Tag Archives: furniture

Open Day with the Post Office Vehicle Club

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Post Office Vehicle Club (POVC) whose members document, preserve and operate a wide range of postal and telephones vehicles. On Saturday 15th September there is a rare opportunity to see some these vehicles exhibited alongside items from our own collection at an Open Day at our Museum Store in Debden, Essex.

The Museum Store is where we house our larger exhibits, including letter boxes, sorting equipment, furniture and vehicles. Until we are able to provide a full museum experience at our new home at Calthorpe House the Museum Store offers the only opportunity to get up close to our collection. We run regular guided tours of the Store but these are very popular and only a few tickets are available for the remainder of this year. The Open Day will offer a great opportunity to see items from our collection as well as some of the vehicles preserved by POVC members.

Morris series Z telephone utility in original wartime colours with blackout markings.

Morris series Z telephone utility in original wartime colours with blackout markings.

On display will be 18 vehicles from POVC members including a wartime Morris series Z GGY 20 telephone utility (in original wartime colours, complete with blackout markings), the unique Commer Avenger/Harrington mobile telegraph unit SLO 24, a newly restored Minivan mailvan PTV 231M, and a Bedford HA mailvan KCJ 759P. A selection of Morris Minors and BSA Bantam telegram motorcycles are expected, while two Morris JB mailvans from the 1950s are promised along with a restored Dodge Spacevan television detector van CNJ 423T in arctic blue livery.

Dodge Spacevan television detector van in arctic blue livery.

Dodge Spacevan television detector van in arctic blue livery.

The Open Day with the Post Office Vehicle Club is a free event to which all are welcome. For the enthusiast there will be illustrated presentations from POVC members and our Curator Julian Stray, whilst children will be able to enjoy a range of family-friendly activities.

Pillar boxes at our Museum Store in Essex.

Pillar boxes at our Museum Store in Essex.

For further details of the event and information on how to get to the Museum Store, please see our website.

Volunteer re-housing project

As part of our preparations to move to our new site at Calthorpe House, work has recently begun on ensuring our collections are in a fit condition to move. There are three areas of work already underway, and more will start over the coming months.

Phase boxing

Many of our archive volumes have weakened or damaged bindings. These require additional support in the form of phase boxes prior to moving. We currently have two volunteers involved in this project, Eric Hearn and Colette Bush. Over the past few months they have received training on how to create the boxes, which require careful measurements of the volumes and often need final adjustments to fit comfortably.

Volunteer Eric at work.

Volunteer Eric at work.

Volumes prior to phase boxing.

Volumes prior to phase boxing.

The phase boxed volumes.

The phase boxed volumes.

Rolled plans

Following the work began in February 2012 on re-housing plans of furniture, fixtures and fittings (archive class POST 91) we have very recently extended this to other rolled plans. The plans being re-housed were previously stored in large rolls in map bags or mail sacks. These storage conditions offered little protection to the rolls in situ, and were entirely inadequate for moving this material. We now have two conservation volunteers (Cristina Rico Liria and Ana Paula Hirata Tanaka) working together our Conservation Assistant (Collections Move) to improve the storage conditions for these vulnerable items.

Volunteers at work.

Volunteers at work.

Rolls prior to rehousing.

Rolls prior to rehousing.

The rehoused rolls.

The rehoused rolls.

Slogan dies

Work has also begun on auditing and packing the museum collection, specifically our slogan die collection. Slogan dies are made from metal and our collection of around 2,000 reflects a huge variety of slogans used on postmarks throughout the 20th century. These items required re-housing for several reasons: metal items are very susceptible to handling, the grease on our hands can permanently damage them, they are currently stored in non conservation materials and often hundreds to a box, making them very heavy to move and hard to quickly locate individual items.

As such, Cyril Parsons and Fahema Begum are working on a project to re-house the dies using conservation materials so that the dies can be seen and handled whilst being protected from any damage. They are also updating our database, entering any additional information about the objects and ensuring their location is noted to the fullest extent possible. This is important as a major aspect of the move will be ensuring tight location and movement control so that we always know where an object is at any given time.

Volunteer Fahema at work.

Volunteer Fahema at work.

Slogan dies before rehousing.

Slogan dies before rehousing.

Slogan dies after rehousing.

Slogan dies after rehousing.

Over the coming months we will continue to work to bring the housing of the collections up to safe standards to move. There is a significant amount of work still to be done, and we would not be able to achieve this without the time and dedication of our volunteers. If you are interested in being involved with this work please contact Helen Dafter on helen.dafter@postalheritage.org.uk or 020 7239 5119.

– Helen Dafter, Archivist and Emma Harper, Curator (Move Planning)

“Are the public really after the date stamp?”: Photograph albums of post office interiors in POST 91

by Anna Flood, Project Archivist (Cataloguing)

Some of the most attractive items I have listed in preparation for cataloguing the records in the POST 91: Buildings, Furniture and Fittings series have been the photograph albums of head and branch post office interiors from the 1930s to the 1950s. The quality of the photographs is excellent and they depict the difference in styles ranging from ornate, to minimalist and art deco. They also give an idea of the bustle of public offices during their everyday usage.

Central London Post Office

Central London Post Office

Prior to the Second World War little consideration had been given to uniformity in post office interior design. As reflected in the photograph albums new features and layouts were implemented in various offices, but none prevailed. The post office constructed for the Glasgow Exhibition in 1938 was more a showpiece than a model for things to come.

Glasgow Exhibition Post Office, 1938

Glasgow Exhibition Post Office, 1938

However, a study undertaken by the Post Office Architect’s Branch in 1954, entitled ‘The Public Office: Some Notes on Design and Layout’, indicates a developing concern for the post office interior as a key element of corporate image. Perhaps the “battleship grey” and “chocolate brown” public office colour schemes were too reminiscent of the war. Certainly the muted Ministry of Works 1939 colour schemes for post offices, also in POST 91, have an element of Dad’s Army about them.

Folkestone Head Post Office circa 1950s

Folkestone Head Post Office circa 1950s

It’s hard to tell whether the author of the ‘Notes on Design and Layout’ was entirely serious in his scathing observations on post office interiors; referring to the public office as a “mortician’s parlour” and seemingly haunted by a pair of wall lights, referred to rather ominously in several photographs as “the twins”. The public did not escape criticism either; pondering the height, dimensions and material of counter screens, the author questioned the likelihood of people attempting a smash and grab for the date stamp. He clearly didn’t think much of the habits of the average post office customer, asking whether ash trays were really necessary given the large number of cracks in the floor.

Manchester Head Post Office, circa 1950s

Manchester Head Post Office, circa 1950s

Looking at the photographs of the polished and, in some cases, grand interiors of public offices during this period it seems the criticism they received was unwarranted. The fact that the majority of the photographs appear staged, depicting spotless public offices devoid of their usual activity may actually be advantageous to those interested in the specifics of post office design; the angle from which many of the photographs were taken, providing a broad interior perspective, captures many details of furniture and fittings.

Diss Head Post Office, 1953

Diss Head Post Office, 1953

The albums are a valuable illustrative companion to the numerous post office plans and design guidelines currently being catalogued as part of POST 91.

Scarborough Head Post Office, 1953

Scarborough Head Post Office, 1953

In future blogs I will provide further information on the plans of post office buildings. In particular there are a number of watercolour elevations from the turn of the twentieth century that are most striking in their craftsmanship.