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Envelope Inspiration - Frederick Charles Tolhurst

I’m always on the lookout for interest envelope designs. When I’m writing an envelope, I’ll usually either write the addresses in a lovely ink colour, calligraphy or manic brush style, affix some washi tape to the seal or decorate it with a few vintage stamps. 

I love scouring Pinterest for inspiration to jazz up my envelopes (usually leading to much swooning at the ones I find). In recent weeks, I received the most stunning envelope from my friend Lilee. Using a gorgeous forest colour paper, she had then covered it in hand painted white roses paired with the dreamiest calligraphy to write my address. Far too precious to dispose of, it now lives proudly in prime location on the ‘wall of inspiration’ at my studio. 

On one of my internet rabbit hole searches of envelope designs, I stumbled across some letters from Frederick Charles Tolhurst – a unionist worker from South London. In the years between 1909 and 1940, he wrote over 200 illustrated letters to his family each donned with a unique hand drawn design on the envelope.

After the breakdown of his marriage, Tolhurst's wife moved overseas and, unable to look after his children as a single father, they were sent to live with relatives. By way of bringing joy to his children and a means to keep in touch, he would write them regular letters. It's a touching story of a family facing separation from one another.

The envelopes are the most quaint and wonderful designs I've ever seen, and they reflect the changing political times and mood of England during those years. 

Here's a few of my favourites (get ready to be inspired):

London Letters Tolhurst Envelope Policeman

Letter By Tolhurst, sent in 1921.


London Letters Tolhurst Envelope Parachutes

Letter by Tolhurst, sent in 1940.


London Letters Tolhurst Envelope Windmills

Letter by Tolhurst, sent in 1919.


London Letters Tolhurst Envelope Shoe Boot

Letter by Tolhurst, sent in 1917.

I just love them and can only dream of being so inventive and creative. 

There was a recent exhibition at The Postal Museum in London of Tolhurst's envelopes which I sadly missed out on due to lockdown measures. I am hopeful it will return one day. It's well worth a visit there in any case as it's a treasure trove of postal history.


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