British Empire Exhibition - The Cancellations


This Exhibit provides examples of the cancellations used on mail posted at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924 and 1925, including the scarce "1925" machine cancellation, "1925.E" general handstamp and rectangular boxed "BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION" undated mark.

A temporary Head Office in the Palace of Engineering (re-named the Palace of Housing and Transport in 1925) and a temporary Branch Office in the Palace of Industry were set up to undertake all classes of normal Post Office business. There were 22 Post Boxes located around the Exhibition grounds [1].

Other than registered items, the mail was taken to the North West District Office in Eversholt Street, London NW1 for cancellation.

Machine cancellations

In 1924 a single "Hey Dolphin" machine with a special "Empire Exhibition 1924" date stamp and "Wembley Park 1924" slogan was used. As there was only one machine there was no code letter.

Post Office Minute 1433/1928 indicates that reserve machines "1924.C" and "1924.D" were installed at the Inland Section at Mount Pleasant in case the amount of mail from the late Saturday night collections was too great for the North West District Office to cope with. These do not appear to have ever been required.

According to Stitt Dibden [2], in 1925 "four machines were constantly in use" with the following codes: 1925; 1925 C; 1925 D and 1925 E, but Knight & Sabey (writing in 1984) suggest that "1925" and "1925 C" were used to a lesser extent, and that "1925 E" was believed to have been used but that no examples have been seen. Pearson [3] (writing in 1991) says that "1925" is scarce and that "1925.C" and "1925.E" were held in reserve and probably never used.

Handstamp cancellations

Handstamps were required to cancel ordinary mail that was too large to pass through the cancelling machine, or where postage stamps had been affixed other than in the top right corner of the envelope or card, and had therefore not been cancelled by the machine.

According to Knight & Sabey, four general handstamps were issued on 22 April 1924 to the North West District Office, with a further two issued to the Exhibition Post Offices on 2 July 1924. It is not clear why the Exhibition Offices required this general handstamp since they both had their own specific handstamps.

In 1925 the date was changed and four handstamps were issued to the NWDO on 19 March followed by two to the Exhibition Post Offices on 5 May.

Registered mail was accepted at the Exhibition Post Offices in the Palace of Engineering and Palace of Industry, both of which had their own named handstamps. According to Knight & Sabey, this registered mail was then taken to the District Office at Paddington [4], where a large oval rubber Registered handstamp was applied to the back of the item. This was not brought into use until early July 1924 and seems to have been little used in 1924. This handstamp appears to have been eventually used at the Palace of Industry Post Office.

A sub-Office was set up in the Stadium to deal only with Press Telegrams, and a special handstamp was issued to cancel the adhesives on those telegrams. Three covers are known with this handstamp: one sent unpaid to the Exhibition with the handstamp tying a postage due stamp; one Express Delivery dated 26 June 1924, and a registered cover sent on April 28 1924 with registration label BEE No 301 . There are no recorded examples of the Conference Hall handstamp.

A circular rubber handstamp was provided for small packets and newspapers in wrappers, and a rectangular boxed "BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION" undated mark was used on "dumb" registration labels.

[1] "The Lion Roars at Wembley" by Donald Knight and Alan Sabey - page 207
[2] "The selected works of W G Stitt Dibden Vol. 1 Wembley & Olympic Issues I The Stamps & Associated Postal Markings" published jointly by the Postal History Society and the GB Philatelic Society
[3] "Special Event Postmarks of the United Kingdom Volume 1: The Early Years" by George R Pearson published by the British Postmark Society 1991
[4] 1 have not found any evidence for this. Other than the special BEE Registered handstamp, the only oval registered handstamp that I have seen on Exhibition items is "REGISTERED / N.W.1", which is the NWDO at Eversholt Street London NW1, not Paddington.


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Machine Cancellations 1924
  3. Machine Cancellations 1925
  4. Machine Cancellations 1925
  5. Machine Cancellations 1925
  6. General Handstamp Cancellation 1924
  7. General Handstamp Cancellation 1924
  8. General Handstamp Cancellation 1925
  9. General Handstamps "1925.E." and "1925.F."
  10. Handstamp Cancellation Proofs
  11. Palace of Industry Handstamp
  12. Palace of Engineering Handstamp
  13. Palace of Housing and Transport
  14. Registered Handstamp
  15. Small Package Handstamp
  16. Palace of Housing and Transport Registration Label Handstamp