Posts Tagged ‘Cornwall’

A Victorian Christmas greeting, the Victorian Farm, gardens, female stamp collectors and a happy stampy crafty new year!

December 28, 2009

One of the best preserved working Victorian post boxes I have ever seen or used (despite being near the sea and many repaints) on St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, 2006. Look for these in your area on your own Victorian stamp time safari! Imagine how many Victorian letters and postcards to Cousin Jacks overseas must have passed through this post box. How many bright holiday greetings, christmas cards, Valentine's and sad black bordered letters. Reading WH Auden's poem Night Mail gives a flavour of what life in letters must have passed through this and continues today (mostly happy holiday postcards like this Gibsons Of Scilly archive image postcard now!)

Charles Darwin as a well off Victorian family men would have made much of Christmas, which it is often and popularly said, was  invented by Charles Dickens and the Victorians. For those of you who saw the evocative Christmas specials of BBC’s Victorian Farm set in the 1880s, the decade of Darwin’s death, there are 25 fabulous free craft resources for celebrating or preparing for next Christmas on the bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas  website.  

From handmade crackers to parlour games, toy theatres to paper marbling, decorations to recipes, there are some fabulous decorative ideas for use in the classroom or stamp room. The first Victorian Christmas card by Horsley and Cole is shown (only ten survive, so they are worth tens of thousands!). The halfpenny post rate for Christmas cards meant that they were originally written only the front decorated picture side, like many Victorian zoo postcards in the Newquay Zoo Victorian life collection, as nothing but the address was at first allowed on the address side. There are some lovely template Victorian cards on the website for use in school, great for handwriting practice and creative writing tasks. However real Victorian Christmas cards (and the scraps they resemble) for showing in the classroom can easily and fairly cheaply be found in junk / antique shops and sites like Ebay.    

 The bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas site is organised as  an ‘advent’ calender of  25 downloadable windows of Christmas activities featuring  instruction templates and short video clips to watch at home or school with the three fabulously enthusiastic presenters Alex, Ruth and Peter. Think of it as a Victorian farmhouse Blue Peter ‘make’ .  

More ideas for your Victorian stamp and time safaris out   

Hopefully you had a relaxing christmas with its Victorian traditions (or tack), watched Victorian Farm, Cranford and Doctor Who, so are  now looking forward to fresh sir, a few walks to get rid of Christmas pudding pounds and some inspiring visits (through time) out in 2010. We hope you liked the teaching suggestions in the last blog about going out and around your neighbourhood as  Victorian time detective. The BBC Victorian Farm original series is out on DVD (Acorn Media), set at Acton Scott Historic working farm in Darwin’s birth and childhood county of Shropshire. Shopping in Blists Hill Victorian village is shown on the series , whilst similar Victorian villages exist at Beamish, Black Country Living Museum, York Castle Museum, Flambards and Morwhelham Quay in Cornwall. Newquay Zoo is signed up to the Learning Outside the Classroom manifesto and quality badge scheme, so hope you will go out of the classroom or house on your Victorian time and stamp safari.  

Darwin was also an accomplished  botanist and interested in the work of many plant hunters sent out by his friend Hooker at Kew Gardens (sharing with Darwin an anniversary year and commemorative Royal Mint coin this year). We have in the office the superb Great Plant Hunt resource box sent out to all UK primary schools in 2009 – resources are downloadable at www.greatplanthunt.org).   

Tracking down rarer stamps can be as hazardous, murderous or dangerous  as the quest for rare orchids. We’ll be featuring some of the Darwin stamp book stamps of plants, dinosaurs and different countries  in our activity trails at Newquay Zoo in 2009 and 2010, showing how flexible and useful they can be as inspiration and illustration. Plant hunters of the Victorian era will be celebrated through the characters of  ‘Edwardiana Jones’ and his sister ‘Victoraina’ in our Plant Hunter trail events schedule at Newquay Zoo in May 2010 onwards.  Acorn Media also publish the DVD of the Victorian Kitchen / Garden series from the 1990s, worth tracking down especially once you’ve seen the Victorian estate, garden  and railway restorations such as  at Trevarno in Cornwall with its toy museum and National Gardening Museum. Heligan and the great heritage gardens of Cornwall including the one that Fitzroy, Darwin’s Captain of the Beagle visited when the Beagle docked in Falmouth such as Penjerrick gardens (near Trebah Gardens) are restored to their Victorian glory and open. Some of these such as Glendurgan are  run by the National Trust across the UK and your local regional versions of English Heritage should have many more inspiring Victorian sites (such as Lanhydrock in Cornwall) for you or your school to visit. Quuen Victoria’s Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Down House, Darwin’s home in Kent  are both English Heritage properties. The Victorian Society also do adult study tours, talks and Victorian pub crawls! 

More ideas   for your Victorian stamp and time safaris inside  

Like The 1900s House and Adam Hart Davis’ What the Victorians Did For Us before it, the BBC Victorian Farm  is an excellent programme and website for ideas. Lots of the craft activities could be adapted using stamps as decorative items, something the Victorians did themselves with countless early and now precious stamps! It took a few years after Rowland Hill’s Penny Post (the Penny Black issued on 6th May 1840)  for the collecting or classifying brain of a ‘stamp world Darwin’ and the entrepreneurial luck of men like Stanley Gibbons (1840 -Penny Post year -to 1913) to establish stamp collecting as  the worldwide hobby and trade it is today, rather than a craft pastime.  

It was however not just a boy’s pastime, something Beryl Rennie the Scottish stamp collector ,whose legacy bequest made the Darwin stamp book possible,  would be pleased to have known. I have met many female stamp collectors but not  sadly one of the first recorded ones, a young Victorian girl who wrote to the Times newspaper in 1841, asking readers to send her postage stamps for her collection. She was quick  off the mark , but limited in choice as only three stamps existed then to collect , the Penny Black,  Twopenny Blue and Penny Red.   

Maybe she was doing creative and imaginative craft work with them, as Sandie Robb the Darwin200stampzoo blog co-author continues to do at her fabulous wildlife stamp weekends at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo.  Victorians such as Albert Schafer plastered the walls with them, covered tables, chairs, fire screens, wreaths, maps, tea services in willow pattern, guitars, pianos, mantlepieces, model ships, made self-portraits, even covering whole rooms with stamps!  This craft tradition using stamps in a decorative way is still continued  in Cornwall where Newquay Zoo is based, with many fine stamp craft objects by local artists and crafts people in galleries such as in St. Just.  

Stamp collectors like our Victorian girl seem to be  faster to react than organised business. The first stamp album was not produced until 1862 and guide to stamp prices until  1863.  

Stamps (especially Christmas ones) are great I found this year for Christmas decorations and keepsakes, bringing us back to the 25 brilliant craft ideas on the BBC Victorian Farm website bbc.co.uk/victorian christmas.  There are some great craft and decorative articles in the free online Victoriana webzine / magazine http://www.victoriana.com/ a US based Victorian website worth signing up to!  

We’ll feature more about stamps for decorative craft as well as stamp collecting for  teaching resources in future blogs, including your portrait in stamps inspired by Victorian examples made of stamps. There are many fine portrait stamps of Darwin to feature in our book and blog, portraits of many kinds being good materials for an interesting classroom activity. Newquay Zoo – and myself in tiny form- had our ‘portrait’ painted many times in 2009 (the zoo’s 40th birthday year) as part of the Darwin 200 celebrations by our resident Cornish artist John Dyer working with Falmouth Art Gallery (see the weblinks). If you look carefully on his online gallery in his Zooing Around print of the zoo at dawn, you’ll spot a tiny me leading a tour by torchlight! More next time.  

Happy New Year! or as our Edinburgh Zoo colleagues say, Happy Hogmanay!  

Some more Victorian schools resource links  

More Darwin and Victorian links 

The BBC’s Victorian Farm series is based at Acton Scott’s  historic working farm in Shropshire, Darwin’s birth and childhood county 

http://www.actonscott.com/ 

http://www.actonscott.com/shropshire.php  based in Darwin’s birth county 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/darwin/ 

http://www.darwinshrewsbury.org/  with its 2010 Shrewsbury Darwin Festival 2010 12th – 14th February 

http://www.shift-time.org.uk/blog/ 

Step back in time: Victorian towns and villages 

Lots of downloadable activities, visit details and links at each of these sites 

http://www.beamish.org.uk/ 

http://www.kirkgatevictorianstreet.org.uk/   York castle Museum’s virtual Victorian street tour 

http://www.bclm.co.uk/ Black Country Living Museum, Dudley http://www.bclm.co.uk/witeachersresources.htm 

http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/learning/resources/  Blists Hill Victorian Town 

http://www.flambards.co.uk/exhibitions/the-victorian-village-experience.html  Flambards 

Learning outside the classroom manifesto website including advice on taking school trips out and about guidance and link to list of quality badge holders. 

http://www.lotc.org.uk/ 

Victorian Gardens and properties to visit  

Heligan – atmospheric photographs

http://www.heligan.com/ or http://www.heligan.com/non_flash/ 

Penjerrick

http://www.penjerrickgarden.co.uk/history.html 

Trebah

http://www.trebahgarden.co.uk/history_of_trebah.htm 

Glendurgan and Lanhydrock

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ 

Osborne House

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.19473 

Down House

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.19529 

http://www.charlesdarwintrust.org/education 

Stanley Gibbons

http://www.gibbonsstampmonthly.com/Journals/GSM/Gibbons_Stamp_Monthly/July_2006/attachments/sgstory.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/ 

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/victorianbritain/  

http://www.victoriana.com/

http://www.victorianweb.org/index.html

http://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Victorians/  

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/earlyphotos/index.html

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Christmas post and gingerbread postmen from the Darwin 200 Stamp Zoo team

December 21, 2009

Sweet talk, toy soldiers and postage stamps  

Happy Christmas and holidays from the Darwin Stamp Zoo team.   

Victorian Christmas toys (for boys?) Kipling's red coated Soldiers of The Queen and Empire, zoo keepers (original lead W. Britains and modern versions) and Victorian Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry (volunteer) badges. Look carefully for khaki suited soldiers, camouflage adapted from animals. Newquay Zoo's Victorian Life collection, displayed on Darwin's Big Beard Birthday Bash weekend, February 2009Homecast 54mm traditional toy soldier 'modern' versions of these toys can be made using Prince August moulds.

Seasonal tips 

Much of our Modern Christmas dates back to Victorian times and Mr Dickens. Darwin is known to have read early Dickens books with his young wife Emma. Darwin was very much a family man, and loved playing with his children. (Read Annie’s Box by Randal Keynes and weep!) He was far from the stern, strict, distant , dictatorial Victorian dad we typecast Victorian men as being.

As well as collecting Christmas stamps and Christmas cards (invented by Henry Cole in the 1840s) you could spend your Christmas telling  or reading ghost stories, watch a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at the cinema (invented by Victorians) or  look out for Oliver! on television. There are  Cranford Christmas specials (Victorian 1840s Northern life by Mrs. Gaskell) or the wonderful BBC Victorian Farm series of Christmas specials.

As with Darwin, there are lots of stamp issues of Dickens and a bicentenary coming up in 2012. Another chance to use the Darwin stamp book resource and teaching tips – Dickens and Darwin  make a fascinating comparison timeline of rich and poor. 

To keep busy at Christmas, three ideas from the Darwin Stamp Zoo team  

adapted from the DFEE / DCSF parents as partners leaflets  

Recipe and ideas adapted  by the Darwin 200 stamp zoo team from http:// www.parents.dfee.gov.uk/discover (original weblink sadly no longer available) 

That’s entertainment 

Victorian children didn’t have radios, TVs, videos or computers – they had to make their own entertainment. Your child might be surprised how many familiar toys and games date back to Victorian times. 

Street games were popular with poorer Victorian children, including hopscotch, football and clapping and skipping games. Middle-class children played with hobby-horses, dolls, toy soldiers, and paints and wax crayons. Board games like ‘Ludo’ and ‘Snakes and Ladders’ were also well-liked.

 

Why don’t you and your child have a Victorian games day? Try managing without any modern forms of entertainment and play with more traditional toys and games.  

  • What did you both enjoy most about the day?
  • What did you find difficult?

 Victorian homes 

Many people in Victorian times lived in homes without any of the modern comforts we take for granted today. People had to manage without central heating or hot water from the tap – instead they had open fires and heated water on a big cooker called a range. Without vacuum cleaners or washing machines, looking after the home was very hard work. 

Help your child to imagine what it would have been like to live in Victorian times. 

How would they like to have a bath in a metal tub in front of the kitchen fire? 

What would it be like to have to go to the toilet outside after dark? 

How would they like playing with toy soldiers instead of computer games? Would they enjoy having to do some sewing instead of watching T V ? 

 Go around the house with your child and make a list of all the things that Victorian families wouldn’t have had. Then talk with them about what people in Victorian times might have used to do the same job.

 

Sweet Talk 

Richer Victorian housewives had plenty of different types of food to choose from and some famous recipe books to help them – one of the best known was by Mrs Beeton. 

Here is a Victorian recipe for Gingerbread Men – a treat still enjoyed by children today. Why don’t you try making this? 

Darwin Stamp Zoo’s Recipe for GINGERBREAD POST MEN or GINGERBREAD DARWINS 

You need: 

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • a knob of butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • raisins/candied peel
  • icing (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4). 

2. Mix everything except the raisins/peel in a bowl. 

3. When the ingredients have come together into a solid mixture, roll it out onto a floured surface. 

4. Cut into shapes using a gingerbread cutter. How about postmen, square postage stamps, pillar boxes, letters and other Victorian shapes or images? 

5. Use the raisins and peel to make eyes and noses. 

6. Bake the biscuits on a greased tray for 10 to 15 minutes. 

7. When cool,  eat or decorate with icing (optional). A nice white beard for Mr Darwin perhaps. 

 To avoid suitably Victorian hygiene and health and safety issues and avoid  a trip to your local hospital (probably established in Victorian times), be careful when working with hot ovens and baking trays. 

Clean your hands before cooking and eating. You’re not a Victorian street urchin! 

Happy Christmas!

A Victorian time safari … stamps and the secrets of cheap time travel revealed!

December 10, 2009
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

1837 – the year that Charles Darwin was writing up his notes of the Beagle voyage, having arrived home from  a five-year round the world trip a few months before. 

1837 – the year that an eighteen year old Princess Alexandra Victoria became Queen. 

1837 – the year that Rowland Hill wrote a pamphlet on Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicality which was successful enough to lead to the world’s first penny postage stamp service in 1840 and the Penny Black. It shows the head of the young Queen Victoria, as did the coinage very different from the ‘Old Queen’s Head’  seen in photographs, late Victorian pennies, statues and pub signs. Sandie Robb posted some pictures of Victorian coins in a previous blog. 

You can see the same ageing gracefully with our current monarch Queen Elizabeth II if you find pre-decimal coins (from your Britain in the 1960s history project), stamps from the 1950s and 60s compared to the more mature Queen’s portrait head now shown.   

Stamps and commemoratives are very much about then and now, great for comparison, dating and timeline activities in class. 

Reproduction coins from Westair are good but not as atmospheric as  real Victorian objects such as pennies, even penny reds and penny blacks are not that expensive or difficult to track down for the classroom or school history collection. Check through E-bay, charity and junk shops or stamp   dealers;  a well spent £10 to £20 can pick up some useful originals that children can see and in the case of coins, handle. Victorian stamps are a bit more fragile and the inks less light permanent than modern ones. 

Some more teaching tips 

There is something intangible, exciting, magical even about handling old and historic objects, however ordinary. It gives the chance to let the imagination enter history lessons – who might have handled that Victorian penny? Posted that Victorian stamp? 

1. The story of a stamp or penny, Victorian style 

What letter might that Victorian stamp have come from, who wrote it and what news did it contain? 

Was it on a postcard, another Victorian invention or the Christmas card (first invented 1843)? 

 How was it delivered? By whom? 

Early Green Victorian pillar box from UK Royal Mail stamp series

Which post box or pillar box (which had to be invented, like the letter box in front doors)? Some VR postboxes still exist in older areas of town and country. 

What streets did it pass down? 

Over what surfaces underfoot? 

Past what type of transport? 

Into what type of building or shop? 

How was the building and the street lit? What kind of people’s pockets might it have passed through (or been stolen from)? Many local museums and art galleries in towns and cities like our local Darwin 200 partners http://www.falmouthartgallery.com and Penlee House http://www.penleehouse.org.uk/ have fabulously atmospheric Victorian paintings of street scenes and seaside promenades such as ‘The Rain It Raineth Everyday’. (Not much changes in Cornwall – I love the figure of the rain-caped Victorian bobby as one of my ancestors was just such a Victorian policeman in Penzance where this is painted, see  http://www.penleehouse.org.uk/collections/item/PEZPH:1989.61.html ).  

 The best paintings  by painter W.P. Frith (1819-1909) give a colourful picture of Victorian life at the races, railway stations, post offices and seaside including ‘Ramsgate Sands’  from Queen Victoria’s collection http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/maker.asp?maker=11716&object=405068&row=1 and the V&A’s Derby Day (1858) sketches http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O132987/oil-painting-sketch-for-the-derby-day/   You can more web-zoomable paintings by Frith for use in class at http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/frith_william_powell.html 

 Many photographs (Victorian invention alert!) of local areas can be found online http://www.francisfrith.com/ from the Francis Frith collection, a pioneering Victorian photographer (1822-1898 )http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Frith

Prints of these paintings and photos  are available. These would prove a good classroom focus for thinking about the different types of people, clothes, jobs, wealth, childhood shown or portrayed. In whose (picked) pockets would that Victorian coin of yours be? Who would have written the letter posted with your stamp? 

Creative writing and drama can easily come out of a display using drama techniques such as hot-seating, freeze-frame, role-play and speech bubbles. There are some good drama idaes on teaching websites such as http://www.dramateachers.co.uk/ and http://www.free-teaching-resources.co.uk/drama.shtml 

2. Victorian Time safaris 

You can become a time detective (detectives were a Victorian invention, and although not invented but popularised in the 1880s by Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes)  and go on Victorian safari round your town and look at what survives, especially above shop front level; many grand Victorian buildings are under threat for development around the country. The Victorian Society fights for their protection and continued use, including the very schools that Victorians built after the Education reforms of 1870 http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/ (not to be confused with the Victorian Military Society and its re-enactors of Victorian soldiering, http://www.thediehards.co.uk that you might meet at Living History events. They might even visit schools!) 

We’ll put more ideas on going out of the classroom inspired by Darwin, your stamp or coins (many zoos are signed up to the Learning outside the Classroom manifesto and quality badging http://www.lotc.org.uk/ ) in future blogs. 

3. Then and Now 

In the case of Victorian pennies, many of these are smoothed almost to obliteration from decades of use and service. What changes they must have seen until decimal coins of today came in at the end of the 1960s? 

You could update your street or seaside scene / display / creative writing/ drama piece to the modern-day with some fast forwards, zooms and cheap imaginative time travel in the classroom. 

The Victorians would approve, being great pioneers of science fiction, ranging from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, writer of the Time Machine to Conan Doyle.

A wild (stamp) night out in Newquay … and plans for future nonsense.

December 3, 2009

Explorers, scientists and many anniversaries are commemorated on stamps from Darwin to Neil Armstrong ...

Newquay, famous or even infamous for its nightlife, was host to an unusual wild night yesterday, Wednesday 2nd December. Or rather a wild life on stamps night …

… as we launched or unveiled in Cornwall the new Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps  stamp book to Newquay Philatelic Society NPS at their annual Christmas social event.

In the New Year we will make copies available to Cornish schools free of charge. As well as launching the book and selling some signed copies, we introduced at the talk what’s been happening past, present and future at Newquay Zoo in our 40th birthday year with photographs of the zoo over the last forty years including some photos turned in by past visitors and local families. Photos, paintings, prints, Victorian objects and Darwin postage stamps form part of Newquay Zoo’s Museum and Archive collection loaned out for Darwin 200 exhibitions at  Falmouth Art Gallery. Falmouth was where Darwin made landfall on his return from the Beagle voyage.  These four Falmouth exhibitions and the Darwin’s Footsteps trail at Newquay Zoo (both supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund) have now been taken down with materials mostly in store for future use such as celebrating Edward Lear’s bicentenary in 2012. More on Lear, Victorians  and stamps to follow …

Part of my talk was  about how stamps could be used to illustrate and inspire in educational ways. We also talked about how to encourage more families and children to engage with postage stamp collecting and philately, as its seen as a dying hobby by many. RZSS Edinburgh Zoo’s wildlife stamp events with the Association of Scottish Philatelic Societies headed by Darwin book co-author Sandie Robb at RZSS are a good example of doing this well. The Darwin stamp book was part funded by a bequest to support stamp work to encourage  young stamp collectors kindly left  by a Scottish stamp collector, the late Beryl Rennie

At Newquay Zoo we’ve displayed or scanned this year dinosaur stamps alongside real fossils and living dinosaur plants here (www.lostworldread.com, Conan Doyle’s Lost World the Great Reading Adventure) to highlight extinction. We’ve displayed space stamps from our 1969 Archive to celebarte International Year of Astronomy IYA 2009 www.iya2009.org and the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings in the same period and year that Newquay Zoo opened.  We used stamps to illustrate some of the  animal star constellations (inspired by Jacqueline Mitton’s The Zoo in The Sky book) for Newquay Zoo animals such as Lynx that feature as endangered European carnivores as part of the EAZA Carnivore campaign  http://www.carnivorecampaign.eu/  

Next year is 2010 International Year of Biodiversity http://www.biodiversityislife.net/ and http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/biodiversity/international-year-biodiversity/index.html 

Zoos worldwide will be marking this event in many ways. RZSS Edinburgh  Zoo have many events planned. Here at Newquay Zoo we’ll be using plant stamps from our overseas partner countries as part of our Plant Hunters trail and pirate stamps to celebrate September’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day  http://www.talklikeapirate.com/.  best of all for our Philippines trail  beautiful  WWF stamp issue Philippine stamps showing the world’s rarest pig Visayan Warty Pig and worlds’ rarest deer, the Philippine Spotted Deer, here as part of an international zoo breeding programme and outreach overseas conservation to Philippines Conservation funds. Find out more about our events and activity trails on our zoo website www.newquayzoo.org.uk 

So thanks to Hazel Meredith the NPS chairperson, Peter Chantry (Cornwall Federation of Philatelic Societies) and many friendly others especially including my host Ken Attwood, zoo volunteer and Vice Chair of NPS  for their warm welcome and hospitality and donations to zoo conservation funds,  added to sales or donations for signed Darwin stamp books.

We look forward to hosting more news on wildlife  stamp events at Newquay Zoo and RZSS Edinburgh Zoo in 2010 and 2011.

Meanwhile,  keep a look out on our blog for more stamp teaching tips and inspiration.

Bookmark this site and pass it on to others, leave us comments on our posts or share good teaching tips for using stamps. Happy stamping!

150 years since Darwin published his Origin of Species: our new Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps book arrives

November 22, 2009

Stamps, postmen, writing technology ( Victorian laptop!) and beautiful copperplate handwritten letters, Newquay Zoo's archive collection of Victorian life, Darwin's 200th Birthday launch weekend, February 2009, Newquay Zoo

24th November 1859 – 150 years ago this week, Darwin’s world-changing  book On The Origin Of Species is sold out , a bestseller in its first week. To commemorate this book and as part of , 200 copies of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps arrive from the printers to Edinburgh Zoo and Newquay Zoo. Watch this space for more news about this publication, designed for educational use in schools.

Meanwhile you could spend a whole lesson looking at the objects in the photo and how they have changed, evolved, been redesigned, updated (or in the case of the hand written love poem, not!)

Watching the extinction of the Royal Mail? Charles Darwin, postal history, Postman Pat and a speedy exit from Cornwall

October 26, 2009
The Devonport mail coach of 1837 on a postcard from the Post Office Collection  / National Postal Museum above the Bath mail coach of 1784 featured on a UK stamp in my Proof reading copy  of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps

The Devonport mail-coach of 1837 on a postcard from the Post Office Collection / National Postal Museum above the Bath mail-coach of 1784 featured on a UK stamp in my proof-reading copy of Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps

 

The postal strike has featured much in the news recently with some papers predicting the extinction of the Royal Mail.

Ironically one part of our forthcoming Edinburgh Zoo  RZSS / Newquay Zoo  collaboration on a Darwin stamp book features a section (especially useful for teachers) on postal history with lots of links to different resource websites. Darwin relied on the post for a link with his family and many correspondents on the Packet ships, the early postal system before Queen Victoria, Rowland Hill and the Penny Post which saw the Penny Black invented in 1840 just after Darwin returned from his famous HMS Beagle voyage in 1836.

An old friend Jo Butts gave me this postcard of the Devonport mail-coach  1837 years ago from the Post Office Collection / National Postal Museum in London. Luckily I rediscovered it in time for Darwin’s bicentenary year this year for display at Newquay Zoo, supporting the four unusual and thought-provoking Darwin 200 art exhibitions at Falmouth Art Gallery this year.

The painting shows the Devonport mail-coach driving through snowstorms in 1837, the year after Darwin’s arrival at Falmouth, Cornwall on October 2, 1836 and swift departure on the mail-coach home to Shrewsbury over two and a half days. Despite its Christmas card appearance (another Victorian invention), this  postcard of a painting ‘after James Pollard 1837’ gives a vivid  idea what winter mail-coach travel in the West country of the 1830s might have been like around the time that Queen Victoria came to the throne!

Darwin’s comments on the long coach journey home and his coach companions are recorded in his Beagle diary,  available www.darwin-online.org.uk which, along with www.darwinproject.ac.uk , make Darwin’s writings and letters available and accessible online.

Teaching tips:

Victorians, postage and Darwin feature in primary school National Curriculum History topics, as well as Victorian discoveries and  inventions in Science, Design and Technology

Teachers might consider with pupils in what other ways people communicate today, as well as posted letters, compared to Darwin’s time. 

What evolution of everyday  technology has replaced handwritten letter post since 1837?

How might Postman Pat (or his Victorian great great great Grandfather) have delivered Darwin’s letters then? Today his vehicles now extend past Victorian steam trains to helicopters and motorbikes as seen on www.postmanpat.com!  (N.B. other children’s television characters are available). 

Some of these communication methods have now become extinct or obsolete themselves such as Morse Code and telegraphs (see the website of the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum in Cornwall http://www.porthcurno.org.uk/ for more about the ‘Victorian Internet’ as it was called).

Teachers might also consider how post is delivered today instead of by horse and coach, an example of evolving technology. The old out of print Ladybird book of  The Postman is a good source of colourful illustrations of postmen for use in class – easily available on E-Bay!

A postal timeline is a useful way to show this as a display, alongside Darwin’s life time line. It makes a pleasant change from studying Florence Nightingale!