Tag Archives: walking tour

Visit to the Postal Museum Store

Photography student Stuart Matthews has written this guest blog for us…

On Saturday 6th April I ventured to Loughton, Essex to visit The British Postal Museum Store for the Pillar Box Perfection open day. Currently studying photography at the University of Bedfordshire, I’m now in my final year working on my final major project. The visit was in aid of my university project ‘POST’ a project which looks at pillar boxes and how my generation rarely write any more.

"Pillar box alley" at The British Postal Museum Store.

“Pillar box alley” at The British Postal Museum Store.

We live in an age now where we are constantly tuned into our digital social lives by texting, instant messaging and emailing. In my generation the everyday analogue process of posting a letter is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Postboxes lie dormant, statues and monuments of a bygone era. Fond of analogue tradition I decided I wanted to get myself and as many people involved as possible mailing postcards in the form of photographs.

The premise is simple:

  1. Take a photograph of a pillar box (Has to be taken landscape)
  2. Get the photo printed at the 6×4 (Postcard size)
  3. Once printed, write directly on the back of the photograph (Write whatever comes to mind, your thoughts on pillar boxes, maybe the digital age, something personal? A quote, or song lyrics? Maybe describe the location of the photo?)
  4. Then stick on a stamp, add my address and send it to me in the post:
    166 Vandyke Road
    Leighton Buzzard
    Bedfordshire
    LU7 3HS
Postcard showing a Queen Elizabeth II wall box.

Postcard showing a Queen Elizabeth II wall box.

By getting people to photograph postboxes I hope to create a large topology to showcase the results, which will I hopefully display in a gallery space. For the time being I’ve set up a blog site where I’ve regularly up load all the entries sent to me. Which you can visit here: www.thegreatpostproject.wordpress.com.

As I love a challenge, I am hoping that my project will make people take notice of postboxes again and in the grander scheme get younger people involved in writing letters and postcards. Although it may be wishful thinking, only time will tell.

Postcard showing the message "What's the Rush!!".

Postcard showing the message “What’s the Rush!!”.

The open day at The British Postal Museum Store was a great way to learn more about the history of the pillar box. Discovering the different types whilst being able to identify them I found it to be a rewarding experience. It really has helped me, by giving me a historical outlook which I can now apply to the project.

The staff were tremendously helpful giving talks throughout the day, and answering all my questions. A big thank you to those who work and are involved in The British Postal Museum & Archive you generosity hasn’t been unnoticed.

Their generosity also allowed me to visit London this week to participant in my very own From Pillar to Post: GPO London walking tour as I was unable to go last month! (It was only natural that I dropped in to say Hello at the Royal Mail Archives)

If you are reading this and feel intrigued by my project feel free to visit the POST blog site and get involved, and last but not least please do visit the The British Postal Museum Store when you can, it is worth it!

Walking Tours of GPO London

Our ever popular walking tours are running again this year, between May and September. Guided by our curators, these tours will visit the key postal history locations in the City of London, including former coaching inns, and the sites of early and important Post Offices buildings.

As part of London 2010: Festival of Stamps we will also be offering highlights walking tours, lasting half the length of our regular tours. The highlights tours will conclude at the Guildhall Art Gallery, enabling attendees to visit the exhibition Empire Mail: George V and the GPO. Full length tours lasting three hours will also run this year.

One key postal heritage location visited on the walking tour is the former site of the office of the Postmaster General in Lombard Street. In 1680 this was the only place in London at which mail could be posted. At this time there were only 77 workers employed by the Post Office in London, and only 316 Post Office staff in the entire country!

The courtyard of the General Post Office, London, 1700s

The courtyard of the General Post Office, London, 1700s

As the Post Office expanded and became an increasingly important institution, larger buildings were needed. In 1829 GPO Headquarters moved to St Martins-Le-Grand. Here the mail coaches for other parts of the country departed each night, a spectacle which drew crowds of curious onlookers, as documented by the artist James Pollard.

Mail coach and horses departing from the General Post Office white neoclassical building designed by Smirke and located in St Martins-le-Grand. Some boys run alongside, waving hats and hands. The men in the painting wear top hats.

The Royal Mail's departure from the General Post Office, London by James Pollard

In 1910 GPO Headquarters moved again, to King Edward Building on King Edward Street. This grand building had a façade of Portland stone and a 160 x 60 foot public office on the ground floor, which boasted a full-length mahogany counter and marble floors. Since 1997 this building has been the London home of Merrill Lynch, but the statue of postal reformer Rowland Hill still stands outside.

King Edward Building Public Office, 1947

King Edward Building Public Office, 1947

Walking Tours 2010

Extended Walking Tours
Saturday 8 May, 2-5pm
Sunday 5 September, 2-5pm

Highlights of GPO London Tours
Saturday 26 June, 2-3.30pm
Tuesday 13 July, 2-3.30pm

Booking details on our website

Welcome to the London 2010: Festival of Stamps

After a long time planning and a lot of work by many people at the BPMA and other organisations the London 2010: Festival of Stamps will soon begin.

A 1963 US stamp depicting a broken chain and the words "Emacipation Proclamation", produced to celebrate 100 years since the abolition of slavery.

Stamp from the United States of America, 1963. Courtesy of Sands of Time

We will be making a buzz throughout 2010 about stamps and introduce many new people to the wonderful world of stamps, stamp design and postal heritage. One of the first events of the Festival is Post Abolition: Commemorative stamps from around the world (18 January – 30 June 2010). This new display in the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery of the Museum of London Docklands looks at how the abolition of slavery has been commemorated through the everyday postage stamp. 

The Festival continues with an exciting programme of exhibitions and events planned, with something to appeal to everyone.

As well as celebrating stamps, London 2010: Festival of Stamps also marks the centenary of the accession of George V – the philatelist king. To mark the occasion, don’t miss the BPMA’s major exhibition Empire Mail: George V & The GPO in co-operation with Guildhall Art Gallery and the Royal Philatelic Collection. The exhibition opens at the prestigious Guildhall Art Gallery on 7 May 2010 and runs until 25 July 2010. Many items from the BPMA’s wonderful collections will be on display in this exhibition that explores the life of King George V, through his personal passions as a philatelist and wider world events. There will also be a display of exquisite stamps and stamp artwork from the Royal Philatelic Collection.

Postal Union Congress £1 stamp, 1929. Shows King George V and an English knight on horseback.

Postal Union Congress £1, 1929. GBR02.25

Later in the year, BPMA will be releasing a new book about George V by our curator of philately, Douglas Muir. Based on extensive research, much of it original, this will be an vital addition to anyone interested in the period, which saw some of the most beautiful and highly regarded of British stamps, such as the seahorses and the PUC £1. 

Alongside Empire Mail: George V & The GPO, the BPMA will also be staging a display of Treasures of the Archive at our Search Room in Freeling House. The exhibition will feature unique pieces from the collections of The British Postal Museum & Archive. This includes a sheet of penny black stamps and the original die, among many other items of unparalleled significance in UK postal history.

EXHIBITIONS AND DISPLAYS

As well as our own exhibitions, the BPMA is co-ordinating an exciting programme of events with partner organisations throughout 2010.

British Library Philatelic Rarities
British Library
1 February – 31 December 2010
The permanent 1,000 frame ‘Philatelic Exhibition’ will be refreshed with new or not recently exhibited material from the British Library’s world class collections. There will also be a programme of educational talks.

An early air mail envelope

Air mail envelope. Image courtesy of The Trustees of the Bath Postal Museum

King George V Exhibition
Bath Postal Museum
1 February – 30 October 2010
The Bath Postal Museum is staging an exhibition depicting the events that occurred during the reign of King George V (1910 to 1936). Items on display will illustrate how events that occurred during this period resulted in changes to peoples’ lives and their standard of living.

Congo (Katanga): 10 F Stamp with Air Katanga airplane tail

Congo (Katanga): 10 F Stamp with Air Katanga airplane tail

Impressions of Africa: money, medals and stamps
British Museum, Room 69a
1 April 2010 – January 2011
In 2010 17 African countries celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence from colonial rule. To mark this occasion the British Museum will be holding a small display looking at the images of Africa presented on coins, banknotes, medals, stamps and seals made for the continent during the past 100 years.

Throughout 2010 the Association of British Philatelic Societies (ABPS) will be holding regional events. Please see the London 2010 website to find out more about shows near you.

Other events are still to be confirmed, so don’t forget to visit our new-look website at www.london2010.org.uk for all the very latest news, visitor information and opening times. And please do check details before travelling as dates may change.

EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES

Alongside exhibitions and displays, the BPMA will also be holding Festival related activities. Highlights are listed below, but please see the London 2010 website, or the BPMA website to find out more.

Central Telegraph Office (GPO West) decorated with flags for the Jubilee of George V.

Central Telegraph Office (GPO West) decorated with flags for the Jubilee of George V. POST 118 290

Walking Tours

This year, for the first time, we have introduced two types of walking tour. The first type introduces Highlights of GPO London (Saturday 26 June and Tuesday 13 July, 1 ½ hours). The tour takes you in to the heart of old GPO London, exploring over 300 years of postal history, and developments in the buildings and iconic street furniture of telephone kiosks and letter boxes.

The second, longer Extended Walking Tour (Saturday 8 May, Sunday 5 September. Approximately 3 hours) offers the chance to explore GPO London in more depth.  

Talks

A special programme of talks has been devised for the Festival, each one covering a different aspect of philately or postal history. The programme starts off on Thursday 11 March (7-8pm, Phoenix centre) with a panel discussion on Stamps in the 21st Century. Guests from across the spectrum of philately and stamp design will discuss stamp design and the future of stamps.

As you can see, 2010 is packed full of events, exhibitions and activities for people to find out more about stamps, postal history and stamp design. We hope you can join us at the London 2010: Festival of Stamps soon!

Walking back through 400 years of postal history

by Jennifer Flippance, London 2010 Project Officer

K2 and K6 phone kiosks at Smithfield Market

K2 and K6 phone kiosks at Smithfield Market

For the last three years BPMA has been running popular walking tours, which take you into the heart of old GPO London, exploring 400 years of postal history and developments in the iconic street furniture of telephone kiosks and letter boxes.

The full tour lasts around 3 hours but next year, as part of our programme of activities to celebrate the London 2010: Festival of Stamps, we’re developing a ‘highlights’ version that will last around 1.5 hours and finish up at Guildhall Art Gallery. This will give you the opportunity to visit the fascinating exhibition, Empire Mail: George V and the GPO which will contain many significant objects and items of postal history from the reign of George V, when the GPO (General Post Office) was at its height.

Last week, Chris Taft, one of the curators at the BPMA who helped to develop and run the tours, took me out on the route of the new walking tour.

The Central Telegraph Office c. 1920s

The Central Telegraph Office c. 1935

It takes in the old GPO heartland around St Martin’s Le Grand, once the bustling hub of communication throughout the empire. This incorporates the majestic former GPO headquarters of King Edward Building – opened in 1910, the front of which is still standing today – and the sites of GPO North, the Central Telegraph Office and GPO East, from where crowds gathered each night to witness the spectacle of racing mail coaches leaving London.

Today King Edward Street is overlooked by a statue of Rowland Hill, the social reformer who revolutionised the postal service in 1840, making mail communication within reach of ordinary people for the first time.

Curator Chris Taft, takes a break beside the statue of Rowland Hill, outside King Edward Building

Curator Chris Taft, takes a break beside the statue of Rowland Hill, outside King Edward Building

Then travel further back in time to the site where the ‘bishop mark’ the world’s first postmark was struck in 1661. Continue to the area of the City where many coffee houses clustered in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Coffee houses were significant in the development of communication because many had the facility for visitors to post letters. Due to the coffee shop owners’ close relationships with ship owners, this was considered a more efficient way of carrying letters overseas than using the Post Office.

A little further on is the site of the office of the Postmaster General. In 1680 this was the only place you could post letters in the country. By 1808 the office was called “the most important spot on the surface of the globe.”

Dates for the new walking tour will be announced later in the year.

The last full-length walking of 2009 takes place on Saturday 26 September (1.00 – 4.00 pm). Click here to find out how to book tickets

Walking Tours of GPO London

Anyone walking through the City of London will note weird and wonderful street names such as Cheapside, Poultry and Undershaft, or the more mundane Milk Street, Bread Street and Oat Lane, and get a sense of the Square Mile’s past history as part over-crowded slum, part burgeoning centre of trade. But the history of postal communication can also be seen in the City, with Postman’s Park and Post Office Court being merely the most obvious examples. These and other sites will be explored as part of the BPMA’s programme of GPO London walking tours.

In 1643 the first General Post Office was established in the City, with the site most likely to have been in Cloak Lane, near Dowgate Hill. This came just eight years after Charles I made the Royal Mail available to his subjects, although it was Oliver Cromwell who formally established the Post Office in 1657.

At this time Coffee Houses were considered more reliable mail providers than the newly formalised Post Office. Many Coffee House owners collected letters and made arrangements with ship masters for their delivery overseas. This practice was illegal for it infringed the Post Office monopoly, but the service continued to be popular. It is not coincidental that so many early Post Offices were also established in the City of London.

The site of the Garraways Coffee House (rebuilt 1874) and Lloyds Coffee House (1691-1785) will be visited on the tour, along with the sites of the former GPO Headquarters at Lombard Street and St Martin’s-le-Grand.

Other notable sites visited on the tour are King Edward Building (the former Chief Post Office now occupied by Merrill Lynch), and GPO North. Also in the vicinity was the Central Telegraph Office where Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated wireless telegraphy to William Preece, Engineer to the GPO.

There will also be an opportunity to explore a range of operational GPO street furniture from many eras, including manhole covers, telephone kiosks and letter boxes.

The tours last around 3 hours and are conducted by BPMA Curators. For more information and booking details please see our website.

BPMA Walking Tours, 2009
GPO London – Tuesday 30th June 2009, 1.00-4.00pm
GPO London – Saturday 19th July 2009, 2.00-5.00pm
GPO London – Tuesday 26th September 2009, 1.00-4.00pm