Tag Archives: Podcast

The Post Office and the Blitz

Our archive and museum collections could tell a billion stories. In our latest podcast Assistant Curator Vyki Sparkes reveals some of them as she uses diary extracts and official documents to show how postal workers and buildings were affected by the Blitz.

New Cross Exchange, damaged by two High Explosive bombs which fell close to the building on 4 October 1940. (POST 56)

New Cross Exchange, damaged by two High Explosive bombs which fell close to the building on 4 October 1940. (POST 56)

Between September 1940 and May 1941 Nazi bombers targeted important infrastructure in the British Isles, including General Post Office (GPO) buildings such as sorting offices and telephone exchanges.

Many GPO staff showed great courage and determination to keep mail moving and telecommunications services functioning. Amongst them was Frederick G. Gurr who led the GPO Rescue and Salvage Squad, a small group of men who rescued mail, money and supplies from Post Offices and letterboxes bombed in the City of London.

To find out more about Gurr and other GPO World War 2 heroes download The Post Office and the Blitz podcast from www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast or subscribe to our podcast with iTunes.

We want your views

Do you like what we’re doing on our website, online catalogue, podcast, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and this blog? Is there something you’d like us to do online in the future?

We’re conducting an online survey of our audiences which will help us improve our services. Those who complete the survey will go into the draw to win a voucher from Amazon worth £50.

Man writing at desk (POST 118/5388)

Man writing at desk (POST 118/5388)

Take the survey at www.postalheritage.org.uk/survey. The survey closes 19 September 2011.

Grandpa England podcast

We are pleased to announce that our latest podcast is now available to download. The speaker is Matthew Glencross, a PhD student working in the Royal Archives on the role of the monarchy in the early 20th Century. He spoke at the BPMA in October on the public and private life of King George V.

This year we have been focusing on the era of George V as part of our programme of events for London 2010: Festival of Stamps, but for much of the time we have looked at the stamps and postal history of the period. Matthew Glencross’ talk comes from a different perspective, drawing extensively on rarely seen material from the Royal Archives, including George V’s personal diary. The diary proves to be a fascinating document, charting George’s life from his childhood as a naval cadet, to his 26 year reign as King.

And where does the title “Grandpa England” come from? You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out!

To download this and other podcasts, go to www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast.

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.

Sir Stephen Tallents and the GPO

The poster for Night Mail designed by Pat Keely

The poster for Night Mail designed by Pat Keely

Sir Stephen Tallents, the innovative public relations man responsible for creating the GPO Film Unit, establishing poster design as an important part of the Post Office’s marketing activities and introducing the Valentines telegram (among other things), was the subject of a talk given at the BPMA on 29th October 2009 by Dr Scott Anthony, Director of the MA in Modern British History at Manchester University and author of the BFI Classics book on Night Mail. This talk is now available on our podcast

Tallents had a varied career before he joined the General Post Office (GPO). He served in the Irish Guards during World War I, but was badly injured in Festubert. Thereafter he returned to London and worked for a number of government departments until he became Secretary to the Empire Marketing Board (EMB) in 1926. The EMB’s purpose was to promote trade between British Empire nations and Tallents made full use of the modern media, setting up a film unit (led by John Grierson) and employing artists such as Edward McKnight Kauffer to design posters.

A still from the GPO Film Unit film Rainbow Dance

A still from the GPO Film Unit film Rainbow Dance

When the EMB was abolished in 1933, Tallents took up public relations work for the GPO, bringing the film unit and Grierson with him, and establishing a way of working which drew on the expertise of leading figures from the arts and communications industries in a consultative capacity. Kenneth Clark, then Director of the National Gallery but later most famous for the BBC TV series Civilisation, was one of many involved.

Dr Anthony’s talk examines Tallent’s career, showing how his many experiences and jobs led him to virtually invent public relations in the UK, and establish a long-lasting corporate identity and marketing strategy for the GPO.

Tallent’s work in the area of poster design will be one of the subjects covered in our next podcast, in which Dr Paul Rennie, Head of Context in Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, London, will explore the history and development of poster art and communication at the GPO.

Stamps in the 21st Century

Next month the BPMA will host the panel discussion Stamps in the 21st Century, which will look at the use, design and future of the postage stamp.

The panel will be chaired by Brian Goodey, Chair of The Postal Heritage Trust and Professor Emeritus in the Joint Centre for Urban Design at Oxford Brookes University. Brian Goodey will speak about Architecture as Public Art – Buildings on British Stamps at the BPMA in December.

The 4d Carmine, 1855. The first stamp to be printed using the surface printing method.

The 4d Carmine, 1855. The first stamp to be printed using the surface printing method.

The rest of the panellists are:

Jean Alexander, co-author of the British Stamp Booklets series (available from The Great Britain Philatelic Society) and a member of the Stamp Advisory Committee, which advises Royal Mail on the design of British Stamps.

Tony Bryant, who has been with De La Rue plc for over 20 years. De La Rue has been printing stamps since the UK’s four penny Carmine in 1855 and continues to be at the forefront of stamp technology.

Barry Robinson, former Design Director at The Post Office. Barry Robinson estimates he was responsible for over 200 special stamp issues, the ongoing development of the Machin and country definitives, and the full range of support products.

Guy Thomas, editor of Stamp Magazine. Having recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, Stamp Magazine is Britain’s best-selling independent magazine for philatelists.

The panel discussion takes place at the Phoenix Centre, Phoenix Place, Clerkenwell, London, WC1X 0DL on 11 Thursday 11th March from 7.00-8.00pm. Tickets are free. To book for this event call 020 7239 2570 or email info@postalheritage.org.uk.

We are now looking for questions to put to the panel. If you have a question, please send it with your name and contact details to newsletter@postalheritage.org.uk or by post to Laura Dixon, BPMA, Freeling House, Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DL.

The panel discussion will be recorded for our podcast and will be made available at the end of April.

This event is part of London 2010: Festival of Stamps.

The Post Office during the First World War

The fourth in our series of podcasts is now available and features researcher Peter Sutton speaking about the Post Office during the First World War. This talk was recorded at the Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms in March as part of the exhibition Last Post: Remembering the First World War, which is still on a national tour.

War Graves Cemetery, The Somme as seen on a stamp in 1999

War Graves Cemetery, The Somme as seen on a stamp in 1999

At the start of 1914 the General Post Office was one of the largest employers in the world, with a workforce of more than a quarter of a million, but the Great War had a significant impact on the service. Many postal workers left to serve on the front, either as fighting men or as part of army postal and telegraph services. With its workforce massively depleted, the Post Office reduced services at home and employed women in large numbers for the first time. The Post Office also participated in a massive censorship operation and was involved in the mass distribution of items such as army recruitment forms, ration books and advertising material for war bonds.

These and many other aspects of World War 1 are covered in Peter Sutton’s talk, which can now be downloaded from http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast or iTunes.

Human Letters: The Post Office and women’s suffrage

Earlier this year Dr Katherine Rake, Director of the Fawcett Society spoke at the BPMA about women’s suffrage and other equality campaigns. This talk is now available through our podcast. But if the connection between the women’s suffrage movement and the British postal service doesn’t seem immediately obvious, all will be explained. 

“Human letters” – Telegraph messenger boy A.S. Palmer delivers Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan to 10 Downing Street.

“Human letters” – Telegraph messenger boy A.S. Palmer delivers Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan to 10 Downing Street.

On 23rd February 1909 two suffragettes, Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan, posted themselves to 10 Downing Street, in an attempt to deliver a message personally to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. At this time Post Office regulations allowed individuals to be “posted” by express messenger, so the two women went to the West Strand Post Office and were placed in the hands of A.S. Palmer, a telegraph messenger boy, who “delivered” them to Downing Street. There, an official refused to sign for the “human letters” and eventually Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan were returned to the offices of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

Another connection to both the Post Office and women’s suffrage was Millicent Garrett Fawcett, the wife of the political economist, suffrage campaigner, Liberal MP and Postmaster General (1880-1884) Henry Fawcett. At the time of the human letters incident Millicent was the leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). She and her organisation were more moderate campaigners than the Women’s Social and Political Union, but eventually they achieved their goal.

Millicent Garrett Fawcett who was honoured with a stamp in last year’s Women of Achievement series.

Millicent Garrett Fawcett who was honoured with a stamp in last year’s Women of Distinction series.

Millicent Garrett Fawcett is regarded as having been instrumental in the campaign for votes for women, in particular the Representation of the People Act 1918, which allowed women over 30 the right to vote if they were married to a member of the Local Government Register, as well as women to enter parliament on an equal basis with men.

Garrett Fawcett’s work and that of the NUWSS lives on in the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equality between women and men in the UK on pay, pensions, poverty, justice and politics. In her talk, Dr Katherine Rake outlines the Society’s work, giving both a sobering and optimistic appraisal of what has been achieved.

To find out more about this and our other podcasts visit www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast.

The education pack Messages Through Time (suitable for Key Stage 3 history students) contains colour facsimile archive documents related to the human letters and can be downloaded from our website.

New podcast goes online: The Post Office during the Second World War

by Alison Bean, Website Officer

Peace and Freedom stamp, 1995

Peace and Freedom stamp, 1995

Earlier this year several talks were given at the Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms to tie-in with the exhibition Last Post – Remembering the First World War. These covered various wartime and postal history topics, including talks on the Post Office during the First and Second World Wars. The talk The Post Office during the Second World War, given by Mark Crowley, is now available to download as a podcast.

Mark Crowley is a PhD student conducting research at the BPMA, who has previously written for this blog on The Post Office Home Guard. His talk presented a number of interesting insights into Post Office operations during World War 2.

The bomb damage suffered by Greenwich Post Office in 1945

The bomb damage suffered by Greenwich Post Office in 1945

The Post Office played a vital communications role during the War, providing both postal and telegram deliveries, and telephone services. With many Post Office workers now in the forces, women were employed in large numbers to deliver and sort mail, drive Royal Mail vans and maintain the telephone network. Mark’s talk is peppered with stories of the bravery of some of these workers, who managed to keep telephone exchanges and sorting offices running even as the enemy bombs rained down.

Vital infrastructure such as post offices, sorting offices and telephone exchanges were often targets for enemy bombers, and many suffered bomb damage. Mobile Post Offices, offering telephone and counter services were set up in effected areas.

A Mobile Post Office in a bombed area, 1941

A Mobile Post Office in a bombed area, 1941

Unfortunately, many of the archive images referred to in the talk cannot be included with the podcast due to copyright reasons, but we hope to make some of these available in the future.

The British Postal Museum & Archive Podcast can be downloaded through iTunes or from our website. Last Post – Remembering the First World War is currently on a national tour.

BPMA launches podcast

by Alison Bean, Website Officer

Yesterday I made the BPMA’s first podcast live. The BPMA podcast makes available recordings of our Talks programme, with a talk by Tony Benn being the first to be released. This entertaining and informative talk was given at the BPMA last year and celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Girobank, a project initiated during Benn’s time as Postmaster General.

Girobank extended banking services to people on low incomes and revolutionised the transfer of money in Britain. It was the first UK bank to offer free banking to personal customers and the first to develop telephone banking. Its operations are now part of the Alliance and Leicester Group.

Post Office Technology: National Giro, a stamp designed by David Gentleman and released in 1969.

Post Office Technology: National Giro, a stamp designed by David Gentleman, released in 1969.

A stamp celebrating National Giro, which was designed by David Gentleman, was released in 1969 as part of a set on Post Office Technology. This stamp can be seen if you download the enhanced version of the Tony Benn podcast, or subscribe using iTunes or your favourite aggregator.

Podcasts with a philatelic or postal history theme are pretty rare on the ground, so the BPMA podcast is an exciting initiative. The only other podcasts on this subject that I have found are Prestige Philately with Australian stamp dealer Gary Watson, APS Stamp Talk with Nancy Clark of the American Philatelic Society, and the Spink podcast, which is available in both audio and video versions. Also worth a look are the new You Tube channel from the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and the You Tube challenge from the American Philatelic Society. It’s great to see philatelists, postal historians and stamp collectors experimenting with audio and video.

Future BPMA podcasts will examine the role of the Post Office during wartime and take an in-depth look at a recent British stamp release.

To download or subscribe to our podcast please see our website, or the link to our podcast feed in the right hand column. Click here to see the podcast on iTunes.