Following on to our last post (no pun intended) here’s a wonderful book on the late great W. Reginald Bray (1879-1939) called “The Englishman who posted himself and other curious Objects” by John Tingey. It’s currently out of print but is available on Amazon for a nice price.
Before Christmas I knew nothing of the man (who resided at one time not 15 minutes walk from where I now live) who challenged the great british postal system and an early pioneer of mail art (not that the term or concept existed at the time).
The book is a lovely read if you want to get to know all about Reginald’s postal exploits and see some of the excellent artefacts (crocheted envelopes, starched shirt collars and a postcard with an address written in sealing wax amongst other oddities) that went through the postal system and also some of the autographed postcards he collected (he was known as “The Autograph King. Unchallenged”). What I love is that the original postbox outside his house in Devonshire Rd, Forest Hill where he used to post some of his artefacts still stands (and still in use).
As an ex-postman and a lover of graphic art this book is well up my street and one well worth investigating! More on W. Reginald Bray here. P (Pic below: examples of some mail art from my own collection but sadly none from the great man himself.)
Being an ex-postman and a lover of all things letter and stamp related, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a lovely story on the BBC website (here) about one of the earliest purveyors of mail art who lived not a million miles from where I reside.In the early days of the General Post Office the rules of what actually could be sent by the postal service were flexible to say the least and were tested by a few people. One of the best known was W Reginald Bray from “Devonshire Road, Kent” an accountant by day but in his spare time made it his job to challenge the postal system to the max. Some of his proudest moments included posting himself (on not one but three occasions), sending a potato with the recipient’s address cut into the skin (with stamp affixed) and even his Irish Terrier Bob wasn’t spared a trip through the post. He was an keen autograph collector too, sending out thousands of requests by postcard to all sorts from Pericles Diamandi, The Human Calculator, Ken “Snake-Hips” Johnson, the Jazz band leader who died at Cafe De Paris during the Blitz in March 1941 and the English Clown Whimsical Walker. They must have loved Reggie Bray at the local post office.
Sadly the delivery office in Devonshire Road where he would have carted his strange postings to (that must have delighted the postmaster and workers there) has now been turned into flats (above).
On the road are still a couple of the old Penfold style postboxes and amazingly enough the one outside number 135 where he lived for 10 years is still there and it would be lovely to think that the Post Office have left it there as a tribute to the great mail artist. If you’re ever in the area do stick something in that postbox and you’ll be secure in the knowledge that something far more bizarre has possibly been popped in there! P #SE23localhistory #Wreginaldbray #Mailart
More on W Reginald Bray with lots of pictures of his postcards and other wonderful curios here and what looks like a great book about him called The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects by John Tingey (and cheap as chips on Amazon by the way). Also thanks very much to John for supplying the press cutting about the potato (where you can make out the bottom line of the address as Forest Hill). #Foresthillpostedpotato
By the way as it’s that time of year Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year to all from London In Your Lunch Hour!