Delivering The Goods

From street furniture to sorting office, from transport to technology, postal services have long been a recurring theme on British stamps

Report by Jeff Dugdale


1985 350 Years of the Royal Mail Public Postal Service 31p, illustrating a postman making deliveries through the snow


Perhaps not surprisingly, the theme of postal services was one of the very first to appear on British commemorative stamps, as early as 1929. Subsequent issues have celebrated postal organisation, reform, technology, transport, infrastructure, buildings, even art.

Landmark anniversaries in the long history of the British postal service have been noted in three key issues, but the dates to which they refer can be confusing. Two stamps issued in 1960 marked the 300th anniversary of the General Letter Office, which was constituted on the restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660, with Henry Bishop as the first Postmaster General. The designs featured a 17th-century postboy on horseback and a traditional posthorn, while including subtle references to Charles II, bymeans of ‘CII’ and ‘CIIR’ cyphers and oak branches, alluding to the story that he hid in a tree to escape from Parliament forces during the Civil War. In 1985, four stamps marked the 350th anniversary of Royal Mail being opened up for public use by King Charles I in 1635, illustrating modern aspects of postal services such as postmen delivering letters and parcels, a rural postbus and a Datapost motorcycle courier.

Most recently, in 2016, a set of six marked the 500th anniversary of Royal Mail itself, taking its cue from King Henry VIII’s appointment of Sir Brian Tuke as his Master of the Posts in 1516. Besides portraying Tuke himself, the stamps had an eclectic selection of images including a packet ship, a mail coach, a historic postbox, a river postwoman and modern sorting machines.


1984 Mail Coaches 16p, marking the 200th anniversary of the first run from Bath to London


Read the full article in Stamp Magazine October 2017

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