Tag Archives: George V

Bertram Mackennal

As part of our continuing series of events on themes related to George V, the BPMA’s Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will give a free talk next month on the work of Bertram Mackennal. Mackennal was a noted sculptor who designed coins, stamps and medals during the reign of George V. Douglas Muir’s talk will include images from the Royal Philatelic Collection and the Royal Mint as well as the BPMA, together with examples of Mackennal’s work in sculpture.

The unpopular “Downey Head” (left), the frame of which was designed by Bertram Mackennal and G.W. Eve. George V disliked the three-quarter profile and the replacement “Profile Head” (right) was issued the following year. The “Profile Head” effigy of George V was designed by Mackennal and the frame by Eve.

The unpopular “Downey Head” (left), the frame of which was designed by Bertram Mackennal and G.W. Eve. George V disliked the three-quarter profile and the replacement “Profile Head” (right) was issued the following year. The “Profile Head” effigy of George V was designed by Mackennal and the frame by Eve.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1863, Edgar Bertram Mackennal received his early training in sculpture from his Scottish immigrant father John Simpson Mackennal and at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School. At age 19 Mackennal left for Europe, where he undertook further study in London and Paris and began to be commissioned to produce reliefs, figures and busts.

Having completed a number of significant works in England, Australia and India, including statues of monarchs and other notable persons, Mackennal was commissioned to design the medals for the 1908 London Olympic Games. Two years later, when George V ascended the throne, Mackennal was commissioned to prepare an effigy of the King for coins and medals. The Post Office was also keen to employ Mackennal to work on the new definitive stamps, and although initially reluctant, Mackennal agreed.

The popular Seahorses design depicts Britannia being driven through the sea on a chariot pulled by three horses. In her hands are a trident and a shield bearing the Union Jack. Mackennal took inspiration from Greek and Roman depictions of chariot races for this design.

The popular Seahorses design depicts Britannia being driven through the sea on a chariot pulled by three horses. In her hands are a trident and a shield bearing the Union Jack. Mackennal took inspiration from Greek and Roman depictions of chariot races for this design.

Mackennal was involved in the design of all definitive stamp issues during the reign of George V, including the much-loved Seahorses design. Originally issued by the Post Office on 30th June 1913 this design was seen as revolutionary for its time, being the first British stamp to bear a pictorial illustration alongside the monarch’s head and the value. In many ways it can be said to be the pre-cursor to the first British commemorative stamp, issued to celebrate the opening of the British Empire Exhibition 11 years later.

Douglas Muir’s talk on Bertram Mackennal will take place on Thursday 7 October at the BPMA. Information on how to book can be found on our website. Tickets are free.

Douglas Muir’s book George V and the GPO: Stamps, Conflict & Creativity is available from the BPMA online shop.

New records available on the online catalogue

Further records were added to our online catalogue last Friday, bringing the amount of searchable records available to over 90,000.

Records added to the catalogue include:

KEVIII 3d postage due labels, registration sheet, imperforate, 1937

KEVIII 3d postage due labels, registration sheet, imperforate, 1937 (POST 150/KEVIII/PL/1160)

A fleet of commercial vans in the yard at King Edward Building, 1931

A fleet of commercial vans in the yard at King Edward Building, 1931 (POST 118/5089)

A Scammell mail van, 1956 (POST 118/5239)

A Scammell mail van, 1956 (POST 118/5239)

Search the catalogue at http://catalogue.postalheritage.org.uk/

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/

5th Festival of Stamps postcard now available

A fifth postcard is now available in the popular series promoting the London 2010: Festival of Stamps. This postcard looks at the stamps produced for the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.

The postcard features a photographic portrait of George V by Vandyk, alongside essays from 1934 that used this image at two different sizes. It also features an essay with an alternative portrait by Bertram Mackennal, which was much preferred by George V. It was this design that was eventually chosen by the King for the issued stamp.

The fifth London 2010: Festival of Stamps postcard, featuring stamps produced for the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.

The fifth London 2010: Festival of Stamps postcard, featuring stamps produced for the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.

The stamp was designed by Barnett Freedman, the 33-year old son of Jewish-Russian political refugees. He had grown up in the East End of London, starting work at the age of 15 as a draughtsman to a monumental mason. He studied art at night school and in 1922 won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. As well as the stamps, he produced several posters and other illustrations for the GPO.

Freedman wrote of his design for the Silver Jubilee stamps;

The fundamental idea in designing the Silver Jubilee Commemoration Postage Stamp, was firstly, to obtain an effect of dignity and simplicity:- that the design and the lettering should be clear and legible, so as to give at once the function of the new issue, and that the complete stamp should be essentially classical in character.

Secondly, I have used only the very simplest forms of symbolism, the main themes being the Laurel Leaves and the Olive Branches, the Laurel for Triumph and Reward, and the Olive branch for Peace and Goodwill.

The Royal Crown is depicted in each of the four denominations but the Laurel and Olive branches have been interchanged in various forms, with the addition of the Oakleaf and acorn (symbolical of strength and stability) so that with the difference of each denomination-colour, there is also a subtle change of design, without alteration to the fundamental character of the stamp.

Many of the rejected designs by other artists for a George V Silver Jubilee stamp can be seen on our online catalogue.

The new postcard will be sent out this week free with the BPMA Newsletter to subscribers. It can also be obtained from the BPMA Search Room (Freeling House) and will be available at Autumn Stampex (15-18 September) from the Friends of the BPMA stand.

Limited edition complete sets of London 2010 postcards will be available for purchase later in the year.

BPMA Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will be speaking on the stamp, medal and coinage designs of Bertram Mackennal at the BPMA on 7 October 2010. See our website for details.

King George V Registration Sheets

by Stuart Aitken, Collections Assistant

The entire collection of King George V registration sheets is now fully accessible on our online catalogue. Registration sheets, often imperforate, exist as the very first prints taken from the printing plate for each stamp in sheet form. The collection consists of 1,027 sheets in total.

The reign of King George V (6th May 1910 – 20th January 1936) marked one of the most fascinating eras of British postage stamps; a period of change, progression and vast improvements with stamp production. The King himself was a proud philatelist so it is no great surprise that such diversity and experimentation occurred during this time.

2½d Downey Head 1911

2½d Downey Head 1911

The first King George V stamps, the ½d and 1d Downey Head, released on the 22nd June 1911 to coincide with the King’s coronation, immediately faced a storm of criticism as it was the first time a three-quarter profile of the monarch had been used (up to this stage all Great Britain issues had previously used a side-on profile). It was also argued that the use of a typographed image from a photograph had not been hugely successful. Consequently the Downey Head was replaced in August 1912 by the designs of Bertram Mackennal, which saw a return to the profile head. Since the Downey issues, all Great Britain stamps have used a profile head design.

½d Photogravure 1935

½d Photogravure 1935

In 1934 a new design for definitive issues was introduced which was printed using the Photogravure process. Utilising high-speed production and at a lower cost, these stamps underwent subtle resizing and modifications over the years to allow improvements. Information such as this can be found in the description field of each catalogue entry, along with a scanned section of each sheet.

1d British Empire Exhibition 1924

1d British Empire Exhibition 1924

The first British commemorative stamps were also issued during the reign of King George V to mark the 1924/25 Empire Exhibition at Wembley, featuring a Lion in a striking stance. Following this issue other commemorative issues were subsequently produced to mark the 1929 London Postal Union Congress and the 1935 Silver Jubilee of the King.

Also included in the collection are registration sheets of the high value Seahorse issues, the first ever postage due stamps, colour trials, black proof sheets and official governmental overprints relating to their official use in various British territories outside the UK.

Each catalogue entry in the collection is detailed, comprehensible and provides a great research tool and insight into this unique collection of British registration sheets.

Empire Mail: last chance to see

Our exhibition Empire Mail: George V and the GPO ends this Sunday after almost three months at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Putting together the exhibition was a huge undertaking for our curators and exhibitions team, as well as many others.

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO at the Guildhall Art Gallery

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO at the Guildhall Art Gallery

We were particularly pleased to work in partnership with the Royal Philatelic Collection – one of the greatest collections of stamps and postal history in the world – and to exhibit some of its treasures alongside our own.

Treasures from the Royal Philatelic Collection on display

Treasures from the Royal Philatelic Collection on display

While there are no plans to re-mount Empire Mail, we have now uploaded photos of the exhibition to Flicker, and you can continue to enjoy the online version of the exhibition on our website.

Philatelic Congress of Great Britain

The Philatelic Congress of Great Britain, one of the highlights of the British philatelic calendar, takes place in Kenilworth next week. Amongst the special guest speakers is our Curator of Philately Douglas Muir who will speak on the work of Bertram Mackennal, designer of stamps, coins and medals during the reign of King George V.

Bertram Mackennal’s “Seahorses” stamp design, issued 1913

Bertram Mackennal’s “Seahorses” stamp design, issued 1913

Bertram Mackennal’s most admired stamp design was for the “Seahorses” High Values, originally issued by the Post Office on 30th June 1913. This design was seen as revolutionary for its time, being the first British stamp to bear a pictorial illustration alongside the monarch’s head and the value. In many ways it can be said to be the pre-cursor to the first British commemorative stamp, issued to celebrate the opening of the British Empire Exhibition 11 years later.

Other speakers at this year’s Congress of Great Britain will also cover stamps and postal history from the era of George V. In addition there will be a number of static displays, society meetings and social events taking place throughout the three-day event.

The full programme of events and booking details for the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain can be found on the Association of British Philatelic Societies website.

Illustrating Empire Mail: George V and the GPO

by Jennifer Flippance, 2010 Exhibitions & Projects Manager

The BPMA’s major exhibition this year – Empire Mail: George V and the GPO – runs until 25 July at Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London.  Big exhibitions like this take several years of planning, starting with a theme and developing the story around it. Objects must be selected and conserved (including any loans from other institutions), text and captions written and images chosen to bring the story to life. Empire Mail explores the reign of George V (1910-1936), innovations in the General Post Office and George V as a stamp collector – one of the finest of his time.

Selecting images to use in an exhibition can certainly be a challenging task.  Each image has to earn its place, illustrating a different aspect of the exhibition’s story.  Inevitably there will be many wonderful images that don’t quite make it.

I wanted to share some of these as I think they still deserve to be seen.  If you haven’t yet been to see Empire Mail: George V and the GPO, you might wonder which ones were chosen!

1. Field Post Office, First World War

Field Post Office, First World War

We used two other photographs of First World War Field Post Offices in the exhibition, so this one didn’t make it, but I still really like the image. Sending and receiving mail was vital for troop morale and Field Post Offices would be set up in any appropriate location. Notice the F.P.O sign on the windowsill and the poster promoting war savings certificates as an appropriate gift for a sweetheart!  Unfortunately we don’t know where or when this photo was taken.

2. Coronation Aerial Post, 1911

Coronation Aerial Post, 1911

Two women posting into a special aerial post box at the officers of the Windsor Chronicle.  The 1911 Coronation Aerial Post was the world’s first regular airmail service.  One of these red, wooden post boxes (on loan from Windsor & Royal Borough Museum) can be seen in the exhibition and we would have liked to include this image of it in use. Unfortunately, because this is an image from a newspaper it would have been very poor quality once blown up to the size needed for display.

3. Aerial mail rehearsal, August 1911

Aerial mail rehearsal, August 1911

We had some good images of the September coronation airmail flights and the rehearsals the month before, so this one did not make the grade. It shows a postman with mail sack approaching one of the planes during a rehearsals. (This particular plane – a Valkyrie Monoplane – was used in the rehearsal, but not the actual mail flights.)

There were 20 flights in total (16 from Hendon to Windsor and 4 on the return leg) each generally carrying 2 mail sacks with a combined weight of about 50lbs.  Only special postcards and envelopes were carried, examples of which can also be seen in the exhibition.

4. Dryman Post Office, Glasgow

Dryman Post Office, Glasgow

The exhibition team all liked this pleasant rural scene from the 1930s with the iconic George V Morris van, however the image didn’t quite fit in with the exhibition themes. The photograph was most likely taken for the Post Office magazine, illustrating the work of Post Office employees in different parts of the country.  We do have one of the Morris vans on display.  Moving it into the gallery took some very careful manoeuvring!

5. Light aircraft about to leave Newtownards airfield, Northern Ireland, carrying air mail, 1935

Light aircraft about to leave Newtonard airfield, Northern Ireland, carrying air mail, 1935

There were many good airmail photos to choose from and unfortunately this one is from just outside the dates covered by the exhibition. Airmail was still a relative novelty during the 1930s; here a small plane is operating out of a small airfield with a grass runway. But even this scene was advanced compared to images of the open wood and fabric aircraft making that first airmail flight just 24 years previously!

6. Messengers on motorcycles, 1934

Messengers on motorcycles, 1934

This photograph was almost chosen for the section illustrating the development of motorised mail transport. We are lucky to have one of the original BSA B33 motorbikes on display, a unique survivor from the introduction of motorcycle telegrams delivery in the early 1930s. Messengers had to be at least 17 years old and were expected to ride at 15mph – something I suspect they didn’t always adhere to!

7. Post Office London Railway, 1926

Post Office London Railway, 1926

This fascinating illustration shows the route of the Post Office underground railway that runs from Whitechapel to Paddington Station and also how the mail was transported from the sorting offices via chutes and lifts to the railway below. This image is rather busy and in the end we chose to use a simpler map of the route alongside plans, photographs and original objects.

An online version of Empire Mail: George V and the GPO can be found on the BPMA website.

Treasures of the Archive

by Zoe van Well, Archives Assistant

Hi, I am Zoe van Well and this is the first time I have blogged for the BPMA. So why now? Well, recently I contributed to the leaflet for the Treasures of the Archive exhibition. It is housed in the Search Room of the Archive and is free for all to view. You can also download a copy from our website.

In writing the leaflet I was able to not only test my knowledge built up over the past year as an Archives Assistant but also to gain more! I found it so exciting to make connections between the themes highlighted by the Treasures of the Archive exhibition.

The Machin Head mould

The Machin Head mould

One item is The Machin Head mould. Other themes include; Stamps That Never Were, featuring a page from David Gentleman’s design book, and also a World Cup Stamp commissioned for the Scotland team; Design in the GPO, The Mail Coach; and the list goes on!

I found that so many pivotal moments of postal history exposed by the exhibition directly influenced each other. The Machin Head, for example, is a mould sculpted and cast by Arnold Machin and was used to create the definitive stamp still in use today. (Everybody will have used one at some point in their life!) After I read some of Douglas Muir’s book on the topic, titled A Timeless Classic and sold in the search room, I became aware of the challenges which arose during the design process. In particular I realised the roles David Gentleman and the then Postmaster General Tony Benn played, given they were questioning the very use of the Monarch’s Head being present on stamps!

Colour trials for the Postal Union Congress £1 stamp of 1929

Various colours were trialled for the Postal Union Congress £1 stamp of 1929. Eventually, grey was selected.

This lead to me realising special stamps were very limited in number until the 1960’s, full stop! The Postal Union Congress commemorative stamps featuring George V (of which the £1 Stamp, 1929 is displayed in the exhibition) was only the second Commemorative Stamp to be commissioned. The first were designed for the British Empire Exhibition held in1924 and 1925. These stamps can currently be viewed at the Empire Mail: George V and the GPO exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

I must say though, whilst looking into these stamps I unearthed other research material which can sometimes be overlooked, including supplements issued in the Philatelic Bulletin. The Philatelic Bulletin is a small newsletter published by Royal Mail, and it includes articles on special stamps about to be issued. One supplement in particular does a great job of explaining the difference between definitive and special stamps. We have a complete collection of these Bulletins in the search room and they can be a great starting point for projects undergone by school pupils. They are also a great way for everybody to learn about events in philatelic history. Of course, if you become interested in an event and would like to see original material relating to it, either I or one my colleagues in the Search Room will be pleased to help you locate some if you wish!

One of only eight penny black proof registration sheets, produced before letters were inserted into the plate

One of only eight penny black proof registration sheets, produced before letters were inserted into the plate

Getting back to the Treasure of the Archive Exhibition, don’t forget we also have on display a Penny Black Proof Registration sheet (1st April 1840), of which there are only eight and all are cared for here at the British Postal Museum and Archive. We also have a Queen Victoria Channel Islands Pillar Box, one of the very first to be made and which were trialled on the Channel Islands during 1852 and 1853.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit us while this exciting and rare material is still on display! Why not make a day of it by browsing our catalogue either online or in our search room after viewing the exhibition. You may also prefer to take inspiration from the search room information sheets such as Travelling Post Offices, Mail Rail, Animals in the Post Office, The Post Office in the Second World War, Women in the Post Office and Airmail. If you find something takes your interest, we can help you find a particular item and produce it for you from the repository.

We enjoy showing you original material as it can often be a thrilling experience; both for staff and visitors, whether it is a time bill, a report or a list of ingredients for cancellation inks!

Treasures of the Archive can be viewed in our Search Room until April 2011. For information on visiting the Search Room please see http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/visiting.

Paul Eimers on The King’s Stamps

A few weeks ago we were very pleased to welcome Paul Eimers of security printers Royal Joh. Enschedé to the BPMA. Enschedé have worked with Royal Mail on a number of stamp issues over the years, but most recently were responsible for The King’s Stamps, a miniature sheet featuring reproductions of stamps from the era of King George V, issued to celebrate the London 2010 International Stamp Exhibition

The King's Stamps

The King's Stamps, released 6th May 2010

Recreating stamp designs from almost 100 years ago using modern printing techniques was a challenge for Enschedé. In a talk delivered by Paul Eimers he described the painstaking process by which the original hand-engraved die was copied and then reproduced to allow new stamps to be printed using modern intaglio techniques. You can now hear Paul Eimer’s talk by subscribing to our podcast.

This is the 8th BPMA podcast to be released. All of our podcasts feature recordings of talks given at the BPMA by philatelists, stamp collectors, postal historians and speakers with expertise in areas related to the history of British postal service. The BPMA podcast is free and can be downloaded from www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast.

The King’s Stamps miniature sheet and related products, including a Prestige Stamp Book written by our Curator of Philately Douglas Muir, were released on 8th May and can be purchased from Royal Mail.