World Stamps

Royal Mail’s transportation heritage displayed on new postage labels

Feb 23, 2016, 7 AM
The Royal Mail Heritage: Transport set of six computer-produced, self-adhesive postage labels features mail being carried by horse, coach, ship, train, plane, and van.

By Denise McCarty

Great Britain’s Royal Mail issued six self-adhesive postage labels Feb. 17 picturing mail transportation over the centuries.

Great Britain’s Royal Mail calls such labels “post & go.” The denominations or service inscriptions are printed at the time of purchase.

The Royal Mail Heritage: Transport set of post & go labels begins with a label inscribed “Post Boy, 1640s.”

Royal Mail explained: “Post boys could be of almost any age and carried messages between relay points some 20 miles (32km) apart, the distance a horse could travel at speed before being replaced. Post boys kept to time and carried a horn, blown periodically, to warn of their approach.”

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In chronological order, the next label depicts a mail coach of the 1790s. According to Royal Mail, the first mail coach ran between Bristol and London on Aug. 2, 1784, and the last London-based mail coach ran in April 1846.

Pictured next is a Falmouth packet ship of the 1820s.

A mail coach and packet ship also were included in the Royal Mail 500 set of postage stamps issued Feb. 17 (Linn’s, Feb. 29, page 10).

The fourth label in the Royal Mail Heritage: Transport set features a traveling post office aboard a train in the 1890s. The first such service in Great Britain, with mail being sorted en route, occurred Jan. 20, 1838.

Airmail is represented by an illustration from the 1930s showing the Imperial Airways’ Handley Page HP42 biplane named Hengist and a car used by the Royal Air Mail Service. Hengist first flew Dec. 8, 1931, and the plane was destroyed in a hangar fire in 1937.

The last label in the set is inscribed “Royal Mail Minivan, 1970s.” 

An entry on Royal Mail’s Internet time line, “Travel Through Time with Royal Mail,” says that in 1907, “The Post Office bought a 2.5 ton van, a Maudslay ‘No. 1’ for £727. It covered 300,000 miles during the first 18 years.”

Royal Mail said of the minivan pictured on the label: “Minivans were purchased in large numbers in the 1970s following the demise of the Morris Minor. They were ideal for smaller collection and delivery duties in towns, but low height and limited ground clearance made them less suitable for rural deliveries.”

Howard Brown designed the labels using illustrations by Andrew Davidson.

International Security Printers printed these 56-millimeter-by-25mm labels by gravure.

The postage labels are available from terminals in post office branches throughout the United Kingdom. The terminals allow customers to weigh their letters and packages, pay the postage, and print the appropriate label.

Royal Mail also is offering a first-day cover franked with all six of the Royal Mail Heritage: Transport post & go labels.

For additional information, contact Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh EH12 9PB, Scotland; or visit the Royal Mail Shop.