Tag Archives: museum tour

Book now to tour our Archives or Museum Store

Bookings are now open for our ever popular tours of the Royal Mail Archive and the British Postal Museum Store. Led by our archivists and curators these tours offer a unique opportunity to see behind the scenes and get up close to some of the fascinating items in our collection.

A tour of the Royal Mail Archive.

A tour of the Royal Mail Archive.

The Royal Mail Archive is based in Freeling House, part of the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre in Clerkenwell, Central London. The Archive collection is stored in 2.5 miles of shelving, and covers social, postal, and design history from 1636 to today. Our archivists will guide you around the repository and show you some of the highlights of the collection.

The British Postal Museum Store is located on the Debden Industrial Estate, Loughton, a short walk from Debden London Underground Station. The Museum Store holds postal vehicles, letter boxes, sorting equipment, bicycles and other items. Our curators will take you on tours around the Store and offer you some complimentary refreshments.

A tour of the British Postal Museum Store.

A tour of the British Postal Museum Store.

Tours of the Archive and the Museum Store are free, but donations are welcome. Book your place online now as these tours always sell out.

Stories from the Store

Last week we invited the public to venture off the beaten track and explore the treasures of our Museum Store at a special after-hours event as part of Museums at Night 2013.

Our Museum Store houses a wonderful collection of the BPMA’s larger exhibits including vehicles and letter boxes. These objects and the stories they tell were brought to life by the Big Wheel Theatre Company in the guise of a suffragette “human letter” and a World War I soldier postman.

Visitors also had the chance to get crafty in workshops with Craft Guerrilla, see our new “Blitz Hill Box”, which contains artefacts from World War II, and indulge in some tea-party style refreshments. Scroll down to view photos from the night.

Before Museums at Night we asked you to guess ‘What’s in the suitcase?’ All was revealed at our Stories from the Store event on Thursday 16 May.

Before Museums at Night we asked you to guess ‘What’s in the suitcase?’ All was revealed at our Stories from the Store event on Thursday 16 May.

The suitcase opened to reveal the story of how the post office went to war. In 1939 the General Post Office was the biggest employer in the country. It played a vital role to keep communication going on the home front and abroad.

The suitcase opened to reveal the story of how the post office went to war. In 1939 the General Post Office was the biggest employer in the country. It played a vital role to keep communication going on the home front and abroad.

Two visitors explore the suitcase, and share their memories of the ‘Save for Victory’ campaign. This public appeal encouraged people to save for the war effort.

Two visitors explore the suitcase, and share their memories of the ‘Save for Victory’ campaign. This public appeal encouraged people to save for the war effort.

Throughout the event stories from the postal past were brought to life by Roland and George from the Big Wheel Theatre Company.

Throughout the event stories from the postal past were brought to life by Roland and George from the Big Wheel Theatre Company.

Roland and George enlisted help from the audience to tell the story of the ‘human letter’. In 1909 two suffragettes ‘posted’ themselves to 10 Downing Street.

Roland and George enlisted help from the audience to tell the story of the ‘human letter’. In 1909 two suffragettes ‘posted’ themselves to 10 Downing Street.

The suffragettes took advantage of a clause in the postal regulations which allowed an individual to be delivered by express delivery. Their aim was to gain publicity for the campaign to gain the vote for women.

The suffragettes took advantage of a clause in the postal regulations which allowed an individual to be delivered by express delivery. Their aim was to gain publicity for the campaign to gain the vote for women.

An audience member takes on the role of the unwitting post boy charged with delivering his human letters to the prime minster.

An audience member takes on the role of the unwitting post boy charged with delivering his human letters to the prime minster.

The suffragettes were intercepted by a police constable who insisted the ‘letter’ had to be returned to the office of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

The suffragettes were intercepted by a police constable who insisted the ‘letter’ had to be returned to the office of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

After all that acting, our visitors were invited to a tea party, with complimentary refreshments served by Hannah, our glamorous Community Learning Officer.

After all that acting, our visitors were invited to a tea party, with complimentary refreshments served by Hannah, our glamorous Community Learning Officer.

Craft Guerilla were also on hand stitching up a storm, helping visitors sew their own suffragette rosette.

Craft Guerilla were also on hand stitching up a storm, helping visitors sew their own suffragette rosette.

Visitors could also wander amongst our collection and discover more stories from the store.

Visitors could also wander amongst our collection and discover more stories from the store.

Before home time there was one more performance from Roland, telling the story of the Post Office Rifles regiment in the First World War.

Before home time there was one more performance from Roland, telling the story of the Post Office Rifles regiment in the First World War.

We run regular tours of the Museum Store but these sell out quickly. More tickets will be available next week so keep checking our website for details.

Family Fun Day

On Saturday 31 March our Museum Store in Loughton, Essex will host a day of activities especially for families. This free event will include short tours of our collections of vintage postal vehicles and post boxes, film screenings, craft sessions, and the chance to handle some original objects and try on postmen’s uniforms.

Postal vehicles at our Museum Store

Postal vehicles at our Museum Store

Our collection of vehicles and post boxes includes the London Ornate pillar box, which has a compass on top in case you get lost whilst posting your letter, and the Inspector’s Bicycle, which has the letters GPO (General Post Office) in the chain wheel. Take a tour with our curators to learn even more about our holdings.

Artist Michelle Reader will be on hand throughout the day to help you make mini sculptures using recycled materials like cardboard, old CDs, plastic objects and buttons. Be inspired by our vehicles and see what you can create.

Try on a postman's hat at our Family Fun Day

Try on a postman's hat at our Family Fun Day

We will also screen films made by the GPO Film Unit, who documented the General Post Office’s work in the 1930s and 1940s. Of particular interest is A Job In A Million which followed John Truman, as he joined the Post Office as a trainee messenger boy.

The Family Fun Day runs from 10am-4pm on 31 March at the BPMA Museum Store, Loughton. The event is free and there is no need to book. Visit our website for full details and travel directions.

The Family Fun Day is part of the 2012 Loughton Festival. The Festival is raising money for Haven House Children’s Hospice. A collection will take place during the event, with all proceeds to this worthy cause.

Great British Railway Journeys and Mail Rail

Anyone who watched this evening’s Great British Railway Journeys will have seen the Royal Mail’s underground postal railway featured. In the episode presenter Michael Portillo visited the Post Office (London) Railway, as it was originally called, and was given the rare opportunity to take a short ride on one of the trains. Today Mail Rail, as it is more affectionately known, remains closed and is not normally open to visitors, but due to the interest in the network, and to try and give as many people as possible a flavour of the railway, the BPMA guided Michael on his journey across this part of London.

A Mail Rail Train, circa 1990s

A Mail Rail Train, circa 1990s

The postal underground railway, despite closing down in 2003 after many of the stations it served above ground were no longer operating, and after the Travelling Post Office stopped running from the mainline London stations, holds great fascination for many. For this reason the BPMA are currently working to conserve three of the original railway cars in its collection, and are also planning on hosting a special Mail Rail themed open day at the BPMA Museum Store in Debden, near Loughton. The one day event, aimed at all the family, and specialists and non-specialists alike, will take place on Saturday 21st April 2012 from 10am till 4pm. Throughout the day BPMA staff will be on hand to help guide visitors round a series of events and presentations about the railway.

Mail Rail removal from Mount Pleasant, May 2011

Mail Rail removal from Mount Pleasant, May 2011

There will be an opportunity to listen to talks about the history of the railway, and its predecessor, the pneumatic railway, with a chance to see the only two pneumatic rail cars known to exist from the 1860/1870s London trials. There will also be film showings including never before seen film of the railway with its driver-less electric trains running for the final time. Curators will also be available to guide visitors around the Museum Store and explore some of the objects related to the railway in the BPMA collection, including the three rail cars that are undergoing or about to undergo conservation. During the day there will also be activities aimed at younger visitors.

Booking is not required but larger group wishing to visit are encouraged to contact the BPMA in advance to make their visit easier.

There is lots more information about the Post Office (London) Railway on the BPMA website and further details about the event will also appear on our website nearer the event.

– Chris Taft, Curator

The BPMA thanks The Arts Council England PRISM Fund, and the AIM Pilgrim Trust Conservation Scheme for their support of the Mail Rail Conservation project.

Museum Store Tours

Ever wanted to see behind the scenes of a museum, and get up close to some fascinating objects? Then book now to join one of our free Museum Store tours.

Postal vehicles at the Museum Store

Postal vehicles at the Museum Store

These tours take place once a month, with extra evening tours added during the summer months. During each tour our curators will be your guide on a journey through several hundred years of postal history. Highlights include a fleet of postal service vehicles illustrating the long history of moving the mail, and over 50 pillar boxes of different types, from one of the first boxes trialled in the UK to modern designs and prototypes.

Pillar boxes at the Museum Store

Pillar boxes at the Museum Store

Also of interest is the Museum Store itself, a working storage facility for our collection, not often experienced by members of the public.

Visit our website to find out more about our Museum Store tours, including dates and booking details.

Discover Session: King George V A-Z

by Vyki Sparkes, Assistant Curator 

King George V

King George V

Take three curators, a museum collection, 26 letters and a royal reign…. Inspired by the former Royal Mail advertising campaign, ‘Think of a Letter’, the museum curators have decided to tell the story of the Post Office during the reign of King George V through the 26 letters of the alphabet.

On the 10th June we will be holding a special, one-off Discover session at our Museum Store. Like all our Discover events, this is an in-depth session which gives you the rare chance to get close to some of our fantastic museum objects. Even if you have visited one of our open days before, you are bound to see and learn something new from our collection.

Use the Air Mail the Fastest Mail, designed by Frank Newbould

Use the Air Mail the Fastest Mail, designed by Frank Newbould

Massive social upheaval marked the reign of George V, such as the First World War, the Easter uprising, enfranchisement of women and the Great Depression. The Post Office also underwent huge change, from the takeover of the telephone system and development of airmail to the first commemorative stamps and the rise of public relations. In exploring this period through the letters of the alphabet, we hope to provide a fun yet informative session – expect a bit of friendly competition between Julian, Chris and myself as we see who will keep you most enlightened and entertained.

What will we do for each letter, especially the dreaded last three? You can probably guess that A will be for Airmail, but what about X, Y or Z? We can tell you that they won’t be for Xmas broadcast, a tradition started by King George V, Ypres, a battlefield in the First World War or Zeppelinpost. Find out what we decide is the best use of all the letters by coming along.

For more information and to book your place on the Discover Session please see our website.

Museum Store Tours

Pillar boxes arranged in a line at the British Postal Museum Store

Pillar boxes at the British Postal Museum Store

Throughout the year we open up our Museum Store to visitors. The Store is a working space, where our curators look after our collection of large objects – everything from pillar boxes and cycles, to mail vans and sorting equipment. There are also some interesting surprises, like the desk of Sir Rowland Hill and a Post Office (London) Railway (or Mail Rail) car.

Join us throughout 2010 for an afternoon or evening tour led by one of our curators. There are also several special events at the Museum Store this year, including Britain Loves Wikipedia and an Open Weekend (more details to follow).

Museum Store Tours 2010
Afternoon Tour, March – Wednesday 3rd March, 2.00-4.00pm
Afternoon Tour, April – Wednesday 7th April, 2.00-4.00pm
Afternoon Tour, May – Wednesday 5th May, 2.00-4.00pm
Afternoon Tour, June – Wednesday 2nd June, 2.00-4.00pm
Evening Tour, June – Monday 7th June, 6.00-8.00pm
Evening Tour, July – Monday 5th July, 6.00-8.00pm
Afternoon Tour, July – Wednesday 7th July, 2.00-4.00pm
Afternoon Tour, August – Wednesday 4th August, 2.00-4.00pm
Afternoon Tour, September – Wednesday 1st September, 2.00-4.00pm
Evening Tour, September – Monday 6th September, 6.00-8.00pm
Afternoon Tour, October – Wednesday 6th October, 2.00-4.00pm
Afternoon Tour, November – Wednesday 3rd November, 2.00-4.00pm 

Museum Store Special Events 2010
Britain Loves Wikipedia – Saturday 20th February, 10.30am-4.00pm
Open Weekend – Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th May, 10.00am-4.00pm