Tag Archives: lamp box

Time to take stock – Curatorial Stocktake 2014

Each year the curatorial team at the BPMA block out time in our diaries to focus on auditing our collections and collections management activities. This year we undertook what we call our ‘stocktake’ over two weeks in January.

The cornerstone of stocktake is our audit, which takes three forms:

  • The ‘random’ audit – this is auditing 25 objects which are selected through the use of random number generators from nearly 20,000 catalogue records
  • A detailed audit of one particular group of objects within our collection
  • An oral history audit

Undertaking these audits ensures that our collections management procedures, such as location and movement control, are properly implemented throughout the rest of the year.

Our vehicle collection at our store in Essex.

Some of the larger objects at our store in Essex.

For the random audit, two members of staff have to go to each location recorded on the catalogue record, and check that the object is as in situ, and as described. These objects can be in any of our storage sites, or out on loan. The objects this year ranged from umbrellas to handstamps. Despite one location discrepancy, all objects were located, and our collections management system CALM was updated with improved descriptions.

Lamp Boxes

For the detailed collections audit, this year was the turn of the lamp boxes – in previous years we have audited our silverware, medals, and weapons.

Here, every lamp box catalogue entry had to be checked against the corresponding objects in our store. We took all of our lamp boxes down from their shelves in the museum store so we could measure and weigh them, and examine in more detail.

Curator Emma measures the lamp boxes

Curator Emma measures a lamp box aperture

This audit highlighted that one box had been incorrectly numbered – that is two catalogue numbers had been given to the same box some years previously. We carefully checked our accessions register and earlier collections listings and consulted with our collections sub-committee before reaching this conclusion. We also identified some outstanding disposals of lamp boxes that were duplicates of items already in the collection, and in poor condition. These had been marked for disposal after a thorough collections review several years ago, but had not been progressed any further. These boxes will now be disposed of in accordance with our deaccession and disposal procedures.

Lamp boxes at our store in Essex.

Correctly labelled lamp boxes at our store in Essex.

We re-ordered the boxes so they are chronologically stored, relabelled each one with its number so it is clearly identifiable, and gave them a clean too. We have three lamp boxes on display in our Museum of the Post Office in the Community which will be audited soon on our next visit.

Oral Histories

Did you know that we also actively collect oral histories, related to the history of the mail service? We also check these as part of stocktake, donning our headphones to check they are located correctly and that no strange gremlins have corrupted the files.

Other work undertaken in stocktake included:

  • A review of approximately 100 items collected in 2010 from the now closed Twickenham delivery and sorting office, making disposal and accession decisions
  • Ensuring all collections records accurately reflected disposals of furniture undertaken in the past
  • An audit of all loans out; that is loans we make to other places, and updating of loan records and calendars
  • Preparation of the hard copy 2013 Accession Register, a requirement of SPECTRUM standard, by our UCL Museum Studies intern
  • Checking all of our removal slips to make sure that any discrepancies in locations (between where CALM says the object is, and where it actually is!) is identified and recitifed

With all of the other essential demands on our time during this fortnight – from returning loans such as the mail coach, to delivering talks and articles and facilitating filming requests – stocktake was a very busy time!

-Vyki Sparkes, Curator

House of Stewarts

The reigning British monarch has appeared on stamps since their introduction in 1840, but over the past couple of years Royal Mail has ensured that some of those monarchs who ruled before postal reform have also been commemorated. Following last year’s House of Tudor commemoratives and the Houses of Lancaster and York stamps of 2008 comes today’s new release, the House of Stewarts. 

House of Stewarts stamps: (left to right) James I, James II, James III, James IV, James V, Mary, James VI

House of Stewarts stamps: (left to right) James I, James II, James III, James IV, James V, Mary, James VI

The House of Stewart was founded in the late 14th Century by Robert II of Scotland. The Stewarts were monarchs of Scotland from 1371 to 1603, and Monarchs of Great Britain and Ireland from 1603 to 1714.

The House of Stewarts stamps commemorate the seven Stewart monarchs who reigned from 1406 to 1625. This period was significant in Scottish history and saw Scotland transformed from a poor, feudal country into a wealthy modern state which would eventually unite with the rest of the nations of the British Isles.

This era of progress is marked by the four commemoratives which appear in The Age of the Stewarts miniature sheet, marking the foundation of Scotland’s first university, St Andrews, in 1413; the granting of a Royal Charter to the College of Surgeons in 1505; the formalisation of the Court of Session in 1532; and the Reformation of the Church of Scotland (also known as the Presbyterian Church) in 1559.

The Age of the Stewarts miniature sheet

The Age of the Stewarts miniature sheet with stamps for St Andrews University, the College of Surgeons, the Court of Session, and the Reformation of the Church of Scotland.

King James I and Bible (Authorised version of the Bible) stamp, released in 1999 as part of The Christians’ Tale.

King James I and Bible (Authorised version of the Bible) stamp, released in 1999 as part of The Christians’ Tale.

Among the other key events of the House of Stewart period was the translation of the Bible into English. This became known as the King James Bible, and was commemorated on a stamp in 1999. The translation is named after the reigning monarch of the time James I of England and Ireland. James I succeeded Elizabeth I to the throne upon her death in 1603, but from 1567 had been James VI of Scotland. As the first of the Stuart Kings of England, James I will also be included in the House of Stuarts stamps to be released on 15th June.

Scottish Lamp Box, 1974-1976

Scottish Lamp Box, 1974-1976 (OB1994.17)

James I of England/James VI of Scotland is not the only monarch to have caused confusion to someone exploring the complex regal history of Britain. While the current Queen is Elizabeth II of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in Scotland she is technically Elizabeth I. As a result letter boxes and postal vehicles in Scotland do not bear her cipher, ERII, but the Scottish crown.

The House of Stewart stamps area available from the Royal Mail website.

Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book

Tomorrow Royal Mail releases the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book, written by Douglas Muir the BPMA’s Curator of Philately. The book ties-in with the Postboxes Miniature Sheet also released tomorrow, and explores some of the amazing artefacts held by the BPMA.

The cover of the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book features a sheet of Penny Blacks in our collection

The cover of the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book features a sheet of Penny Blacks in our collection

The BPMA cares for the visual, written and physical records of over 400 years of British postal development. These records include stamps and stamp artwork, posters and photographs, documents and postal history, and objects large and small. Many of these are celebrated within the Prestige Stamp Book, including the Penny Black, Mail Coaches, the telegrams from the Titanic, the Penfold pillar box, the GPO Film Unit, stamp artwork from the era of King Edward VIII, and GPO posters.

The Prestige Stamp Book is lavishly illustrated with images of items from the BPMA collection and contains four exclusive stamp panes unavailable anywhere else, including all four of the Postboxes stamps.

The Postboxes stamps celebrates the many types of wall box which provided a cheaper and more practical alternative to large pillar boxes in less populated or remote areas. From 1857 wall boxes began appearing in walls, buildings or brick pillars and were later to be found on poles and lamp posts.

Production of wall boxes ended in 1980, and in 1995 freestanding pedestal boxes were introduced, but around 114,000 post boxes of all kinds still exist across the UK.

Four iconic wall mounted boxes appear on the Miniature Sheet and within the Prestige Stamp Book:

1st Class – George V Type B Wall Box

This example with the royal cipher of George V was cast by W T Allen & Co Ltd, London, between 1933 and 1936, and is from Cookham Rise near Maidenhead.

56p – Edward VII Ludlow Box

Introduced in 1887 this type of standardized box derives its name from the foundry where many of them were made. This example is from Bodiam, East Sussex.

81p – Victorian Lamp Box

The lamp box could also be attached to lamp post or other such structure. This example is from Hythe in Kent and was installed in 1896.

90p – Elizabeth II Type A Wall Box

This Elizabeth II Wall box is located in Slaithwaite near Huddersfield and would have been made between 1962 and 1963.

Postboxes stamp pane from the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book

Postboxes stamp pane from the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book

Other products available as part of the Postboxes stamp issue are a Presentation Pack, First Day Cover Envelope, Stamp Cards, Press Sheet, Generic Sheet, and special First Day Covers cancelled and stamped from Tallents House.

For further information on these releases please see the Royal Mail Stamps & Collecting website. Details of some of the letter boxes held by the BPMA can be found in the Collections section of our website.

The BPMA at Blists Hill – July update

by Alison Norris, Ironbridge Project Assistant

Following a great deal of work by BPMA staff, the contemporary BPMA museum at Blists Hill Victorian town, Shropshire is due to open in late September. Blists Hill is one of ten sites run by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT), and receives around 200,000 visitors a year. This means that the BPMA will now be able to show parts of its unique collection to a great many more people.

The Blists Hill Post Office

The Blists Hill Post Office

The Museum of the Post Office in the Community can be found above the Blists Hill Victorian Post Office on Canal Street. Canal Street was carefully constructed earlier this year, with some buildings being moved brick by brick from original locations, others recreated using the IGMT archive, and each has been fitted out to show a selection of trades, industries and professions from the Victorian era. Many of these buildings are manned by staff in period costume that interpret the contents and demonstrate their functions.

The BPMA Museum of the Post Office in the Community

The museum will be split in to four different sections, each exploring a different theme around the Post Office in the Community.

As well as images and objects, there will also be three audio booths throughout the museum. In each booth, visitors will be able to listen to many different types of people who have either worked at, or used the Post Office, and their thoughts on how it has affected them and those around them.

Post Office Counter Services

A timeline will tell the story of the wide range of services that have been offered over the counter at the Post Office. It will cover services such as pensions, Postal Orders, National Savings Bank, telegrams, telephones and TV licences. A display case will hold objects such as home safes, Post Office Savings Bank books and an early telegram, all of which will help bring depth to the timeline.

Delivering the Mail

The story of the delivery of mail in the community will be made up of three sub-sections. These will cover the local ‘postie’ and their role in the community, delivery equipment such as carts and cycles, and the Post Bus service. 

The Letter Carrier

This section will outline the history of the delivery of letters in the community and the evolution of the letter carrier of the early 18th century to the postman / woman of today. A display of hats will demonstrate changes that took place in the uniforms of letter carriers and postmen.

Delivery Equipment

The Hen & Chicks is one of the key objects on display, and will be in this section. Visitors will also be able to see a BSA Bantam motorcycle, fondly remembered by many messenger boys that rode them. More modern electric vehicle trials by Royal Mail will also be looked at. 

Stour Valley Post Bus

Stour Valley Post Bus

The Post Bus

Introduced in 1967, the Post Bus can provide a vital service to rural communities. Here, its influence and decline will be explored.

Letter Boxes

In this section visitors will be able to see a number of types of letter boxes, all of which have, or still do, provide an important service to the community. When pillar boxes were introduced in 1852, they provided convenient and easy posting facilities but only served large towns and cities. In 1857 a cheaper type of box was introduced to serve more rural communities, this was called the wall box.  Lamp boxes were originally introduced in 1896 in fashionable London squares for residents who wanted late night posting facilities but are now more commonly seen in rural areas.

Pillar Box. Moor Park, Hertfordshire

Pillar Box. Moor Park, Hertfordshire

Changing Times

The final section will conclude the exhibition by telling the story of the UK postal service today and the loss of Royal Mail’s monopoly and rise of competitor mail companies.

Building the Exhibition

Following a competitive tender process, the BPMA appointed the Hub as the fit-out contractors for the Blists Hill exhibition.

Based in Birmingham, the Hub was established four years ago and has been involved in a number of well-known exhibitions and projects. Most recently they have worked on elements of the Ceramics Galleries at the V&A, which will open in September 2009.

Further information and how to get there

Blists Hill is part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust. The Ironbridge Gorge is on the River Severn, 5 miles (8km) south of Telford town centre in Shropshire.

Take junction 4 from the M54. Follow brown and white signs to Ironbridge Gorge.

Once on the A442 follow signs for Blists Hill Museums.

Please remember that the BPMA exhibition will not be opening until late September 2009.

Contact details

For more information on directions, or the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust, please go to www.ironbridge.org.uk

To find out more about the exhibition itself, please visit our website www.postalheritage.org.uk/ironbridge. Or contact Alison Norris (Ironbridge Project Assistant) at alison.norris@postalheritage.org.uk or 020 7239 5174.

GPO Street Furniture Discover Session

This Saturday our Curators will be throwing open the doors of our Museum Store, where some of the larger items in our collection are housed, and helping people view and explore some of the classic items of street furniture which shape our urban and rural landscape.

Few of us take notice of the humble pillar box at the end of our street, yet it is an essential part of our lives. Such everyday items have a fascinating history and have been through many changes in their history. From the size and design of the aperture, to the colour, shape and internal workings of the box itself, each evolution reflects both changing technologies and changing needs.

A Scottish lamp box bearing the Scottish Crown instead of the EIIR cypher

A Scottish lamp box bearing the Scottish Crown instead of the EIIR cypher

Lamp boxes were first trialled in 1896 for residents in fashionable London Squares who required a nearby posting facility so their letters written late at night could catch the midnight or early morning collections.

There have also been regional differences in street furniture design. In Scotland Royal Mail street furniture, vehicles and buildings bear the Scottish Crown rather than the cypher of Queen Elizabeth – EIIR. This is due to complaints that Her Majesty is not the second Queen Elizabeth of Scotland, but the first.

Street furniture produced for Royal Mail and the Post Office has often been innovative. A telephone kiosk in the BPMA’s collection includes a stamp vending machine, perhaps a pioneering example of the current trend in technology for convergence.

Other topics to be covered on the day include wall boxes, Stamp Vending Machines, sub-stations, manhole covers, milestones, signage, pouch boxes and PODS. So, if you’ve ever wondered what’s inside a pillar box, why telephone kiosks have sloping floors or how ‘posties’ manage to deliver to so many homes from such a small mail bag, join us at the Museum Store this Saturday.

The GPO Street Furniture Discover Session will take place at the BPMA’s Museum Store on Saturday 20th June from 11am-3pm. For further information, and to book, please see our website. A Discover Session on Square Pillar Boxes will take place on Saturday 19 September.