Tag Archives: Treasures of the Archive

Archive Open Day: Sports and Participation in the Post Office

Since the beginning of January 2012, eight students from the University of the Third Age (U3A), plus their team leader, have been working with us to carry out research and work across two areas. Six students have been researching Sports and Participation in the Post Office, whilst the remaining two have been summarising oral history recordings taken in Bringsty Common, Herefordshire.

The group researching Sports and Participation have made some fascinating findings: from truly ‘Olympic’ feats carried out by postmen in the course of their everyday duties, through stamps from across the world featuring a myriad of sporting endeavours, to the current role of the Post Office Sports Foundation in funding activities across the country. These students will be on hand at our Archive Open Day on 14 April 2012 between 1-3pm to share their findings.

Gloucester Post Office Recreation Club, 1898

Gloucester Post Office Recreation Club, 1898

One intriguing quote discovered by a student in the Post Office circular ‘St. Martins’ of 1898 gives an insight into early attitudes to women’s participation in sport:

Not the least of the many medical and scientific discoveries in the 19th Century, is the fact that athletic exercise can be indulged in by women without injury to their bodily health.

The students summarising oral history recordings have discovered the personal stories of former postmen, the local postmistress, and post office user, all living in a rural and scattered community with dwindling postal services. Their work will help the BPMA to provide greater access to this unique material, through exhibitions, blog articles, and magazine pieces.

Feedback received from the group has been very positive, and indicated that the students have gained a number of things from the shared learning project, including: insights into social history, new IT skills, enjoyment from working in teams, meeting new people and companionship.

Our Archive Open Day runs from 10-5pm on 14 April and is part of the Archive Awareness Campaign. You do not have to book to attend, but for more information, call 0207 239 2568 or email info@postalheritage.org.uk.

The Open Day also offers one of the last opportunities to see our current exhibition, Treasures of the Archive, which features special highlights of the collections. This includes a design for a stamp that was to be issued in the event that Scotland won the 1978 World Cup. It was, of course, never adopted!

Scotland World Cup Winners 1978 stamp artwork

Scotland World Cup Winners 1978 stamp artwork

Andy Richmond – Access and Learning Manager

Find out more about sport in the Post Office in our online exhibition Playing for the Cup.

Centenary of the World’s First Scheduled Aerial Post

Tomorrow marks exactly one hundred years since the start of the world’s first-ever regularly scheduled airmail service. To mark this occasion we have refreshed our Treasures of the Archive exhibition to include a display case full of material related to this historic event.

Coronation Aerial Post - Gustav Hamel in his Bleriot XI, 9 September 1911. (POST 118/5738)

Coronation Aerial Post - Gustav Hamel in his Bleriot XI, 9 September 1911. (POST 118/5738)

Established as part of the celebrations for the coronation of King George V, the first flight of the Aerial Post took place on Saturday 9 September 1911. The noted pilot Gustav Hamel took the controls on the day, flying a Blériot monoplane between Hendon Aerodrome and Windsor Great Park. He carried one small bag of mail weighing 23½lbs on the flight which lasted around 15 minutes.

Poster advertising First United Kingdom Aerial Post.

Poster advertising First United Kingdom Aerial Post.

First United Kingdom Aerial Post handstamp impression. (2009-0332/1)

First United Kingdom Aerial Post handstamp impression. (2009-0332/1)

Our Aerial Post display features a number of unique items from the collections, including the striking 1911 poster promoting the flight, the artwork for commemorative postcards and envelopes carried on the flight, as well as the postcard addressed from the pilot Gustav Hamel to the Postmaster General. Original handstamps from both Hendon and Windsor will also be on display.

An online exhibition, featuring a wealth of additional information about the event, can be accessed on the BPMA website.

Two new products will also be released to mark the Centenary: a limited edition A5-sized postcard depicting the 1911 poster and a brand new postcard pack. Both items will be available via the online shop.

– Andrew Richmond, Head of Access & Learning

Treasures of the Archive

Recently our Assistant Curator Vyki Sparkes gave a talk about our current Search Room exhibition Treasures of the Archive. A recording of this talk is now available on our podcast.

Moses James Nobbs: Last of the mail coach guards

Moses James Nobbs: Last of the mail coach guards

In her talk Vyki highlighted three of her favourite objects in the exhibition – a watercolour of Moses James Nobbs: the last of the mailcoach guards, Frederick G. Gurr’s World War 2 scrapbook and an evidence bag from the Great Train Robbery – all of which have fascinating stories attached.

The Treasures of the Archive exhibition features many other unique and interesting items from our collection, including the first ‘First Day Cover’ in the world, showing a Penny Black used on 6 May 1840, the first day of validity; original artwork for Greetings Telegrams and stamps; and the United Kingdom’s first pillar box. Find out more on our website.

Download the Vyki Sparkes podcast for free at www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast

Treasures of the Archive

by Zoe van Well, Archives Assistant

Hi, I am Zoe van Well and this is the first time I have blogged for the BPMA. So why now? Well, recently I contributed to the leaflet for the Treasures of the Archive exhibition. It is housed in the Search Room of the Archive and is free for all to view. You can also download a copy from our website.

In writing the leaflet I was able to not only test my knowledge built up over the past year as an Archives Assistant but also to gain more! I found it so exciting to make connections between the themes highlighted by the Treasures of the Archive exhibition.

The Machin Head mould

The Machin Head mould

One item is The Machin Head mould. Other themes include; Stamps That Never Were, featuring a page from David Gentleman’s design book, and also a World Cup Stamp commissioned for the Scotland team; Design in the GPO, The Mail Coach; and the list goes on!

I found that so many pivotal moments of postal history exposed by the exhibition directly influenced each other. The Machin Head, for example, is a mould sculpted and cast by Arnold Machin and was used to create the definitive stamp still in use today. (Everybody will have used one at some point in their life!) After I read some of Douglas Muir’s book on the topic, titled A Timeless Classic and sold in the search room, I became aware of the challenges which arose during the design process. In particular I realised the roles David Gentleman and the then Postmaster General Tony Benn played, given they were questioning the very use of the Monarch’s Head being present on stamps!

Colour trials for the Postal Union Congress £1 stamp of 1929

Various colours were trialled for the Postal Union Congress £1 stamp of 1929. Eventually, grey was selected.

This lead to me realising special stamps were very limited in number until the 1960’s, full stop! The Postal Union Congress commemorative stamps featuring George V (of which the £1 Stamp, 1929 is displayed in the exhibition) was only the second Commemorative Stamp to be commissioned. The first were designed for the British Empire Exhibition held in1924 and 1925. These stamps can currently be viewed at the Empire Mail: George V and the GPO exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

I must say though, whilst looking into these stamps I unearthed other research material which can sometimes be overlooked, including supplements issued in the Philatelic Bulletin. The Philatelic Bulletin is a small newsletter published by Royal Mail, and it includes articles on special stamps about to be issued. One supplement in particular does a great job of explaining the difference between definitive and special stamps. We have a complete collection of these Bulletins in the search room and they can be a great starting point for projects undergone by school pupils. They are also a great way for everybody to learn about events in philatelic history. Of course, if you become interested in an event and would like to see original material relating to it, either I or one my colleagues in the Search Room will be pleased to help you locate some if you wish!

One of only eight penny black proof registration sheets, produced before letters were inserted into the plate

One of only eight penny black proof registration sheets, produced before letters were inserted into the plate

Getting back to the Treasure of the Archive Exhibition, don’t forget we also have on display a Penny Black Proof Registration sheet (1st April 1840), of which there are only eight and all are cared for here at the British Postal Museum and Archive. We also have a Queen Victoria Channel Islands Pillar Box, one of the very first to be made and which were trialled on the Channel Islands during 1852 and 1853.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit us while this exciting and rare material is still on display! Why not make a day of it by browsing our catalogue either online or in our search room after viewing the exhibition. You may also prefer to take inspiration from the search room information sheets such as Travelling Post Offices, Mail Rail, Animals in the Post Office, The Post Office in the Second World War, Women in the Post Office and Airmail. If you find something takes your interest, we can help you find a particular item and produce it for you from the repository.

We enjoy showing you original material as it can often be a thrilling experience; both for staff and visitors, whether it is a time bill, a report or a list of ingredients for cancellation inks!

Treasures of the Archive can be viewed in our Search Room until April 2011. For information on visiting the Search Room please see http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/visiting.

Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book

Tomorrow Royal Mail releases the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book, written by Douglas Muir the BPMA’s Curator of Philately. The book ties-in with the Postboxes Miniature Sheet also released tomorrow, and explores some of the amazing artefacts held by the BPMA.

The cover of the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book features a sheet of Penny Blacks in our collection

The cover of the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book features a sheet of Penny Blacks in our collection

The BPMA cares for the visual, written and physical records of over 400 years of British postal development. These records include stamps and stamp artwork, posters and photographs, documents and postal history, and objects large and small. Many of these are celebrated within the Prestige Stamp Book, including the Penny Black, Mail Coaches, the telegrams from the Titanic, the Penfold pillar box, the GPO Film Unit, stamp artwork from the era of King Edward VIII, and GPO posters.

The Prestige Stamp Book is lavishly illustrated with images of items from the BPMA collection and contains four exclusive stamp panes unavailable anywhere else, including all four of the Postboxes stamps.

The Postboxes stamps celebrates the many types of wall box which provided a cheaper and more practical alternative to large pillar boxes in less populated or remote areas. From 1857 wall boxes began appearing in walls, buildings or brick pillars and were later to be found on poles and lamp posts.

Production of wall boxes ended in 1980, and in 1995 freestanding pedestal boxes were introduced, but around 114,000 post boxes of all kinds still exist across the UK.

Four iconic wall mounted boxes appear on the Miniature Sheet and within the Prestige Stamp Book:

1st Class – George V Type B Wall Box

This example with the royal cipher of George V was cast by W T Allen & Co Ltd, London, between 1933 and 1936, and is from Cookham Rise near Maidenhead.

56p – Edward VII Ludlow Box

Introduced in 1887 this type of standardized box derives its name from the foundry where many of them were made. This example is from Bodiam, East Sussex.

81p – Victorian Lamp Box

The lamp box could also be attached to lamp post or other such structure. This example is from Hythe in Kent and was installed in 1896.

90p – Elizabeth II Type A Wall Box

This Elizabeth II Wall box is located in Slaithwaite near Huddersfield and would have been made between 1962 and 1963.

Postboxes stamp pane from the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book

Postboxes stamp pane from the Treasures of the Archive Prestige Stamp Book

Other products available as part of the Postboxes stamp issue are a Presentation Pack, First Day Cover Envelope, Stamp Cards, Press Sheet, Generic Sheet, and special First Day Covers cancelled and stamped from Tallents House.

For further information on these releases please see the Royal Mail Stamps & Collecting website. Details of some of the letter boxes held by the BPMA can be found in the Collections section of our website.