GWR postcards


Kenilworth Castle, WARWICK to Paddington in 2½hrs.
first published late 1898

Author's collection

It is believed that the Great Western Railway first started to sell postcards in 1898. This was a limited set of nine views of London landmarks which, with one exception, took the form of a vignette with space left for a message. The cards were 5⅛"x3⅜" and were printed by the short-lived Picture Postcard Company Co. Ltd. of London. This company is thought to have only operated between 1898 and early 1901. They went on to produce a second larger series of cards for the GWR. These cards were slightly smaller in size, being 5"x3⅛", and carried a half tone image surrounded by a decorative frame containing travel information, space for a message, and the railway company title. Along the bottom left edge was printed Picture Postcard Co. Ltd., 6 Draper's Gardens, London, E.C.. Our example also carries P.G.8. at the bottom right, although it is not known what this might refer to. These cards were probably sold in sets of six and were certainly available from postcard machines at principal stations. Several reference books suggest this second series of cards was produced in 1899, but our example bears a hand written message dated 1898 although the month is indistinct and the stamp with the date franking has been removed. This company is known to have printed cards of an almost identical style as this second series for the Joint South Western and Brighton Railway, and very similar ones for the Cambrian Railway.

In March 1904 the GWR issued 25 cards printed by Raphael Tuck and Sons. These cards featured the 'split back' which was now being allowed by the Post Office and were of the new 5½"x3½" size which was to remain standard for all future cards. These cards could be bought from automatic machines at two for 1d, or one pre-stamped for 1d. The series was published four times, with the fourth issue bearing the inscription 'Series 1'. These were followed by a new 'Series 2' in the October. All cards printed by Tuck bore their company device (an easel and palette) in the space for the stamp, and those in the second series also carried a small version on the front.

The next series was something of a departure being twelve coloured cards, sold as a set for 6d and lithographed by Messrs. Andrew Reid & Co. of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Published from March 1905, these cards were facsimiles of current railway posters. Series 4 consisted of 25 gravure views, but Series 5, the final one from 1905, was produced in colour and was sold for 1/- (one shilling) for the set. In the summmer of 1906 Series 6 appeared. This was a set of 12 photographic cards of various GWR locomotives. Series 7, published from July 1908 was another coloured set of 12, this time promoting 'The Cornish Riviera', again selling for 6d.

By the end of 1909, it seems that the first four series were out of print. 1910 saw series 8, 'Fishguard Harbour Port Of Call', a series of 24 sepia cards selling at just 6d a set. Series 9 consisted of 12 photographic cards of West Country views, which was followed in 1922 by a set of eight sepia etchings forming Series 10. Taken from the GWR publications 'The Cornish Riviera' and 'Glorious Devon' were a set of 24 views printed in gravure which formed Series 11 in 1924. The final numbered series appeared in 1924 to coincided with the publication of the large format book 'Cathedrals'. This comprised eighteen (possibly twenty) cards, each carrying lengthy descriptions on the address side, and some being over-printed to advertise the book.

There were a great number of individual cards published other than those highlighted above, some forming special series such as the 'Continental Ambulance Train' five card set from 1915. The Company also used several hundred different cards for correspondence purposes, being over-printed with standardised text to acknowledge receipt of a letter for example.

Any sizes quoted should be considered as being nominal as the actual sizes could vary slightly in manufacture.

The above notes and any lists should only be treated as an introduction, and although reflecting the results of our best efforts at research there may be many omissions or inaccuracies. With only limited exceptions, the postcards themselves were not numbered, but as some reference sources number the cards in their listings we have generally used the same numbering for consistency. Copies of all the postcards illustrated are held in our collection and are merely representative of the hundreds that were published by the Great Western Railway.

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