Tag Archives: Royal Mail Group

Temporary Christmas Staff

In the lead-up to Christmas we are sharing with you 12 Posters of Christmas, a dozen classic postal posters from the Royal Mail Archive. Today’s is…

Christmas temporary staff wanted, General Post Office recruitment poster, 1946. (PRD 0450)

Christmas temporary staff wanted, General Post Office recruitment poster, 1946. (PRD 0450)

It may not be the most exciting poster in the Royal Mail Archive, but this poster from 1946 is one of many that have been produced over the years to help Royal Mail and the Post Office recruit extra staff for Christmas. This year Royal Mail Group has hired around 18,000 extra staff to sort more than 130 million extra items per day, including Christmas cards and parcels.

Today’s Christmas recruitment is organised through websites and agencies, but in the 1940s it would have been common to see posters such as this in local post offices and employment exchanges. The blue lettering may seem dull to modern eyes, but this poster was produced in 1946 and colourful printing inks were in short supply during and after the war – you may have noticed that the colours in the 1944 Christmas Airgraphs poster we blogged yesterday were equally muted. Next Monday’s poster, produced in 1951, will be a more colourful offering, however…

The GPO Solicitor’s Department: cheating MPs, rabid dogs and pirates

Wrangles over MP’s expenses are nothing new. The records of the General Post Office (GPO) Solicitor’s Department reveal members of both Houses of Parliament looking for ways to circumvent postage charges throughout the early 19th century. Mr Hume, MP (1812-55), seems to have been particularly bold. Not satisfied with limitations on his parliamentary privilege (to send 10 and receive 15 letters per day free of charge – this was in the days when it cost money to receive a letter), he asked for his allowance to be doubled on a Monday, to compensate for the lack of delivery on a Sunday. When this was denied he tried a different tact, opening and reading his letters before sending them back to the GPO as refused, with a request that ‘unjust’ postage charges be refunded. Sadly this too was refused, but his creativity is certainly to be admired.

This was just one of the fascinating stories I uncovered in the case and opinion files of the Solicitor’s Department, while on a two-week student cataloguing placement at the British Postal Museum and Archive. At first I thought the records would be full of technical jargon and might prove a challenge. Fortunately, the formulaic nature of legal records makes it easy for anyone to understand them. Within a day or two it became clear that ‘delivering the mails’ could prove dangerous; from rabid dogs attacking mail coaches all over England to pirates commandeering package ships , the life of a letter carrier was unpredictable on land and on sea.

Typical example of cases and opinions files from the GPO Solicitor’s Department – On establishing posts in the Australian Colonies (POST 74)

Typical example of cases and opinions files from the GPO Solicitor’s Department – On establishing posts in the Australian Colonies (POST 74)

Beneath the legal language lies a wealth of human interest stories which resonate today. In 1843 independent publishers wrote to the GPO complaining that foreign publishers were breaking copyright legislation and mislabelling cargo to flood the British market with cheap literature. Their concerns closely echo high street booksellers discussing internet commerce in recent years. Several cases involved letters being delayed as a result of the multitude of road and bridge tolls in the UK and Ireland. In recent weeks, the news has involved public speculation about the potential re-emergence of road tolls in debate about increased road privatisation.

Many of the files included letters from members of the public who felt they had been charged the wrong postage rates. Often these calculations could be incredibly complex with different rates for newspapers and letters, confusion about whether deliveries by circuitous route should be charged by actual distance travelled and the existence of postal towns meaning that the cost of delivery to a street just outside its borders incurred a separate ‘suburban rate’. It seems likely this public discontent acted as a rallying call, encouraging the introduction of uniform minimum penny postage, regardless of distance travelled in 1840.

Most of the records I worked with during my placement were from the 1820s to 1840s. In my last few days at the BPMA, I did some research into the administrative history of the Solicitor’s Department to provide context for these records. I came across an internal brochure produced by the department in the 1981 for business units across Royal Mail Group plc. Although the legal team had expanded in size, it was interesting to note that the functions of the department in the 1830 remained largely unchanged 150 years later: conveyance; civil litigation; prosecution; commercial affairs; and employment, postal and planning matters.

Solicitor’s Department team photo, 1981 (POST 74)

Solicitor’s Department team photo, 1981 (POST 74)

Natalya Kusel – UCL archive cataloguing placement student

Looking for a volunteer opportunity or student placement at The British Postal Museum & Archive? Find out more on our website.

New Postal Museum


Plans for a new home for a new home for The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) were announced today by the BPMA, Royal Mail Group and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The new Postal Museum will provide access to the BPMA’s unique collections of 400 years of postal, social and design history, including photographs, posters, vehicles, pillar boxes, employment records of millions of people and a world-class stamp collection.

Under a plan endorsed by the Government, the new centre will be established at Calthorpe House, on London’s Mount Pleasant site, where the country’s oldest mail centre is located. It is close to the existing home of the BPMA at Freeling House, which has very limited space for exhibitions and displays.

Calthorpe House

Calthorpe House

Royal Mail Group will grant a lease of 999 years for Calthorpe House, a property which will provide a secure foundation for the BPMA once redeveloped and extended. Agreements have been signed with Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd (POL) for a £6m long term, low interest loan to fund the conversion of Calthorpe House to meet the basic needs of the organisation. In addition, Royal Mail and POL are providing other support, including a £500,000 grant.

A fundraising campaign by the BPMA will be launched shortly to raise the remaining funds required to create a state of the art museum and visitor facility. The BPMA is an independent charity set up in 2004 to care for two significant collections: The Royal Mail Archive and the collections of the former National Postal Museum. It is the BPMA’s mission to increase public access to these collections, making the story they tell of communication, industry and innovation accessible to everyone.

The new centre will allow the BPMA to exhibit objects from its fascinating museum collection, which is currently held in storage. It will also include educational facilities for visiting schools.

Visualisation of the new museum and archive, Calthorpe House (Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios)

Visualisation of the new museum and archive, Calthorpe House (Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios)

Donald Brydon, Royal Mail Group’s Chairman said: “These plans will give our postal heritage a world-class home. The history of Royal Mail is a key part of the history of postal services worldwide. I am delighted, therefore, the Group’s Board has agreed to support the BPMA’s ambitious plan to provide a new, permanent home for its unique collection of postal artefacts, stamps and equipment, as well as allowing greater access to the archive”

Dr Adrian Steel, Director of the BPMA, said: “We are aiming to create a state-of-the-art, sustainable home for a unique part of our national heritage. The new centre will showcase the UK’s pioneering role in developing postal communications, which has shaped the world we live in.”

Norman Lamb, Postal Affairs Minister, said: “This exciting new home for the British Postal Museum and Archive is a great initiative, to which I hope people will lend their support. Celebrating the history of Royal Mail in this way will bring to life a key part of our nation’s cultural heritage. The many and varied items in the archives will show how Royal Mail has been at the heart of British life for centuries, and it is great news that the museum will contain an educational facility to allow young people to engage with the history of our postal services in an innovative way.”

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