Tag Archives: british postal museum and archive

Pillar boxes weren’t just painted red

3 Jun

Along with the red telephone box, one of the most iconic images of England is the red post box, or more correctly the pillar box (but then I am not an expert on these things).

Post box

Whilst red is the traditional colour (like the one above at Sayers Common, West Sussex) they do come in a range of shapes, sizes and colours. Whilst I am not an expert, they do interest me, especially when I think what might have passed through the little rectangular slot over the years.

The British Postal Museum and Archive blog today included a fascinating post by Assistant Curator Julian Stray which describes the restoration process of an unusual blue pillar box, which was designed specifically for posting airmail in the 1930s.

It is really fascinating to watch the restoration process through a series of photos, through to the photo of the finished article on display at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London. The post describes the amount of thought and effort that went into restoring and conserving this pillar box, from matching the paint colour to locating the correct collection plate (displaying the collection times) to go on the front of the box.

It is a truly wonderful example of the hard work and consideration that goes on behind the scenes in museums around the country and around the globe. I really must try and get to the next open day at the British Postal Museum Store.

Horsham is in Sussex not Surrey

4 Dec

One thing that really annoys me is when I find references to the town of Horsham being in the county of Surrey, it’s not, it is in Sussex. I should know I have spent most of my working life there, and it is the closest town to where I live.

I saw another example this week, the December 2009 issue of the Family Tree Magazine (the UK one) has an interesting article on sources available for researching postal ancestors. It includes a photo of postmen trying out a new type of cycle, known as the pentacycle or Hen and Chickens. The British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA) have the same image in their Moving the Mail: Horses to Horsepower online exhibition.

The BPMA have got their facts right and have put Horsham in the correct county, but Family Tree Magazine has moved Horsham into the neighbouring county of Surrey. Family Tree Magazine are not alone, because I have seen many examples of Horsham, Surrey.

Out of curiosity I asked some of my work colleagues about the subject, they too had noticed it in the past, but were obviously not as concerned as I was.

I would love to find out where this all started, who first thought Horsham was in Surrey not Sussex. I suspect people might be confusing Horsham, Sussex with Hersham, Surrey. Although they are about thirty miles apart geographically, they are only one letter different in spelling.

Interestingly when I search on just birthplace in the 1901 English census on Ancestry.co.uk, it gives me 322 results for Horsham, Surrey compared to 11,159 for Horsham, Sussex. Hersham, Sussex comes up with 269 results and Hersham, Surrey comes up with 2,227. Clearly many of these are probably transcription errors, but it could still cause confusion if you are not sure which county you should be looking in for your ancestor’s birth, especially when the error is repeated elsewhere off the census.

Are there any place name confusions or mistakes that get you angry or annoyed? Have you come across any in your research? Let me know in the comments.

Doing the ironing with my mp3 player

2 Aug

On a Sunday afternoon you will often find me in the kitchen with an iron in one hand, a pile of washing on the table and a pair of earphones in my ears. To make the task of ironing more bearable I will usually be listening to podcasts, and usually they will be family history related. Today was no exception, so here is my “playlist” for today:

Family History Podcast: Episode 8 – News, clues and street views

Things have been a bit quiet over at the Family History Podcast in recent months, but I am pleased to say that Will Howells has just put up a new episode. There are only a few episodes in the archive so far, but they are well worth a listen (and watch in the case of the video episodes) if you have an interest in UK family history.

British Postal Museum and Archives Podcast: Tony Benn – Girobank: The 40th Anniversary of The People’s Bank

This is a new venture from the British Postal Museum and Archive, and their first podcast features Tony Benn talking about the establishment of the National Girobank (amongst other things). It was recorded on the 16th October 2008, and will probably be of more interest to social historians than genealogists. It is a very entertaining and informative talk, although sadly the questions at the end are a little tricky to hear.

Neil Innes: Works in Progress

As I still had a couple of shirts to go and had run out of podcasts, I switched over to music and started listening to Neil Innes’ most recent album Works in Progress. I have long been a fan of Neil Innes, and have seen him live several times. As well as fantastic music, it has some great lyrics as well, an example of which from the track “One of Those People” is “The last thing I need is a feeling of guilt, when I’m wading through treacle on balsa wood stilts”. It never fails to make me smile, likewise from “Eye Candy”, “At the ambassador’s reception I had to get away, so I hid behind a pyramid of Ferrero Roche”.

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?

Finding some details on Thomas and Margaret KINGHORN

24 May

Before my visit to the London Family History Centre (LFHC) on Saturday, I had very little hard information on Thomas KINGHORN, my 4x great grandfather. I knew he married Margaret SEWELL in Carlisle on the 5th May 1803 and they had six children between then and 1817. He worked as a guard on a mail coach, and was involved in an accident in 1808, when he narrowly escaped death. I also knew from his son’s marriage certificate that he had died before 1850.

What I really wanted to find out at the LFHC was when he died and how old he was when he died, so I could work out roughly when he was born. I had identified two possible short cuts to this information:

  1. A list of monumental inscriptions for the parish church of St Cuthbert, Carlisle, where he was married and his children subsequently baptised.
  2. An index to wills and administrations from 1800 to 1858 for the Diocese of Carlisle.

Unfortunately the only copy of the first one I knew of locally was at the Society of Genealogist’s library across the city, not at the LFHC, so that was a complete non-starter.

The second one was available on microfilm at the LFHC, but unfortunately there were no entries for Thomas or Margaret KINGHORN, in fact there were no KINGHORNs at all.

The only option left was to take the long route and search through the burial records in the bishops transcript’s for the parish of St Cuthbert’s, Carlisle, Cumberland. Starting in 1817 when their youngest child was baptised I went through year by year.

I finally found Thomas KINGHORN in 1833, except his name was spelt KINGHORNE (close enough for me), he was buried on the 4th May. His age was given as 52 years, which means he was born around 1781. His abode was given as Crosby Street. Compared to what I knew before that one record has probably doubled my knowledge of Thomas KINGHORN in one hit.

I continued to see if the were any other KINGHORN burials but there weren’t until the 15th May 1850 when, his wife Margaret was buried, she was aged 73 years and her address was South Street. So Margaret was around four years older than Thomas being born around 1777.

Although it seems likely that these two are my 4x great grandparents there is nothing that conclusively says they are. The lack of a will (or wills) doesn’t help, but perhaps a monumental inscription will at least show if they were buried together.

I already had the GRO death index entry for Margaret, so I need to order the death certificate and see if that holds any further information, like the fact that she was the widow of Thomas KINGHORN.

I can also now plan to visit the British Library Newspaper Library and check the Carlisle newspapers around those dates, and see if either of them got a mention. If Thomas died in the course of his duty as mail guard then that would be sure to be mentioned, but I doubt I will be that lucky.

Also I now have some more details to take with me to the British Postal Museum and Archive, to see if they have anything that might shed light on his service.

So lots more avenues to explore now, and a couple of streets to visit when I finally get up Carlisle.

Post Office appointment books to be made available on Ancestry.co.uk

7 Apr

News from the British Postal Museum and Archive that Post Office appointment books from 1831 to 1960 are to be made available online by Ancestry.co.uk seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

Details on the BPMA website are brief, with no mention as to when they will be available or exactly what it includes, but presumably they are talking about archive class POST 58.

This will be an interesting data-set for both family and local historians, and with the Post Office being such a large employer, I am sure most people will be able to find relations in these records. I can think of at least one relation of mine that should be mentioned (my great grandfather’s second wife’s second husband), but I am sure there will be others.

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