Posts Tagged ‘postal history’

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.

The Victorians are not dead and gone! Celebrating the big and bearded Victorian Icons – from Darwin to Lear, a Future Festival of Nonsense

December 3, 2009

Edward Lear's wit and works illustrated on a fabulous British UK Royal Mail 1988 issue

 

As Darwin 200 year comes to a close, Newquay Zoo is already talking to old friends and seeking new partners for Lear Year, a Festival of Nonsense in 2012 to celebrate another bearded Victorian icon, Edward Lear (1812-1888).  Best known as a nonsense poet of limericks and The Owl and The Pussycat, he is less well-known as a travel writer, zoological and landscape painter who had commissions to illustrate part of  Darwin’s Voyage of The Beagle book. 

Watch this space for more details or contact Mark Norris at Newquay Zoo for more news of this nonsense.  

Only one set of stamps celebrating Edward Lear exist that I know of, issued in Britain in 1988, a little different from the hundreds of beautiful Darwin thematic or commemorative stamps produced over the last 100 years. Darwin is featured on more stamp issues worldwide than anyone else except the Royal family.    

Celebrating Lear’s life and works at Newquay Zoo in 2012, we’re trying to make up in a small way for the disastrous few weeks Lear spent not painting or walking much in Cornwall and Devon because it rained “for fifteen days” according to Lear. It’s not raining at the moment here. 

Teaching tips 

A timeline of Charles Darwin  and / or Edward Lear’s life and times, illustrated with stamps at important dates (using scans of stamps) would be a good classroom display.   

The Victorians invented  from 1837 to 1901 penny postage and postage stamps as we know them today.  Victorian life, times, writers, travellers, explorers, inventors  and scientists  remain a popular primary school History curriculum topic .  A section on postal history is included in our stamp book Charles Darwin: A Celebration in Stamps.   

It’s fair to say that the Victorians are not dead and have not gone away – they exist in the houses and cities we live in, the cemeteries, museums, galleries, railways and bridges we use today worldwide.  They also developed many zoos and botanic gardens and invented the aquarium. Many late Victorian children carried on active work into the 1960s and 1970s, assuming they survived the slaughter of the First World War.  Some of our oldest centenarians alive today were born under Queen Victoria and many of our senior citizens were the children of Victorian parents. 

A.N. Wilson’s highly readable history book The Victorians is a good thick paperback introduction to the period; there is beautiful illustrated version available too. 

It’s nice to have an alternative to the usual figure  of Florence Nightingale, celebrating the centenary of her death in 2010. Are there stamps of the ‘other’ Florence Nightingale, nurse Mary Seacole? We’ll have look out for some. 

Recent Royal Mail stamps were issued in Britain of many Victorian figures ranging from writers to explorers and engineers such as Brunel bicentenary in 2006 (www.brunel200.org), early pioneering photographs of the Crimean War Victoria Cross winners, Darwin and also the anniversary of many organisations and societies. 

More in future blogs about Lear and Darwin, as well as using stamps to educate and inspire. 

Cornish and Scottish schools who wish to have one of our Darwin limited edition stamp books free for educational use can contact Sandie Robb at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo srobb@rzss.org.uk or Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo mark.norris@newquayzoo.org.uk. This is funded by the SPTA and ASPS, with a bequest for youth stamp work by the late Beryl Rennie. 

Others interested in these books can contact Sandie Robb at the above RZSS address, cost £6 and £2 P&P although as all proceeds go to conservation and further wildlife stamp work, we will happily accept larger donations. You might even get your copy signed by one of us! 

Happy stamping!

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!