Tag Archives: #volunteerweek

Volunteer Week: Spotlight on Post Office Architecture expert Julian Osley

Our volunteers have a range of interests, from design to postal history and everything in between. Some of these interests are what motivate them to join us, others they discover while here. To celebrate volunteer’s week Julian Osley tells us about Post Office architecture, a passion he discovered while volunteering at the BPMA.

The Uniform Penny Post prompted an enormous increase in the level of business, however the Post Office was slow to provide suitable premises in which to manage the transaction of business.

By 1840 major post offices had been built in London, Edinburgh and Dublin but, it was not until the 1860s that serious attention was given to improving the quality of post office buildings in provincial urban areas. For the most part these buildings were designed by architects in the Office of Works, and followed prevailing architectural fashions, such as the Italianate style of design which can be seen today in the former post offices at Derby, Maidstone, Sheffield, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hull and Wakefield, to name just a few.

Maidstone post office

Maidstone post office

 

Typical of the more flamboyant Edwardian era are the buildings at West Hartlepool, Aldershot, Esher, Canterbury and Sheffield. After the First World War, for reasons of economy, and also to foster the image of post office as an approachable, yet solid and dependable institution, the style known as “Post Office Georgian” was adopted, its characteristics being the use of brick on a domestic scale in order to achieve harmony with the local environment.  A ‘Brighter Post Office’ campaign was launched in the late 1920s in order to make post office interiors more attractive. For a few years after Second World War, new post office buildings followed the Georgian tradition (although in a stripped-down format), but following the Festival of Britain of 1951, this was finally abandoned in favour of a modern approach.

Wakefield post office

Wakefield post office

Because the post office became so important in the lives of a community after the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post, the opening of a new building was an event to be celebrated. Often it was made available for inspection before the official opening ceremony, to be attended by Post Office officials and local dignitaries, who would make congratulatory speeches; on occasion, the architect would be invited to give a tour of the building, and then tea would be taken in the sorting office. A programme of the day’s events might be printed, and the local newspaper would report the proceedings at length, while at the same time providing a detailed description of the building. Critics would use the correspondence pages of the paper to air their views over the poor location of the building, the lack of an external clock and inadequate street lighting, but in general these buildings were praised for their “commodious” accommodation and regarded as having contributed significantly to civic pride.

Maidstone post office

Maidstone post office

To find out more about volunteer’s week visit http://volunteersweek.org/about or head to our twitter page see what other exciting things our volunteers get up to.

Volunteer Week: Curatorial Volunteer Muriel

Here at the BPMA we are lucky to have some wonderful volunteers who provide invaluable assistance to us, helping catalogue items, assisting with conservation projects and preparing collections for the move to The Postal Museum. One of our Curatorial Volunteers, Muriel Bailly, gives you a sneak peak at what it’s like to volunteer at the BPMA.

While packing uniforms today I found a 1988 5p coin in a pocket!

While packing uniforms today I found a 1988 5p coin in a pocket!

Since September 2014 I have been volunteering at the BPMA, assisting Curators Emma Harper and Joanna Espin packing, auditing, recording and labeling the collection, ahead of the museum’s move in 2016.

Over the past months I have had the chance to gain hands on experience working with a wide variety of unique objects including prints, uniforms and evidence from the 1963 Great Train Robbery.

Pink ribbon= objects audited and freshly packed = Productive day

Pink ribbon= objects audited and freshly packed = Productive day

By working with such a varied collection, I have become familiar with conservation issues and procedures for different materials and have gained experience in object handling which will be crucial for my career development.

I work with all sorts of objects like these handstamps which I need to repack.

I work with all sorts of objects like these handstamps which I need to repack.

I am currently working full-time as a Visitor Experience Assistant at Wellcome Collection and hope to pursue a career in curating. The Curatorial Volunteer opportunity at the BPMA was a rare opportunity to gain hands-on, practical experience of collection management in a very competitive sector.

I also help clean objects - have you ever seen the top of a telephone kiosk?

I also help clean objects – have you ever seen the top of a telephone kiosk?

Volunteering has already helped me gain more responsibilities in my job where I was recently given responsibility for the handling collection and I am confident it will lead to future career development.

If this has piqued your interest then visit the volunteering page of our website to see a list of our current volunteer vacancies.