Talking of the Battle of Hastings and its connection with Penge, as I was in my last post: on a recent visit to the Oxfam shop in Rochester I picked up a packet of miscellaneous postage stamps which included this lovely little item:-
This is the fourpenny stamp which was part of the special set issued in 1966 to mark 900 years since the Battle. I remember this stamp well. It came out on 14th October, the anniversary of the Battle, and I was 11. Something about the lovely little image taken from the Bayeux Tapestry, its colour and movement, appealed to me and stuck with me, and I recognised it immediately years later in Rochester.
It also moved me to dig out my equally wonderful King Penguin about the Bayeux Tapestry.
Published in 1943, this was part of a series of beautifully neat and meticulously designed small hardbacks, put out by Penguin during and after the War. King Penguins were part of the wartime drive for democratic self-education. They were edited by Nicolaus Pevsner, the German émigré who went on to teach us about our own architectural heritage with his guides to the Buildings to England.
One of the great things about King Penguins is their use of colour. At a time when publishers were subject to War Economy Standards, which governed the quality of paper, ink and bindings, I really don’t know how Pevsner or Penguin got permission to splash out on colour reproductions: maybe they convinced someone somewhere that a bit of colour would be good for morale. Whatever the truth, it’s the colour that made – and makes – King Penguins special. So – in glorious wartime colour – here’s King Harold receiving news of the comet that betokened an upheaval in the state and the advent of William …
One last thing. 1966, the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, was exactly 50 years ago. 2016 is the 950th anniversary: not as iconic as the 900th, perhaps, but certainly significant, and even poignant, given that this is also the year when we’ll be voting on EU membership. Food for thought.