Visiting the Postal Museum, London

A while since I have ventured into the capital but a group of us joined a coach trip at the weekend to visit the Postal Museum (https://www.postalmuseum.org/)

This proved to be worth the journey and there is certainly plenty to fill the suggested 2-3 hours to allow for your visit.Postal Museum mural 1

The main exhibition takes the visitor through 500 years of postal history in the country. As it is all so new it has lots of interactive displays, audio and video clips and so on. For children there is the expected trail of clues to follow with many of the interactive elements at child height, too.

A special exhibition in place at present looks at a postal packet boat that was sunk and has been excavated. Many of the artefacts recovered are on display along with details of the crew who served aboard her. The mail carried included trading samples and the display offers a snapshot of how diverse these items were.

Talks are available throughout the day looking at different aspects of the displays, but we didn’t find time to fit one of these into our allotted time.

A feature of the visit is a chance to travel on the mail rail, an underground railway that ran east west under London helping to speed the mail on its way by avoiding the traffic. It operated for seventy years, only stopping in 2003 when mail was no longer taken into the central hub at Mount Pleasant nearby.  Designed to carry mail bags, not passengers, it is a cramped ride and, as the museum advises, not for those who suffer claustrophobia.

The timing for the rail trip was issued at the start of the visit and proved to be in the middle of the session before lunch. This did cause issues with visiting the exhibitions, but return was possible afterwards. The trip itself lasts for 15 minutes and includes a commentary and various presentations at stations visited. After the trip there was an exhibition devoted to the rail system to visit before returning to the main building across the road. We were blessed with fine weather so the walk across between the buildings was not an issue.

For anyone setting stories in those five hundred years there would be plenty to help with getting details correct. The various uniforms employed were on display for example along with transport from stage coach to cycles to motorised vans.

The centenary of the ending of the Great War meant the exhibits around mail delivered to troops, the telegrams that brought the dreaded news home and other issues, were of heightened interest. 10,000 postal workers served in WW1, with a fifth of them sacrificing their lives in the conflict. The need for the postal service to carry on an indeed deal with a huge increase in mail meant women played an important part although they had already been employed by the service before the War.

For anyone who has postal workers in their family tree this is also the location for the records of the postal services and facilities are available for accessing them. A museum ticket is not required to visit the archives. All details for visiting, including accessing the archives, can be found on their site.

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