Monday, 27 November 2017

Postal Museum (London Museum #32)

The Postal Museum has finally reopened in new premises. Ever since visiting Debden on the Central  line where the Royal Mail storage depot is situated, I have awaited tho opening of this new museum with great excitement. Not because of the fine postal memorabilia but because of the mail train!

There are lots of historical items in the museum such as this Queen Victoria 'London Ornate' pillar box 1857-59.

Lots of letters were carried along the post roads in the 1700s. But there were two problems -speed and security. Post boys who carried the mail were often slow and unreliable. They were an easy target for highwaymen, despite the threat of execution. In 1784 new mail coaches replaced post boys along key routes.

This is an example of a frock coat worn by a mail guard. The guards carried guns as well as a post horn. The mail coach had priority over all other road users. The post horn's blast blast warned others to move out of the way.

Red pillar boxes are a familiar sight on our streets but this wasn't always the case. The Post Office first installed pillar boxes in the Channel Islands in 1852. They were very successful and green, cast iron boxes appeared throughout the country. However, people in the countryside thought they looked dull and hard to see so in 1874 red became the preferred colour.
There used to be blue pillar boxes for air mail letters.


When Edward VIII came to the throne in 1936, the Post Office produced stamps showing his portrait and over 160 new pillar boxes. But Edward VIII reigned for less than a year before he abdicated and George VI became king. The Post Office had to produce new stamps again and when the Edward VIII pillar boxes were repaired the initials were changed to GVI. So these pillar boxes are very rare.

The original art work for the stamp.

The museum isn't just about the post but other forms of communication such as the phone.

Remember the old A and B telephones?

There was also a display of posters.



1937 Outposts of the Empire, Barbados


There are a number of sets of stamps on view.
Battle of Britain and Churchill stamps.

This is a plaster cast of the Queen wearing the diadem rather than a tiara (1966). This is used to finalise the design of the Queen's head on  stamps.
There is a lot to see and a number of interactive displays at the Museum but I was very keen to have a go on the Mail Rail. This was in another building across the road and had to be booked in advance. The Mail Rail transported the mail under the streets of London from 1927 to 2003. By the turn of the 20th century congested streets and fog meant that mail transported between the main Post Offices and train stations was severely delayed.

In 1911 an electric driverless railway was suggested and an act of Parliament was passed in 1913. The new railway would consist of six and a half miles of tunnels linking the East and West ends of London with 8 stations including Paddington, Mount Pleasant and Liverpool Street. Due to the war the railway didn't open until 1927. The tunnels were used in the first world war to store and protect art treasures from the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. In the 1990s more than six million bags of mail were carried below ground each year. That's four million letters a day.
These trains were built for mail bags not people.

Here's an old photo of the mail bags being loaded onto the train.

It was very cramped inside and we were asked not to touch the sides as the train would automatically stop. Easier said than done.

There was a very interesting commentary when we stopped at the different platforms.

The trains have been updated with seats etc but they are still the same size as the Mail Rail.

I really enjoyed my visit to the Museum and a ride on the train.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Sloane Rangers

My latest 'Above the Underground' post is all about the home of the Sloane Rangers. Read more here

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Michelin House

This is Michelin House on the corner of Fulham Road and Sloane Ave. It opened in 1911 as the headquarters of Michelin tyres in the UK. When opened it used to have fitting bays where the cars were driven in to have their tyres changes. Over 30,000 tyres were stored in the basement

I'm not sure what style you would call this except eye catching. No longer owned by Michelin it was bought jointly by Sir Terence Conran, the retailer and Paul Hamlyn, the publisher.

They restored some of the original features and put in a restaurant and Oyster bar called Bibendum as well as offices and a Conran shop.

There are three large stained glass windows featuring 'Bibendum' the Michelin man/ Unfortunately these are not the original windows which were taken down for safe keeping during the war and sent to the Michelin factory in Stoke on Trent. When it was time for them to be returned they could not be found. A mystery that has still not been solved.

At the front of the building are these two pinnacles made to look like tyres.

A ceramic tyre has been used elsewhere in the decoration.

On both sides of the building just above head height are decorative tiles showing famous racing cars that used Michelin tyres.