Founded in 1979 by Audrey and Harold Swindells in the basement of their house, pop in here to see the UK's first stamp, the Penny Black which was posted from Bath.
A couple of minutes walk away from the Palladian Pulteney Bridge, one of four bridges in the world to have shops on both sides, the Bath Postal Museum is in the basement of a real Post Office.
Downstairs, the museum provides an extensive picture of the postal system in an interactive and informative way, with links to Bath itself but the highlight is the very first stamp, the Penny Black, which was sent from Bath Post Office in 1840 during the reign of Queen Victoria. The precursor to the stamps we have today, the Penny Black was an attempt to standardise the anomalous cost of the post at the time. A letter weighing up to 14 grams could be posted any distance for the price of one penny.
It’s not often that we stop to think about services such as the post but this museum encourages questions. The museum uses actors to represent influential figures within the history of the postal service, such as Ralph Allen and John Palmer, helping their innovative ideas seem more relatable and making it perfect for a range of ages and knowledge bases.
Ralph Allen, 1693-1764, was an entrepreneur who streamlined the postal system with a cross-road system that ensured post between Exeter, Chester, and Bath, without having to go through London, making its journey much more efficient. Similarly, Allen introduced a “signed for system”, much like the one we use today to ensure our post arrives.
John Palmer,1742-1818, was also influential in the postal system and in Bath itself. Palmer introduced a system of rail coaches across Britain, which were faster and safer than the previous system. He was also Mayor of Bath twice and in his later life served as a Member of Parliament representing Bath.
Although the museum itself isn’t large, make sure you take your time as you look around, as its collection really sparks the imagination, be it the dressing up box, the opportunity to perforate stamps or post a letter yourself. Make sure you don’t miss artefacts such as air crash mail or wreck mail as there is something sad about the idea of missed connections, especially today.
The Bath Postal Museum provides an interesting insight into British social history, underpinned by human connection and the lengths we go to stay connected. Owing to Covid-19, Divento is selling tickets in time slots, with 4 people allowed into the museum at a time. This will both keep you safe, but also means one of the knowledgeable volunteers can answer any questions or point out anything you might have missed.
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