15/04/2023 Latest News
In today’s era of email, WhatsApp and social media, many people have fallen out of the habit of sending postcards, and their sales have plummeted. In 2022, just 120,000 postcards were sent via Royal Mail, a paltry one card per 580 people, writes Roy Murphy.
At one time, however, sending postcards was something which pretty much everybody did on a very regular basis. It was a quick and easy way of keeping in touch, without the need to pen lengthy letters. In contrast, in the Edwardian era during the first decade of the 20th century, a staggering 800 million postcards a year were wending their way through our postal system.
The postcard was first introduced into the UK in 1870. They were commissioned and produced by the Post Office, and included a printed halfpenny stamp covering the cost of postage (half the price of sending a letter, which was still one penny). The first cards were printed on just one side, allowing the message to be written on the other side.
They were an immediate success, because they allowed quick and cheap communication without the formality of the letter. Just one year after their introduction, in 1871, 75 million of them were sent. And there was none of today’s annoying postal delays: with numerous collections and deliveries every day, the recipient didn’t have to wait long to have the postcard in their hands.
The rapid expansion of the railways during Victorian times opened up travel to far more people, and the ‘traditional’ British seaside holiday became wildly popular. Unsurprisingly, postcard manufacturers followed this trend, printing cards with images of beaches, piers, donkeys and bandstands. People bought these both to send home, and also to keep as mementoes of their own holidays.
Although we send very few postcards nowadays, vintage cards are very much sought-after by collectors, as they offer a fascinating and accessible window onto a past age. This was a time when the postman delivered to households up to four times a day including Sundays, so you could send a friend a postcard saying that you would be coming for afternoon tea and it would arrive before you did!
This week sees a vast collection of postcards coming to auction at Keys in Aylsham, mainly dating from that early 20th century ‘golden age’.
Amassed by a keen Norwich enthusiast during the 1970s and 1980s, the collection comprises some 5,000 black & white and coloured cards in total. On many, the exact date that they were posted can be seen from the stamp cancellation mark to the backs.
Most of the cards show scenes from Norfolk and Suffolk, including an incredible 800 postcards of Great Yarmouth, with views of the Golden Mile in its heyday, with fashionable figures (many in hats) taking the sea air along the piers and jetty.
There are several which show the intriguing Great Yarmouth Revolving Tower. This 140ft ingenious piece of late Victorian engineering, built in 1897, was placed near the entrance to Britannia Pier. A metal cage holding up to 150 people revolved as it ascended and descended. At the top the occupants were afforded some wonderful views of the sea and the town itself. The tower was demolished in 1941 to help the war effort.
There are a further 70 cards in black and white and colour relating to the Yarmouth Fishing Industry including many of the herring drifters and the famous Scottish ‘ Fisher Girls’.
The City of Norwich is also well represented, with cards showing all the usual landmarks and many less well-known parts. Fifty postcards show the devastating effects of the Norwich Floods of August 1912.
For Norwich City football fans , there is a group of seven black & white cards depicting individual players and teams between 1905 and 1915, just a few years after the formation of the club in June 1902. A later card is signed by 10 members of the famous 1958 /1959 FA cup run.
There are also many hundreds of cards of other Norfolk towns and villages including Cromer, Sheringham, Fakenham, and idyllic views around the Norfolk Broads .
This is a collection which is really something to write home about, and it goes under the hammer in Keys’ Books & Ephemera Sale on Thursday 20th and Friday 21st April. Full details at www.keysauctions.co.uk