One of my personal highlights of this year’s celebration of the tercentenary of the birth of the great landscape gardener “Capability” Brown has been the inclusion of Highclere Castle on a Royal Mail Stamp. It was long in the planning and had to be kept confidential which was difficult as I was so excited. Professor Tim Mowl was the landscape expert helping to draw together the chosen few and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him and the Royal Mail.
The postmen are part of our lives, their shorts sometimes worthy of comment in winter weather and one of them is even playing in the brass band on the lawns here next Saturday at the Vintage Garden Party. As he dropped off the post we discussed the musical repertoire.
The Royal Mail dates back to 1516, when Henry VIII (he of the many wives) established a “Master of the Posts.” In 1635 King Charles I expanded it into a public service. Originally the receiver paid for the post but in 1840 the world’s first stamp, the Penny Black, was created which made the sender pay – a much fairer system. These days Mail coaches have been replaced by red vans and the Royal Mail has been thoroughly modernised, although our lovely red pillar boxes still exist. The postmen and women travel through the community: real people delivering real items rather than the cloudy world of internet messages or texts.
Stamps draw me back through the years to when I used to collect them as a child, possibly less out of a burning interest in them per se and more because my father had, in his turn, collected them when he was young.
Just before writing this blog I looked out the “Strand Album” and found a letter in the front from my grandfather – it was a Christmas present in 1940 “with love from Dad”.
I have added some stamps to the album but hold it more as a memento: reading it, I sink back in time and am sitting in our old drawing room in London next to my father….
Curiously, some 30 or so years ago, my father was, for a while, Chairman of Stanley Gibbons, the well known stamp collecting specialists.
I hope that, in spirit, he might be entertained by fact that my husband and I now have our “own” stamp. In turn we and our fellow lucky Capability Brown house owners have been much amused by working out who got a first class stamp and who was a parcel or a postcard.