Little Gems of the Postal History of the Great Exhibition of 1 851. Number 3.

The Wilson, Walker & Co. Envelope of 1853.


Fred Peskett.


            Although the envelope shown below was posted on May 9th 1853 there is no doubt that it is associated with the Great Exhibition of 1851. On the front of the envelope is an embossed green shield with the conjoined heads of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in white on a red circular background. “PRIZE MEDAL” is above the heads and “1851” is below the heads. In a red scroll under the shield is CLASS XVI, this was the group under “MANUFACTURES” for Leather (including saddlery and harnesses) Skins, Fur and Hair. A fancy embossed flap seal on the back of the envelope has a blue crest for Wilson, Walker and Co. Leeds. Spanish Leather Works.



            Wilson, Walker and Co. won a Prize Medal for their display of finely carved leather goods, including saddles, upholstery and leather bags. The company was obviously so proud to have been awarded a medal so they had this envelope produced to advertise the fact. So far it is the only example known to have survived, yet the company must have had many hundreds if not thousands printed to send to their clients and probably, competitors as well!.

            The envelope is addressed to Richard Poppleton at the Bermondsey Leather Market, London who was a leading supplier of tanned leather in this country at the time of the Great Exhibition

            I am afraid that there is no “good fortune” about the way this one came into my collection, other than the fact that it came my way via a very contorted route.

            It was about fifteen years ago that I had an important phone call from George Simner who had been to Stampex during the day, he had spotted a couple of Great Exhibition Engraved Letter Heads on one of the dealer’s stands, he enquired the price, and thought that 1 may be interested, George gave me the dealers telephone number, always game for a new piece of G. B. Postal History, I gave the number a ring, only to find the dealer lived and worked from the Isle of Wight, just twenty minutes away.

            I arranged to hop over the Solent on the Hovercraft to Ryde to meet the dealer and have a look at the Letter Heads, for which the dealer had not just two, but a dozen different ones! The day was foggy, the Hovercraft was cancelled, so I had to make a dash over to the Isle of Wight Passenger Ferry by taxi, this was also cancelled but the car ferry to Fishbourne was still running, the car Ferry is a long way from the Passenger Ferry, but I managed to make it with a few seconds to spare and was still able to get to see the dealer at the appointed time!

            Needless to say, I purchased all of the Letter Heads, then the dealer produced this Wilson, Walker and Co. envelope, I had visions of a re-mortgage on the house but the price I was quoted was very reasonable at £10. I would have loved to have seen the contents of the envelope. Were Wilson, Walker & Co. congratulating Richard Poppleton on the supply of top grade leather, or was it “Look what we’ve got”?


© Exhibition Study Group 2013