Royal Mail's contribution to the 2003 Europa theme -
Poster Art - focusses on the advertising signs which have been placed
outside Inns, or public houses, for centuries. The 1st class and 'E'
stamps incorporate the CEPT/Europa emblem in the lower right part of the
Centuries ago people brewed ale for their own use, and those who had surplus to sell would display an 'alestake' outside their home. This was a sprig of foliage, and as such survives in pub names such as 'The Bush'. Town inns had more elaborate signs so that patrons could distinguish one from another - many at that time being unable to read - and in 1393 King Richard II decreed that all alehouses should display a sign.
| 1st class 28p
Thurscoe, by Andrew Davidson
| 'E' rate 38p
The Black Swan
by Stanley Chew.
| 42p The Cross Keys
south-west London, by George Mackenney
| 47p The Mayflower
Southsea, by Ralph Ellis
| 68p The Barley Sheaf
Bodmin, by Joy Cooper
Royal Mail has been especially associated with inns since the eighteenth century when King Henry VIII created the first official postal services and engaged innkeepers to keep horses for his dispatch riders. Later, when coaches were used to carry the mails, 'coaching inns' were established offering stabling, meals and accommodation for the passengers. These mailcoaches were commemorated by a set of stamps issued in 1984 (SG 1258-62) with some designs showing inns, notably The Swan with two necks and The Angel both in London, and The Pheasant Winterslow. The issue also spawned a series of Post Office postcards showing coaches outside The George Hotel Reading, The Ostrich Colnbrook, The George at Southwark, The Star & Garter at Kew, The Coach & Horses at Ilford, The Old White Lion at North Finchley and possibly others. Pub signs also appeared on a series of stamp booklet covers in 1994.
Although well-painted, most signs had quite a short life due to being exposed to extremes of weather, so Royal Mail researches were obliged to use archives of the artists and breweries to find suitable signs for the stamps.
Andrew Davidson is a well-known commercial artists and book illustrator and produced pub signs for John Smith's Yorkshire Brewery. The Station and The Railway became popular names for pubs in many towns and villages in the 19th century with the spread of railways.
From 1960 Stanley Chew painted more than 600 signs mostly for Bass Brewery in the West of England. The Black Swan was the colloquial name for a mantrap in the Middle Ages, and became synonymous with reprobates. It first appeared on a pub sign in Lincoln in 1660.
George Mackenney studied art during the 1930s and painted more than 6000 signs, mostly for Charles Wells Brewery of Bedford in a 30-year career. The Cross Keys dates back to early Christian heraldry and appear on stamps of the Vatican and Papal States. This sign is thought to have been commissioned for the Courage Brewery.
Ralph Gordon Ellis, who started painting after World War I, was a noted painter of portraits and landcapes, and also painted over 250 inn signs for breweries long-gone, such as Atkinson, Brickwood, Fremlin, Watney & Whitbread. The Mayflower is not a common pub name, and this one was commissioned by the Portsmouth Brewery.
Joy Cooper, using her maiden name Joy Linton, painted many signs for the St Austell Brewery in Cornwall in the 1940s. The Barley Sheaf is not a common name, being mainly confined to the west country; in the rest of Britain The Barley Mow is more common. Both allude to barley being the main ingredient of beer.
The 50-stamp sheets have been designed by Elmwood and are printed by De La Rue in gravure. All images except FDCs are taken from Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin and Postmark Bulletin, and are Copyright 2003 by Royal Mail.
As usual we produced exclusive limited edition FDCs for this issue with a choice of two postmarks, either L8669 or L8670, at a price of £7.50 each.
Mint set of 5 - £2.99
The special postmarks available for use on the issue date are shown
| Ref M8655
Pub Signs, Cross Keys, Hereford
| Ref N8658
The Scapehouse Inn, Scapegoat Hill, Huddersfield HD7 4NJ
| Ref L8654
Pubs & Stars of Jazz, New Orleans Walk, London N19
| Ref FD317
Philatelic Bureau Official postmark
| Ref FD318
Cross Keys, Hereford, official postmark
| Ref E8663
Shepher Neame Master Brewers, Britain's Oldest Brewer, Faversham, Kent
| Ref L8652
Lord's Cricket Ground, London NW8 8QN
| Ref L8653
R.A.T.S. Real Ale Tasting Society, London WC1
| Ref W8665
The Inn Sign Society, Queens Head, Oswestry
| Ref W8666
Pub Signs, Beer, Seaton (Devon)
| Ref M8671
'Time Gentlemen Please', Leicester
| Ref M8672
Pub Signs, Birmingham
| Ref L8670
Historic Pub Signs, British Beer Pub Association, London SW8
| Ref L8669
Taverners Way, London E4
| Ref N8675
'Time Gentlemen Please', Thurnscoe, Rotherham, S Yorkshire [1st class stamp]
| Ref N8676
'Time Gentlemen Please', Lincoln ['E' class stamp]
| Ref N8674
The Big Match, Manchester In use until 11 August 2004
| Ref N8677
Pub Signs, The Crown, Birchfield Road, Widnes
| Ref W8681
'Time Gentlemen Please', Bodmin, Cornwall [68p stamp]
| Ref E8679
'Time Gentlemen Please', Southsea, Hants [47p stamp]
This postmark was used by Bletchley Park PO on their own covers but was also used on a Winston Churchill commemorative cover by Todd Ronnei . Todd may still have some of these for sale - follow the email link on that site.
| Ref E8678
The Nutshell, The Smallest Pub in Britain, Bury St Edmunds
| Ref W8680
Life of "HMS Black Swan" 1934-1956, Devonport, Plymouth
| Ref M8687
Drinker's End, Gloucester, Pub Signs
| Ref E8688
"Captain Ridley's Billets", Bletchley Park Post Office
This page updated 31 August 2003 [7.2.05]
|14 January Birds of Prey||21 January Flowers Greetings Stamps Smilers Sheet||4 February Occasions/Greetings stamps and Smilers sheet||25 February Medical Science - DNA & Genome||4 March Hello SA booklet & Wales 1st reprint|
|25 March Fun Fruit & Vegetables||27 March New definitives, SA airmail booklets of 40gr stamps||29 April Extreme Endeavours||6 May 34p definitives||20 May Wilding II miniature sheet|
|28 May Wales 2nd class, 1st class gold reprints||2 June - 50th Anniversary of the Coronation||17 June Prince William of Wales||1 July High Value Definitive reprints||15 July British Journey - Scotland|
|29 July Cartoons Smilers Sheet||12 August - Pub Signs - Europa||18 September Transports of Delight - toys||30 September Christmas Robin Smilers Sheet||7 October 250th Anniv. of British Museum|
|13 October Reprints of Country Stamps||4 November Christmas: Ice Sculptures||18 December England World Cup - Rugby Winners||