The Malta Postal Museum, Valletta
The Malta Postal Museum is located on the Archbishop Street in Valletta, just next to the famous pub called “The Pub” where the English actor Oliver Reed had his last drink. The Malta Postal Museum currently stands as #3 attraction out of 101 things to do in Valletta on TripAdvisor straight after the Lascaris War Rooms and St. John’s Co-Cathedral, which is already promising something a great experience.
The postal service in Malta dates back to the sixteenth century. The very first Maltese postage stamp was invented in December 1860. It’s known as the ‘Halfpenny Yellow’ and it was valid for the local postage only. All postage stamps issued since this very first one are displayed here, together with other important historical items such as letters, postal artefacts and so much more! So let’s start the tour!
Once you enter the postal museum, the very first thing you’ll see is this postman’s bicycle. The bicycle was designed by UK-based company Pashley. In the 1970s Pashley was contracted by the UK postal service to build postal delivery bicycles. It’s worth mentioning that the Royal Mail had the largest bicycle fleet in the Western World at that time. This particular bicycle was used by Maltese delivery postmen.
In the back you can see the English Pillar Box with E.II.R cipher. This pillar box was originally situated in Old Collage Street in Sliema and returned to MaltaPost in 2005 when it was no longer needed. Pillar boxes came into service in the UK in the early 1850’s and in Malta in 1860 with the first group being erected in Valletta, Floriana and Sliema.
The Malta Postal Museum spreads over four floors. We’ve just left the ground floor and entered the first floor (both stairs and lift are available) where you can find the stamps collection from 1860 – 1974, a diorama to give you an idea what a post office looked like in 1950’s as well as Richards Ellis photo exhibition documenting the ‘post office life’ in those days. But let’s start from the beginning.
Most parts of the post office diorama are originals. The wooden part of the counter is from the Sliema post office, the two-part marble counter was used in Birkirkara and Hamrun post offices. The upper part of the counter, both wood and glass, is a reproduction based of a photographic evidence.
On the first floor you can find a complete stamp collection from the 1860 to 1974 including the very first stamp ever issued in 1860 – the Halfpenny Yellow with the image of the young Queen Victoria.
Very interesting is also Richard Ellis’ photo exhibition. Mr Ellis was born in London on January 27, 1842. He landed in Malta in April 1861 at the age of 19. In 1871 he opened his own photographic studio in Valletta. His business flourished and nowadays his photographic collection is the most comprehensive pictorial record of Malta during the Victorian and Edwardian periods.
Below you can see two of his photos, the first one represents a launch that used to collect mail consignments from the ships in the Grand Harbour, which included a post officer and two labourers. The second photo shows a sorting room with a large amount of mail bags and inspection tables. The sorters (white uniforms) divided letters for local delivery into 12 classes, which were then inspected by two non-uniformed officers, which were the mail inspectors.
Every floor also have an interactive screen where you can learn more about certain exhibited artefacts. On the second floor you can apart from the stamp collection from 1975 to 2000 also find letter from the Pre-Order period, the Order time, the British Period, time of WWI, when Malta was known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean and WWII.
Below (A) is the third earliest recorded letter from Malta. It was written August 1576 in French and it’s informing the French King about the liberation of French Knights captured by Turks in a naval skirmish. (B) is letter that dates back to 24 May 1758 and it’s considered to be very fine and rare. (C) This letter is from 26 March 1778. You can read more details about all the exhibited correspondence in the museum, so I’m not going to reveal too much. 🙂
In the World War I (1914 – 1918) Malta played a decisive part. The island was the main operational station for the French Mediterranean fleet, a major prisoner of the war camp as well as a hospital and convalescence post to the British Forces.
In the display above you can see some great examples of letters and post cards from that period of time. Just to mention few (A – top left) is a 1914 registered letter to England which was opened under Martial Law and resealed with a label and four wax General Post Office / Malta seals. (B – second top left) is a rare post card to Austria from a prisoner of war Max Rothschild. (J – postcard with the nurse), this post card was sent from Fort Chambray in Gozo, where the regiment was recuperating, to England. It is dated January 1916.
And now we’ve entered the very last 3rd floor. And what can you see here? You can look forward to a stamps collection from 2001 – 2010 (above) as well as a wooden model of the Gozo mail bus, a model of the SS. Gleneagles ship that was carrying mail twice-daily between Malta and Gozo as well as passengers for a fee. There are also couple of letterboxes on display, just like the one below. This is Comino Letterbox, which was situated on the island of Comino and in the post-war years served just 60 inhabitants.
And now it’s time to make your way back down. Before you leave the museum, don’t forget to check out the Museum Shop, where you can find a waste range of souvenirs from pencils, pins, bookmarks, badges, notebooks, soft toys to stamp collections and so much more.
And the best things I like to leave for last! 🙂 The Malta Postal Museum offers the unique service of producing your very own stamps! You can either email them your own photo, which I did there and then, or they can take a picture of you. It only took 5 minutes and for 10 customized stamps of €0,59 value (Europe) you pay €9,90! I think this is a great and original souvenir which will make your holiday post cards from Malta unforgettable! I couldn’t resist and I did mine too! Now I just have to think, who will be the lucky one to receive one of them! 🙂
Also I shouldn’t forget to mention that the adult admission to the museum is €5, children pay €2 and pensioners €3.
And here is the usual GoogleMap with the exact location of the Malta Postal Museum, so you can find it easily. 🙂