Wednesday 4 November 2020

Christmas 2020 - Stained Glass Madonna & Child from around the UK - 3 November 2020

The media coverage of Royal Mail's 2020 Christmas stamps - delayed until the stamps were actually issued - was less than they might have hoped, probably in view of the latest developments and pronouncements by the UK Government on the Void-19 pandemic.  But as the stamps are now issued, we can now record their designs and subjects here.

The stamps in detail

2nd class Adoration of the Magi (detail) from St Andrew’s Church, East Lexham Norfolk

1st class Virgin and Child (detail) from St Andrew’s Church, Coln Rogers, Gloucestershire

£1.45 Virgin and Child (detail) from the Church of St James, Hollowell, Northamptonshire

£1.70 Virgin and Child (detail) from All Saints’ Church, Otley, Leeds, West Yorkshire

£2.50 The Holy Family (detail) from St Columba’s Church, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire

£2.55 Virgin and Child (detail) from Christ Church, Coalville, Leicestershire 

The stamps are also issued in an ordinarily gummed Miniature Sheet

Technical details and acknowledgements
The stamps were printed by International Security Printers in gravure in self-adhesive sheets, of 50* stamps per sheet.  Perforation: 14.5 x 15. (*it is normal for Christmas stamps to be printed in the same format as definitives, ie without a central gutter.)

Miniature sheet size: 179mm x 74mm. Stamp sizes standard 24mm(w) x 28mm(h), Large Letter 34mm(w) x 28mm(h).  The sheet is probably printed in litho on paper with water-activated gum, although this has not been stated by Royal Mail.

Acknowledgements: 2nd class St Andrew’s Church, East Lexham © Peter J Hatcher/Alamy Stock Photo; 1st class St Andrew’s Church, Coln Rogers © Colin Underhill/Alamy Stock Photo; £1.45 the Church of St James, Hollowell © Alastair Carew Cox/Bridgeman Images; £1.70 All Saints’ Church, Otley © Alastair Carew Cox Bridgeman Images; £2.50 St Columba’s Church, Topcliffe © Alastair CarewCox/Bridgeman Images; £2.55 Christ Church, Coalville © Colin Underhill/Alamy Stock Photo.

Other products include retail booklets of 12 x 1st and 12 x 2nd class stamps, printed in gravure...

... and the usual unnecessary litho-printed self-adhesive Generic Sheet - continued because Royal Mail think that customers want them, even though the original justification was to provide collectors with a cheap alternative to the relatively expensive customised Smilers stamps - a service which is no longer available and so for which there is no need for a cheaper(!) alternative.  As usual there is only one set of stamps per sheet but there may well be provision for these in some pre-printed albums and associated catalogues.

Other products: First day covers (2), stamp cards, presentation pack.

Special Postmarks: we understand that the November Postmark Bulletin has not yet arrived at Tallents House for distribution to subscribers.  Special handstamps for this issue can be seen on Royal Mail's website here.

Distribution problems:  several people have reported problems with obtaining some or all of the stamps from PO branches on the day of issue.

UPDATE 9 November

Because of new lockdown restrictions in various parts of the UK Special Handstamp Centre deadlines have once again been extended indefinitely.  This applied to Christmas, Star Wars and probably early 2021 issues.

UPDATE 10 November. The following detail is taken from a Royal Mail press release, via the (US) Virtual Stamp Club website because Royal Mail have not put the information on their own.

2nd Class stamp Adoration of the Magi
Location: East window of St Andrew’s Church, East Lexham, Norfolk. This is an Anglican church, dedicated to Saint Andrew and is one of 124 existing round-tower churches in Norfolk. It is thought to date from circa 900AD and said to be one of the oldest in England.

The Window: Mid-19th century stained glass, believed to have been made by Clayton & Bell in c.1859 – the designs adopted the gothic style of the 15th century in keeping with the perpendicular east window. The east window depicts scenes relating to Christ’s birth and death. The upper tier shows Christ carrying the Cross, The Crucifixion and Christ being taken down from the cross. The lower tier shows events related to Christ’s birth – the annunciation, Adoration of the Magi, and the presentation of Christ in the temple.

1st Class stamp Virgin and Child
Location: St Andrew’s Church, Coln Rogers, Gloucestershire. This is an Anglican parish church and is dedicated to Saint Andrew. It is often described as being rather unique, as it has a Saxon nave and chancel which have survived almost intact. It dates to the mid-11th century.

The Window: The three main lights of the east window of the church, dated c.1865 and made by the studio of Heaton, Butler and Bayne, focus on nativity scenes (including the Shepherds, Mary and Joseph with the Christ child and the three Magi). In the central light (from which this is a detail) Mary cradles the new-born Christ child.

£1.45 stamp Virgin and Child
Location: Church of St James, Hollowell, Northamptonshire. The Church of St James was built in 1841 in the gothic style, and is known for its beautiful stained-glass windows in the eastern apse of the chancel, and the rose window above the west door.

The Window: Chancel apse, south east window designed by Henry Holiday (1839-27) and made by J Powell & Sons, 1863. This is one of three lancet windows in the apse of the chancel. Each lancet window features a single narrative panel contained within a quatrefoil set against a background of decorative painted foliate grisaille (in the manner of the 13th century, decorated style). The north-eastern window depicts the Baptism of Christ, the central the Crucifixion, and the south-eastern (as pictured) shows the Virgin Mary and Christ child within the stable. The brightly coloured pieces of flashed ruby glass, and turquoise, blue, pink and purple tones demonstrates the wide variety and high-quality of the glass made at Powell’s glassworks.

£1.70 stamp Virgin and Child
Location: All Saints Church, Otley, West Yorkshire. The first church building on the site was Anglo Saxon but only the foundations from this early church remain. A Norman church was built over them in the 11th century and this forms the present-day chancel. It was enlarged in about 1240. Further additions and modifications took place during later centuries, Including the installation of a number of stained-glass windows by various makers in the Victorian period.

Window: This window is from a two-tier three light window in the South Transept of the church. The lower tier main lights show the Nativity with the Crucifixion in the upper tier above. It was manufactured by Clayton & Bell and installed in 1862. This image is the central scene of the Nativity. In the centre Mary is seated and holds the infant Jesus on her knee.

£2.50 stamp Detail of the Holy Family
Location: St Columba’s Church, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire. St Columba’s is the parish church of Topcliffe, near Thirskand the present building dates from the 13th century and was largely rebuilt by railway architect George T Andrews in 1885.

The Window: This well-known window is one of two windows located on the south side of the chancel of the church. The window is divided into three lights, showing three scenes in the life of Mary which also relate to the birth of Christ. On the left is the Annunciation, in the centre panel are Mary and her cousin and the panel on the right shows the Holy Family – Joseph, Mary and Jesus. This detail is from the scene of the Holy Family. It was designed by Michael Halliday and manufactured by Lavers & Barraud c.1860.

£2.55 stamp Virgin and Child
Location: Christ Church, Coalville, Leicestershire. The church was built between 1836 and 1838, with a west tower, large nave, transepts, chancel and vestry added later in 1936.

The Window: Whilst most of the glass is Victorian there are also three modern windows, which include the North chancel lancet window of the Nativity. The scene focuses on the virgin and child, with the ox and donkey watching over them (c. 1976). Harry Harvey (1922-2011) worked during the latter part of the twentieth-century producing stained-glass in a distinctive modern style. He died in 2011.

Thanks to Lloyd A. de Vries for posting this information


  1. I don't think I will be buying (m)any. The little post office around the corner has the 1st/2nd + large in, showing the 1st class off to me as I went in to buy add-on postage.

    The stamps do look a bit brighter and cheerier than the last stained glass Christmas issue, 2009. I was hoping for a more secular issue (alternating, as has been the case in recent years).

    1. I don't have any official information but, as our American friends say, "I think that ship may have sailed".

  2. Did anyone else have problems actually getting the stamps yesterday? Main local P.O., two minisheets, no stamps, closest sub-post office had the stamps but would not sell as had not appeared on computer screen (might take until 5th November to appear......!), second sub-post office and only values to £1.70, main P.O. 10 miles away had stamps but no minisheets.

  3. I think that the secular issue each year should be designed by kids, What's not to like about any of the ones we've had previously. The 1966 Xmas set is still as fresh today as it was then in my eyes. Having said that the 1981 set shows that the kids do a pretty good job with religious themes as well What do others think?

  4. A few weeks ago my PO had received their 'quota' and being shown the 'pack' they felt there were insufficient quantities particularly of the 2nd class. They did not believe they would get any more in time for Christmas so they were ordering additional supplies of normal 2nd just to be on the safe side. Doug (Enfield)

  5. I received a set of PHQ cards. (Must be one of the few that still likes them) Sadly, two of card 5 but no card 7. So far unable to get in touch with HQ to sort. May be worth othwers double checking their sets if they have ordered any.

  6. These are not bad as Xmas issues, better than some of the past, rather likeable. My local delivery person was explaining their management was in a tizz because of Covid but having to deal with the extra workload for Xmas as well as all the extra parcel work that came there way during the last lockdown.

  7. Still waiting for FDC's from RM which were posted on 02/11/2020. Have been told I have to wait 30 days before I can report them missing and then a further 21 days from reordering. RM snail mail service.

    1. Good job they've extended SHC deadlines.
      Amazing when you consider they usually arrive on (or before) the day of issue. We had ours nearly a month before that; it gets very complicated and we have to be careful not to use any early for postage!

    2. Back in the day when our local PO had a friendly postmistress, I recall her complaining that she had been criticised by POC auditors for having too much value in her safe. The problem was that she was sent special issues well before release date, but obviously wasn't supposed to use them so had to order ordinary definitives alongside them!

  8. My shop account as of this morning shows(checked by phoning the Philatelic Bureau) my FDE's haven't even been posted out to me.

  9. Thank you for the fuller details of the windows, including the Makers and Designers.
    Duncan McColl

  10. The 2nd class design has also been used as a fake stamp business paid impression (or whatever the correct name is), by Salvation Army, C9 10018

    1. Just to clarify, if this is the same as other stamp like Printed Paid Impressions, known by Royal Mail as Digital Postage, they are NOT fake in the accepted sense, philatelic or general.

      If, on the other hand, you are saying Richard that Salvation Army are not allowed to use this impression, then that is a different matter.

    2. Sorry, I didn't make myself clear and would apologise to the Salvation Army if I have caused inadvertent offence.

      I meant that it is printed to look like a stamp, but it isn't a stamp. If you want to change the word "fake" to "lookalike", I'd be quite happy.

  11. Cannot understand the post office. Posting cards abroad this morning "Can I have Christmas Stamps on these please?" "What... not labels?" "No, Christmas stamps please" "Oh, that means I'll have to go and get them then" Clerk disappears to another counter tutting. Really don't know why they bother printing them if the staff are reluctant to use them.


Thank you for reading the blog and commenting: please use an identity (name or pseudonym) rather than being Anonymous; it helps us to know which 'anonymous' comments are from the same person to avoid confusion. Comments are moderated to avoid spam, but will be published as soon as possible.