Wishing the merriest of Christmases to all the Market’s many customers, traders and friends! Please remember that we’re closed tomorrow. However, we look forward to seeing you all again when we reopen for the first market of 2022 on New Year’s Day!
A slice of TV history will be at the Market this Saturday as Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria flies the red flag above his stall. It is no less than the film prop as seen in the iconic BBC series Peaky Blinders. Bearing the name of the Birmingham Bordesley Communist Party, it was used at a graveside scene towards the beginning of Season 2 Episode 1. An official script from the same episode will also be available and this is a great opportunity to own, or just be photographed with, a fantastic collectors item.
Although there is every justification to regard the first British Christmas stamp as the ‘Letter Stamp’ issued to British forces stationed in Egypt in 1935, the first issue of what became an annual tradition owes its birth to Tony Benn. In 1966 Benn was Postmaster General and he included a set for Christmas as one of the special issues allowed by convention.
The Post Office decided that the design would best be sourced through an open competition for schoolchildren. On 1 December of that year Tasveer Shemza’s King of the Orient and James Berry’s Snowman were officially issued as Christmas stamps. Never very collectible because of the huge numbers which are printed, they remain a key part of the postal service’s revenue because of the numbers of Christmas cards which are still sent.
Although the discovery of a Rosicrucian greeting sent to James I in 1611 can technically be regarded as the first Christmas greeting message, Christmas cards in a form we would easily recognise have a more credible origin in 1843. Clearly not someone who liked to leave it to the last minute, Sir Henry Cole commissioned the printing of 2,050 in May of that year. They all sold for a shilling each and a festive tradition (and a new industry!) was born.
In fact, Cole’s new idea was rooted much more firmly in commerce than sentiment – he had played a significant part in the introduction of the Penny Post just three years earlier. The design by John Horsley was a typical Victorian trope: three generations of a family joyfully toasting the health of the recipient. While subsequent years would build on the idyll of large, happy – and often very wealthy – families celebrating together in front of an extravagantly fuelled fire, there were a number of very unusual, even dark, offshoots which would surprise us today.