Tag Archives: postal order

The real Winslow Boy

The biggest story in the British press 100 years ago today centred on a High Court case brought by the family of George Archer-Shee, a teenage naval cadet who had been expelled from Osborn Naval College two years previously for stealing a postal order valued at 5 shillings.

The grounds for George Archer-Shee’s expulsion were largely circumstantial. On 7th October 1908 he was granted permission to leave the grounds of the College and visit the local Post Office in order to purchase a postal order and a stamp, with which to buy a model train costing 15/6. Upon his return it was reported that a postal order for 5 shillings, which had been received earlier that day by fellow cadet Terence Back, had been stolen.

Local Post Office clerk Annie Tucker was summoned, and she produced the cashed postal order in Back’s name and stated that only two cadets had visited the Post Office that afternoon – and that the same cadet who had purchased the 15/6 postal order had cashed the 5 shilling order. On that basis Archer-Shee was expelled.

Martin Archer-Shee, George’s father, did not believe that his son had stolen Back’s postal order and began a defence of his honour. Prominent barrister Sir Edward Carson was engaged, and on 26th July 1910 the case finally came to the High Court.

Within the Royal Mail Archive we hold papers relating to the Archer-Shee case in POST 30/1652B. Amongst these papers are records of all postal orders purchased and cashed at Osborn Post Office on 7th October, and the 15/6 and 5 shilling postal orders, which were saved from destruction in order to be presented as evidence in court.

Postal order for 15/6 purchased by George Archer-Shee

Postal order for 15/6 purchased by George Archer-Shee

5 shilling postal order stolen from Terrence Back

5 shilling postal order stolen from Terrence Back

Also in the file are records of interviews with Post Office staff, and correspondence between Martin Archer-Shee and the Post Office, in which Archer-Shee asks permission to view the original postal orders.

Martin Archer-Shee’s determination to clear his son’s name was characterised in the press as a David and Goliath battle, in which a small boy of good reputation was unfairly expelled from the College by the Naval establishment. It is a story which has remained in the public memory, largely due to Terrence Rattigan’s 1946 play The Winslow Boy, which was inspired by the Archer-Shee case.

The Winslow Boy has been filmed twice, in 1948 and 1999, and is regularly performed on the stage. Several years ago the BPMA was asked to assist some theatre producers by providing a facsimile of a postal order of the period; we went one better – we sent them a facsimile of the original.

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.