Norvic Philatelics - GB New Stamps and Special Postmarks

Pictorial Faststamps: Working Sail - 18 February 2015

Pictorial Post & Go stamps appear in machines in UK Post Offices for defined periods of time in the year and this series is intended to provide attractive stamps that are appropriate for the season in which they are issued.

In 2015 the subject matter and pictorial designs for Post & Go will vary as wildlife and natural history subjects are replaced.  Two of the sets are linked as they will feature boats and ships.  Heraldic Beasts will be issued for the FIP exhibition in May.  Following a request from Post Office Ltd in 2013 for a Christmas set, a final set of four new designs of Post & Go will be issued for Christmas on winter animals.

In this first set Working Sail features fishing and cargo boats of types relevant to regions of the UK.  All paintings date from around the turn of the 19th / 20th Century.

Post & Go terminals allow customers to weigh their letters and packets, pay for and print postage stamps and stationery supplies, often without the need to visit the counter. The first Post & Go machine was trialled in The Galleries Post Office® in Bristol in 2008.  The labels will be used in Post & Go machines at Post Offices around the country, and from new Royal Mail machines at Spring Stampex.  The labels can be obtained with 6 different service indicators: 1st class up to 100g & 1st class Large up to 100g, a dual-value Europe up to 20g/World up to 10g, Europe 60g, Worldwide 20g, and Worldwide 60g.  The stamps are dispensed singly or in strips of up to 5 or 6 (depending on the machine) of the same value or various values. 

 Working Sail Faststamp Falcon. Post and Go Faststamp Blur.
Post and Go Faststamp Harry. Post and Go Faststamp Star.
Post and Go Faststamp MArgaret. Post and Go Faststamp Nell Morgan.

From top left: Falcon, Briar, Harry, Stag, Margaret and Nell Morgan
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Over the centuries, the beauty of sailing ships inspired innumerable grand paintings, including enormous seascapes and complex battle scenes – but it is the work of folk artists who painted on a more humble scale, observing ships as they came into the port, that has captured for posterity many types of traditional merchant and fishing vessels in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

These artists, often collectively known as the ‘pierhead’ painters, would seek commissions among the owners and crew of a ship in port. They would sketch from life and produce portraits of the vessel before the ship sailed again, usually within days. The typical portrait was a broadside view of the vessel at sea or leaving harbour, with details added in the background to help identify the location.

Pierhead painting forms a distinct genre of popular, or folk, art. The earliest examples appear in the 18th century though most date from the late 19th and early 20th century. They are mostly simple portraits of merchant ships and fishing vessels. They have little in common with the elaborate seascape of the traditional and academic schools of marine art. Pierhead artists are often described as naïve but this does not account for the skill of some of these artists. Neither does it allow for the accurate and often quite meticulous attention to detail. Those pictures that survive preserve, with accurate details, the only pictorial evidence of certain historic types of vessel.

The vessel always took precedence in the painting and the background, often out of scale, served to mainly identify the port. The style of Pierhead originated in Europe, where schools of artists grew up in the main ports catering for visiting merchant vessels. The development of this genre linked to the expansion in merchant trade that took place in the early 19th century. These paintings needed to be produced and sold quickly before potential customers left port, so the designs became standardised for quick and easy production.  Little is known about many of the ‘Pierhead painters’ beyond the names they signed. They were usually selftaught and consequently their work is free of formal painting technique. Ship portraiture was often a sideline activity to supplement an income. However for a few artists, it became their means of livelihood.

The stamps in detail

Falcon (Pilot boat) by JW Green, 1897
John William Green (1863–1951) was a keen amateur artist, working in pen and ink, watercolours and oils. He had a particular interest in painting and drawing vessels seen in Fleetwood.
Working Sail Post and  Go presentation pack.
Briar (Herring Drifter) by Alexander Harwood, 1907
Alexander Harwood (1873–1943) moved to Aberdeen in his twenties and worked as a fish porter for most of his life. He was a prolific amateur artist and painted hundreds of portraits of Aberdeen trawlers, working in watercolours, oils and gouache.

Harry (Humber Sloop) by Reuben Chappell, date unknown
Reuben Chappell (1870–1940) was born in Goole and from an early age showed a talent for drawing ships. He made his living by painting ships and selling his oils and watercolours to seamen, first in Goole and then in Cornwall, where he became well known locally.

Margaret (Fifie) by Henry Lawson, 1890
Henry Lawson (1872–1966) was a fisherman in Pittenweem who, as a teenager, earned extra money by painting boats. The Margaret was his father’s first boat and was used for line-fishing as well as drift-netting.

Stag (Grimsby Smack) attributed to George Race, date unknown
George Race (1872–1957) lived in Cleethorpes and specialised in painting portraits of trawlers arriving at the dock and would then sell his work to the seamen before their vessel left the port.

Nell Morgan (Smack) by G Ramsey, 1886
Not much is known about G Ramsey, except that he lived in Norfolk and presumed to have been among the local ‘pierhead’ painters. He actively painted sailing vessels between 1856 and 1889.

Technical details:

Designed by Osborne Ross the six 56mm x 25mm stamps are printed in gravure by International Security Printers, with two phosphor bars.  The stamps in the pack will have the service indicator and other detail printed in gravure.   All images are by kind permission of Royal Mail, Copyright 2015. This website is copyright Norvic Philatelics 2015.
Picture sources:  Falcon - Lancashire County Council Museum Service; Briar - Lossiemouth Fisheries and Community Museum;  Humber Sloop Harry - National Maritime Museum; Margaret - Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust Ltd; Stag - North East Lincolnshire Council; Nell Morgan - Norfolk Museum Service.

Products issued

The labels will be used in Post & Go machines at Post Offices around the country, and from the Royal Mail machines at Spring Stampex.
A mint set of 6 x 1st will also be available from Royal Mail's Tallents House Bureau in a pack similar to a presentation pack. All values in the pack are 1st Class.

Royal Mail will again produce a First Day Cover and official First Day Postmarks for these stamps.

Special Postmarks
Postmarks available for the day of issue will be shown here These are not to scale. These postmarks cannot be obtained after the date of issue.

Bureau first day cover for Post and Go sailing stamps.
Great Yarmouth first day postmark showing ship's wheel.
Great Yarmouth non-pictorial first day postmarks.

Sailingship on Birmingham postmark.
Stampex first day postmark for Working Sails Faststamps.
Ref FD1504TH Philatelic Bureau Official Postmark illustrated with a map of the British Isles Ref FD1504PL Great Yarmouth first day postmark showing ship's wheel.
Ref FD1504NP Great Yarmouth non-pictorial first day postmark Ref M13337 Working Sail, Quayside, Birmingham
Ref L13342 Spring Stampex Post and Go Working Sail, London N1
Postmarks for Working Sail post and go stamps. Aldeburgh postmark Working Sail.
Portsoy, Banff, Working Sail postmark.

Ref L13330
River Thames, London SE1
Ref L13331
Working Sail, Greenwich SE10
Ref L13341 Aldeburgh, Suffolk
Ref W13360 Portsoy, Banff
(Yes, this Scotland postmark is being handled by Cardiff SHC)

This page updated 10 February 2015

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