Queen Elizabeth 2nd overtakes Queen Victoria as UK longest reigning monarch

September 9, 2015

Today 9th September 2015 Queen Elizabeth 2nd becomes Britain’s longest-reigning monarch (1952-2015),  when she passes the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria (1837-1901).

Both Queens 1990 issue Royal Mail double header.

 1990 Royal Mail double header.

The Queen will have reigned for 63 years and seven months – an amazing  23,226 days!


Congratulations, Ma’am!

This has led to a range of postal commemoratives such as this Isle of Man stamp first day cover from the Westminster Collection:

2015 Postal 9.9.15 commemorative of the Queen's longest reign.

2015 Postal 9.9.15 commemorative of the Queen’s longest reign.

Inspiration for Primary History TeachingTwo Queens

The different reign of the two queens is covered in some units based on the Primary History National Curriculum such as Cornwall Learning’s Inspire Curriculum Year 2 National Celebration Two Queens :  http://theinspirecurriculum.co.uk/product/national-celebration

Inspire Curriculum's Year 2 interesting Two Queens National Celebration unit looking at Victorians and today.

Inspire Curriculum’s Year 2 interesting Two Queens National Celebration unit looking at Victorians and today.

There is a similar Curriculum map for Year 6 A Voyage of Discovery covering Charles Darwin’s voyages and the Victorians.

This is an exciting opportunity to combine Science and History (of Science) and Geography (and RE)  which should be interesting to explore in the classroom and at zoo workshops or offsites. We had great fun exploring these topics in schools and at the zoo and galleries in Darwin 200 Bicentenary Year 2009:

6-a-voyage-of-discoveryWe also saw an interesting postal related unit  for Year 1 called Posting and Places. This involves letter and postcard writing (and led to a flurry of enquiries and visit requests about penguins at Newquay Zoo last Spring). Maybe stamp design could creep in somewhere?


So an amazing history record by Queen Victoria and some great opportunities to explore topics in the classroom and enjoy  Victorians, stamps and postal history as learning opportunities and fascinating hobby learning.

New FREE Learning Resource for Key Stages 1-3

September 9, 2015

Source: New FREE Learning Resource for Key Stages 1-3

175th anniversary of the Penny Black the world’s first adhesive postage stamp

May 1, 2015

Today the 1st of  May 2015 is the 175th birthday of the Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp issued in 1840.

How technology has changed is shown by the event being marked by a ‘Google doodle’ of the Penny Black.

the stamp that started it all - the Penny Black of 1840, Young Queen Victoria's head

The stamp that started it all – the Penny Black of 1840, Young Queen Victoria’s head

The stamp features a portrait of the very young Queen Victoria, then only twenty, newly married by months  and only  three years into her reign.

Charles Darwin was four years back from the Beagle Voyage and working on his researches, which involved a mass of correspondence, so many many Penny Blacks!

You can read more about the Penny Black at the British Postal Museum website.

Darwin’s Grandson killed in the WW1 trenches and WW1 centenary stamps

April 26, 2015

Cross-posting from another project blog, sadly 24th April 2015 marks the centenary of the death of Erasmus, one of Darwin’s grandsons, in the trenches of WW1. You can read more of his story on the blog post below:

Erasmus Darwin IV (Source: Wikipedia)

Erasmus Darwin IV (Source: Wikipedia) died 24 April 1915, Ypres.


WW1 Remembered in stamps

Royal Mail WW1 stamp set.

Royal Mail WW1 stamp set.

The WW1 centenary has been widely marked by the issue of stamps and online exhibitions:


A fantastic and massive KS1 – KS3 teaching resource to download http://teacherspost.co.uk/the-last-post/



A fact picked up from Horrible Histories is confirmed on the Postal Heritage website, that the Post Office installed one of the largest temporary wooden buildings in the world at the time. It was in Regent’s Park, next to the ZSL London Zoo where Drawin once strode,  to handle forces mail, within the sound of monkey whoops and wolf howls:

With the onset of trench warfare, all mails bound for troops on the Western Front were sorted at the London Home Depot by the end of 1914. Covering five acres of Regents Park, this was said to be the largest wooden structure in the world employing over 2,500 mostly female staff by 1918. During the war the Home Depot handled a staggering 2 billion letters and 114 million parcels (Postal Heritage website, First World War section)

The wartime postal service is mentioned in this BBC article:


The Post Office even had its own regiment, The Post Office Rifles.  A 2015 Royal Mail pack of stamps pack commemorates the Post Office Rifles on the centenary of their arrival in France on 18th March 1915.


The 8th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Post Office Rifles)  lost 1,800 killed and 4,500 men wounded by the end of the War.

Remembered …

New dinosaur stamp finds for the Darwin blog

March 10, 2015

These are some beautifully stylish and  ‘very 1960s’ Polish dinosaur stamps to share with you all.

Today I have been teaching ‘dinosaurs’ and extinction at Newquay Zoo and showing dinosaur and Darwin stuff to Foundation / Year 1 dinosaur ‘experts’ from a local primary school.

I asked them what extinct means and a small boy put his hand up and dramatically said “DEAD!” to which another girl emphatically added “They’ve ALL DIED!!!!”

More ‘dino’ teaching ideas to follow …

Polska (Polish) dinosaur stamp Brontosaurus 1965

Polska (Polish) dinosaur stamp Brontosaurus 1965

polska dinosaurs Edaphosaurus



Only a few days from home, 175 years ago: Darwin’s landfall, Falmouth, October 2nd 1836

September 29, 2011

On this day 175 years ago, Charles Darwin was close to ending his world-changing 5 year journey round the world  Only a few days away from landfall and harbour in Falmouth on October 2nd 1836 and  a few days coach journey home away from his family in Shrewsbury.

Plaque marking spot of Darwin's landfall from HMS Beagle voyage, Oct 2 1836 in Falmouth and his departure home by coach.

A plaque now marks the place where Darwin made landfall that evening in Falmouth, arranged by Falmouth Town Council and Falmouth Art Gallery, during the Darwin 200 celebrations .

We still have  a few copies available to schools free of our Darwin stamp book – contact Sandie Robb at Edinburgh Zoo or Mark Norris at Newquay Zoo.  

A new Darwin stamp book for 2011

Many of the new 175th anniversary stamps issued to celebrate Darwin’s journey can be found in Barry Floyd’s new book Chrles Darwin His Life Through Commemorative Stamps (2011) , available through Traveller’s Tree Thematic Services, 30 Watch Bell Street, Rye, E. Sussex, TN31 7HB, UK Priced £15 + £2 P&P (UK). £5 P&P overseas Cheques in sterling to B N Floyd.

Look out in 2012 for events and publications celebrating Edward Lear’s bicentenary.  See the Blog of Bosh and other websites including www.nonsenselit.org

See our previous blog entry on Lear


175th Anniversary of Charles Darwin’s visit to Australia

January 12, 2011

As Mark has mentioned in the previous post, this year marks a 175th anniversary of Darwin’s return later in the year but on the 12th January 1836 he landed in Sydney Cove, Australia.

The following cover was issued on 1st April 1986 which is was the 150th anniversary of the visit to Cocos(Keeling) Islands. These islands are an Australian territory and lie in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Christmas Island. They consist of two atolls and other coral islands. An atoll is an island of coral around a lagoon.

Darwin explained the creation of coral atolls from his observations. They started as an ocean volcano and through gradual subsidence, the island sinks but the surrounding coral reef grows upwards, becoming a barrier reef island.  Over time, the subsidence takes the old volcano below ocean level and only the barrier reef remains. It is then termed an atoll.

Darwin was also fascinated by the platypus. At first he thought the platypus was so unusual, along with some of the other Australian animals that if there was a creator then it must be two different creators to make such absurd animals!

Of course later, it all fitted into his theory that the species had evolved from primitive mammals which still had many reptilian characteristics.

The platypus is a monotreme. These are mammals but instead of giving birth to live young they lay eggs. They are not primitive mammals because they have evolved over time. Mammals have evolved from reptiles. Monotremes probably branched off at an early stage and still have some reptilian features. There are 3 species of monotreme – duck billed platypus; short nosed echidna and long nosed echidna.

I also have this 1999 Australian 5c coin in my collection with echidna pictured on it. The echidna along with many australian animals have appeared on their coinage.

And please spare a thought for the floods in Australia at present.

Famous footsteps, incredible journeys: Happy New Darwin Anniversary Year 2011 – 175 years on, and a bit more of our Victorian Time Safari …

January 2, 2011

It’s 175 years this year since Charles Darwin returned to Britain at the end of his five-year voyage, just as the Victorian period was beginning. He had spent his last Christmas 1835 away from home and was heading back in HMS Beagle for the final part of his epic voyage of discovery. He still had much of Australia, New Zealand, Keeling Islands, Mauritius, Cape Town in South Africa, St. Helena, Ascension Island and Brazil (again) to visit before reaching Britain. Many of these countries, especially the islands, mark the anniversary of his famous visit with postage stamps.

By October 2nd, 1836 he would be back on land in Falmouth and heading home by mail coach

Plaque marking spot of Darwin's landfall from HMS Beagle voyage, Oct 2 1836 in Falmouth and his departure home by coach.

A plaque set up by Falmouth Town Council and Falmouth Art Gallery marks the point where he made landfall in Falmouth and waited for the mail coach home. Within a year, a new Queen would be on the throne and a new era of scientific, agricultural and technological revolution begun. Lots of developments had happened in technology and society whilst he had been away, not least the beginnings of railway mania, so that the very coach he travelled on was soon to become obsolete as public transport within his lifetime.

The penny post and Penny Black stamp were only a few years aways in 1840. By the time he died in 1882, telegraph communication was widespread and telephones in their infancy. The first petrol engine vehicles were in development. Cinema experiments were beginning. Iron and steam had replaced wood and sail in modern ships. Darwin lived through an amazing century, which set the pace for the developments since.

There’s a 2009 news story and photos about the Darwin’s landfall plaque in Falmouth  http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/news/falmouth/Plaque-marks-Darwin-landfall/article-1636415-detail/article.html

Sadly since this was put up, Brian Stewart the curator of Falmouth Art Gallery has sadly died in December 2010, much missed by  the Newquay Zoo staff with whom he worked extensively on Darwin 200 activities. Many tributes can be read to his work in the Falmouth Packet newspaper. Newquay Zoo staff were already planning a follow-up to Darwin 200 based around nonsense poet and animal painter Edward Lear’s bicentenary in May 2012.    

Darwin is not the only eminent Victorian to have his landing-place marked in Cornwall. We’ve included it as part of our Victorian Time Safari, looking at the legacy of Darwin’s Victorian times around us. What can you see in your village, town or city from Victorian times?

We spotted this unusual footprint when arriving by boat ferry at St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, that magical castle in the sea that Darwin would have passed on his route into Falmouth just up the coast.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert 's royal visit marked by bronze plaque near her 'footstep' at St. Michaels' Mount, Cornwall (Photo: Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo)

Nearby, Truro station has all the ornate ironwork of a Victorian station still, including its VR Victorian post box. Nearby, Truro station has all the ornate ironwork of a Victorian station still, including its VR Victorian post box. On a recent Dublin trip, we saw a Victorian explorer commemorated not in stamps but in a lifesize bronze statue. What Victorain memorials or  inventions can you find in your area?

Ornate Victorian ironwork, Truro rail station, Cornwall, 2010Ornate decorative Victorian ironwork, Truro rail station, Cornwall, 2010Victorian statue of explorer / surgeon TH Parke from Stanley's expeditions in Africa, outside Dublin Natural History Museum

151st Anniversary of the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’

November 24, 2010

Can you think of 151 facts you know about Charles Darwin or his theory of evolution by natural selection? These facts should be original to the man Charles Darwin and particular to his theory.

For anyone who has previously read this post when it just stated list 151 facts about Charles Darwin and Evolution, we had some ‘smart’ people listing things like:

 He had two legs

He had two eyes

He had five fingers on each hand

He was born

He was married

He had children

He had a beard

He is dead…

And yes getting to 151 that way may be easy!

So let’s have some more original facts particular to Charles Darwin and his theory!

If you read through this blog, it will help you!

Royal Mail Teacher’s Post

September 29, 2010

Sandie Robb appears in the Autumn issue of Royal Mail’s Teacher’s Post magazine featuring the Darwin 200 book.

You can download a pdf version of the magazine at:


Teachers can contact Royal Mail direct for free copies of the book while stocks last.


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