Wednesday 3 June 2020

Roman Britain stamp issue - 18 June 2020

Ahead of the embargo date, large glossy pictures of the Roman Britain stamps have been published in Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin, and so I am providing details here.

In case you think the title of this issue is familiar, there was an earlier set (of 4) with the same title, issued in 1993. That one included sculptures, a mosaic and a carved gemstone, but they had a common theme in that they were all heads/portraits.

In common with so many stamp issues these days, the current set features photographs, this time of landmarks and artifacts.  True there is a variety, and a common theme of Rome in Britain, but nothing in the design links the stamps.

2nd class: Dover Lighthouse; the Goddess Venus Mosaic at Bignor
NOTE: on the actual Dover Lighthouse stamp the caption reads:
"The UK's tallest standing Roman build"
This affects the entire printing and is due to a production error.

1st class: Caerlion Amphitheatre; horseman's helmet from Ribchester

£1.63 Distance slab, Bridgeness Antonine Wall; Statuette of Warrior God, Cambridgeshire.

£1.68 Carving of Gorgon's head, Aquae Sulis, Bath; Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland.

Background (from Royal Mail)
This set is a celebration of Roman life and culture in Britain.

• The Romans successfully invaded in the year 43, and assimilated much of the country into a Roman province introducing their culture and technology, with 10km* of roads linking new towns such as London, and building villas, theatres, bathhouses and even shopping malls. They introduced large scale building with stone, as well as their gods and, later, Christianity. They even gave us the name ‘Britain’.

• Archaeologists can piece together the extent of the Roman impact throughout their occupation. An extraordinary wealth of evidence remains of sites and artefacts, from the large, such as Hadrian’s Wall and remains of amphitheatres and villas, to the smaller including mosaics, and intricate metalwork and statues.

• Royal Mail have worked with the British Museum in the development of an 8-stamp issue which demonstrate the sophistication, technical brilliance and artistry of Roman Britain, through important sites and artefacts.

• Two of the items are preserved by the British Museum, a ceremonial cavalry helmet and a small metal statue of a warrior god. Both will be on show at the British Museum in a special display to mark the stamps.

* According to Wikipedia, the Roman's constructed approximately 3,200km (2,000 miles) of paved roads in Britain.

Technical details & Acknowledgements
The se-tenant pairs of stamps in four values have been designed by Up, and printed by ISP/Cartor in lithography. The stamps are 35 x 37 mm.

Dover Lighthouse © Chris Howes/Wild Places Photography/Alamy Stock Photo; Bignor mosaic © RGB Ventures/SuperStock/Alamy Stock Photo; Caerleon Amphitheatre © Skyscan Photolibrary/Alamy Stock Photo; Ribchester helmet © The Trustees of the British Museum; Bridgeness distance slab © National Museums Scotland; Warrior god, Cambridgeshire © The Trustees of the British Museum; Gorgon’s head, Bath © Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo; Hadrian’s Wall © Roy James Shakespeare/Getty Images

The usual products will be or are available from the Royal Mail webshop - set of stamps, presentation pack, first day cover, stamp cards.

Royal Mail's first day of issue postmarks are for Tallents House (as usual) and Colchester, which is an important Roman garrison town but which doesn't feature on the stamps at all.

As indicated in an earlier post, only two special postmarks have appeared in the latest Postmark Bulletin, but we are now able to show two late announcements which are on the Royal Mail website.

So the places covered are Dover (per the 2nd class stamp), Bath (per the £1.68), Brampton, Cambridgeshire (£1.63), and St Albans and Colchester which don't feature on the stamps.


  1. My order has arrived, but the caption on the 2nd Class stamp of the Roman lighthouse at Dover says "The UK's tallest standing Roman build", instead of "building". Is this a common error? Should I contact the stamp dealers and make a booking for a round-the-world cruise when the lockdown ends?

    1. Hi Alan,

      Royal Mail have confirmed that a production error means that all the Dover Lighthouse stamps show the word 'build' instead of 'building'.

      So I am sorry, no cruise for a while!


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