for the longevity of the service is its value as a morale booster. During the Second World War (WW2) General Montgomery was heard to say that his soldiers could march for three or four days without food on the strength of one letter from home. These sentiments were echoed by Lieutenant Colonel J.A. Field, the present Commander of Defence Postal Services.

For this reason the BFPO and its predecessors have always been keen to use the technology of the day to deliver mail quickly and efficiently. Trials of airmail were conducted by the Royal Engineers (Postal Section) in 1918 and these proved so successful that a regular service between Folkestone and Cologne was established the following year. During WW2, Postal Section personnel were regularly detached with forward troops, often establishing postal services within hours of their arrival. In recent times the BFPO has used cutting-edge OCR technology to sort mail, and has established an innovative hybrid mail system called the e-bluey.

The BFPO uses OCR technology (foreground) to read addresses on mail. Once an address has been read the item of mail is dispatched down a chute (background) and bagged for dispatch.

The BFPO uses OCR technology (foreground) to read addresses on mail. Once an address has been read the item of mail is dispatched down a chute (background) and bagged for dispatch.

Families of British service personnel have long been able to send letters on special blue stationery (known as a blueys), as well as packages weighing up to 2kg, free of charge, but e-blueys enable them to send a message electronically – which will usually arrive within 24 hours. E-blueys can be hand-written and faxed, or sent through the BFPO website. Drawings and colour photographs can also be included, a feature particularly popular with personnel with young families.

Once sent, the e-blueys are delivered via an encrypted computer system to Field Post Offices, where they are printed out using a special printer which seals each message as it is printed. The messages are then distributed to troops with regular mail, having been seen by no one apart from sender and recipient. The e-bluey system is extremely popular, and photographs and drawings which have been sent in this way are said to adorn the walls of many a barracks.

In addition to its sorting, delivery and logistics activities, the BFPO has a Philatelic Bureau which issues a number of First Day Covers each year. The BPMA group was lucky enough to receive one of these to commemorate our visit. As part of an initiative to collect items from postal services other than Royal Mail, the BPMA’s curatorial team collected BFPO bag labels, e-bluey samples and a range of other material.

The BFPOs First Day Cover to commemorate our visit

The BFPO's First Day Cover to commemorate our visit

The BPMA would like to thank BFPO for allowing us to visit, and is particularly grateful to the Officers and staff who provided us with information and assistance.