It's 50 years since England's football team won the World Cup. Curatorial Assistant Georgina tells the story through our stamp collection...

I know close to nothing about football, and what I do know comes from watching ‘Bend it Like Beckham’, so I thought in this 50th Anniversary of our country’s greatest footballing achievement, I should use my world of stamps to get a better understanding of how and why we won that year.

The 76p stamp from The House of Windsor Miniature Sheet, 2012

Group Stages:

England were pooled in Group 1 for the tournament along with Uruguay, Mexico and France. It was not the greatest of starts for England, who drew their first game 0-0 against Uruguay. England are in fact the only World Cup winners not to have won their opening game.

All but one Group match was played at Wembley Stadium, except for France vs Uruguay which was moved to White City Stadium, due to the Friday game clashing with a scheduled greyhound race meeting. Wembley Stadium had its own stamp issue in 2007 when it celebrated its reconstruction on the site of the 1966 victory.

The New Wembley Stadium Miniature Sheet, 2007

The New Wembley Stadium Miniature Sheet, 2007

Quarter-Finals & Semi-Finals:

The quarter finals saw England beat Argentina 1-0, with the only goal being scored by Geoff Hurst, who undoubtedly had the tournament of his life.

All the teams that made it through to the semi-finals were from Europe, with England taking on Portugal for a place in the final. England’s semi-final game was supposed to be played at Goodison Park, however due to the sheer number of fans, the game was moved to Wembley, which had a larger capacity. The final score was 2-1, with both goals being scored by Bobby Charlton and the only conceded goal coming from a hand ball by his brother Jack. Bobby Charlton was included in the ‘Football Heroes’ stamp issue from 2013, with portraits produced by Andrew Kindsman.

Bobby Charlton, 1st NVI, Football Heroes, 2013


England’s final game – on the 30th of July 1966 – was against West Germany, who incidentally had competed with England to host the Championships six years earlier. Wembley Stadium was packed with 93,000 fans and around 400 million people watched around the world. At the end of 90 minutes the game was a tie at 2-all and went to extra time.

The Presentation Pack Cover along with the 1st NVI and 50p Stamps from World Cup Winners, 2006

It was in the 98th minute when Geoff Hurst struck the most debated goal of the tournament, hitting the crossbar and bouncing over the line. Without goal-line technology it was down to the Swiss referee and the Soviet linesman to make the decision. Awarding the goal, the match played on, seeing Geoff Hurst score again 15 minutes later to secure the title.

With the final whistle the stadium erupted with celebration, leading to the legendary words by commentator Kenneth Wolstenhome: “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over… It is now!” Bobby Moore would later go up to the Royal Box to collect the solid gold Jules Rimet Trophy from the Queen.

Bobby Moore, 1st NVI, Football Heroes, 2013 and World Cup, 26p, Millennium Series, The Entertainers Tale, 1999

The below 1966 World Cup stamps are the work of David Gentleman, a prolific stamp designer during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Gentleman’s initial designs were not accepted by the Stamp Advisory Committee, though were still shown to the Queen and picked for the 4 pence value.

With England’s victory during the tournament a celebratory stamp was issued, though because of time constraints, the only change that could be made was to add ‘England Winners’ to Gentleman’s original design.

David Gentleman’s designs for the 4d 1966 Football World Cup, and the stamp reissued in August of that year to celebrate England’s victory

It seems that Euro 2016 wasn’t for England, but maybe by 2018 we will have a team ready to take on all comers in the World Championships in Russia. Until then, we can appreciate the immense achievement of the 1966 team, to play the world and win. Hopefully history may soon repeat itself…

– Georgina Tomlinson, Curatorial Assistant (Philately)