A Postal History Collection of Great Britain by Gerald E. Wellburn, 1938

Gerald E. Wellburn, RDP, FRPSL, FRPSC, OTB, (1900-1992) of Victoria and Duncan, British Columbia, was an early member of the Vancouver Island Philatelic Society, and became its Honorary President.

He was a very enthusiastic collector – and always enjoyed sharing the pleasures of his hobby. While not now with us to participate in the fun of philately, Gerry might be amused that his collection can now be viewed worldwide, using a medium not invented until after his death.

This website (created with support from the Gerald E. Wellburn Philatelic Foundation) illustrates material that he collected and loved. Here I have selected pages of his “Postal History of Great Britain”.

While Gerry sold other specialized collections of his British and Canadian stamps in the 1960s and 1980s, this particular collection was retained and treasured. He recorded that it was shown in Victoria to Sir Thomas Gardiner, Director General of the Post Office of Great Britain, in July 1946.

Gerry acquired and assembled these documents, coins and letters in the 1930s and 1940s. All are mounted on album pages which Gerry crafted using pen and ink in a beautiful style – a trademark of his research and showmanship.

Gerry noted this result was no longer a stamp collection, but a record of the British Postal System. Nearly eighteen centuries are spanned by the collection and the rarity and quality of the items reflect on Gerry’s diligence and interest.

A boyhood postage stamp collector, Gerry soon moved into postal history after emigrating from Yorkshire, England to Victoria, British Columbia in 1911. His interest in stamps and postal history of his new home led Gerry to gather philatelic treasures of British Columbia – which he built into an internationally recognized exhibition collection.

Gerry’s legacy includes memorable presentations and generosity to many fellow collectors and societies. But his historical interests and legacy were not just about philately. After building a successful logging and sawmill business, by the 1940s he began collecting early logging equipment including steam trains. Gerry even operated a real steam locomotive on his private mile of track near Duncan – the “Glenora Western Railway”.

Also, he founded a museum – now the BC Forest Discovery Centre. It recognizes his private efforts to select, collect and preserve early logging machinery. Automobiles also caught Gerry’s eye; his collection included a rare 1902 Holley, in which he and his son Vern shared a 1973 adventure in the famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

Gerry provided encouragement and funding to support philately on southern Vancouver Island. Since 1992, the Wellburn Philatelic Foundation has helped volunteers lead school programs, stamp exhibitions and youth philately and literacy activities through Victoria area libraries.

I thank the owner for this opportunity to share these wonderful items – as Gerry presented them – before they are dispersed. Members of local stamp clubs may recall seeing some of these pages about 35 years ago.

I enjoyed Gerry’s tales about material from centuries earlier as he passed his pages among fellow members of the Vancouver Island Philatelic Society. As our guest speaker, Gerry always held his audience captive with his excitement and a sense of history. Following pages tell the story, and I hope these notes help those who never met Gerry understand the scope of his interests.

Selected References On Early British Postal History

This listing may help those interested in further reading about early postal systems. All these books are accessible and some may be obtained through public library systems – the internet provides opportunities to purchase copies. Each book pursues a different path and includes additional sources of information in its Bibliography.

Beale, Philip. 1998. A History of the Post in England from the Romans to the Stuarts. 284 pp. ISBN 1-85928-404-3.

Beale, Philip. 2005. England’s Mail Two Millenia of Letter Wrting. 320 pp. ISBN 0-7524-3491-8. (This is a revised and enlarged version of the preceeding book).

Beale, Philip, A. Almond and M. S. Archer. 2011. The Corsini Letters. 224 pp. ISBN 978-1-4456-0085-7.

Willcocks, R. M. 1972. The Postal History of Great Britain and Ireland, A Summarized Catalogue to 1840. 80 pp. Printed by Woods of Perth, Scotland.

Willcocks, R. M. 1975. England’s Postal History to 1840 with Notes on Scotland, Wales and Ireland. 167 pp. ISBN 0-9502797-1-4.

By Peter Newroth August 2013.


Originally this was only a collection of the postage stamps of Great Britain.

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