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You will find the Bath Postal Museum, if you find it at all, below stairs at the Post Office on the corner of Northgate Street and Green Street. I have mentioned this fact first because, when my sister and I arrived, I made a casual remark about having to make an effort to find the museum to one of the volunteers on duty and her reply gave me the impression that I wasn’t the first person to say that.
Three historic Bath residents revolutionised the British postal service through some significant firsts:
- Ralph Allen (born. 1693), a Cornish man who moved to Bath to take up the position of Postmaster at the age of 19, came up with the radical idea that sending all letters via London, which was what happened when the postal service was in its infancy, was a waste of time and effort. The museum guide describes the services Allen invented as the cross and bye posts, which allowed letters to travel between addresses on more direct routes.
- John Palmer, who was a native “Bathonian“, to quote from the museum guide, made the postal service even quicker by arranging the first ever mail coach run in 1784.
- Thomas More Musgrove, who became Postmaster of Bath in 1833, is thought to have been the first person to affix a stamp to a letter, The Penny Black, on the 2nd May 1840, making him the first ever person to use a postage stamp (4 days before they were officially issued).
The museum’s hands on displays included a stamp perforating machine [yes, believe it or not, there was a time when you had to perforate your own postage stamps] and the “Potholes and Pitfalls” mail coach board game, both of which my sister and I thoroughly enjoyed. Other interesting exhibits included a wall of post boxes and stamp machines, an educational film about the history of written communications (narrated by the late Richard Briers) and an interesting audio display about different post horns.
If you’re in the area, do call in at the Bath Postal Museum at 27 Northgate Street or have a look at the museum’s website: http://www.bathpostalmuseum.co.uk/.