The British Postal Museum and Archive

BPMA
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British postal services helped shape the modern world. The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) cares for the visual, written and physical records covering five centuries of this iconic service. Since our foundation in 2004 we have worked to increase access to our world-class archive and museum collections, ensuring this important social and communications story is available for the enjoyment of all.

The leading resource for British postal history, our collections range from staff records and cash books to posters, an extensive social history photography collection, vehicles and telegrams. Among the objects in the collection are many unexpected stories including the pneumatic mail cars of Victorian London and a Victoria Cross won on a First World War battlefield by Post Office Rifle, Sgt. Alfred Knight.

In order to provide the best possible access to our collections so that everyone can learn from and be inspired by the stories they tell, we are currently working to open The Postal Museum, a new, national museum for social and communication history in central London. Through stories of innovation, such as Mail Rail and Colossus - the world’s programmable computer, we will use our wealth of inspirational information to greatly increase access, including attracting many visitors for the first time.

Venue Type:

Museum, Archive

Opening hours

The Royal Mail Archive is open from 1000-1700 Mon-Fri, and from 1000-1900 Thurs. We are also open on selected Saturdays 1000-1700 (PLEASE CALL OR SEE WEBSITE FOR DATES). No appointment needed for most archive material. The philatelic collection may be viewed by appointment - please call for details.

Closed: Sundays, Bank Holidays and Christmas week. Annual stocktake closure period (PLEASE CALL OR SEE WEBSITE FOR DATES).

Admission charges

Free entry to the Search Room and exhibition area. Please bring ID.

Additional info

The Royal Mail Archive is open for the public to use and enjoy. We also have a small exhibition area at The Royal Mail Archive to show highlights from our philatelic collections. You can visit the exhibition for free whenever the archive is open.

The entire collection of the British Postal Museum & Archive is a Designated Collection of national importance.

The archives relate to the operation, policy, development and social impact of the British Post Office from 1636 to the present day. The collection is outstanding in terms of its evidential, historical and cultural value and represents a comprehensive and complete coverage of the role the Post Office in employment history, overseas expansion, communications and community cohesion.

We are a combined Museum and Archive...an internationally important resource for social - and postal - history.

The Royal Mail Archive is open to the public 5-6 days a week. It contains records of The Post Office and Royal Mail from the seventeenth century to the present day.

The British Postal Museum Store houses objects ranging from the desk of Rowland Hill (founder of the Penny Post), to Mobile Post Office vehicles and an astounding assortment of letter boxes. The store is open to the public on various dates throughout the summer (PLEASE CALL OR SEE WEBSITE FOR DATES).

Collection details

Trade and Commerce, Toys and Hobbies, Social History, Science and Technology, Photography, Music, Literature, Land Transport, Industry, Film and Media, Design, Costume and Textiles, Aviation, Archives

Key artists and exhibits

  • Penny Black
  • Great Britain Stamps
  • Phillips Philatelic Collection
  • Letterboxes
  • Postal vehicles
  • Postal uniforms
  • Sorting machines
  • Hand stamps
  • Posters
  • Artwork
  • Photographs
  • Documentary films
  • Family History sources
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Shipbourne Road Post Office. A postman collects mail from a sub-office. Post Offices were often the hub of local communities. As well as selling stamps and other postal products and services over the counter, Shipbourne Road Post Office also sold groceries.

Museum of the Post Office in the Community

  • 9 September 2012 — 1 January 2019 *on now

Located above the Victorian Post Office at Blists Hill Victorian Town, the Museum of the Post Office in the Community explores the vital role the Post Office has played in the lives of generations of Britons. From opening up long-distance communications to the masses, to providing essential services in the most remote communities in the country.

The exhibition tells this fascinating story through a series of remarkable objects including a five-wheeled ‘Hen and Chicks’ cycle, early examples of a telegram and instantly recognisable postal icons including letter boxes and motorbikes.

Suitable for

  • Any age
  • Family friendly

Where

Blists Hill Victorian Town
Legges Way, Telford, Shropshire
TF7 5DU

Additional info

Monday – Sunday:
10.00am – 5.00pm
(4.00pm Nov – Mar)

Admission charges apply, exhibition entry included in ticket price. See www.ironbridge.org.uk or telephone 01952 884391 for further details.

Admission

Admission charges apply, exhibition entry included in ticket price.

See www.ironbridge.org.uk or telephone 01952 884391 for further details.

Website

http://www.ironbridge.org.uk

Sheet of Penny Black stamps signed by Rowland Hill at Newgate Street publicity shop

Penny Black 175

  • 6 May — 7 August 2015 *on now

Victorian Britain was a place of fast-paced reform and innovation. In 1840, one reform was to change lives forever – the introduction of the world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black.

To celebrate its 175th anniversary, this exhibition tells the story of the creation of the Penny Black and its phenomenal social impact. On display will be an original sheet of the iconic Penny Blacks, offering a rare opportunity to view this stand-out object up close.

**Due to the annual archival stock take, within this period the Search Room will be closed June 1st - 12th (open on Saturday 13th June).

Suitable for

  • 14-15
  • 18+
  • 16-17
'We post our letters of good cheer, Now that Christmas draws so near' Christmas card

Pop it in the Post: Your World at the end of the street

  • 8 July — 27 September 2015 *on now

For over 160 years, people in Britain have been able to stick a stamp on a letter and post the letter into a pillar box – keeping in touch with people in cities, towns and villages everywhere. This family-friendly exhibition explores the new and sometimes quirky ideas that made this possible.

Discover the story of the letter writing revolution, enabled by the world’s first ever stamp, and the UK’s first pillar boxes. Meet the individuals who made this possible, and understand how millions of people’s lives were changed. The world was now available to everyone - simply through the pillar box (so-called because of its resemblance to a pillar or to a column) at the end of your street.

2015 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the novelist Anthony Trollope. When working for the Post Office, Trollope first suggested the idea of the pillar box for the UK. They were introduced in 1852. 2015 also marks the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black – the world’s first adhesive stamp, introduced in 1840.

Suitable for

  • Any age
  • Family friendly

Where

Bruce Castle Museum
Lordship Lane
Tottenham
N17 6RT

Cartoon illustrated image of man next to a red pillar box

Pop it in the Post: Your World at the end of the street

  • 3 October — 21 November 2015

For over 160 years, people in Britain have been able to stick a stamp on a letter and post the letter into a pillar box – keeping in touch with people in cities, towns and villages everywhere. This family-friendly exhibition explores the new and sometimes quirky ideas that made this possible.

Discover the story of the letter writing revolution, enabled by the world’s first ever stamp, and the UK’s first pillar boxes. Meet the individuals who made this possible, and understand how millions of people’s lives were changed. The world was now available to everyone - simply through the pillar box (so-called because of its resemblance to a pillar or to a column) at the end of your street.

2015 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the novelist Anthony Trollope. When working for the Post Office, Trollope first suggested the idea of the pillar box for the UK. They were introduced in 1852. 2015 also marks the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black – the world’s first adhesive stamp, introduced in 1840.

Suitable for

  • Any age
  • Family friendly
  • Especially for children

Where

Mansfield Museum
Leeming Street
Mansfield
NG18 1NG

Illustrated image of a postman emptying a pillar box.

Pop it in the Post: Your World at the end of the street

  • 6 January — 26 March 2016

For over 160 years, people in Britain have been able to stick a stamp on a letter and post the letter into a pillar box – keeping in touch with people in cities, towns and villages everywhere. This family-friendly exhibition explores the new and sometimes quirky ideas that made this possible.

Discover the story of the letter writing revolution, enabled by the world’s first ever stamp, and the UK’s first pillar boxes. Meet the individuals who made this possible, and understand how millions of people’s lives were changed. The world was now available to everyone - simply through the pillar box (so-called because of its resemblance to a pillar or to a column) at the end of your street.

2015 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the novelist Anthony Trollope. When working for the Post Office, Trollope first suggested the idea of the pillar box for the UK. They were introduced in 1852. 2015 also marks the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black – the world’s first adhesive stamp, introduced in 1840.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Where

Havering Museum
19-21 High Street
Romford
RM1 1JU

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Post Office Court sign

From Pillar to Post: GPO London Walking Tour

  • 23 August 2015 11am-1pm
  • 26 September 2015 11am-1pm
  • 25 October 2015 11am-1pm
  • 21 November 2015 11am-1pm

Join an accredited guide for a walking tour through 350 years of London’s history to reveal how the ingenuity of the postal service shaped the world we live in today. From the coffee houses of the 1600s to the electronic communication of today, walks include the story of Victorian postal reform, the growth of the GPO, the evolution of Mail Rail and the development of post boxes and telephone kiosks. All GPO walking tours are led by trained and accredited guides for Clerkenwell and Islington, and the City of London.

Walks start at Farringdon Station at 11.00am, last around 2 hours, and end near Bank Station.

No need to book, just turn up and meet the guide, who will be wearing a Cityguides badge.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Where

Farringdon Station
London
EC1M 6BY

Admission

£7
£6 for concessions (60+)
£5 for BPMA Friends
Free for accompanied children under 12 years old

Museum store

5 August Museum Store Tour

  • 5 August 2015 1-3pm *on now

Join us on a curator-led behind the scenes tour for a walk through hundreds of years of British social history, and get up close to some of our most iconic objects.

Visits include two 30-minute curator-led tours, complimentary refreshments and an opportunity to explore the collection at your leisure. Please note that you will be required to stand for the duration of each 30 minute tour.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Where

BPMA Museum Store
3 Imprimo Park, Lenthall Rd, Loughton, Essex
IG10 3UF

Admission

£3.00
£2.50 for concessions (60+).
Free for accompanied children under 12 years old.

Website

http://5augmstour.eventbrite.co.uk

Mr Herbert Joyce, who brought together the archives under one roof in 1896

5 August Tour of the Archive

  • 5 August 2015 3-4pm *on now

Join us for an introduction to the extraordinary social history collections of The British Postal Museum & Archive with a behind the scenes tour of the archive. Laid out over 2.5 miles of shelving and covering social, communications and design history from 1636 to the present day, BPMA’s archivists will reveal the fascinating stories of British and world history through the eyes of one of the country’s most iconic services.

Suitable for

  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Admission

Free entry. Suggested donation £2 per person. Limited to 10 places - book now to avoid disappointment!

Website

http://5augmstour.eventbrite.co.uk

Museum store

2 September Museum Store Tour

  • 2 September 2015 1-3pm

Join us on a curator-led behind the scenes tour for a walk through hundreds of years of British social history, and get up close to some of our most iconic objects.

Visits include two 30-minute curator-led tours, complimentary refreshments and an opportunity to explore the collection at your leisure. Please note that you will be required to stand for the duration of each 30 minute tour.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 14-15
  • 18+
  • 11-13
  • 16-17

Where

BPMA Museum Store
3 Imprimo Park, Lenthall Rd, Loughton, Essex
IG10 3UF

Admission

£3.00
£2.50 for concessions (60+).
Free for accompanied children under 12 years old.

Website

http://2sepmstour.eventbrite.co.uk

Telegram poster by Abram Games

Miniature Posters: the stamp designs of Abram Games with Naomi Games

  • 17 September 2015 6:30-7:30pm

Best known as a poster artist for the likes of London Transport, Guinness and BOAC, and the only official War Poster Artist during the Second World War, Abram Games's name is synonymous with groundbreaking design. But less well known is Games's work as a stamp designer, designing for Britain, Jersey and Israel. At this talk, Abram’s daughter Naomi reveals this lesser-known area of his work, his working processes and progressive sketches from his archive.

Suitable for

  • 16-17
  • 18+
  • Not suitable for children

Where

Phoenix Centre
Phoenix Place, London
WC1X 0DL

Getting there

Next door to the BPMA Search Room

Admission

£3.00
£2.50 for concessions (60+).
Free for accompanied children under 12 years old.

Website

https://abramgames.eventbrite.co.uk

Museum store

7 October Museum Store Tour

  • 7 October 2015 1-3pm

Join us on a curator-led behind the scenes tour for a walk through hundreds of years of British social history, and get up close to some of our most iconic objects.

Visits include two 30-minute curator-led tours, complimentary refreshments and an opportunity to explore the collection at your leisure. Please note that you will be required to stand for the duration of each 30 minute tour.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 14-15
  • 18+
  • 11-13
  • 16-17

Where

BPMA Museum Store
3 Imprimo Park, Lenthall Rd, Loughton, Essex
IG10 3UF

Admission

£3.00
£2.50 for concessions (60+).
Free for accompanied children under 12 years old.

Website

http://7octmstour.eventbrite.co.uk

Shelves in Archive

14 October Tour of the Archive

  • 14 October 2015 3-4pm

Join us for an introduction to the extraordinary social history collections of The British Postal Museum & Archive with a behind the scenes tour of the archive. Laid out over 2.5 miles of shelving and covering social, communications and design history from 1636 to the present day, BPMA’s archivists will reveal the fascinating stories of British and world history through the eyes of one of the country’s most iconic services.

Suitable for

  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Admission

Free entry. Suggested donation £2 per person. Limited to 10 places - book now to avoid disappointment!

Website

http://octarchive.eventbrite.co.uk

Sir Anthony Eden - 1930s

A Noble War? with Aaron Manning, Warwick Castle

  • 29 October 2015 6-8pm

Sir Anthony Eden is best known for his lion-hearted leadership alongside Winston Churchill during the Second World War, but long before his finest hour, Eden fought his first battles in the trenches during the First World War. Examining recently re-discovered letters to his sister Marjorie Warwick, this talk re-assesses the concept of aristocratic noble war and explores how Eden and his family dealt with the horrors of the front line.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • 16-17

Where

Guildhall Library
Aldermanbury
London
EC2V 7HH

Museum store

4 November Museum Store Tour

  • 4 November 2015 1-3pm

Join us on a curator-led behind the scenes tour for a walk through hundreds of years of British social history, and get up close to some of our most iconic objects.

Visits include two 30-minute curator-led tours, complimentary refreshments and an opportunity to explore the collection at your leisure. Please note that you will be required to stand for the duration of each 30 minute tour.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 16-17
  • 14-15
  • 18+

Where

BPMA Museum Store
3 Imprimo Park, Lenthall Rd, Loughton, Essex
IG10 3UF

Admission

£3.00
£2.50 for concessions (60+).
Free for accompanied children under 12 years old.

Website

http://4novmstour.eventbrite.co.uk

James Addison

Pushing the Envelope with James Addison

  • 12 November 2015 7-8pm

Graphic designer James Addison has been testing the Royal Mail’s delivery service through a series of peculiar envelopes containing nothing more than cryptic clues and puzzling addresses to see what lengths our humble posties will go to deliver our letters. Here he will be talking about his project, and explores similar artists who have challenged the postal system.

Suitable for

  • 16-17
  • 18+

Where

Phoenix Centre
Phoenix Place, London
WC1X 0DL

Getting there

Next door to the BPMA Search Room

Admission

£3.00
£2.50 for concessions (60+).
Free for accompanied children under 12 years old.

Website

https://jamesaddison.eventbrite.co.uk

Christmas Card

Dear Santa: The History of Writing to Father Christmas

  • 1 December 2015 7-8pm

What’s the journey of a letter to Saint Nick? How did it come to be this way, and how are things different around the world? Archives Assistant Ashley March delves into the Royal Mail Archive - and further afield - to explore the phenomenon of writing to Santa Claus. Warning! Not suitable for under-10s (contains spoilers!)
Join us before the talk for a festive mulled wine and mince pie.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • 16-17

Website

https://dearsanta.eventbrite.co.uk

Mr Herbert Joyce in the Post Office Record/Muniment room

9 December Tour of the Archive

  • 9 December 2015 3-4pm

Join us for an introduction to the extraordinary social history collections of The British Postal Museum & Archive with a behind the scenes tour of the archive. Laid out over 2.5 miles of shelving and covering social, communications and design history from 1636 to the present day, BPMA’s archivists will reveal the fascinating stories of British and world history through the eyes of one of the country’s most iconic services.

Suitable for

  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 18+
  • 16-17

Admission

Free entry. Suggested donation £2 per person. Limited to 10 places - book now to avoid disappointment!

Website

http://9decmstour.eventbrite.co.uk

Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

Messages Through Time

http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/learning

Messages Through Time is a document pack produced in 2003 for use by schools at Key Stage 3.
Messages Through Time gives a glimpse into the huge and fascinating collection in The Royal Mail Archive.
It comes in two parts: a collection of documents, and a teachers' handbook. The teachers' handbook is organised into themes related to the Key Stage 3 History curriculum and starts with a section exploring examples of historical evidence. Further themes follow the chronological programmes of study, as well as suggesting activities for Citizenship.
Each theme includes class activities and photocopy masters for Activity Sheets. The documents themselves are accompanied by detailed descriptions

How to obtain

To obtain a high-quality printed hard copy for £10, please email info@postalheritage.org.uk
To view Messages Through Time online visit our website www.postalheritage.org.uk

The British Postal Museum and Archive
Freeling House
Phoenix Place
London
WC1X 0DL

Website

www.postalheritage.org.uk

E-mail

info@postalheritage.org.uk

Telephone

Enquiries /Event booking

020 7239 2570

Fax

020 7239 2576

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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