LONDON: Exploring the British Postal Museum and Archive collections

14 Jun
The British Postal Museum and Archive

The British Postal Museum and Archive

I think I have fallen in love with the British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA). I have long had a fascination with the Post Office (and at one stage nearly had a job as a postman) and like many small boys I had a small stamp collection (no doubt encouraged by my father) but that didn’t last long.

Whereas the London Metropolitan Archives appeared to me to be a very sterile and functional place, the BPMA was just the opposite, very welcoming and the walls were adorned with artwork from their collection, which made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.

The only drawback to this was that there were so many distractions, I have said before that I am too easily distracted, and here I was sitting in a room with full of distractions. Even the corridor to the toilets was lined with posters and artwork, just as well I wasn’t desperate to go!

The display of stamps designed by David Gentleman next to microfilm reader I was on was particularly distracting, the designs seemed so familiar, although looking online many of these were issued before I was born, so I probably never saw them in use, but just in albums after the event.

Being interested in railways the one set I do remember quite vividly was the 150th anniversary of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway issued in 1980. I don’t think I ever had a complete set, but as a young boy I was fascinated by how they all linked together and you could make up a train as long or short as you could find the stamps for!

Anyway I digress, back to the matter in hand, Thomas KINGHORN the mail guard. Disappointingly I was unable to find any reference to him, which didn’t really surprise me. I know very little about his service, other than the fact he was gave his occupation as a mail guard between 1803 and 1817, and he died in 1833 age 52. I do not know whether he was still employed as a mail guard in 1833 or where he was employed, was it Moffat or Carlisle?

My visit was more about getting a feel for the records available, and trying my luck just in case he was mentioned. I will probably need to carry out a more time consuming and thorough search of some of the records if I am going to stand a chance of learning any more.

What I did learn was a wealth of information concerning the mail coach service as well as reading some of the notices and instructions issued to mail guards. Some of this information has been quoted elsewhere, but it was good to see the originals or at least microfilms of the originals.

Despite not actually coming away with anything I could add to my family tree, it was a really worthwhile visit. It was a wonderful environment to study in, with helpful, efficient and friendly staff.

I didn’t come away totally empty handed, as well as a couple of photocopies I also bought a copy of a book they had on sale, Royal Mail Coaches – An Illustrated History by Frederick Wilkinson. It contains lots of useful information, drawn from some the very records I was looking at, and unlike many of the other books I have seen on the subject, all the information has source references as well. I can’t wait to sit down and spend some time reading that.

Stepping outside the archive I had a tricky decision to make, how on earth was I going to get back to Victoria railway station with an Underground network in disarray?

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