Tag Archives: Post Office Savings Bank

GPO Britain in pictures

The BPMA is the custodian of a photographic collection which includes about 100,000 individual photographs; the earliest is from the late 19th century and the latest ones date from the 1990s. In a previous blog on our photography collection and a talk now available as a podcast we have presented some of this fascinating material and the stories behind it, and our exhibition The Post Office in Pictures features some of the most striking images.

The GPO Britain postcard set.

The GPO Britain postcard set.

The photographs depict life in Britain at the time of the General Post Office (GPO) with its contrasts between modern urban areas and the industrial heartland, and the remote rural regions where the postman or postwoman presented a vital connection to the outside world. We have selected six of the most intriguing images for a new postcard set which is now available from the BPMA Shop.

Man posting a letter holding a cauliflower, 1949. (POST 118/1964)

Man posting a letter holding a cauliflower, 1949. (POST 118/1964)

Many of these photographs have been published in the Post Office Magazine (POST 92), which was first issued in 1934 in order to promote postal services and good relations with the public, aimed at the large postal workforce, their families and friends. The articles often presented the modernity and efficiency of the GPO’s services, such as the Post Office Savings Bank – “Everybody’s Bank” with ten million accounts, according to the author of an article in the September 1935 issue. The story on the bank, which holds “the small savings of ordinary not-very-wealthy folk in the hamlets and towns and cities of Britain”, is accompanied by several images of banking clerks entering the 120,000 daily transactions in the newly adopted accounting machines. The clerks’ efficiency in dealing with the amount of correspondence and day to day business clearly impressed the author – he dubs them ‘super clerks’.

A female clerk at the Post Office Savings Bank, on the cover of the Post Office Magazine September 1935. (POST 92)

A female clerk at the Post Office Savings Bank, on the cover of the Post Office Magazine September 1935. (POST 92)

Other sections of the magazines were regularly dedicated to news from the different UK regions. These focussed on the local postal staff and their achievements, activities and work in their local community, which, to today’s readers, provides some authentic insights into rural British communities in the 1930s and 1940s. The October 1938 Northern Ireland section, for example, features the image of a postman with a pony and trap on a rural road: “The Glenarm Bay postman goes on his delivery in a trap presented to him by local residents” (POST 118/903).

Postman with pony and trap in Northern Ireland, 1938. (POST 118/903)

Postman with pony and trap in Northern Ireland, 1938. (POST 118/903)

Other issues show postmen wading through rivers on horseback (January 1939) to reach the next village or town, or recount the peculiar history of whale bones decorating the post office exterior at Cley-next-the-Sea (March 1938).

Postman on horseback near Withypool, Somerset, 1938. (POST 118/910)

Postman on horseback near Withypool, Somerset, 1938. (POST 118/910)

Main Strain in Cley, Norfolk, 1937. (POST 118/1204)

Main Strain in Cley, Norfolk, 1937. (POST 118/1204)

The GPO Britain postcard set is now available from the BPMA Shop for £3.75.

Subscribe to the BPMA e-newsletter now and receive exclusive reader offers with free postage or special discounts for this and other new products regularly to your inbox.

BPMA Summer Sale

The BPMA Shop summer sale starts today: It’s 20% off all orders! But hurry – this amazing offer only lasts for one week. Enter SUMM3R2012 in the appropriate field at checkout (excludes P&P) and place your order by 31 July 2012.

Savings Greetings Card Set

Savings Greetings Card Set

Choose from our range of unique postal heritage gifts: Learn more about our postal history and design with our publications, let someone know they’re the best with our First Class Greetings Card, get through this British Summer with our big BPMA Umbrella, or simply smarten up your standard business dress with a Penny Black Tie.

And just in time for “the greatest show on earth” the new book by the President of the Society of Olympic Collectors, Bob Wilcock, The London 1948 Olympic Games: A Collectors’ Guide is now also available.

Visit the BPMA show at http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/shop.

The Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica

In advance of our forthcoming talk on this varied, quirky and fascinating collection, I met David Rooney, Curator of Transport at the Science Museum, at Blythe House in West London to find out more about this prolific collector, Winifred Penn-Gaskell and her collections.

One of many fascinating boxes from the Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica held at the Science Museum

Some of you may already know that Blythe House is the former home of the Post Office Savings Bank, a fact which made my visit that bit more exciting as I was familiar with it from several photographs but had never seen it in the flesh or been inside.

Evidence of the Post Office Savings Bank which used to by based at Blythe House

An imposing Edwardian building of mammoth proportions and a myriad size and shape rooms inside, it stores part of the Science Museum collection, including the Penn Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica.

Imposing Blythe House which houses a large part of the Science Museum's collections

The collection was gathered over several years from 1927 onwards by Winifred Penn-Gaskell, who wanted to ensure that the ephemera relating to the advent of air travel and aerial post were preserved as well as the actual crafts themselves.
The collection is hugely varied and includes pottery, books, pamphlets, stamp albums, snuff boxes, delftware, early microfilm, photographs and more – even buoyant sugar cubes, prisoner of war post and parts of a zeppelin shot down in 1916.

Some of the albums which form parts of the Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica

Winifred herself was a fascinating character – living alone 1000 feet up in the wilds of Dartmoor but also a globe trotter who travelled far and wide and was committed to chronicling the swift changes to air travel as they unfolded. Her collecting was all in the service of recording the heroic feats of the pioneer aviators for posterity.
David will be revealing much more about the collection and the collector next Thursday 10th May 2012 at 7pm at the Phoenix Centre, next to the Royal Mail Archive. Find out more information and book your ticket for his talk on our website.

– Laura Dixon, BPMA Learning Officer (Events & Outreach) –

The postman who was a serial killer

Few people would think that this could be so. Yet John Reginald Halliday Christie of 10 Rillington Place, one of the twentieth century’s most notorious serial killers had worked for the Post Office on two occasions.

The first instance was shortly after he returned to his home town of Halifax after military service in the First World War. On 10 January 1921, Christie was enrolled as a temporary postman there, and was paid £2 18s 2d per week. His life took a turn for the worse on Tuesday 5 April 1921, when he appeared at Halifax Magistrates’ Court. Detective Inspector Sykes provided evidence to the effect that on 20 February, two postal orders had been stolen.

Convictions and dismissals of Post Office employees, 1916-1922. Record pertaining to John Christie highlighted. (POST 120/160)

Convictions and dismissals of Post Office employees, 1916-1922. Record pertaining to John Christie highlighted. (POST 120/160)

Questions had arisen because letters were going missing from Halifax Post Office and a Mr Drennan had been called upon to make enquiries. On 4 April he had found a letter in a public lavatory at Crossley Street, Halifax. This was a letter which Christie should have delivered. Drennan then followed Christie home and had a detective search him. He found four postal orders on his person. He also found several other postal orders, together with cheques and dividends at the house. They totalled several hundred pounds, including a £100 Bank of England warrant, cheques to the value of £600 and money orders worth £14 10s.

The defence rested on the prisoner’s previously exemplary character. The verdict, though, was that Christie was guilty and he was sentenced to three months in prison at Manchester. It is uncertain why he committed these crimes because he did not need the money; yet ex-servicemen with good war records had been known to go off the rails when their lives were no longer governed by external discipline.

Two decades later, just after another World War, on 21 May 1946 he rejoined the Post Office. He was employed as a Grade 2 clerk in the Post Office Savings Bank at Blythe Road, Shepherd’s Bush.

Exterior of the Post Office Savings Bank, Blythe Road, Shepherd’s Bush (POST 118/248)

Exterior of the Post Office Savings Bank, Blythe Road, Shepherd’s Bush (POST 118/248)

In August 1947 he was employed as a clerk at the Post Office Savings Bank at Kew and was in the First Aid party there.

Post Office Savings Bank, clerks at work (POST 118/269)

Post Office Savings Bank, clerks at work (POST 118/269)

His job at the Post Office came to an end on 4 April 1950, twenty nine years to the day he had left it previously. Christie claimed he had been ill, and off work and that on his return he was escorted from the premises by two investigating officers. It is often asserted that his employers discovered that, at the trial of Timothy Evans in January 1950, where Christie was the key Crown witness, he had a criminal record, as disclosed by the defence. Yet the dismissal book in the Post Office archives enigmatically states that the reason for his dismissal was ‘changes affecting the character’.

Convictions and Dismissals of Post Office Employees, 1949-1951. Record pertaining to John Christie highlighted. (POST 120/170)

Convictions and Dismissals of Post Office Employees, 1949-1951. Record pertaining to John Christie highlighted. (POST 120/170)

Three years later, Christie’s murders were revealed and he was hanged for murder. Ironically the investigating officer at the Post Office in 1950 was a man with the surname Death.

– Jonathan Oates, author of the upcoming book John Christie of Rillington Place: Biography of a Serial Killer, published by Pen and Sword, 2012.

150 years of the Post Office Savings Bank

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB), which opened for business on 16 September 1861. The Bank was set up to encourage ordinary people to save money safe in the knowledge that it was secured by the government. It also provided the government with a financial asset. The Bank did not just offer savings accounts. Over time it introduced a range of other services including government stocks and bonds in 1880, war savings in 1916 and premium savings bonds in 1956.

Romford Head Post Office - Savings Bank transaction, 1950 (POST 118/2058)

Romford Head Post Office - Savings Bank transaction, 1950 (POST 118/2058)

Over the years the POSB provided home safes to encourage people to save pennies at home before depositing the contents into their accounts.

Red Taylor Law Book Home Safe (OB1994.320)

Red Taylor Law Book Home Safe (OB1994.320)

It also produced a wealth of publicity material including leaflets, posters and even a number of GPO films, all encouraging the public to save with the Post Office. You can see a selection of POSB posters and poster artwork from our collection on Flickr.

Eureka. Artwork for a poster by Stan Krol, c. 1960 (POST 109/902).

Eureka! Artwork for a poster by Stan Krol, c. 1960 (POST 109/902).

In 1969, the Bank ceased to be part of the Post Office. Instead it became a separate government department and was known as National Savings. However, the Bank’s link with the postal service continued as post offices continued to act as outlets, handling deposits and withdrawals over the counter. On 1st July 1996 National Savings became an Executive Agency of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and from 2002 it became known as National Savings & Investments, later shortened to NS&I.

The BPMA’s Archive class POST 75 holds the records of the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB), including a copy of the Act of Parliament that established the Bank. The records range in date from 1828 until 1975 (the records dated after 1969 are ones the Bank did not take with it when it became a government department). They include acts and regulations, reports, publicity and publications, forms and notices. Further records are housed at The National Archives in Kew.

To celebrate the anniversary the BPMA has produced a new postcard pack including four POSB poster designs and two new greetings cards also featuring POSB posters. Find these on our Shop website.

Post Offices

Cover of Post Offices by Julian Stray

Cover of Post Offices by Julian Stray

The local post office has a special place in the social history of Britain. A new book, published by Shire Publications and written by the BPMA’s Assistant Curator Julian Stray, provides an historical overview of the development of this public institution – from “letter receiving house” to familiar high-street presence.

Outlining the range of services post offices have provided over time – from stamps, pensions and postal orders, to airmail, savings certificates, dog and TV licences – and highlighting the “heyday of the GPO” during the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Julian Stray recalls childhood memories of post office counters selling stamps and sweets, the weekly pension queue, and the friendly local postmaster.

Also examined are the many different types of post offices, from the village sub-office to mobile post offices in tents used in bombed areas during the Second World War.

The sub-post office at Shipton-under-Wychwood opened before 1847, but relinquished its title as England’s oldest post office when it closed in 1975.

Shipton-under-Wychwood Post Office, Oxfordshire c.1900

Shipton-under-Wychwood Post Office, Oxfordshire c.1900

By the late 1920s, post office frontages were heavy with advertising. Notices relating to overseas mail and telephone services were a common sight.

The branch office at Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, London, c. late 1920s.

The branch office at Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, London, c. late 1920s.

During the Second World War mobile, tented post offices were produced for quick deployment to areas that had lost their office as a result of enemy bombing.

Mobile post office set up in a bombed area of London, 1941

Mobile post office set up in a bombed area of London, 1941

After 1969, when the Post Office became a public corporation and its relationship with the Ministry of Works ended, local architects designed new offices.

Guildford’s North Street post office (1970-72), by architects Roman Halter and Associates, was a radical departure from previous offices; the building incorporated wrap-around glazing and a projecting gazebo.

Guildford’s North Street post office (1970-72), by architects Roman Halter and Associates, was a radical departure from previous offices; the building incorporated wrap-around glazing and a projecting gazebo.

Post Offices by Julian Stray is a celebration of a very British institution now threatened by modern-day forces. It is now available from the BPMA online shop.

Museum Store Open Weekend

by Laura Dixon, Learning Officer 

We had a fantastic weekend over the May Bank Holiday at the Museum Store with over a hundred visitors of all ages, many of whom were first time visitors. Here are a selection of images to show what we got up to:

Family visitors investigating parts of the handling collection with a white glove session

Family visitors investigating parts of the handling collection with a white glove session. Getting the gloves on was part of the fun! Post Office Savings Banks can be seen here.

Visitors creating Mini Curator Rosettes while GPO films play in the background

Visitors creating Mini Curator Rosettes while GPO films play in the background. The Hi Vis jackets were part of the Mini Curator uniform for the day – the Mini Curators would then give their own talks and tours on objects they had learnt about.

BPMA Curator Chris Taft giving a tour

BPMA Curator Chris Taft giving a tour. Note his Rosette; one of the biggest on the day!

Craft packs designed and produced by East London Craft Guerrilla for visitors to create

On Sunday we made a selection of crafted items linked to our collections, with thanks to the East London Craft Guerrilla who designed and produced the packs for visitors to create.

Embroidered badge stitched by a member of staff

Embroidered badge stitched by a member of staff – can you tell what it is?