Tag Archives: Sir Christopher Wren

London Architecture

London is full of superb classical architecture, predominantly produced after the Great Fire of London that ravaged the city in 1666. Only a few Tudor buildings survived from before this period, including the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

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International Stamp Exhibition, Miniature Sheet, 50p, 1980

The above miniature sheet celebrates the achievements of innovative architects and an ever-changing London skyline; here are a few more examples of the Capital’s iconic landmarks.

Westminster Abbey

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900th Anniversary of Westminster Abbey, 3d,  1966

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900th Anniversary of Westminster Abbey, 2s 6d, 1966

King Edward the Confessor’s original abbey was knocked down by Henry III in 1245 to make way for the structure we see today. It has the highest Gothic vault in England, decorated with a delicate fan design as seen in the 2/6 stamp above. The abbey has seen the coronations, marriages and burials of many of our British monarchs.

The Houses of Parliament 

19th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference 8p Stamp (1973) Palace of Westminster seen from Whitehall

19th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, 8p, 1973 Palace of Westminster

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‘The Burning of the Houses of Parliament’ by J.W. Turner, 1834

12p, Palace of Westminster from 62nd Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference (1975)

62nd Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference, Palace of Westminster, 12p, 1975

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as The Houses of Parliament, was destroyed by fire in 1834. J.W.Turner’s painting of the scene depicts the view from across the river as the building burns. Charles Barry (1795-1860) won the competition to build the new Houses of Parliament, creating a Gothic revival structure

St Paul’s Cathedral

Cathedrals - (2008) St. Pauls Cathedral

Cathedrals, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Miniature Sheet, 2008

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St Paul’s Cathedral, British Architecture, Cathedrals, 9d, 1969

After the Great Fire, Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) was commissioned to rebuild the churches of London including St Paul’s. Dedicated to the Apostle, its 111-metre-high dome is influenced by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and constructed of three domes within each other. It took 35 years to complete and is the resting place of Wren himself.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, Stamp Set 2014

Buckingham Palace, Stamp Set 2014

We all know Buckingham Palace to be the home of the Royal family, though it was originally built by the Duke of Buckingham. It did not become the official Royal Palace until the reign of Queen Victoria. The building has undergone many changes, including Sir Aston Webb’s (1849-1930) classical facade with its famous Royal balcony.

Hampton Court

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British Architecture, Historic Buildings, Hampton Court Palace, 13p, 1978

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London Landmarks, Hampton Court, 15p 1980

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hampton Court was a private Tudor home Cardinal Wolsey turned into a Palace. After his fall from grace, Wolsey’s palace passed into the hands of Henry VIII, who modernised the building. When William and Mary came to the throne in 1689 they moved to completely rebuild Hampton Court. However, these plans were never completed, resulting in a building consisting of two distinct architectural styles: Tudor and Baroque.

Modern Architecture, Presentation Pack, 2006

Modern Architecture, Presentation Pack, 2006

In an age where architecture is dominated by glass and steel we can overlook some of our classically designed buildings. British stamps have served as a reminder of these great structures and the architects who created them. Next time you’re walking around London, take a moment to look and admire the genius of British architecture.

-Georgina Tomlinson, Philatelic Assistant

Longitude in Stamps

The Royal Observatory is one of London’s most recognisable landmarks, and was designed by one of Britain’s greatest architects Sir Christopher Wren. The 10 August marks 340 years since the building’s foundation stone was laid. The Royal Observatory is now part of The Maritime Museum and as the home of The Prime Meridian it is the centre of world time.

European Architectural Heritage Year, Royal Observatory, Greenwich Stamp (1975)

European Architectural Heritage Year, Royal Observatory, Greenwich 8p Stamp (1975)

The building was commissioned by King Charles II to produce a reliable map of the sky in order to improve navigation at sea . Navigating a ship by the stars can be seen in the 37p Astronomy stamp from 1990.

Astronomy, Stonehenge, Gyroscope and Navigation by Stars 39p Stamp (1990)

Astronomy, Stonehenge, Gyroscope and Navigation by Stars 39p Stamp (1990)

Distance could also be measured in Longitude by using the time of two separate locations. Sailors calculated local time by the position of the sun, but to know the time back at home they needed to take a clock aboard the ship, the conditions of which caused the clocks to become inaccurate. In 1714 the Government passed an Act of Parliament offering £20,000 to whoever could solve the ‘Longitude Problem’ and produce a way of keeping time at sea.

Astronomy, Greenwich Old Observatory and Early Astronomical Equipment, 31p Stamp (1990)

Astronomy, Greenwich Old Observatory and Early Astronomical Equipment, 31p Stamp (1990)

The competition was won by John Harrison, a joiner from Yorkshire, whose expertise in clock making allowed him to produce a devise that could withstand the conditions and motions of a journey.The image on the right of the above stamp shows the first sea fairing clock ‘H1’, a chronometer that compensated for the movement of the ship with two swinging balances.

Marine Timekeepers 24p Stamp (1993)

Marine Timekeepers 24p Stamp (1993)

Marine Timekeepers 28p Stamp (1993)

Marine Timekeepers 28p Stamp (1993)

Marine Timekeepers 33p Stamp (1993)

Marine Timekeepers 33p Stamp (1993)

Marine Timekeepers 39p Stamp (1993)

Marine Timekeepers 39p Stamp (1993)

Harrison produced numerous attempts to construct a clock that would provide longitude within half a degree. His final and successful clock the ‘H4’ was produced by watch maker John Jeffery to his specification and resembled a pocket watch. The stamp issue Maritime Timekeepers from 1993 celebrated his final product. Captain Cook in fact took a copy of Harrison’s ‘H4’ with him on his second voyage and it proved instrumental when navigating the journey.

Millennium Series, The Travellers' Tale, Captain Cook and Maori 63p Stamp (1999)

Millennium Series, The Travellers’ Tale, Captain Cook and Maori 63p Stamp (1999)

Greenwich is also home to Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian. A meridian is a north south line very much like the equator which acts as Longitude 0°, where astronomical observations are measured from.  The 31p stamp below depicts Sir George Airey’s Transit Telescope which is the precise point longitude is measured from.

Centenary of Greenwich Mean Time, Sir George Airey's Transit Telescope 31p Stamp (1984)

Centenary of Greenwich Mean Time, Sir George Airey’s Transit Telescope 31p Stamp (1984)

Centenary of Greenwich Mean Time, Greenwich Observatory 28p Stamp (1984)

Centenary of Greenwich Mean Time, Greenwich Observatory 28p Stamp (1984)

The Greenwich Meridian was chosen as the Prime Meridian for the world by an International Conference represented by 25 nations. At this time most sea charts were measured using the Greenwich Meridian, so it seemed logical to continue. The line passes through the observatory and is identified by the steel line on the ground and a green laser that shines across London.

Greenwich Prime Meridian Laser Across London

Greenwich Prime Meridian Laser Across London

As an island nation, sea travel has always been important in Britain. This is reflected in these beautiful stamp designs which celebrate not just sea travel but the innovations and achievements of those that made it possible. This theme of innovation and human endeavour is one that has always been important in the history of the postal service, as well as Britain as a whole, and as such will be prominent in the galleries of The Postal Museum when it opens in late 2016.

– Georgina Tomlinson, Philatelic Assistant