The British Postal Museum, April Fools day and the Man who posted himself...

What may you ask do these three things have in common? The answer is Willie Reginald Bray (1879-1939) an Edwardian accountant but also eccentric prankster for whom the postal service was one extended April fool.

Tempted by the pillar box outside his home in the leafy suburb of Forest Hill and the postal service regulation rule book, W. Reginald Bray, as he liked to be known, embarked on a lifetime's quest to challenge the rules by testing the system which he did by posting an extensive and imaginative variety of unwrapped articles in his letter box. He addressed an onion, a shirt collar, a rabbit's skull, a bowler hat, a purse, a slipper, a penny, a turnip, eventually his Irish terrier and himself (not together) earning himself the name of 'the human letter'.

He did not stop at objects. He sent postcards crocheted by his mother. He made out addresses in cryptic verse or to the inhabitants of empty caves or describing only the latitude and longitude of the destination or with a picture of the location to which the article was meant to be delivered. Over time, his fascination for posting objects changed to amassing the worlds largest collection of autographs solicited via the post. He acquired thousands this way and is purportedly responsible for annoying Adolf Hitler whose autograph he sought four times but without success. By the time he died in 1939 Bray had sent out more than thirty two thousand postal curios and autograph requests.

All this and more can be found at the British Postal Museum and Archive which is planning a new home at Mount Pleasant on the site of the country's oldest mail centre, not far from its existing home at Freeling House nearby. Family history information can now be found about ancestors who worked for the post office particularly if they were in receipt of post office pensions. For genealogists and those investigating the lives of their ancestors there has never been such an enlightening time to research a family history or a family tree.

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