Thursday, 15 March 2018

The World Rugby Museum

Twickenham Stadium
Whitton Road

Thursday 8 March 2018

After the grim English showing in the Calcutta Cup Match, you may be surprised to learn that we visited this celebration of all things Rugby.  But we did, and found it very interesting.

The Museum is based in the enormous stadium, a short bus ride from Twickenham Station.  You enter through (and purchase your ticket in) the gift shop, and then take the lift in a rather unfinished looking area, to reach the galleries on the first floor.  The museum is very new and shiny, having been open for only a few months.  It was not very crowded, though a French school group passed through swiftly while we were there.

The Museum begins with an account of medieval football, where whole villages fought, bit, punched and kicked their way to victory.  Such games were banned from time to time as being too dangerous.  Moving into the private schools, football remained pretty fierce:  for example at Rugby School, the Big Side game involved the 75 students of School House against the 225 pupils of the other houses.  Because of the legend of William Webb Ellis's 'fine disregard for the rules' in picking up the ball and running with it, there was quite a lot about the School, and the various rituals involved in the game.  We had not known that WWE became Rector of St Clement Danes, an example , we thought, of muscular Christianity.

Things became more formalised in the 1870s, with the establishment of the Rugby Football Union, and the formulation of the Rules.  The handwritten first version is on display here, with a diagram of the standardised pitch, and definitions of 'punt' and 'place kick' and so on.  By 1909, after various rows, the International Rugby Board - now World Rugby - was established. We felt itchy as we examined the England Schoolboy jersey. made of wool...

Rugby spread across the Empire and the world, and there was a plan on the floor which showed the dates at which different nations succumbed to the lure of the game.  It was thought to have amazing character building properties.  Indeed, there is an episode in the Imperialist stories of Sanders of the River in which a Junior District Officer in West Africa puts an end to inter-tribal warfare by encouraging the local people to play Rugby instead.

There was a case of the shirts of different nations, ranging from the sober to the lurid, including such countries as Slovenia as well as more familiar ones.  It was not long before the marketing opportunities of such a major sport attracted attention, and we saw some splendid posters linking Rugby with smoking and drinking, among other pleasures

An interesting display grappled with the issue of Amateur status.  In the days when the working week included Saturdays, the provision of 'boot money' was essential for working men, and thus 'veiled professionalism' became a serious issue, especially in the Northern Union.  The problem of course was that the more wealthy players did not need such subsidising since, even if they were in employment, it was unlikely to involve Saturdays....

Next came a section about Twickenham itself, and the growth of the stadium since the early 20th century, with photos and plans to illustrate the ambition of the place.  There were gaps in the growth.  the pitch was used for grazing during the First World War, and for 'Dig for Victory' allotments in the Second.  It was also the local Civil defence HQ.  It was at this stage that we enjoyed the presents from around the world for the 25th anniversary, particularly the packets of seeds labelled 'Twix Mix' suitable for growing your own rugby pitch.  Since 2003, the stadium has been an important music venue, hosting, for example, the Rolling Stones, as you can see here.

The statue, demonstrating the core values of the game, was put up in 2010 and there were new dressing rooms in 2013, including recovery areas and hydrotherapy facilities.  How surprised William Webb Ellis and his team-mates would be.

We then needed a bit of recovery and went into the John Douglas room, to sit and watch a film, The Rose and the Poppy, narrated by Lewis Moody, about rugby players in the First World War.  A number of interviews, including with Harry Patch  are interspersed with photos and film and chilling statistics.  There were rugby leagues in the army, the navy, and the Royal Flying Corps.  According to the posters, 90% of rugby payers enlisted before the conscription act came into force in 1916;  certainly 28 players from London Irish died during the war.  The stadiums's own memorial for the centenary of the war is the beautiful Rose and Poppy Gate, made from German shell cases.

 A brief reference to the Olympic Games (Rugby has been in and out of the games for more than a century) brought us to some quite political stuff:  a section about Women's Rugby, and then a great deal of material about the South Africa Sports boycott and the end of Apartheid, culminating in statements from the 'keep politics out of sport' factions agreeing that the banning of international sport had eventually helped the final outcome of the struggle in South Africa. 

We saw material about wheel chair rugby, about teams for deaf, blind and learning disabled players and clubs for gay people, and also about rugby teams in prisons.

 One of my favourite exhibits was a 'touch the table' gadget, which played film, with subtitles (in two languages where appropriate) of the Six Nations teams singing their anthems. I never knew that the Italians sang about putting the helmet of Scipio on, or that the Flowers of Scotland were determined to send Edward's men home to think again (certainly worked in the Calcutta Cup match this year). On the other hand, the film of the All Blacks doing the Hacka just caused us to marvel that that seems to be the only sign of New Zealand's first nations on the Rugby pitch

 A little account of the development of the Seven-a-side game brought is to a mock-up of a dressing room with -yes! - dressing up opportunities.  This area was enlivened by opportunities to see how high and how fast one could move, as well as having a go on the rhino trainers for learning how to scrummage.

Here was also some careers advice about how to become a referee, a coach or a physio.

 A further gallery told us about Lions' and Barbarians' tours, though we did not know whether the torn shirt was the result of age or violent play; and we finished with a display about dinners, banquets and other celebrations, with accompanying menus and souvenirs, before we exited, as Banksy says, through the gift show.

We thought this museum measured up well to the other sporting museums we have visited (Lords, Wimbledon) and would certainly recommend a visit, though obviously we should prefer it to be in the flush of an English victory.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Emery Walker House

7 Hammersmith Terrace
London W6 9TS
Thursday March 1 2018

When I booked this guided visit I had imagined us walking, in Spring sunshine,  through the pleasant back streets of Chiswick admiring people’s front gardens and camellias, while in fact we picked our way carefully in crampons and with sticks in order not to slide on the icy pavements.  The house itself is also not heated so it was a pretty chilly tour with Jo and I wondering whether it was colder (yes) than Little Holland House six weeks ago. It also meant, rather sadly, we could not go into the conservatory and garden which leads down to the river. 

The views from the upstairs bedrooms were impressive even on the greyest of days and must be even more enticing in better weather. Photography is not allowed; in any case lighting levels are very low, but the website has some excellent photos of the three key rooms. Though looking quite modest, and as the guide showed at the time in quite an industry-heavy part of London, this is in fact a 5 storey house with two rooms on each level. The basement is now a (slightly modernised) rental flat, while the top floor (servants’ quarters) is office space.
If you are not a fan of the Arts & Crafts Movement you might wish to stop here..

Yes, but who was Emery Walker, or Sir Emery as he later became?  Coming from quite humble beginnings, he was born in Paddington in 1857 to a coach maker and tried his hand at various trades until he found his metier in typography. Together with a business partner called Bootle they had a business of etchings and photography, which included the first ever systematic photography of the exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery. This work gave him a footing in the Art World and he gradually became acquainted with William Morris. This was hardly surprising as the latter lived up the road at Kelmscott House, they often took the same underground (overground here of course) train and, the key point, both were members, and later officers, of the Hammersmith Branch of the Socialist Party. Admiring of his work to date in the printing trade Morris offered Walker a partnership which he declined, recognising that Morris was a force to be reckoned with, but he did agree to be a technical advisor to the Kelmscott Press which Morris was setting up. The books they printed, often using the Jensen font were very ‘high end’ publications and while very beautiful (facsimiles were shown to us) do not really seem to fit with the Socialist ideals of the printers, being quite costly.

Emery did marry, though Mary Grace Walker (as she became) ‘enjoyed’ poor health which did not appreciate the pollution that was Hammersmith at the time and spent most of her life in the fresh air of the Cotswolds where Emery joined her at weekends. They had a single child Dorothy who inherited the house and lived here too; as she grew older she advertised for a ‘companion’ and Elizabeth de Haas arrived from Holland. After Dorothy’s death Elizabeth continued ‘curating’ the contents of the house (she had by then learnt all about the Arts & Crafts Movement) and trying to make arrangements for its long-term preservation. Even by selling off Emery’s book collection she was unable to create enough of an endowment to persuade the National Trust to take it on (there were also some doubts about what the NT might have done to the property) so instead set up the Trust that currently looks after the house, often running Arts & Crafts-related projects and events in partnership with the William Morris Society down the road.
I think it’s fair to say that Emery devoted more time to his house interiors and his voluntary and honorary posts various and to an extent his business than to his family,   After William Morris died in 1896 Walker went into another venture – the Doves Press (named after a local pub) again printing. His partner this time was Thomas Cobden-Sanderson who trained as a lawyer but felt himself to be artist manqué and career-switched to bookbinding, setting up the Doves Bindery.  After the Kelmscott Press wound up in 1898 Sanderson perceived a gap in the market and relaunched his business as the Doves Press in 1900.  This time Emery agreed to be a partner but not to contribute start-up funds – the money came from Sanderson’s wife.  The new press developed its own Doves font. It employed about seven people including one Edward Johnston whose later typographical work still graces the London Underground, and whose copyright is absolute.  

When the Doves Press partnership – never a happy one – ended after just eight years in 1908 there was a dispute between the partners as to who should inherit the type, Sanderson seemed unable to contemplate the type outliving him and in a series of clandestine night walks dropped all the known type face in the Thames from Hammersmith Bridge. This remarkable story  is recounted here and also if you enjoy the world of fonts in ‘Just My Type’ by Simon Garfield 
Another visitor in our group asked why some-one did not ‘just copy’ the type from the printed examples – the article explains how there was no-one able to do this skilled job and even with today’s computer technology it took the man who has resurrected it three years…
But not quite all Emery’s friends were obsessives – after Morris Emery had a long relationship with Philip Webb, the architect for Morris of The Red House  his first project and Standen, his last and a ‘stand out’ (sorry) example of the Arts & Crafts movement both inside and out. When Webb died he bequeathed to Walker many of his pieces of furniture designed by him and built by the group of craftsmen who had settled in Sapperton, in the Cotswolds.    

The tour of the house (you thought I would never get there but context is all) starts on the ground floor dining room where the levels of light were especially low today.  The bookcases to the left of the door on the wall opposite the fireplace had both come from Philip Webb’s house, the wallpaper is Morris (original as are all the papers in the house having been carefully conserved) and there is a wonderful wall hanging from May Morris’ workshop – only now is she getting the recognition she deserves. May worked next door and one of her embroiderers was Lily Yeats, sister to the more famous WB, another contact made through the local Socialist league. Talking of May Morris there is an excellent sketch of her by Edward Burne Jones, probably the best artwork in the house.

Up the stairs – only here has the paper been replaced with a more modern ‘Willow’ – to the first floor drawing room where the view is over the garden to the Thames. Another glass fronted Webb cabinet holds some of his claret glasses manufactured by Whitefriars, whom we heard about on our recent trip to Headstone Manor.

On the table are some charming jugs made expressly for Emery at the Wedgewood factory and with his initials, and a basalt tea-pot which belonged to Rossetti, one time lover of Janey Morris and presumably when he moved on, as he was inclined to do, he left the pot behind.
There are fireplaces in each room and we are sure there were servants who did the tedious task of clearing and relaying the fires and these were originally plain – however in the Sixties  Elizabeth de Haas found some William de Morgan tiles in a skip (yes, often our parents were vandals and ripped out ‘original features’)  and arranged them round the fireplace!

The third floor with similar excellent views has a bed crafted by another Sapperton worker with a unique bedcover by May Morris – it depicts a range of English wildflowers within a bright blue knot pattern – which was used as a funeral pall for the last few of the house’s occupants.
Two of the front rooms are accessible also.  On the first floor what was the bathroom for Dorothy and had originally been Emery’s study is now a small exhibition room where there are some personal artefacts from Emery which can be looked at more closely. Downstairs at ground level what was the kitchen has an excellent collection of chargers (large serving plates) and decorative wall plates, many of them souvenirs from Emery’s ‘art trips’ to Europe, and where there is now a small shop.   

Though the cold rather hampered our enthusiasm this is a house where you can immerse yourself in the life and tastes of a particular class and group of dedicated artists and craftsmen who turned their attention to every detail of their environment from the printed word to the exteriors. They also frequently inter-married or fell out – which makes the visit here one that is fascinating in many ways: well worth trekking through the snow, and doubtless even more enjoyable in better weather….

Monday, 26 February 2018

The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

20 Princes Gate, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1PT

Thursday 22 February 2018

The first thing to say about this interesting place is that it is in rather a fine setting: the terrace was built as the area became important at the time of the Great Exhibition, so it overlooks Hyde Park across the road.  It is part of the terrace that includes the Iranian Embassy, so we all saw it on our TV screens in 1980.

The house is a handsome one, and it is stuffed full of interesting material about the Polish nation and its complex history, particularly but not only in the period of the Second World War.  Indeed, if I have a criticism of this excellent museum, it is that the various stages in the history of Poland are not set out in chronological order, but happen somewhat randomly in the various rooms: so, for example, material related to Louis XV's Polish wife is mixed with 20th century exhibits, and so on. 

 We were guided round expertly by Kris Nowakowski, who told us the story of Wojtek, the bear who joined the Polish army in 1942.  Wojtek's image adorns the front hall, alongside the remains of the 178th Luftwaffe plane shot down by the amazingly successful 303 Squadron.

The history of Poland is told in several of the rooms.  During the long period of Partition between the three great Empires of Russia, Prussia and Austria Hungary, the Austro-Hungarians were willing to arm Polish militias, mostly with out-dated guns.  Polish troops also carried curved sabres, reminding us that they had helped to defend Vienna against the Turks

During the wars against Napoleon, the Poles sided with France (or, you might say, fought against Russia) and it was a Polish regiment of Lancers which actually broke an English Square at Albuera in Spain in 1811.

In one of the rooms at the back of the house, we saw General Sikorski's desk and other memorabilia. Poles trapped by the hand-over of their territory to Stalin escaped in their thousands, and some, including women, became carpet-makers in Afghanistan, before reaching Western Europe and joining the struggle against Fascism.

Tartar regiments had been formed in earlier years, with standards that look more oriental than European, and a Koran on which to swear allegiance.

We saw a small case about the Polish experience of Hitler's appalling camps but, of course, other museums specialise in this period of history.  On the other hand , there was information about Polish revolutionaries' earlier experiences in Siberia.

During the 1930s, when an  Anglo-Polish Treaty was being signed, ships for the Polish navy were also being built,. for example in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. On 30 August, 1939, 5 Polish Destroyers sailed to Scotland and joined the allied navies. One of them was closely involved in the hunt for the Bismarck. On 2 September, five submarines left Gdansk, but two of them made the mistake of heading to Sweden where they were interned, since Sweden took its neutrality seriously, except when it came to supplying iron ore to Germany.  Two went into Tallin, and Estonia interned them, but the Ozel (Eagle) escaped after the crew overpowered the guards, later releasing them. One of the rooms displayed the enormous battle pennant flown by Polish ships.

We saw a portrait of Paderewski, the great pianist and President of between-wars Poland, as well as some information about Copernicus who, in the 15th century, demonstrated the movement of the planets around the sun.
But then it was back to the Second World War, with plenty of material about the Italian Campaign, and especially the great battle for Monte Cassino. A bundle of letters to a soldier from his wife, stuffed into his breast pocket, stopped a bullet. And we saw the civic diploma from the City of Bologna, liberated by the Poles.

Upstairs again, there were huge war paintings, as well as signed photographs of King George VI and Churchill.  Cases showed Polish war inventions, including mine detectors and anti-tank guns, though the Museum does not have a German Enigma machine, that other example of Polish skill and forethought.  Information about the Polish cavalry was also here.

On a landing was the radio transmitter used to communicate with the Polish resistance, and we saw some photos and stories from the Warsaw Rising of August 1944

The Polish forces were, of course, involved with the Invasion of Europe, their 1st Armoured Division landing on D-Day+4.
They were involved in the terrible fighting around the Falaise Gap, and then went on through Belgium and the Netherlands, picking up several diplomas from liberated cities, before they took the German surrender at Wilhelmshaven

After the war, a Polish Government in exile continued to exist in London throughout the years of effective Russian occupation, but the freeing of Poland in the 1980s meant that this was no longer necessary.  But the Polish community on Britain has a long and proud heritage, which this museum preserves well.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Postal Museum & Mail Rail

 15-20 Phoenix Place,
London WC1X 0DA

Thursday February 15 2018

On reflection half-term may not have been the best time to visit such a new, popular and very child centred museum  but we did have fun.

I had expected a somewhat tedious display of endless cabinets of ‘special stamps’ or maybe a serried rank of conserved pillar boxes, rather as we had seen them when they (the pillar boxes) were on holiday at Bruce Castle  while this building was being converted and expanded. . But the designers have come up with an attraction that offers information in a very accessible way – plenty of interaction for younger visitors and bright legible information boards, so none of that grovelling to read tiny captions. It is very clear why they have chosen the exhibits they have and like many museums nowadays have also focused in on the ‘individual’ stories of key personnel.

Not that historical context is forgotten – there is a well-illustrated electronic time line (except it’s more like a flip book) with all the key dates from Henry VIII decreeing that towns should have three horses available to convey the royal letters. It would take Charles II to ‘allow’ the public to share his mail coaches and deliveries. Without quite being the ‘Wild West’ the exhibition makes clear that transporting the mail whether by road, sea or later by rail was a dangerous pursuit and the weapons for defending the mail deliveries are all on display. Pirates were not unknown and in 1793 the ‘Antelope’ was attacked. Did you know there were post officials aboard the ‘Titanic’ who vainly tried to save the bags from the incoming waters?

Most extraordinary was the well documented occasion when an escaped circus lioness attacked the Exeter mail coach. The horse Pomegranate was hurt but fortunately no-one else was harmed – the lion recaptured, and the horse once restored was looked after by the circus proprietor and the mail of course remained intact. In 1963 (well within the living memory of today’s three visitors) was the daring but more violent great Train Robbery when it was perfectly clear the criminals knew which train and carriages to target and when to do it.

But back to the time-line – red had by now become the accepted colour scheme (not a Pantone shade I have just discovered) and can be seen in several models of post and pillar boxes (one free standing the other attached to a post or in a wall), the uniforms that were introduced at an early stage for the mail coachmen and the vehicles themselves which are dotted, but in a chronological order    throughout the museum.
Some richer merchants and business had also introduced private mail services but the uniform practice was for the post men to collect the fee at the point of delivery – and this was time consuming. It took Rowland Hill to introduce a payment at the point of postage, verified by a ‘stamp’ to revolutionise and speed up the system, and once the Penny Post came in there was no looking back. By 1850 the service was dealing with 347 million letters per year. (This museum is about the Post and not about stationery but I couldn’t help thinking that this would have been a good time to be in the paper and envelope trade…) The main means of local delivery was by foot or later by bicycle – Jo was entranced with an ‘experimental’ vehicle introduced in the Horsham area: a kind of penny farthing with stabilisers which allowed the postmen to carry letters and parcels in the robust baskets nicknamed the ‘hen and chicks.’   Often the innovator, the Post Office bought the first van in 1904.

A rather lovely classic motor cycle reminds us that Royal Mail took on both telegrams and telegraphing (very important during the wars) and telephones as early as 1912. So the phone boxes were red too.  The ones on show here have recorded voices recalling some war-time memories, and as we nostalgically pressed Button A (to get through) and then Button B (to get the change) we remarked that the phone booth did not smell of pee…The importance of mail to communicate between home and the various fronts is well illustrated with the rather interesting anecdote of a German soldier who wrote to the widow of the English man who had just fallen at his feet – he found a letter in the pocket – and there are other examples.  The postmen had their own 'pals' regiment.
Called the Post Office Rifles. The story of the VC winner is there too. In 1914 the Post Office was the largest employer in the country so when the men enlisted it was an opportunity for women to take over.

As someone who worked five Christmas shifts in the NW11 sorting office I loved every minute of it; the smell of wet sacking, the special knot for the piles of letters and cards (this was before the ubiquitous and altogether less reliable elastic band), the upside down card alerting you to a parcel or RD special, and trudging the streets before it even got light.

During the Second World War the risks were greater with bombs disrupting deliveries – but never for long after all they were dealing with 4 million pieces of post per week, and communication from prisoners of war went ‘free’. Although the solitariness of the distinct delivery ‘walks’ tends to attract loners the Post Office had a strong Union ethic. In 1933 they took on their first PR appointment and while the aptly-named  Stephen Tallents did not brand the Post Office quite as strongly as Johnson and Pick were doing for London Transport he still brought a wealth of ideas to promote the GPO, as it was known then. Key amongst them was Philip Grierson, the documentary film maker to set up the GPO Film Unit and sure enough you can sit down and watch some of its productions, including ‘Night Mail’ (admittedly a rather grainy print) which counted WH Auden and Benjamin Britten as co creatives on this magic account of how the mail is sorted aboard the train as it speeds overnight to Scotland. (Little did we know that half an hour later we would be doing it ourselves). All the charming posters are displayed and you can even browse the (typically parochial) in-house magazine with its small ads for strong boots and help for ‘itchy toes’. Tallents also introduced a gym at Mount Pleasant.

The post-war period looks at the further significant modernisations – mechanical sorting came in during the Sixties and the first post codes were trialled in Norwich in 1959 – who would have guessed that they would become so useful for satnavs and other forms of web-based route finding? I would have liked more on post codes and though one of the interactives offered it as a possibility for some reason this of all ‘buttons’ would not respond on the screen. There were generous supplies of child sized postal uniforms, several opportunities to ‘write notes’ and post them – very popular was the overhead zooming pneumatic tubes, which while novel were not really a Post Office thing; you could also listen and decode a Morse message and insert your ‘selfie‘ (with added features from an attractive range of crowns, moustaches and ears) onto a stamp design of your choice. Rather like Postman Pat you can choose your route, with or without good deeds en route,  to collect mail and still be in time for the right train.  

‘Novelty stamps, otherwise known to collectors as ‘First day Covers’, were very big through the second half of the 20th century but the Museum restricts its doubtless vast collection to displaying some key items – the Machin model which served for the Queen’s head which is still on stamps, the talents of David Gentlemen  David Gentlemen our most prolific designer of stamps and some children’s favourites featuring Beatrix Potter characters and Paddington Bear.

This kind of brought us to the end of the substantive collection, though one room is set aside for special exhibitions and the current one was about ‘keeping in touch’ stressing the importance of mail for separated families. The examples here included a young girl trafficked for sex and eventually given asylum in the UK, a divorced father not able to see his children but who wrote regularly on the most beautifully hand drawn envelopes, a Chilean political prisoner eventually freed by the pressure of a letter campaign and a Caribbean nurse who came over in the early Sixties to work in the NHS. All of the recipients of the letters treasured the regular deliveries of ‘news from home or distant family’ and we often forget in this day of instant texting/phoning and email how precious a proper letter can still be. The Post Office must know this more than anyone as with the exception of birthdays most post today consists of bills or advertising and is very impersonal. The decline of the letter post is not really alluded to.

So now it was across the road for our appointment with ‘Rail Mail’, the newly restored stretch of the 23 miles (37 kms) of underground railway which was built in the early 20th Century to collect and distribute mail bags between the mainline railway stations, the central sorting office at Mount Pleasant and other points. The line was constructed to be a faster alternative to road transport, and it seems a little odd given today’s volume of traffic around Mount Pleasant that it was decided in 2003 that this argument no longer applied…

This trip may not be for claustrophobes – the tunnels are narrower than the ‘proper’ underground, just 2 metres in diameter, and the trains are small because they were originally only meant to carry mailbags, not passengers or drivers. These days, your train has a driver and the carriages have seats and (for obvious safety reasons) Perspex roofs, but it is undeniably cramped and at times noisy and dark. However, it is well worth the discomfort. Your ride lasts 15 minutes and takes you on a loop, stopping at various stages for a recorded explanation by Ray Middlesworth, an engineer on the system up to its closure who has obviously been very involved in the restoration.  Stops include two stations (it would have been nice to be told exactly where we were at these points) where the walls are used for computer-generated animations of how the system worked and how three sample letters would have reached their destinations; you also get a glimpse down into a lower tunnel which serves as a rather sad graveyard for redundant rolling stock.

After your ride, there is a further museum display, logically enough largely concerned with the workings of the system you have just ridden. It ran 22 hours a day to a very tight schedule: Post Office workers would typically only have one minute to load and unload a train. As with the big museum across the road, there are good interactive displays giving you the chance to wrangle the complexities of the switching system etc. The museum also explores the wider theme of postal rail networks, with a  display of a 19th Century pneumatic railway (think an enlarged version of those note-and-change delivery tubes mentioned above) including a panel commemorating an intrepid Victorian lady who rode the tube for its full length in her crinoline! There is also a display commemorating the full-blown mail trains as seen in  'Night Mail'  with an explanation of the systems for picking up and dropping leather bags of mail at speed, and a chance to practice sorting mail in a simulated wobbly rail carriage.

You emerge into daylight and observe there are real live postmen criss crossing the courtyard of Mount Pleasant and small red postal vans going off in various directions doing what they have done for the last 500 years – delivering mail. We only tend to notice this service when it fails and we can grumble about ‘delayed in the post’ but need to remember that in spite of much mechanisation this is still a service delivered by people doing a combination of physical labour in all weathers, a decoding job and public relations when needed. This splendid museum encapsulates that history and continuing service wonderfully.