Tag Archives: square pillar box

Launch of the new Guide to the Museum Collection

by Victoria Heath, Development Assistant

The BPMA are pleased to announce the launch of a new publication – Guide to the Museum Collection – the first publication of its kind from the BPMA to showcase the items in the museum collection.

The guide has been a work in progress since early 2009 combining the work of the Development Assistant and the Curatorial Team. It was identified that there is no real publication that showcases the vast array of materials within the museum collection and that as much is kept at the museum store in Debden, Essex or within the secure areas of the archive in London a guide such as this would be an ideal way to reach those visitors who might not be able to travel to the collection. The guide also serves as the ideal souvenir for those attending events at the museum store such as for the open afternoons and evenings or the family events.

Personally, I found it very enjoyable putting the guide together as I do not work with the museum collection too much in my daily role. The most enjoyable part was the 12 hour day out at the museum store photographing the objects with two colleagues and the professional photographers. It was a long day but I believe it was worth it when I see how fantastic the images are.

The images shown here are just a few that feature in the guide. More, including some which didn’t make the guide, can be seen on Flickr.

Painting of St Martins le Grand by James Pollard

Painting of St Martins le Grand by James Pollard

Flintlock Pistol

Flintlock Pistol

Chromolithograph valentine fan with 12 segments

Chromolithograph valentine fan with 12 segments

Pillar Boxes at the Museum Store

Pillar Boxes at the Museum Store

1970 BSA Bantam motorcycle

1970 BSA Bantam motorcycle

The guide is available in the online shop priced at £5 + postage and packaging.

GPO Street Furniture Discover Session

This Saturday our Curators will be throwing open the doors of our Museum Store, where some of the larger items in our collection are housed, and helping people view and explore some of the classic items of street furniture which shape our urban and rural landscape.

Few of us take notice of the humble pillar box at the end of our street, yet it is an essential part of our lives. Such everyday items have a fascinating history and have been through many changes in their history. From the size and design of the aperture, to the colour, shape and internal workings of the box itself, each evolution reflects both changing technologies and changing needs.

A Scottish lamp box bearing the Scottish Crown instead of the EIIR cypher

A Scottish lamp box bearing the Scottish Crown instead of the EIIR cypher

Lamp boxes were first trialled in 1896 for residents in fashionable London Squares who required a nearby posting facility so their letters written late at night could catch the midnight or early morning collections.

There have also been regional differences in street furniture design. In Scotland Royal Mail street furniture, vehicles and buildings bear the Scottish Crown rather than the cypher of Queen Elizabeth – EIIR. This is due to complaints that Her Majesty is not the second Queen Elizabeth of Scotland, but the first.

Street furniture produced for Royal Mail and the Post Office has often been innovative. A telephone kiosk in the BPMA’s collection includes a stamp vending machine, perhaps a pioneering example of the current trend in technology for convergence.

Other topics to be covered on the day include wall boxes, Stamp Vending Machines, sub-stations, manhole covers, milestones, signage, pouch boxes and PODS. So, if you’ve ever wondered what’s inside a pillar box, why telephone kiosks have sloping floors or how ‘posties’ manage to deliver to so many homes from such a small mail bag, join us at the Museum Store this Saturday.

The GPO Street Furniture Discover Session will take place at the BPMA’s Museum Store on Saturday 20th June from 11am-3pm. For further information, and to book, please see our website. A Discover Session on Square Pillar Boxes will take place on Saturday 19 September.

Wartime survivor returned to the BPMA

The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) is delighted announce that items that have been on loan at the Museum of London for almost 100 years have now been returned to the BPMA. 

One of the first London post boxes, with a time plate on the side.

One of the first London post boxes, with a time plate on the side.

In 1912, the then General Post Office (GPO) loaned a variety of items to the London Museum (now Museum of London), the majority of which have now been returned to the BPMA.

Amongst the items that were given as a loan was one of the ‘time plates’ from one of the first six London post boxes from 1855. Unfortunately, the post box was destroyed during the Second World War, but luckily the unique collection plate survived and has now been returned to the BPMA. None of the first six London post boxes has survived to this day. The first six London pillar boxes were rectangular in shape and around five feet tall.

Time plate from one of the first London post boxes.

Time plate from one of the first London post boxes.

Other items returned to the BPMA include three truncheons issued to postal staff in 1843 in response to the Chartist riots; a Mail Coach Guards horn; a Coffee House Date Stamp, a Flintlock pistol and a Timepiece (complete with key). Timepieces were carried by Mail Coach Guards and postal staff on the Travelling Post Offices (TPOs). There was no national standard time until 1880, and the mail guard would carry an official timepiece set to ‘London time’. This was locked shut and any deviations from contracted arrival and departure times were recorded on special time bills.

The unique collection plate is now held at the British Postal Museum Store, Debden, Essex, and can be viewed during scheduled Open Afternoons and Evenings, as well as at the Discover Session on Square Pillar Boxes on 19th September 2009.

Julian Stray, Assistant Curator at the BPMA commented:
“We are delighted to bring these wonderful postal artefacts back into our collection after so long. They offer a glimpse of mail practices long since abandoned, and can hopefully now find a new audience.”