Film: 9127

Industry + Work | 1960 | Sound | Colour


History of the postal service 1960's

The film opens with a very scratchy image of a pillar post-box. Then an image of a hand holding an envelope which reads: This same enveloped drops on a doormat. The camera pans to a bowl of fruit. It pans further and a badly focused image of a figure at a table appears. The camera focuses and we see a woman sitting at a desk writing. She sits in a room which is lit by a candle. She is wearing what the commentary suggests is a 15th century dress. There then follows a close-up of the lady mending her quill pen and then writing. She picks up her letter and reads it. We then see a close-up of the letter. She puts the letter down on the desk, folds it and seals it with wax. Close-ups of her hands as she does this. Side profile of her writing the address on the letter. Close-up of her face. Close-up of her as the camera revolves round her and then settles upon the addressed letter which she holds up to read.

The film then cuts to a moving illustration of a white rose on the left and a red rose on the right (this depicts the war of roses). They move to opposite ends of the screen. Close-up still of a portrait of Henry VIII. Next a portrait of Sir Brian Tuke, the first master of the King's posts. The camera moves to the detail of his hands and the letter which can be seen on his desk.

Cut to a cartoon like still of the towers and battlements of a castle (it is virtually monochrome). Landscape behind the castle. The camera zooms in on a group of horsemen who are in a road outside the castle. Cut to a portrait of a merchant (again virtually monochrome). The camera zooms in and we can see that he is writing a note. Cut to an illustration (in primitive style) of a messenger with a horse.. Next a man in red velvet gloves unfolding a letter which is concealed in the bung of a beer barrel. The commentary says that this is a treacherous letter written by Mary Queen of Scots. Next a model depicting two people hung from a tree and official post boy, wearing a red coat, sitting on a horse and blowing upon a post horn. Cut to a scene of the hands of Elizabeth I resting on a letter and then stamping a huge seal. Then an image of hands opening a sealed letter with a knife. Cut to a monochrome engraving of Queen Elizabeth's court. Next a block and white still of a portrait of Charles I. Then a scene of a hand reaching into a chest and bringing out a coin.

Next a map of the South of England. In the next scene roads from London to: Dover, Yarmouth, Edinburgh, Holyhead, Milford Haven and Plymouth are shown on the map. Next is a scene of an Inn keeper in a leather apron, helping a post boy to unload a post bag from on horse to a fresh horse, before leading the mounted post boy away. The same post boy is then seen riding along a road, past a barn. There is then a scene of the post boy (or more accurately man) leading his horse through woodland. A boy is riding by the post man. The boy knocks off the postman's hat and the postman stokes his fist at the boy. Next scene; the Inn keeper enters a walled garden and hands a letter to a man in period costume who then pays him. Next a man who refuses to pay for letter, having recognised the handwriting on it. He unfolds a letter and reads it. A close-up reveals that it is written on both down and across. Next a close-up of a 'Roundhead' helmet. Then a scene of a man, in puritan style costume, writing a letter. A close-up shows that he has written upon it: The date '1650' and also 'W. Witchurch M.P.'

Then a scene of a scribe who has a plumed hat resting on his desk and who wears period dress with a lace collar. Close-up of the first 'hand-struck date stamp'. Next is a scene of a hand bill being nailed to a board: 'A Penny Well Bestowed…' Close-up of an index-finger painting at a map of London. The camera then pans to a 'penny post mark'. Next a scene of hands stamping letters. A judge banging a hammer on a desk. We can only see his hands but we can tell by his robes that he is a judge. Then we briefly see a contemporary print of a court scene. Then another map. A portrait of Ralf Allan, the post master at Bath - a Postal reformer. Then some more maps.

Next a contemporary drawing of a postman on his horse. Close-up of horses' hooves on a clay road. Next is a very faded image of a painting of a river gorge. Then a scene of a post coach travelling along a road, a man on a horse watches and then follows. An armed postman squinting and putting his pistols into a satchel which he puts on himself. A woman and a boy getting into a mail coach. A coachman runs and shuts the door before getting on the top of the coach. The armed guard then shoots his pistols in the air and the coach sets off. Scenes of the coach and the last coachman blowing his post horn. Next we have a close-up of the boy leaning out of the window and holding his tricornered hat. The woman is frightened by the speed. Close-up of a male passenger. Then follows various scenes of the coach and the coachman. There is then a scene of the mail being 'dropped and collected' without stopping.

Next we have a still of a contemporary coloured picture of a 'busy scene outside the GPO' in London. Close-up of another contemporary engraving. Cut to a still of a coloured engraving of men sorting post in a large hall. An acted depiction of a postman sorting letters as seen in the engraving. A still photograph of Robert Wallace M.P. Black and white still of a printing of a debate on the floor of the House of Commons (Victorian Blacks). Next scene is a close-up of a pamphlet by Roland Hill - 'Post Office Reform'. Then a dramatic depiction of Roland Hill explaining his 'Penny Post'. Next scene if his hands holding up a 'stamped letter wrapper'. The same two hands cuts a sheet of 'Penny Black using scissors. Then another scene of an actor playing Roland Hill. Next is a zoomed close-up of a document: 'Petitions for an Uniform Penny Postage…'. The actor playing Hill orating. He is superimposed over image of his petition. Various documents relating to the Penny Post. The last document we see has the words: 'For One Penny' highlighted. Then there are sounds of cheering and we see a hand raising a top hat in jubilation. The camera scans a colour engraving of a Victorian post office sorting station. Cut to a pile of letters. A hand picks some of them up and the camera zooms back to reveal an early Victorian postman sorting the letters. Next we see a hand sifting through the letters which bear the postage stamps of many nations. Hands opening a letter.

Close-up of a Brighton newspaper dated June 1840. A scene of a man in worker's clothes sitting at a table chewing a pencil, and writing in a book. On the table is a candle and the camera zooms in to show an envelope. We are told by the commentator that he is taking a correspondence course. A woman's hands unfold a letter. The camera first focuses on the letter and then draws back to show the woman who is wearing a black Victorian dress and a bonnet. The appears to be crying and she dabs her eye with her shawl. Stills of two paintings: One of sailing ships at sea, the other of a steam paddle ship. Next a rather childish coloured drawing of an early steam engine with coaches behind it. The camera pans over this. Then a scene of travelling post office railway carriage. A section of the side of this is 'cut away' to show the postman inside sorting mail.

The older Roland Hill working in his study. A Victorian postman delivering a letter to a house pushing it through the letter box). A hand working upon various designer's drawings of early pillar boxes. The elderly Roland Hill working in a large 'ledger book', closing the book and falling asleep. This is then followed by a scene of the exterior of Westminster Abbey and then close-ups of a statue of Roland Hill. Next a close-up of an early French postage stamp. Images of numerous franking marks in many languages, Penny Blue and Red stamps and finally of various stamps which commemorate the founding of the 'Universal Postal Union' in 1874. Then are various images of envelopes and stamps of many different countries.

Cut to a close-up of the 15th century woman who we saw at the beginning of the film. Then a still of an addressed envelope with a 1950's British stamp on it. Scenes of mechanised 1950's or 1960's sorting office. Scenes of rail train (c. 1950's or 1960's) and of a steam ship leaving port, and blue mail bags being loaded onto a Jumbo Jet. We finally cut to scenes of a postman delivering letters on a bike.

Alternative synopsis………

Opening shot, without introduction, of medieval lady writing to her husband 'at the wars'. Voice: 'no post office then' - special messenger enveloped letter is sealed and addressed (homes of places varied).

Henry VII had a private post office. In 1512, he appointed a Master of the Royal Mail. Recap of mounted messengers took letters to armies abroad in foreign countries. Unofficial postmen were forbidden - only Royal Mail could carry letters (danger of treason). Queen Elizabeth (still portrait) decreed that letters could be opened and checked. (First 'business' to be controlled by government). Still portrait of Charles I. He expanded Royal Mail to carry private mail as a mean of raising revenue. Map shows routes to Dover, Milford Haven, Holyhead, Yarmouth, Edinburgh and Portsmouth.

Innkeepers were also postmasters. Shot of post-boy changing horse with help of innkeeper. They were paid by Postmaster when rented the horses from the King. Post-boy seen setting off on horseback. Service was erratic - some post-boys were only 11 years old. Postage was paid by recipient. Shots of small boy on horse and man receiving letter from postmaster or innkeeper. Charge depended on distance and weight of letter. (Cross-writing to save paper).

After Civil War, 'franking' was introduced. Postmaster could sign letters and send them free. In 1660, the post office became permanent. Service was improved. Shot of date-stamp being applied. A private post was introduced in London - on penny, twelve ????6 daily. (Print of trial - this scheme was illegal). 'Penny port' was taken over by Royal Mail. Postmaster at Bath (wan Allan) developed service to minor towns and villages. As roads improved, coaches were used instead of riders. Shots of Mail Coach at a ????7, passengers climbing aboard, ????7 mail messenger. Coach sets off on country road - ????7, '????7 gallop'. Scene of mail being collected and dropped without stopping . (Bag held up on stick is snatched by coachman).

18th century, print of GPO in London. Methods were primitive - slow manual sorting. Mail was slow and dear. Print of House of Commons. M.P. for Norwich suggests reformed in 1852. In 1840, Rowland Hill reforms the system. Uniform rate - one penny everywhere. Postal stamps - 'Penny Black'. Proud of G.P.O. - much better - number of letters doubles in first year. Other countries copied the idea. Post became international. Scenes of poor people, now able to send and receive letters. Prints of earlier trains and steamships which have carried mail. Travelling post offices - mail sorted on trains.

Shot of Rowland Hill in the post office. He divided London into postal districts. All doors now had letter-boxes. Pillar-box (old print) was introduced from France via Jersey by Anthony Troleope. Rowland Hill (in old age) writing at his desk. Picture of Westminster Abbey - Hill was buried there. (Photograph of statue of Hill). In 1824, the Universal Postal Union was formed to help with International Mail. Shots of mechanical sorting of letters. 26,000,000 letters a day. Shot of express-train, carrying mail, of ship leaving harbour and of plane (BEA) loading mail. Postman seen cycling to cottage and pushing letter into letter box.

Mixture of 'reconstruction' and old prints to illustrate development of post from medieval times. Picturesque scenes of galloping horses, coaches and riders.

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