Tag Archives: Swindon

Postal posters exhibition in Swindon

From Tuesday 19th March to Thursday 27th June 2013 selected posters from The BPMA’s Designs on Delivery exhibition will be on display at Great Western Hospital, Swindon.

Design played a crucial role in promoting social progress and technological change across Britain between 1930 and 1960. The commercial poster reached cultural maturity during this period and became the most eloquent of the mass media.

Please pack parcels very carefully, 1957. Designer: Tom Eckersley. (POST 110/2592)

Please pack parcels very carefully, 1957. Designer: Tom Eckersley. (POST 110/2592)

From the 1930s onwards the Post Office became a leader in the field of poster design, commissioning some of Britain’s most recognized artists and designers. This success owes much to the appointment of Stephen Tallents as the Post Office’s first public relations officer in 1933. Under his guidance a Poster Advisory Group composed of key figures in the arts and business led the commissioning process.

Buy stamps in books, 1959. Designer: Pieter Huveneers. (POST 110/2536)

Buy stamps in books, 1959. Designer: Pieter Huveneers. (POST 110/2536)

Some of the posters commissioned were commercially driven. Others were intended simply as self-publicity or for creating goodwill among its publics. The Post Office’s rich store of material could also, wrote Tallents in 1935, make a contribution to the ‘picture of Britain’.

Post your letters before noon, 1941. Designers: Jan Lewitt and George Him. (POST 110/3184)

Post your letters before noon, 1941. Designers: Jan Lewitt and George Him. (POST 110/3184)

GPO posters included work by those associated with both fine art and graphic design, demonstrating the blurring of the boundaries between high art and popular culture that poster design encouraged. This exhibition showcases the best of these posters.

The exhibiting of Designs on Delivery has been made possible through a partnership with Paintings in Hospitals. Paintings in Hospitals is a registered charity that uses visual art to create environments that improve health, wellbeing and the healthcare experience for service users, their families and staff.

The Post Office handles 23,000,000 letters a day, 1947. Designer: G R Morris (POST 109/195)

The Post Office handles 23,000,000 letters a day, 1947. Designer: G R Morris (POST 109/195)

Designs on Delivery will be exhibited in the Temporary Exhibition Space (Main Entrance – Ground Floor) at the Great Western Hospital. The exhibition is open daily. Entry is free of charge and open to all. For opening hours, please see the Hospital’s website www.gwh.nhs.uk or for more information on the exhibition please see our website.

If you would like to share your feedback on the exhibition, please contact the BPMA Exhibitions Officer on dominique.gardner@postalheritage.org.uk.

Dominique Gardner – Exhibitions Officer

The Post Office in Pictures opens

Our photo exhibition The Post Office in Pictures is now open! It showcases a selection of inspiring images sourced from our vast collections.

Down Wapping Way

Down Wapping Way, 1935 - Part of the Post Office Magazine series ‘The Postman Everywhere’, which demonstrated the wide ranging experiences of postmen across the country. Postman Mr J Anthony is shown here in an area of Wapping, East London. The author of the accompanying article described the area as ‘narrow, dirty and unsalubrious...’ (POST 118/252)

From strange creatures sent through the post, to the daily deliveries by land, sea and air to every corner of the country, the photos featured offer a fascinating series of windows on Britain from the 1930s to 1980s – including some of the more unusual, unexpected and unseen activities of the Post Office and its people.

Public House & Post Office

Public House & Post Office, c. 1989 - A pint, a pie... and a pension at the Swan public house in Little Totham, near Maldon, Essex. Publican’s daughter Christine Baxter serving a postal customer in the bar of her parents’ pub. (010-018-002)

The exhibition is at The Post Modern Gallery in Swindon until 5 November. The Gallery is open from 11am to 5pm Monday to Saturday – for full details see our website.

Special drop-in events accompanying the exhibition include:

Explore The Post Office in Pictures
Wednesday 12 October, 6pm to 8pm
Craft Session & Late Opening
Join us for an evening exploring crafty connections between the photographs on display and a range of arts and crafts techniques. Enjoy a glass of wine, see practical demonstrations, and then have a go at something yourself, inspired by the fascinating images featured in The Post Office in Pictures.

The Post Office in Pictures Family Fun Days
Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 October, 11am to 4pm
Half-Term Activities
Come to The Post Office in Pictures during half-term for a host of free family activities:

  • Put yourself in the Picture and create your own magazine front cover with you as the star! Use real post office uniforms for added authenticity.
  • Create your own Finger Puppet Postman from felt, and make a cap badge or armband based on what you can see in the exhibition. Real objects will be available to handle for added inspiration.
  • Why not bring along your camera to the fun day and take part in our Photographic Scavenger Hunt? Pick up the clues from the Post Modern, search Swindon for the postal items and snap as many as you can, and then return to the gallery to record your time – the fastest family over the two days will win a fantastic prize.

For more on The Post Office in Pictures see our online exhibition. Large versions of the images from the exhibition can be seen on Flickr. Photos from the exhibition are available to buy from our Print on Demand website.

Statement on our New Centre project

After undertaking extensive feasibility work, the Trustees of The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) have decided not to continue with plans to develop a new base in Swindon, Wiltshire.

The decision comes despite the BPMA receiving an HLF Round One pass for the project early last year and is in response to significant changes to funding expectations, particularly from corporate supporters, during the past six months. Like other cultural organisations, the BPMA attributes difficulties in meeting fundraising targets to the current challenging economic climate.

The BPMA retains its commitment to securing an accessible future home, and its staff will continue working to achieve the best possible outcome for the BPMA and its unique collections.

The BPMA also continues to work with communities in Swindon, where it will be staging an exhibition of iconic post office photographs in the autumn.

Picture Post in Swindon

The Picture Post project has moved to Swindon! On Saturday 6th November, Andy from the BPMA travelled west to introduce the project to participating families from the Swindon area.

The Platform Youth Centre was the venue for the morning, and our base was an old First Class train carriage. The building used to house the railway museum, prior to their move across the tracks to become STEAM.

An old First Class train carriage, now the Platform Youth Centre

An old First Class train carriage, now the Platform Youth Centre

Seats were very nearly fully-booked for the session, as around 15 people crammed into the carriage, and listened to Andy talk about the BPMA, our collections, and the photographs from the Royal Mail Archive that are the focus of the Picture Post project.

First up, Andy asked some eager volunteers to dress up as post people from the past, using a variety of uniforms from the BPMA Handling Collection.

Imogen, sporting a peaked postman’s cap from the GPO era

Imogen, sporting a peaked postman’s cap from the GPO era

Andy went on to talk about some of the more unexpected items we have in the BPMA collection, including blunderbusses and cutlasses, and then handed out just a few examples of the thousands of photos we have that show the work of the Post Office during the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

Each person picked a favourite photo and thought about why they liked it. Esina was taken by this image of Chailey Post Office, particularly the familiar logo of Cadburys in the window.

Exterior view of Chailey Post Office, with a telephone box situated alongside, 1937

Exterior view of Chailey Post Office, with a telephone box situated alongside, 1937

Sheena, Sally and (the other) Andy from Artsite then took over the session, and asked the group to make collages using photocopies of the Archive images and a pile of other materials, including old stamps, elegant ink-pen script, stickers, patterned paper, and feathers.

Inside the train carriage, the group cutting and pasting.

Inside the train carriage, the group cutting and pasting.

Girls working on collages.

Girls working on collages.

Some of the marvellous works produced by the Picture Post-ers can be seen below, and the rest can be seen on Flickr.

Carinae's collage

Carinae's collage

Moesha's collage

Moesha's collage

Simone's collage

Simone's collage

Last Saturday, the group took a guided tour of the Swindon Mail Centre, and were taught to think like a photographer by the guys from Artsite. Some of the photos they took, of sorting machines, vehicles and postal workers, are now on Flickr. They will also be turned into postcards.

For more information about the work that Sheena, Sally and Andy do in providing a hub for the Swindon community to engage in, understand and appreciate contemporary art and culture, please visit the Artsite website, or visit the Post Modern Gallery (a converted Post Office) in Theatre Square, Swindon.

BPMA New Centre project receives grant from Heritage Lottery Fund

by Jo Sullivan, Project Officer: New Centre Project 

BPMA’s project to create a new Postal Museum & Archive on the Churchward Village site in Swindon recently received a piece of exciting news as the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) confirmed our first round pass for a grant of £2,617,800, including development funding of £117,800.

Architect's design for the New Centre main entrance

Architect's design for the New Centre main entrance

The first-round pass means that we can begin the development stage of the project and work up detailed proposals ahead of a round two application in 2011. In a tough funding climate, and against unprecedented competition, our project to move our fascinating collections into a new, accessible and permanent home has taken a step closer to becoming a reality.

The HLF was established in the United Kingdom under the National Lottery Act 1993. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, the natural environment and cultural traditions, the HLF provides grants to support all aspects of the UK’s diverse heritage. Since 1994 the HLF has supported more than 33,900 projects allocating £4.4billion across the UK.

What the New Centre gallery might look like

What the New Centre gallery might look like

The BPMA is in good company in the South West. In March this year the HLF gave the green light to Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum to work up plans to create a new gallery revealing the history and archaeology of the Salisbury and surrounding area.

Over the years other grants in the South West have varied in size and scope from the £17 million awarded to the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth, to £295,000 awarded to the University of Bristol to ‘release’ Britain’s oldest dinosaur after 210 million years of being entombed in rock.

Chain Testing Machinery from the railway era within the proposed New Centre building

Chain Testing Machinery from the railway era within the proposed New Centre building

Whilst Swindon has been recognised by the HLF as being a priority area it is certainly not lacking in culturally rich attractions. We look forward to developing mutually beneficial relationships with the existing group of cultural organisations based on the Churchward Village site: English Heritage, the National Trust and STEAM, Museum of the Great Western Railway.

Also it’s not just museums moving to Swindon as on 24th March 2010 it was announced that Swindon is now headquarters for Britain’s first national space agency. As well as the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA), Swindon is also home to the two main space funding bodies — the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Natural Environment Research Council.

Find out more about the New Centre project on our website.

History of the Great Western Railway site – BPMA’s future new home

Swindon is largest town in Wiltshire with a population over 170,000.  However, before 1840 Swindon was a market town serving the surrounding dairy farms with fewer than 2500 inhabitants.  Its growth and population boom can be seen as a direct result of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s decision to choose Swindon as the site for the railway works of the Great Western Railway (GWR).

At its peak in the mid 20th the railway works were employing over 14, 000 and the works stretched for 2.4 km.  The railways were nationalised in 1948, and GWR became British Rail Western Region and the works became part of British Rail Engineering under the 1960 Transport Act.  In 1960 the Evening Star became the last steam locomotive built for British Rail. The site closed on 27th March 1986.  In the 1984 the historic parts of the site were designated Grade 2* or Grade 2.   There was redevelopment of the site in the 1990’s and English Heritage was the first new tenant in 1994.

An aerial view of the former Chain Testing House, Swindon - soon to be home to the BPMA

An aerial view of the former Chain Testing House, Swindon - soon to be home to the BPMA

Early History

By the end of 1832, there was commercial pressure for a rail link from Bristol (and the Atlantics) to London and a committee to investigate the matter was formed of prominent Bristol merchants.  The ‘Committee of Deputies’ met in July 1833 and agreed that the way forward was to form a company and obtain and Act of Parliament.   However, the GWR Railway Bill took some further two years to pass due to the opposition of some local landowners on the route.

The reason why Swindon was chosen to be the heart of the mid 19th railway expansion was actually a simple matter of geography. The line passing through Swindon was seen as ideal due to the lie of the land and it was the straightest route. The railway works were located in the Vale of the White Horse to the north of the old market town.  It is still often referred to as Swindon New Town.

It was Daniel Gooch, GWR’s first chief engineer and later Chairman, who was instrumental in the decision to select Swindon as the site. In 1840 Gooch wrote to Brunel suggesting Swindon as the most suitable site for the engine shed.  It was agreed in 1840.  Works began on the building of the site in 1841 which opened in January 1843. There were three building stages and work continued until 1849 with only minor additions to the site made thereafter.

More than just a job

Swindon had no history of heavy industrial labour, and so the workforce would need to be imported.  This meant that one of the first requirements of the site was accommodation for the workforce.  Brunel was responsible for the design of the railway village.  Most of the terraced stone houses built to the south of the site still stand today. They are perceived as excellent early example of a model village development for an industrial workforce.  They were planned as a self-contained community; the intention was to provide all the necessary facilities for what the Victorians perceived a ‘decent’ life.  The Swindon Mechanics Institute, set up for the purpose of offering an educational and social outlet for the railway workers had already outgrown the use of the rooms within the factories and in 1855 the Swindon Mechanics Institution opened in the heart of the railway village.

 In fact, the late 1860s and early 1870s saw many progressive actions that would help improve the lives of the workers on site including a hospital and from 1868 there was fresh drinking water from the Swindon Water Company and sewage disposal in 1872.

The BPMA in Swindon

Chain testing equipment, which will be a feature of the BPMA's new home

Chain testing equipment, which will be a feature of the BPMA's new home

The Chain Testing House was built in 1873.  The Testing house – or Shop 17 as it was known – tested iron, steel, copper and rope for use on the railways.  At its peak in the 1950’s around 57 miles of chain and rope were being dealt with annually.

The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) is the custodian for the visual, written and physical records of 400 years of postal development. In telling the story of communication, industry, and innovation of the British postal services, many parallels can be drawn with the Great Western Railway site.

The BPMA does Swinpex

by Jo Sullivan, New Centre Project Assistant

Jennifer and Jo man the BPMA stall at Swinpex

Jennifer and Jo man the BPMA stall at Swinpex

On Saturday 13th June, Jennifer Flippance (BPMA’s London 2010 Project Officer) and myself attended Swinpex, a philatelic show hosted by the Swindon Philatelic Society.  Although there primarily to promote the joint aims of the BPMA‘s New Centre Project and the 2010 Festival of Stamps and not to sell (or buy) anything we were given an exceptionally warm welcome by all those involved.  In fact, we received star billing in the programme, our presence described as “a great coup for Swindon philately!”

The crowds at Swinpex

The crowds at Swinpex

Swinpex is one of the largest and best attended philatelic shows in the country and gets around 400 to 500 visitors on the day.  This year organisers reported over 500 people attended and, if the crowds in the main hall were anything to go by, we could well believe it.

The BPMA’s stand was right by the front door and we had a steady stream of people coming over to talk to us throughout the day, lured in no doubt by the promise of free 2010 postcards and free newsletters (free gifts at stamp shows it would appear is manna from heaven).  Here we have to give thanks to the BPMA’s continued communication and PR effort as everyone we spoke to not only knew about the proposed move to Swindon but were enthusiastic and supportive.  In fact, the only complaint people had was that we can’t be open sooner.  

Some of the BPMA leaflets and postcards available on the day

Some of the BPMA leaflets and postcards available on the day

It is not just philatelic societies that can’t wait for us to arrive in Swindon as I also spoke to local history and family history group members and a teacher who was interested in the BPMA’s wealth of Key Stage educational resources.  Those looking forward to next year’s Festival of Stamps were able to see facsimiles of some of the King George V stamp artwork and essays that will be on display as part of the Empire Mail exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery.

I found out that Swinpex 2010 is being held at one of the BPMA’s neighbours on the Churchward Village site, Steam. Society members were looking forward to having a new venue for Swinpex and being able to see the BPMA’s new home for themselves (although I perhaps should mention to the organisers they will need to provide 500 hard hats and high vis jackets if they want the tour inside the building).  Whilst some were excited that the proximity of the McArthur Glenn Designer Outlet meant they could combine two of their favourite hobbies: shopping and philately!

A Visit to Swindon

By Anne Jensen, Project Officer (Royal Mail Stamps)

Recently I joined a small group of staff from the BPMA on a visit to Swindon, to view the proposed site for the new BPMA Centre. Our very capable guide was Jo Sullivan, New Centre Project Assistant, who told us about the history of the site and its surrounds.

The proposed site for the New Centre is the former chain-testing works in the old Great Western Railway (GWR) locomotive works, a short walk from Swindon Station. On the walk we passed Brunel’s Railway Village, built to house GWR workers, and went through a tunnel which was constructed so that those workers would not have to walk over the railway lines to get to work.

Some of the group who visited Swindon

Some of the group who visited Swindon

The former works area, now known as Churchward Village, is currently being developed by Thomas Homes. Chris Brotherton from Thomas Homes, together with Jo, showed us around the site and explained the vision for the various part of the site.

Having looked at the plans before our visit, I found it difficult to imagine the size of the building the BPMA intended to move into, but once on site it became clear why it had been chosen. At the moment it doesn’t look of much, of course, but when the pigeons have been evicted and the site has been renovated it will provide a suitable space for showcasing and providing full access to the BPMA’s collection.

After our tour of the proposed BPMA site we walked towards the Swindon Designer Outlet, passing the National Trust’s headquarters, Heelis. The use of solar panels on the later building turned our conversation to whether or not it would be possible for the BPMA to do the same or whether, considering the very brisk breeze on the day of our visit, it would be better to invest in a couple of wind turbines.

This memorial sited in the Designer Outlet Shopping Centre commemorates the GWR workers who served in armed conflicts of the period.

This memorial sited in the Designer Outlet Shopping Centre commemorates the GWR workers who served in armed conflicts of the period.

Reaching the Designer Outlet Shopping Centre we were immediately struck by how the existing buildings had been adapted to suit their new purpose, and how the old railway machinery within those buildings had been made a feature of, something the BPMA intends to do in the New Centre.

We then made our way to the English Heritage National Monument Record Centre, next door to proposed new BPMA Centre, where we could see how the windows in the roof provided natural light in their search room (similar to what is planned for the BPMA site) and where we enjoyed looking up photos of places of interest to us.

Having seen how other buildings on the Churchward Village site have been developed, I am looking forward to seeing what happens to the proposed BPMA site in the future.

Top 10 Stamps Blogs

The Philatelic Database has named the BPMA blog as one of its Top 10 Stamp Blogs. The Philatelic Database is the leading online resource for philatelists, stamp collectors and postal historians. It features articles by eminent philatelists and specialists in their fields. The site is a veritable cornucopia of philatelic knowledge where you will also find maps, videos, crosswords, dictionaries and directories.

After only two and half months blogging we’re thrilled to appear on this list alongside several blogs we enjoy, like Keijo Kortelainen’s Stamp Collecting Blog and Don Schilling’s Stamp Collecting Round-Up, as well as a number we haven’t heard of but will start reading.

This blog is written by BPMA staff and guest contributors and we’ve got plenty of exciting articles coming up. Over the next week or so we’ll have more on the proposed New Centre for the BPMA in Swindon, an update on The Wilkinson Collection, another article on GPO posters, and in celebration of the release next week of stamps celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Kew Gardens we’ll take a look at a previous stamp issue featuring Kew Gardens and show some artwork by renowned British stamp designer David Gentleman which has never been seen before. Stay tuned!

Swindon: A new centre for the BPMA

by Jo Sullivan, New Centre Project Assistant

A decision is made
On 16th September 2008, the BPMA’s Board of Trustees chose the former Chain Testing Works at the Churchward Village site in Swindon, Wiltshire, as the intended site of BPMA’s New Centre. This was the culmination of a detailed examination of options and potential sites (of which over 20 were visited) for the BPMA’s plan to provide a new facility for its archive and to restore full physical access to its museum collection.

Why Swindon?
The choice was made after a long and considered site search, including London and other regional centres such as Birmingham and Bristol.  Swindon is a town with a great deal of potential, it has enthusiastic and ambitious leaders who in early 2009 announced a £200 million town centre regeneration scheme.  It is home to a large national and international business community and this is built on excellent transport links.  Swindon is 60 minutes by rail from London Paddington and has regular trains from Bristol, South Wales, the South West and the Midlands.  It is 60 minutes from Heathrow and other airports are easily accessible.

The site
Churchward is just outside the main centre of Swindon and is a 10 minute walk from the station. It is home to the National Trust UK Headquarters, as well as the English Heritage National Monument Record Centre and STEAM (a museum which attracts 100,000 visitors per year). It also houses a designer outlet village (McArthur Glen) which gets close to 3.2 million visitors per year.

Work to the BPMA’s potential home would run alongside the development of residential, business and hotel accommodation nearby, all part of a plan conceived to make the most of an already attractive site.

There would be on-site parking, and greatly improved disabled access, unlike anything we could possibly provide in London. 

The Building
The building offers 43,000 sq ft of ground floor space and there would be a possibly of further increasing the floor space by the use of mezzanine levels.

The building is Grade II Listed and described on the English Heritage ‘At Risk’ register as “a rare example of a railway chain testing house built in 1873″.  Some of the machinery in the floor inside is Grade II*, as it is the last complete example in situ, and the BPMA would be keen to make a focal point of this.

Our aspirations
The BPMA’s New Centre promises many exciting features for researchers and visitors both old and new. It will be a combined museum and archive, offering the best in access to all the wonderful material the BPMA has to offer.

The Royal Mail Archive will have its home at Swindon, with state of the art storage facilities and a superb public Search Room for researchers, designed to the highest possible standard.  We will provide the most up-to-date equipment but continue BPMA’s excellent face-to-face user service.

The BPMA’s New Centre will have space to exhibit our museum collection, opening up this part of our holdings fully for the first time since the National Postal Museum in London  closed in 1998.

There will be areas for exhibiting from our philatelic and wider holdings and for temporary exhibitions. We would hope to produce interesting programmes for the local community of Swindon, as well as something appealing to visitors from far and wide.

We aim to offer facilities for events, meetings and school visits, a conservation studio, and to house partners on site as well.  We will provide flexible space for those that need it; space for our Friends to meet or space to host an event for societies and interest groups.

There will also be a dedicated educational area, providing a physical base to add to BPMA’s already proven success in offering first class educational provision.

More Information
For further information, comments or ideas on the project please contact:

Jo Sullivan
The BPMA
Freeling House
Phoenix Place
LONDON
WC1X 0DL 
jo.sullivan@postalheritage.org.uk
020 7239 2306