Monday 20 July 2020

Palace of Westminster - 30 July 2020

First details of the 30 July issue for the Palace of Westminster, were given in the July issue of Royal Mail's Philatelic Bulletin.  We can now show the images and provide all details.

It's disappointing that Royal Mail's write-up of this issue doesn't cover the site's use as a Royal Palace, which would more correctly tie it in to the 'Royal Palaces' series which has included Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Hampton Court Palace.

Background, edited from Wikipedia

The Palace of Westminster site was strategically important during the Middle Ages, as it was located on the banks of the River Thames. The site may have been first used for a royal residence by Canute the Great during his reign from 1016 to 1035. St Edward the Confessor, the penultimate Anglo-Saxon monarch of England, built a royal palace on Thorney Island just west of the City of London at about the same time as he built Westminster Abbey (1045–1050). Thorney Island and the surrounding area soon became known as Westminster (a contraction of the words West Minster). Neither the buildings used by the Anglo-Saxons nor those used by William I survive. The oldest existing part of the Palace (Westminster Hall) dates from the reign of William I's successor, King William II.
The Palace of Westminster was the monarch's principal residence in the late Medieval period. The predecessor of Parliament, the Curia Regis (Royal Council), met in Westminster Hall. Simon de Montfort's parliament, the first to include representatives of the major towns, met at the Palace in 1265. The "Model Parliament", the first official Parliament of England, met there in 1295, and almost all subsequent English Parliaments and then, after 1707, all British Parliaments have met at the Palace. 
Because it was originally a royal residence, the Palace included no purpose-built chambers for the two Houses. Important state ceremonies were held in the Painted Chamber which. The House of Lords originally met in the Queen's Chamber, a modest Medieval hall towards the southern end of the complex.  In 1801 the Upper House moved into the larger White Chamber which had housed the Court of Requests.
The House of Commons, which did not have a chamber of its own, sometimes held its debates in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey. The Commons acquired a permanent home at the Palace in St Stephen's Chapel, the former chapel of the royal palace, during the reign of Edward VI. In 1547 the building became available for the Commons' use following the disbanding of St Stephen's College.

Royal Mail write-up

Following a catastrophic fire in 1834, most of the medieval building was destroyed, and a competition held to find architects for a new building. Charles Barry was appointed, and The Palace of Westminster underwent a dramatic rebuilding programme lasting 30 which was finally completed in 1870. It features more than 1000 rooms in the Gothic Revival style designed by Barry with additional work by Augustus Pugin. The building is a complete statement of this rich architectural style.

Barry’s design has a pioneering emphasis on the use of space and located the two chambers of Parliament and main rooms on the same floor – which are still in use today. It is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, and symbolic of the UK and democracy. It is also technically still a royal palace.

The Royal Mail stamp issue in 2020 will mark 150 years since the completion of the ambitious rebuilding, with a ten-stamp set. This follows the pattern of our series of stamps on iconic buildings[§], with six sheet stamps exploring the iconic external appearance and the most famous chambers - the House of Lords rich in decoration with red and gold, and the House of Commons is plainer oak and green seating – a colour scheme copied by other parliaments around the world.

§ Comment: this implies that other buildings which are not primarily regarded as royal palaces may also be marked with stamp issues.

The stamps

1st Class: View from Old Palace Yard; River Thames view; Elizabeth Tower.
£1.68 Commons Chamber; Central Lobby; Lords Chamber.

The set was designed by Steers McGillan Eves, and is printed in litho by ISP (Cartor).  The 60 x 30 mm stamps are printed in se-tenant strips of 3, but the size of the sheet is not stated.

Acknowledgements: View from Old Palace Yard © Peet Simard/Getty Images; River Thames view © Olavs Silis/Alamy Stock; Photo; Elizabeth Tower © Tim Graham/Alamy Stock Photo; Commons Chamber and Central Lobby © David Levene; Lords Chamber © UK Parliament.

The Miniature Sheet

The miniature sheet explores four of the grandest and most historic interiors of the rebuilt Palace.
1st Class Norman Porch; Chapel of St Mary Undercroft;
£1.63 St Stephen’s Hall; Royal Gallery.
The background shows a longitudinal section through the Palace of Westminster designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin.

The sheet was also designed by Steers McGillan Eves and also printed by ISP Cartor in lithography. The 35 mm square stamps are in a sheet 192 x 74 mm.

Acknowledgements:  Norman Porch © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images; Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, St Stephen’s Hall and Royal Gallery © UK Parliament; longitudinal section drawing, 1850 © RIBA Collections

Set of stamps and miniature sheet, two first day covers, set of 11 stamp cards.
Presentation pack, press sheet of 12 miniature sheets.  Set and MS mounted in a frame.

All products are now available for pre-order on Royal Mail's website.

Although they are in the minority among collectors, certainly in the UK, creators of maximum cards will be pleased that the stamp images reflected in modern cards are those on the 1st class stamps.   There are cards of the interior, but not as common.   Here are some I made earlier.  I won't be making any for sale this time around due to other commitments.



  1. Why do Royal Mail keep producing mini-sheets which are too wide to display on a conventional A4 album page horizontally ? I quite like the stamps though.

    1. Probably because the designers are not philatelists.

    2. A 192 mm miniature sheet is 7½ inches wide which allows for over ½ inch each side - however this does not allow for any binding margin or punch holes.

      The Senator and Simplex Medium albums are wider and were the standard for many years until people started using heavy printer/photocopy paper for their collections. These had the advantage that they fit into a standard computer printer, unlike the album pages.

      It's a matter of choice, I suppose. One could always use stockbooks?

    3. Was there a time the designers were philatelists?

  2. I use the what were SG Windsor albums, the pages of which come pre-printed, the miniature sheets always take up a whole page displayed diagonally, a bit of a waste of paper but I have no choice

  3. I bought the stamps today. I went to the post office after 2pm. They hadn't even got them out of the safe, but still had a few Queen first class stamps left. Relieved them of the two miniature sheets they had and one sheet of first class (left them with another sheet of 1st and the £1.68 - I am not that greedy).


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