This Christmas we explore the different depictions of angels that have appeared on British stamps.

Due to the huge number of Christmas cards posted in the UK, inland and abroad, Christmas stamps are widely circulated. Resulting in millions of people viewing an artist’s designs. Each year Royal Mail alternate between secular and religious themes with angels featuring prominently in stamp design throughout the years.

Biblical Stories

A stamp card depicting a stamp of the annunciation featuring an angel kneeling in front of the Virgin Mary.

15p, Christmas 1979, Stamp Card, 1979

Artists have often portrayed scenes from the Bible. The above image by Fritz Wegner illustrated the story of the Annunciation, where the Virgin Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel, who tells her she will conceive and give birth to a son called Jesus. The white lilies held by the Angel Gabriel and those in the vase next to the Virgin Mary represent her purity.

Musical Instruments

Two stamps showing green angels playing musical instruments. One is playing the mandolin and the other the flute.

Angels playing musical instruments, 8½p, Christmas 1975 & 30p, Christmas 1998

Angels are believed to be the messengers of God, often depicted expressing this through song or the playing of musical instruments. The top image was produced by Richard Downer in 1975, where the angel is surrounded by a sweeping band of material that appears to flow with the sound of the music. The below image by Irene von Treskow instead surrounds the angel playing the flute with the gold beams of a halo.

Children’s Art

A stamp which depicts a child's painting of an angel flying above a landscape with a blue sky and gold stars.

18p, Christmas stamp by Lucinda Blackmore, 1981

In 1981 the honour of designing that year’s Christmas stamps fell to children. The competition was organised by the television show Blue Peter with the winners’ designs becoming issued stamps. Lucinda Blackmore, aged 6, was one of the five children to have their image chosen. Lucinda’s angel flies above a snowy landscape adorned with gold halo and serene smile.

Children’s Nativity

A stamp depicting two small children dressed as angels with wings on their backs.

41p, Christmas Nativity Angels, 1994

For many children who attend Christian schools, the nativity play is a Christmas tradition. Practised for weeks the children enact the story of the birth of Jesus for friends and family. The above stamp, designed by Yvonne Gilbert, depicts two children dressed as angels, whose angelic faces complement their roles.

Stained Glass

A stamp depicting the figure of Angel Gabriel in stain glass with a bunch of white lilies.

18p, Angel Gabriel, St James, Pangbourne, Christmas, 1992

Stained glass is often used in churches to illustrate biblical stories, where the natural light illuminates the characters and scenes. This design of the Angel Gabriel can be found in the church of St James in Pangbourne, Berkshire. It was produced by Karl Parsons, a member of the Arts and Crafts Movement which sought to raise the importance of craftsmanship.

Christmas 2020

This year’s Christmas stamps don’t depict any angels (sorry) however they do return to the theme of stained glass, celebrating the stunning windows of Anglican Churches around the country.

From all of us here at The Postal Museum we wish you a safe and Merry Christmas.

– Georgina Tomlinson, Deputy Curator of Philately