NEPA History

A Brief History of the North East of England Philatelic Association.

Founded 1903

The information that follows is drawn from the programme for the 54th NEPA Convention, held in 2003. It was put together from the minute books of the Association 1903-1953, and various other documents, which have survived more or less intact.

Part 1 – 1903-1923

The story begins in 1903, when a group of philatelists in the North East decided to try to form the first philatelic society in the region. The following circular was distributed.


Philatelic Society and Exchange Club


Newcastle and District

A meeting of Stamp Collectors interested in the formation of such a Society, will be held in the Committee Room of the Y.M.C.A. Newcastle on Thursday evening December 10th at 7.30. Messrs Geo. B. Bainbridge and T. D. Hume and other well known Philatelists have promised to attend. I will esteem it a favour if you will kindly endeavour to attend.

Yours Faithfully

Mark Easton, Secy pro tem.

The minutes of this first meeting are as follows:

A meeting of Stamp Collectors interested in the formation of a Philatelic Society for the North of England was held in the Committee Room of the Y.M.C.A. Newcastle on Thursday Dec. 10th. 1903 at 7-30.m. There were sixteen gentlemen present and Mr. G. B. Bainbridge was unanimously elected Chairman.

Mr Easton briefly gave his reasons for issuing the circular and said that some twenty gentlemen had promised to join a Philatelic Society if one was formed on a sound basis. The Chairman warmly advocated the formation of a society, as such would prove a great benefit to collectors and assist them in the pursuit of their hobby. He also generously promised to be responsible for the rent of the meeting room for the first twelve months.

It was then unanimously agreed n the motion of Mr. C. M. Forster “That a Philatelic Society be formed for the District”. Mr Mark Easton was appointed Secretary and Treasurer. Mr. G. B. Bainbridge was elected Chairman and Mr. C. M. Forster Vice President and the following gentlemen were elected as a committee: Dr Parkinson and Messrs W. J. Cochrane, W. Doig, I. R. McDougall and W. A. Wilson Jr.

Various names for the Society were suggested, and finally it was agreed that it be “The North of England Philatelic Society”. It was agreed to leave the drafting of the rules to the Committee. The meeting discussed various points vis, age limit, Lady members, Dealers as members, pricing of stamps, turn in seeing the packet, etc, etc, the recommendations will be found embodied in the rules.

It was agreed that the Committee meet each month at 7p.m., half an hour before the general meeting. That members see the first packet in turn according to the value of the sheets they send to the Secretary. This being with a view to making the first packet a good one.

It was agreed that as soon as the Rules were drawn up by the Committee, a meeting should be held to consider, and if approved, adopt them.

A vote of thanks to the Chairman concluded the meeting.”

…and so it was that NEPA was born

The minute book records the Committee meeting held in December 1903 with Mr. C. M. Forster in the chair, in which the rules were drawn up. It seems that the rules of the Birmingham Society were adapted to suit the requirements of the North of England, though there is no record of what was changed or why. It is also recorded that various suggestions brought forward at the first meeting were embodied in the Rules. The first general meeting was held on the 17th December when the rules were accepted and six new members were elected. It was decided that the first monthly meeting proper should take place on Thursday January 7th 1904 and members were asked to bring sheets to the meeting. These sheets were to form the first exchange packet.

The first meeting proper was held on January 7th 1904 in which business was transacted, new members elected and a display was given. The first member to give a display was Mr. T. D. Hume, who showed Ceylon, New South Wales and great Britain, the later including reconstructed plates of the !d Black.

At the next committee meeting, it was agreed that a regular Syllabus be drawn up for a new season starting in October. It is worth noting that from the January packet (which completed its circuit of members in March), stamps to the value of £43 2s 5d (£43.12) had been sold, representing 14% of the value of the packet.

Members at the meeting on February 4th 1904 agreed that an Auction of stamps should be held on May 5th and at the following Committee meeting it was agreed that 10% should be charged to vendors, 5% to go to the society and 5% to the auctioneer!!!

The first Annual general meeting was held on October 6th 1904 at which it is recorded that the Hon. Secretary was awarded an honorarium of two guineas for the work he had done.

And so ended a very successful first season.

Running a packet seems to have been no easier in the early part of the last century than in this one. The minutes of 1905 stated that it was unanimously agreed that a 5 shilling (25p) fine be enforced in the case of a member who omitted to see that the December packet was Registered. Also in 1905, the Secretary stated that it was impossible to insure the Packet against fire while on circuit except at a prohibitive premium.

The “Press” came in for criticism in 1905 too. The Secretary records that they had a good advertisement in the press but that …the reporters, not being stamp men, rather mixed some of the prices and descriptions! Nothing changes.

The Society was obviously keen to expand its activities. In 1905, the decision was taken to form a Forgery Collection and in November 1906 a Library was formed, with the Secretary being granted £5 to spend on books in the next year.

A Special Committee met on Thursday May 21st 1908 to discuss and approve the holding of an exhibition in March 1909. This turned out to be an outstanding success as this account shows-

The great event during the past year however, so far as this Society is concerned, was the holding of most successful exhibition in the Academy of Art, Blackett Street, Newcastle on March 26th and 27th. We agreed to extend an invitation to several well known collectors in the Kingdom, and a fine response was made, the result being an Exhibition of £10,000 worth of stamps representing some of the finest specialised collections in the country.

Also in the Report for 1908/9 there is a paragraph which reads In February last, the Manchester Philatelic Society held a big Exhibition at which some of our members exhibited and were awarded Diplomas. A Philatelic Congress was formed, and Messrs W. J. Cochrane and W. Waite Sanderson attended as representatives of our Society. This reference is to the first Philatelic Congress of Great Britain. It is also the first mention of members of NEPA gaining awards for displaying their material.

In the meeting of February 3rd 1910, the Society elected its 100th member. It was also at this meeting that the first unsuccessful attempt was made to raise the subscription from 2/6 (12.5p) to 3/6 (17.5p), with those against the motion claiming that the Balance Sheet did not suggest any need for this.

The first Junior night took place on January 19th 19911 and 19 schoolboys turned up. The report states the Junior Night passed off most successfully and the enthusiasm shown by both members and boys fully justifies repeating the experiment at a future date. The highlight of the 1912 season appears to have been a visit to the Newcastle General Sorting Office, at which “A new American Sorting machine” was seen. This cancelled letters at the rate of 700 per minute with a miss rate of only 1 in 200. Membership reached a peak of 122 during the season.

The decision taken in 1912 to host Congress in Newcastle in 1915 had to be postponed due to the First World War. Newcastle actually hosted the Seventh Congress in 1920. Although this was a great success in many respects, financially it was not. A deficit of £281 is recorded, although set against this is the value of the frames that had been purchased for the event – a total of 430 frames valued at £300. In 1923 two members (W. J. Cochrane and B. Goodfellow) were invited to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists – the first from the North East to achieve this honour.

Part 2 1924 – 1944

A proposal was made in 1924 that …there should be sections of the Society in various towns in the North of England, the present society being the parent Society to the Branches. It was hoped this would lead to a large increase in membership. Sunderland was the first of these, holding its first meeting in November 1924. A total of twenty members were enrolled, of which 10 were new to the Association. Darlington Society followed soon after, with Shield Society being formed in 1926.

In 1935 it was agreed that a badge of office for the President should be purchased and a design incorporating a Penny Black stamp was finalised. This badge of office was awarded for the first time at the close of the 1935-1936 season. Whilst the North of England Philatelic Society had staged exhibitions from time to time, a permanent display was established in the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle in 1937.

With the coming of the Second World War, came the suggestion that meetings should be held on nights with a full moon, due to the blackout! In 1943 war also broke out between the Shields Society and the parent body, which led to a Special general meeting in March 1944. It was at this meeting that rule changes were brought in that brought about the situation that has existed until the present day. The motions passed were as follows-

    1. That the North of England Philatelic Association be reorganised as an Association of Societies as from the next Annual meeting.
    2. That the proposed Rules, as enclosed, be adopted.
    3. That the funds of the Association shall remain the property of the Association.
    4. That the Exchange Packet shall be run by the Association, and all profits paid into the Association’s funds.
    5. That a Newcastle upon Tyne Philatelic Society should be formed.
    6. That the library shall be transferred to the Newcastle upon Tyne Philatelic Society.
    7. That those members of the North of England Philatelic Association who are not members of the Darlington, Shields or Sunderland societies, shall become members of Newcastle Society unless they give notice that they wish to be members of any other societies.

Part 3 1945 to the current date

During the 1940’s there was a rapid growth in the number of Associated Societies including those established at Berwick, Blyth, Reyrolle, Gateshead, Middlesbrough and Stockton.

In 1950 the first NEPA Convention was held in Gateshead and a second one was held in the following year in Berwick. This proved to be an outstanding success and conventions became an annual event. Also at this time, plans were set in motion to host the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain at Whitley Bay in 1953.

In was in 1953 that complaints were raised from affiliated societies regarding the capitation fee paid to NEPA. The grievance was that members of the Association resident in Newcastle and district were able to enjoy extra meetings at the expense of the affiliated societies. This led to the changes in the Constitution of the Association in 1954, including the following-

The affairs of the Association would be managed by a Committee consisting of the secretaries of the associated societies, who would elect from their own number a Chairman, who was not to remain in office for more than two consecutive years.

The committee would also elect from all members of the Association a President, and a Deputy President annually, who would be ex-officio members of the Committee. Nominations for the last two officials are invited from all societies.

The voting power of each Society was made more equitable that had been previously, with one vote being allowed per 50 members or part thereof. The Competitions were also overhauled and put on a “Society” basis, divided into four sections: (A) to December 31st 1911, (B) from January 1st 1912 to date, (C) Thematics, (D) Individual Junior competition. Four trophies were immediately donated; these being The Robert gill Rose Bowl, The James D. Todd Jubilee Cup, The James Vasey memorial trophy and the Spouse Shield.

There was a further big expansion in membership during the 1960’s, with several new societies being formed, including those at Durham, Hexham and Redcar. Berwick and District Philatelic Society m which had folded in the late 1950’s, was re-formed in 1972 and is continuing to meet at the present time. Regrettably the re-birth of the society at Berwick has not been repeated elsewhere, as a number of societies have closed within the last 25 years. All is not gloom however, as several Specialist groups have appeared on the scene. The Postal History Group was started in 1971, The Germany and Colonies Tyne Tees Regional Group was established in 1976. The North East Thematic Group made its appearance in 1990.

So what other recent developments have occurred? Certainly NEPA has established itself nationally over the last ten years or so. The National philatelic Congress was hosted in the region in 1992 and again in July 2003. The region also played host to Germania twice in the 1990’s, thanks to the Germany and Colonies Tyne Tees Regional Group. The association is also currently well represented on the Association of British Philatelic Societies.

So far as the NEPA programme of events is concerned, auctions have again become a regular part of the programme and various workshops have been held. The number of classes for the Inter-Society competitions has now risen to eight senior and two junior classes. A newsletter for members was established in 1990 and hopefully the new editor will be able to continue to develop this publication with the enthusiasm of members in the region and ensure that its contribution to organised philately in the North East is not lost.

As to the future who knows? Declining membership numbers at local level is a cause for great concern and there seems to be few new members taking up the hobby. But let’s end this potted history on a positive note – NEPA has been through bigger dips in its membership that this in the past, and has gone on to become stronger. As long as there are philatelists in the North East, NEPA will be there to serve their needs.