The Great British Stamp

This month (as you may have seen over on our Instagram) to kickstart a year of letter writing, we’re having a little celebration over at the studio in honour of our great British postal stamp.

As many of you will already know, next month Royal Mail are switching all stamps over to a newer version that has a barcode attached to it. It promises to streamline the delivery service as well as create inventive ways of digitising our letters. And whilst modernising our postal system may have been inevitable, I will sorely miss the simplicity of our stamps as they were. Little, collectable and iconic.

Penny Black - the first ever British postal stamp

The British stamp all began in 1840. Prior to the stamp, sending mail was incredibly expensive. It was so expensive in fact, that only royalty or MPs (who could send letters free of charge) were able to afford it. The cost was calculated on distance travelled as well as quantity of pages, and as such, the system was widely abused and mail often sent fraudulently. A new system was required to allow more people to send letters, avoid forgery and build trust again.

After much debate, the idea of a stamp was posed to Queen Victoria, and in a letter from then Prime Minister Lord John Russell, he writes:

'Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and has the honour to report that Mr. Rice yesterday brought forward his financial statement with great ability.

He moved a resolution in favour of a penny postage, which Sir Robert Peel declared it to be his intention to oppose on the report. This will be on Friday next. This seems a mistake on the part of the Opposition.'

The resolution was agreed, and the Penny Black was born bearing the profile of Queen Victoria. Our first ever stamp, changing the way we would send mail forever. As it's name would suggest, the cost was one penny, and the Queen's profile was printed onto a black background. You could apply your Penny Black to a letter of up to 14g and post it anywhere in Great Britain. It's thanks to this little piece of paper that we're able to afford to send mail to this day.

And so, consider this your invitation from me to a snail mail revolution! Instead of swapping out your old stamps before the deadline at the end of January, try to use them as much as you can. Think of any reason (or indeed, no reason at all) to send someone a letter, and enjoy using your stamps for the last time in their original format.

If you use social media, I'll be using the hashtag #thegreatbritishstamp this month - please feel free to join me and tag your snail mail creations.

Happy writing!


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