Saturday 31 July 2021

Industrial Revolutions, set, MS, and PSB - 12 August 2021.

Royal Mail's eleventh stamp issue of the year (twelfth if you count the Queen retail booklet as a separate issue) brings a well designed set for all it's muted colours.  A set of 6 stamps, a miniature sheet and another weird prestige stamp book are based around the Industrial Revolution, and the Electric Revolution.

Background (provided by Royal Mail)

The first Industrial Revolution, as it is often called, was based around the harnessing of water and steam power, the use of new materials, the expansion of textile manufacturing and the development of canals and railways, among other things. The Electric Revolution built on these advances but focused on the harnessing of electricity, which would bring sweeping changes in communications and daily life. This stamp issue celebrates the ingenuity and pioneering spirit behind some of the most notable inventions and scientific and engineering advances that enabled these ‘Industrial Revolutions’ to take place.  (A remarkable amount of detail has been provided compared with some other issues.)

The stamp set features a selection of 6 striking depictions of some of the ground-breaking inventions that defined the ‘Industrial Revolution'.

Set of six stamps issued 12 August 2021 marking the Industrial Revolution of the 18th/early 19th centuries. (Click on this for an enlargment).

Designs and background

2nd Class: Bessemer Process.  In the mid-19th century, wrought iron, produced by the hand-operated puddling process, was widely used for tools, nails and locks. ‘Steel’ meant carbon steel, made in small quantities and used in weapons and edge tools. Sir Henry Bessemer (1813– 98) discovered that blowing air through molten iron produced a violent exothermic reaction, and that the resultant metal, subsequently called mild steel, had most of the properties of wrought iron and could be produced on a large scale. In 1856, he patented the process in which iron was melted in a pearshaped ‘Bessemer converter’. 

Initially, Bessemer’s process could not be used with iron made from phosphoric ores, and an alternative means of making mild steel, the open-hearth process, developed by Sir William Siemens (1823–83) and Pierre Émile Martin (1824–1915), was patented in 1867. In 1879, Sidney Gilchrist Thomas (1850–85) patented the basic Bessemer process in which steel was made in a converter with basic (usually dolomite) linings. The Bessemer and open-hearth processes were widely used until the 1980s.

2nd Class: Watt’s rotative steam engine.  James Watt (1736–1819) was a Scots polymath best known for his role in the development of the steam engine. He was also a mathematician, a skilled surveyor and the inventor of an effective copying machine. His first contribution to the steam engine was the separate condenser, patented in 1769. John Roebuck (1718–94) of the Carron Ironworks invested in the patent and provided Watt with facilities to pursue his work. In 1774, when Roebuck encountered financial difficulties, Matthew Boulton (1728–1809) of the Soho Manufactory, Birmingham, bought his share of the patent and persuaded Watt to move to the English Midlands.
The partnership between Boulton and Watt to design and commission steam engines was formalised,
and the first engines were completed in 1776. Early engines were used for draining mines, blowing blast furnaces and recycling water to drive waterwheels to power machinery. In 1781, Watt developed an engine that could drive machinery directly using sun-and-planet gearing on the flywheel (later engines had cranks). Steam propelled the piston in both directions in his double-acting engine of 1782, and his parallel motion system of connecting rods between piston and beam was perfected in 1784. The ‘Lap’ engine, which dates from 1788 and is currently in the Science Museum in London, was employed for 70 years at the Soho Manufactory to drive 43 metal polishing (or lapping) machines, and it was the first to be fitted with a centrifugal governor.

1st Class: Penydarren locomotive.   Richard Trevithick (1771–1833) developed the use of high-pressure steam, in addition to being a pioneer in the application of steam power to road vehicles, railway locomotives and boats and designing the Cornish engine that was widely used to pump water for drinking and in mines. The son of a Cornish mine ‘captain’, he worked in Cornish mines from his teenage years and by 1796 was experimenting with high-pressure steam. He demonstrated a steam carriage at Camborne in 1801 and subsequently designed a railway locomotive at Coalbrookdale, which
was certainly constructed but may not have worked.
Trevithick was invited to build another locomotive by Samuel Homfray (1762–1882) of the Penydarren Ironworks near Merthyr. In February 1804, it pulled a load of 10 tons of iron and about 70 men a distance of nine miles (14.5km). While the locomotive was soon adapted as a stationary engine, which was scrapped in the mid-19th century, this was the first documented demonstration that a steam engine could travel on iron rails and pull a load.

If you think this is familiar, it featured on a special postmark for the 2004 Classic Locomotives stamp issue (although there are differences in the illustrations!).

Penydarren locomotive on 2004 special postmark.

1st Class: Spinning jenny.   James Hargreaves (c.1720–78), a native of Oswaldstwistle, in Lancashire, settled in the village of Stanhill near Accrington. He was a handloom weaver by trade but had carpentry skills. In the mid-1760s, he devised a spinning machine with a carriage that was moved outwards by the spinner, drawing and twisting the roving before moving back to wind the spun yarn on to rotating spindles. The machine came to be known as a spinning ‘jenny’, probably derived from a dialect pronunciation of the word ‘engine’, a term that commonly meant machine. Hargreaves built a jenny for his own use and subsequently sold several to his neighbours before gaining a patent in 1770.
There were 8 spindles on the first model, 16 on the version that he patented, and machines with up to
120 were built subsequently. Spinning jennies could be worked by hand or by horsepower. In the late 18th century, the textile industry developed by evolutionary as well as by revolutionary means. In Lancashire in particular, large numbers of ‘jenny shops’ were added to farmhouses at the same time that multi-storey, water-powered (and later steam-powered) spinning mills were being constructed. In the development of spinning technology, the jenny was highly significant as the first practical multi-spindle spinning machine, although it was gradually superseded for many purposes by the 1769 water frame of Richard Arkwright (1732–92) and the Samuel Crompton (1753–1827) spinning mule of 1779.
The spinning jenny produced only coarse yarns used as wefts, but it did enable increases in productivity. After encountering opposition to new machinery in Lancashire, Hargreaves settled in Nottingham, where he prospered modestly at a small mill in Hockley until his death but gained no reward for his innovation. In the East Midlands, the jenny was important for producing yarn for hosiery, and it remained significant in some sectors of the textile industry for a century afterwards.

£1.70: Lombe’s silk mill.  Silk manufacturing was the first sector of the textile industry in the United Kingdom to concentrate production in factories. In the early 18th century, the principal centre of silk manufacture was Spitalfields in London, but it was in Derby that Thomas Cotchett (1677–1713), a lawyer, built a three-storey mill housing silk-throwing machines. This 1702 venture proved unsuccessful, but one of his former employees, John Lombe (1693–1722), went to northern Italy around 1716 and after his return in 1718 registered a patent, jointly with his half-brother Sir Thomas Lombe (1685–1739), for a silk-throwing process similar to that he had observed on his travels.
The brothers subsequently built a five-storey mill, 110ft (33.5m) long and 39ft (12m) wide, in which throwing took place on large machines that extended through the lower two floors, while smaller doubling machines worked on the three storeys above. Power was provided by waterwheels driven by the River Derwent. It is often thought that the Derby Mill began work in 1721. It was the first successful water-powered, multi-storey textile factory in the United Kingdom, although there may have been Italian precedents for the building as well as the processes. The Lombes’ patent expired in 1732, and at least seven mills that functioned on the same principles were built in northwest England before 1765, including the enormous five-storey Old Mill at Congleton, which was 240ft (73.1m) long and 24ft (7.3m) wide.
The Derby Mill was celebrated in the 18th century and is described in detail in the journals of travellers who passed through the town on their way to enjoy the scenery of the Peak District. It must certainly have influenced the thinking of Sir Richard Arkwright (1732–92) and the Strutt family, who from the 1770s built pioneering water-powered, multi-storey cotton mills further upstream on the River Derwent at Cromford, Belper and Milford. The Derby Mill was destroyed by fire in 1910. It was rebuilt on the original foundation arches but with three storeys instead of five and now accommodates a museum.

£1.70: Portland Cement.   During the 19th century, builders used lime in their mortar, but by the 1890s they were more likely to employ a new material, invented in 1824 by Joseph Aspdin (1778–1855) and named Portland cement because of its resemblance to Portland stone. Portland cement is made from clay and some form of calcium carbonate, normally limestone or chalk; materials are mixed and ground, then fired up to 1,450 C in a kiln, where the lime, alumina and silica combine to form a clinker, which is cooled, mixed with gypsum to stabilise the cementitious compounds and pulverised in ball mills.
Rotary kilns, patented in the 1880s, increased the size of cement works. The development of the cement industry owed much to William Aspdin (1815–64), Joseph’s son, who in the mid-1840s established a works at Northfleet, Kent. The nearby Medway Valley became a major centre of cement manufacture. Portland cement was used by Marc (1769–1849) and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–59) in the Thames Tunnel, completed in 1843, and by Sir Joseph Bazalgette (1819–91), the builder of London’s network of sewers, who was convinced that it was essential if the sewers were to work efficiently and be long-lasting. Concrete made with Portland cement became one of the characteristic building materials of the 20th century.

The Miniature Sheet
Electric Revolution miniature sheet issued by Royal Mail 12/8/21.

2nd Class: Faraday generates electricity.   The British experimenter who contributed most to our understanding of electricity was Michael Faraday (1791–1867). In August 1831, Faraday demonstrated electromagnetic induction using lengths of copper wire insulated in cotton wrapped around an iron ring.

1st Class: Transatlantic cable.  An early use of electricity was in telegraphs, routed along railway lines from the 1830s. William Fothergill Cooke (1806–79) and Charles Wheatstone (1802–75) devised the system. Wheatstone designed instruments for land telegraphy and later for undersea use, but deep-water cables did not work successfully in the 1850s. The first transatlantic cable, laid in 1858, soon failed. The committee established to investigate the failure found that the cable used was of poor and variable quality.   With new procedures in place, the first successful transatlantic cable was laid in 1866. The original failure also prompted two of the Atlantic Telegraph Company’s electrical engineers, Latimer Clark (1822–98) and Charles Bright (1832–88), to call for the establishment of common electrical units of measurement, starting with a common unit of electrical resistance, which was eventually established in 1881

£1.70: Deptford Power Station.  Britain’s first alternating current, ‘central’ power station – that is, one supplying customers at a distance –was built at Deptford in London in 1888–89 by Sebastian de Ferranti (1864–1930). Its two generators and two 1,500-horsepower steam engines were subsequently replaced by turbines of the kind developed by Sir Charles Algernon Parsons (1854–1931).

£2.55: Light Bulb.  Arc lights provided spectacular demonstrations on such occasions as Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, when a 16,000-candlepower electric beacon illuminated Titterstone Clee Hill in Shropshire. The incandescent light bulb was developed in Britain by Joseph Wilson Swan (1828–1914), who was granted a patent in 1880 and opened a factory in Newcastle-upon- Tyne to make
bulbs that soon afterwards lit up the Savoy Theatre in London. Electric lighting systems were installed at stately homes, and from the 1880s electricity was used for street lighting and tramways.

Technical details

The 60 x 30 mm stamps are printed in se-tenant pairs in sheets of 30/60 by ISP in lithography with PVA gum.  1 phosphor bar on the 2nd class, two on the others.   Design is by Common Curiosity.  Acknowledgements and picture credits to follow.

The 115 x 89 mm miniature sheet contains stamps 41 x 30mm, with phosphor bands as above, printed in litho with PVA gum by ISP.  Also designed by Common Curiosity.  Picture credits as follows:

Faraday generates electricity – drawing of Michael Faraday’s demonstration © Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images;
transatlantic cable - woodcut symbolising the first transatlantic telegraphic message between the United States and Great Britain © Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo;
incandescent light bulb – drawing of Joseph Swan’s first commercial bulb © Science History Images/Alamy Stock Photo;
Ferranti’s AC dynamo – drawing of the alternating current dynamo by Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti © Granger Historical Picture Archive/Alamy Stock Photo.

Prestige Stamp Book

The PSB is another 'front and back' book continuing the theme of two revolutions, the industrial and the electrical.   The front cover shows the smokestacks of the Black Country, which is followed by three pages of text, separated by two panes of sheet stamps.  The other front cover (with the barcode) shows Joseph Swann's electrical workshop in Newcastle, followed by three pages of text, separated by a stamp pane which replicates the miniature sheet block, and a pane of Machin definitives.  Sadly to avoid increasing the price even more while providing a variety of stamps there is only one set, with four spare, but these are low value.  The Machins are 5p x2, 10px3, 20px2 and £1.70.  The 10p has already appeared in the Music Giants V PSB, and the 5p is a quite different shade to any previous 5p stamps, most closely resembling the one with inverted perforations included in the Merchant Navy PSB printed by Enschedé in 2013.

Industrial Revolutions PSB front cover.
Industrial Revolutions PSB back cover.

Industrial Revolutions PSB pane 1, 2 each 1st class & £1.70.
Industrial Revolutions PSB pane 2, 2 each 1st class & 2nd class.

Industrial Revolutions PSB 'miniaure sheet' pane.
Industrial Revolutions PSB definitive pane.

UPDATE 9 August: From Holland (thank you HR), reports of yet another PSB error, this time omitting the definitive pane entirely.  This was in a single book in a pack of 20, but others ought to exist.

Normal PSB (below), and one with a missing definitive pane.

All the products

Set of 6, miniature sheet, first day covers (2), presentation pack, stamp cards (11), prestige stamp book.

Because of the way the sheet stamps are printed, Tallents House will take orders for each individual stamp in multiples of 5.   Product codes should be:

2nd Bessemer AS7500D
2nd Watt AS7500E
1st Penydarren AS7500F
1st Spinning Jenny AS7500G
Silk Mill AS7500H
Cement AS7500J


  1. I like the look of the miniature sheet! Think I shall relieve my local main post office of both sheets they'll likely to have been sent! Probably will get some second class stamps as well.

  2. Thanks Ian, we have to rely on you for the info on issues, although it is advertised on the RM website you cannot pre-order at the moment or view the products how strange

  3. As a Black Country guy, born and bred, I welcome this, as you say, well-designed set. I do lament the absence once again of William Murdoch/k (no direct relation) and much prefer the orange highlights of the miniature sheet to the olive of the stamps. But great to see something other than a photo with The Queen's head stuck on it.

    1. I too shall be buying just the miniature sheet..if I can get to the post office before M has. It is useful to have the sheet around as it has the four stamps that we actually use. Oddly it was not displayed in Norwich Post Office as the insipid normal stamps were on 23rd July.

  4. This is the type of stamps I usually like charting a bit of our British Culture and History on stamps, immaculate detail and inventions and the colouring of the stamps depicts the past and feel of the scene in question.
    RM should consider doing a stamp set of famous stately homes, like Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, The Bronte Sisters etc etc.

  5. Royal Mail can't spell Oswaldtwistle (James Hargreaves, Spinning jenny)

  6. I have been keeping an eye on the RM shop to see if anyone notices the mistake, they have stated the size of the stamps on the miniature sheet as 60mm x 30mm, when in fact they are 41mm x30mm pretty poor I would say

  7. Just received my PSB maled to me in NY. Minature street pane not in my book!

    1. Please email pictures if you don't mind it being shown here and possibly wider. You won't be identified.


  8. I can't see a centre phosphor band on my pair of Second Class Industrial Revolutions sheet stamps received from Tallents House though it's clear enough on those in the Prestige Stamp Book.
    Might the band be very feint or is this an error ?


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