Did you know the postman would call at your home up to 12 times a day back in the 19th century? Or that the UK is the only country not required to put its name on stamps? Well, neither did we until we went along to the grand opening of the new Postal Museum.
We were invited to the launch because Alison and Brian are part of the museum’s Writing Home Exhibition. They tell their story of how Alison’s letters played an important part in Brian’s fight against cancer. Seeing them on the big screen was such an honour and, along with the other ordinary people telling their extraordinary stories, they were in inspiring company.
A short walk from London’s Russell Square, the museum is easily spotted, surrounded by the familiar fleets of red Royal Mail vans at the Mount Pleasant Sorting Office.
At the entrance to the museum stood a large corporate group dressed in suits and evening dresses; the event was going to be an extravagant affair! Unexpectedly, the entrance still had cardboard on the walls, as did the corridor leading into the exhibition space, but as the official opening was still some weeks away I’m sure they’d have time to smarten it up. Inside is spacious, the lighting dim but the display podiums brightly illuminated drawing in your eye.
On display are original post vans and post boxes, and old letters and writing stationery plastered across the walls, telling the history and evolution of the Royal Mail and the postal service in the UK.
The incredible story of a service operating all day and night, 6 days a week, sorting and delivering hundreds and thousands of letters and parcels; all to make sure the public received their mail within on time.
Across the road is the second part of the museum, housing the exciting Rail Mail. In the reception area was an exciting letter writing activity for guests; we were each invited to write a letter which would be sent in a year’s time.
Walking through to the second part of the exhibition we found Rail Mail – the underground trains that carried the mail to and from the sorting office to the delivery centres across London. Rail Mail, with its 6 miles of track, operated from 1927 to 2003. For £250 you can have your name engraved on one of the sleepers, and within the cost of the museum entry fee (£16 for an adult and £8 for a child) you can travel on Rail Mail and experience this underground phenomenon.
I think that Rail Mail will prove to be the big draw of the museum - a great family attraction.
As well as the trains, the museum details the history of the Royal Mail service. Old photographs, equipment and placards are dotted around and tell the evolution of mail year by year. There are active games such as sorting the mail, directing the trains and a dress-up station to try on the uniforms.
There are also talking points along the room where you can hear the stories of old workers. It is a great experience to hear the voices of ex-employees rather than read it all on placards.
The museum opened its gates to the public on July 28th but Rail Mail opened just this week on 4th September, so you can book your tickets now to go down and explore the tunnels and play the postman games. If you find the Writing Home Exhibition and see Alison and Brian on the big screen, then please take a photo and tweet us @frommetoyou01