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The Historical Exhibit of Letterboxing Patches

Dartmoor Badges:

The tradition for associating patches with letterboxing is definitely something we Americans inherited from our Dartmoor predecessors. Godfrey Swinscow established the very informal 'Dartmoor 100 Club' in 1979. At the time, there were exactly 101 letterboxes in Dartmoor, and Godfrey had found them all. He says it simply occurred to him that "people like to belong to clubs," so he and his wife, Anne, designed a simple green and white cloth "badge" as an award for those who, like himself, had qualified for membership by finding 100 Dartmoor letterboxes. (Please note that the British tend to prefer the word "badge", since they consider a "patch" to be something you would use to repair a hole in your trousers.)

In her book, Dartmoor Letterboxes, Anne Swinscow points out that, "other than [the badge] the club does not exist." There is no club constitution or membership fee, and there are no official meetings or club officers. (However, they do publish an annual catalogue of Dartmoor letterbox clues.) A local newspaper, the Tavistock Times, once referred to Godfrey as the "unofficial president of a club that doesn't exist." The title stuck, and he has even received mail addressed as such. Godfrey has since retired from his unofficial role, and has turned the operation of the Club over to other dedicated volunteers. But he is still very much involved in the hobby, and continues to keep records of every letterbox in Dartmoor.

Meanwhile, the "rucksacks" (backpacks) and jackets of many Dartmoor letterboxers are adorned with various badges from the 100 Club, as well as many other embroidered awards and commemoratives. This page shows some examples.


Dartmoor 100 Club Badges: The most significant badges associated with the Dartmoor letterboxing scene are still those from the Dartmoor 100 Club. Godfrey and Anne's original green and white design is still used to signify 100 finds. Later, blue and gold color variations were produced as awards for 200 and 500 finds, respectively. Finally, more elaborate designs with metallic thread were created for letterboxers with 1000 finds or more. We are very grateful to the 100 Club (especially Stephanie and Roger Paul, as well as Godfrey and Anne Swinscow) for allowing these highly coveted badges to be displayed in the Historical Exhibit of Letterboxing Patches.

100 Dartmoor Letterboxes
Badge provided by: The Dartmoor 100 Club.
200 Dartmoor Letterboxes
Badge provided by: The Dartmoor 100 Club.
500 Dartmoor Letterboxes
Badge provided by: The Dartmoor 100 Club.
1000 Dartmoor Letterboxes
Badge provided by: The Dartmoor 100 Club.
2000 Dartmoor Letterboxes
Badge provided by: The Dartmoor 100 Club.
3000 Dartmoor Letterboxes
Badge provided by: The Dartmoor 100 Club.

             4000 Dartmoor Letterboxes

             Badge provided by: The Dartmoor 100 Club.

             5000 Dartmoor Letterboxes

             Badge provided by: The Dartmoor 100 Club.


Other Dartmoor Letterboxing Awards: Over the years, some Dartmoor boxers eventually managed to reach incredible milestones that were not anticipated or acknowledged by the 100 Club. Once several dedicated letterboxers had managed to log over 10,000 finds, they began to enquire about the possibility of commissioning a special badge for this accomplishment. A talented local seamstress and fellow letterboxer named Sylvia Vanwin (of "The Navigators") came to their rescue. She now produces badges to commemorate 10, 20 and 30 thousand finds. She also makes badges that celebrate some of the most remote and historical letterboxing destinations in Dartmoor.

10,000 Dartmoor Letterboxes
Badge provided by: Sylvia Vanwin.
20,000 Dartmoor Letterboxes
Badge provided by: Sylvia Vanwin.
30,000 Dartmoor Letterboxes
Badge provided by: Sylvia Vanwin.
Cranmere Pool
Cranmere Pool, a modest peat bog in northern Dartmoor, became the location of the very first letterbox in 1854. It was placed by James Perrott of Chagford, who served as a guide for this very challenging hike. Today, it can be approached along a military road, but it's still worth the trip. The scenery is breathtaking, and the letterbox is a famous landmark. Originally, the letterbox was just a glass jar where visitors could leave their calling cards. Sometime around 1888, the jar was replaced by a tin box. This rusted out and was replaced by an engraved zinc box with a visitors book in 1905. In 1937, a permanent granite monument was built and, sometime in the 1960's, the first letterbox rubber stamp made its appearance.
Badge provided by: Sylvia Vanwin.
Ducks Pool (Wm Crossing)
In memory of Dartmoor author William Crossing, a plaque and letterbox were placed at Duck's Pool in 1938 by members of the Dobson's Moormen walking club. Crossing was an authority on Dartmoor and its antiquities, and was one of the earliest members of the Dartmoor Preservation Association. It is fair to say that he is responsible for popularizing the hobby of letterboxing by mentioning Cranmere Pool in his 1854 "Guide to Dartmoor." Ducks' Pool is about an eight mile hike into the middle of the southern moor. There is no record of it ever having been an actual water-filled pool, although it may have been drained by tin miners in the sixteenth century and remains wet and boggy most of the year.
Badge provided by: Sylvia Vanwin.
Fur Tor (Queen of the Moor)
Fur Tor is also known as the "Queen of the Moor". Its name probably comes from the Celtic words "Vwr" (great) and "Twr" (tower), although some believe it derives from the Saxon word "Feor", meaning "far". Either way, the title fits, since Fur Tor is one of the most majestic and remote destinations in Dartmoor. It's in the middle of the northern moor, surrounded by peat bogs and other difficult terrain—about a six hour walk. In 1957, the Plymouth Boy Scouts Association planted a letterbox here, which is still considered a landmark find. Fur Tor is also the site of an annual letterboxing event known as the "New Years Day Meet" which has been held on the first day of January since 1981.
Badge provided by: Sylvia Vanwin.

Personal Badges: Another service that Sylvia Vanwin has offered is the creation of personalized cloth badges for letterboxers. Often, such customized designs are commissioned to celebrate a 10,000th find. These beautiful embroidered trophies are worn on one's jacket or rucksack with great pride! We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sylvia for helping us obtain permission to have duplicates of these very unique badges produced and included in this exhibit.

The Delabole Dingbats
Badge provided by: The Delabole Dingbats.
The Searchlighters
Badge provided by: The Searchlighters.
Somerset Strollers
Badge provided by: Somerset Strollers.
The Thimblers (Pat & Graham)
Badge provided by: The Thimblers.
Fishy Folks
Badge provided by: Fishy Folks.
Mr. Cock & Mrs Chicken
Badge provided by: Mr. Cock & Mrs. Chicken.

Dartmoor National Park Badges: The birthplace of letterboxing is Dartmoor National Park, in Devon County, England. As such, it goes without saying that any badge commemorating the park is a welcome adornment to a letterboxer's gear.

Official Dartmoor National Park Badge

This is the official badge that is currently sold to tourists at the various Visitors' Centers operated by the Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Badge donated by:
The Dartmoor National Park Authority

Dartmoor National Park Souvenir Badge

This is an older badge from the Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Dartmoor National Park Woven Badge

This is a slightly smaller badge from the Dartmoor National Park Authority with a woven silk design and embroidered edging.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Princetown Dartmoor Pony Badge

At 1300 feet, Princetown is the highest town on the Moor. It also has a long history as a hub for letterboxing activity. The Plume of Feathers Inn is a popular hangout for letterboxers and holds the distinction of being home to the first indoor pub letterbox. It was also the location for many early letterboxing meets.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Dartmoor National Park Souvenir Badge

This souvenir badge has been sold at other tourist attractions within Dartmoor. It depicts the famous wild ponies of Dartmoor.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Exmoor National Park

Although Dartmoor is unquestionably the world's most famous area for letterboxing, nearby Exmoor National Park (also in Devon County, about 35 miles northeast of Dartmoor) is another popular destination for letterboxers and moor ramblers. This is an embroidered badge.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

 

Dartmoor Worker's Badge

This very special vintage badge is actually the embroidered insignia that was cut off a Dartmoor National Park worker's uniform from the late 1950's or early 1960's. It was obtained from a reputable dealer of British antiquities.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Close-up of Dartmoor Worker's Badge
 

Souvenir Badges: The production of souvenir badges began in Germany during the early 20th-century, when hiking became popular shortly after World War I. People began collecting these badges from various resort towns they visited, and sewing them onto their rucksacks and jackets. They were usually shield-shaped and often contained a coat of arms. After World War II, the souvenir badge tradition was imported to Britain by Sampson Souvenirs Ltd., which began producing badges of British tourist spots. Sampson is still the largest British manufacturer of souvenir badges, and produced many of the badges shown below (as noted). Rather than being embroidered, the designs of the Sampson badges are usually woven with fine lurex thread into a thin piece of fabric, which is then stitched or (more recently) glued onto a felt backing material.

                     
Devon County

Devon, in southwest England, is the only British county with two separate coastlines. Much of this rather large county is rural, with a low population density by British standards. Devon and neighboring Cornwall make up the "Cornubian massif", a section of the planet's crust that has bulged up through a series of faults. This geology gave rise to the rocky landscapes of both Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. Devon also has seaside resorts and historic towns, as well as a mild climate, so it's no surprise that tourism constitutes a large sector of its economy.

The Devon Coat of Arms was first adopted in 1926, and features a red crowned lion on a silver field below an ancient ship on waves. It appears on the first badge above, which is a vintage 1970's piece from Sampson Souvenirs, and features a woven silk design sewn onto a felt backing.

In 1962 a crest and supporters were added to the Coat of Arms. The crest is the head of a Dartmoor Pony rising from a "Naval Crown". This distinctive form of crown is formed from the sails and sterns of ships, and is associated with the Royal Navy. The supporters are a Devon bull and a sea lion. This configuration is shown on the large badge in the center, which has an embroidered thread design on a white cloth background.

The third patch is highly detailed woven silk sewn onto felt and features the Coat of Arms along with the Latin motto Auxilio Divino, which means "by Divine aid". It is a vintage collectible from the "Glenthorne Series," which was a collection of woven souvenir badges of Great Britain produced from 1966 to 1977. Periodically the the background felt changed for the series, but 90% of the time it was red. Glenthorne was a small manufacturing company in Taunton, Somerset, UK, that made badges, flags, and banners, and was the premier supplier of quality caps and hats before the explosion of cheap baseball caps into British culture. They made badges for the Queen's Jubilee and also made a badge for the Prince of Wales investiture in 1969 that was sold in Harrods. Many thanks to Sharon Coles for sharing the history of this remarkable company with us!

All three badges donated by RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper. 

Dartmoor Souvenir Badge

Dartmoor is an area of moorland in the centre of Devon, which is protected by National Park status and covers 368 square miles (953 square kilometers). It is managed by the Dartmoor National Park Authority whose 26 members are drawn from the Devon County Council and local District Councils. This is a vintage woven silk badge from the 1970's or 1980's and looks as though it could have been a part of the previously mentioned "Glenthorne Series."

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

 

Vintage Dartmoor Souvenir Badge

The vintage Dartmoor souvenir badge on the left shows signs of wear and fading. It is believed to date back to sometime in the late 1950's. It is a classic example of an early woven silk design stitched onto a felt backing from Sampson Souvenirs Ltd. Today, the design is still being used. Compare the vintage patch with the modern version on the right, where the woven silk is glued to the felt backing, instead of being sewn.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Adhesive Dartmoor Souvenir Badge

This curious souvenir badge is another vintage British woven silk badge that is probably from the 1970's or 1980's. However, it has not been sewn onto a felt backing or had an embroidered edging applied to it. Instead, it simply came with an adhesive coating and a "peel-and-stick" paper backing. Rather than an embroidered badge, perhaps this item should be considered a cloth sticker.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Princetown Souvenir Badge

In addition to Princetown's historical Plume of Feathers Inn, letterboxes can be found at the Fox Tor Cafe and the Old Police Station Cafe. Hiking opportunities include the Tyrwhitt Trails, named after the town's founder, as well as nearby North and South Hessary Tors, and the old railway line leading to King's Tor. Tourists should also visit Dartmoor Prison and the Duchy Hotel (renamed the High Moorland Visitor Centre) where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle began writing The Hound of the Baskervilles. This badge and the Princetown Dartmoor Pony Badge shown earlier are examples Sampson Souvenirs' recent practice of gluing their woven designs onto the felt backing.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

The River Dart Country Park, Ashburton

Ashburton, an attractive town in South Dartmoor, has a variety of nice shops and historic buildings. Letterboxes are kept at the Lavender House Hotel, the Old Coffee House, and Cafe Green Ginger. River Dart Country Park, set in 90 acres of native woodland adjoining National Trust property, features action-packed family fun and lovely scenic walks alongside the beautiful River Dart, from which Dartmoor takes its name. This is a woven silk badge with an embroidered edging.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Lydford Gorge

Lydford, in North Dartmoor, is a secluded village established in the late ninth century and dominated by a twelth century castle. Visitors will want to visit the Lydford House for a spot of tea or a glass of wine, an on-site letterbox, and possibly an overnight stay. Nearby Lydford Gorge, part of the National Trust, provides a spectacular walk featuring the 90 foot White Lady Waterfall, whirlpools, and the Devils Cauldron--as well as a gift shop and tearoom. This is an embroidered badge.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Plymouth Souvenir Badge

Plymouth is an historic waterfront city just 15 miles southwest of Dartmoor. Popular attractions include the National Marine Aquarium and Dartmoor Zoological Park. The White Thorn Inn offers a letterbox, plus home cooked meals and an array of beers on tap. The Plymouth City Museum houses the entire collection of retired visitor books from Dartmoor's historic Cranmere Pool letterbox. This is an embroidered badge.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Becky Falls

Set within a spectacular river valley in East Dartmoor, this woodland park offers scenic walks along ancient stands of oak, lovely waterfalls, and majestic stone tors. The park features a cafeteria and picnic area, in addition to a petting zoo, puppet theater and miniature ponies. One of the more popular activities is a children's letterboxing challenge, which allows kids to explore some of the easier trails in the park, collect stamp prints, and then choose a prize from the gift shop. This is a vintage woven silk badge design stitched onto a felt backing. It probably dates back to the late 1960's or early 1970's and may have come from Sampson Souvenirs Ltd.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

Postbridge

Postbridge is an attractive little hamlet situated at the very centre of Dartmoor National Park, and has therefore become a natural starting and ending point for walks in the high moor. It has a Park Authority visitor information center, and is an ideal spot to linger by the river for a picnic. Be sure to check out the picture postcard thirteenth century clapper bridge, the largest of its type in Dartmoor. The bridge, which is depicted in the foreground of this badge design, is constructed from four large granite slabs supported by three granite piers. The large slabs are each over 4m long and 2m wide and weigh over 8 tons each. This is an embroidered badge.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper


Dartmoor Walking Tour Badges: In Dartmoor, letterboxing and long-distance walking are two aspects of the same activity. Devoted groups of walkers have established special tours of Dartmoor and regularly organize expeditions along these routes. Most of these walks are 18 miles or more in length. There are usually opportunities for letterboxing along the way, and some of the walks even have special letterboxes associated with them. Some of the most popular walks have cloth badges available upon successful completion, which are worn proudly as evidence of accomplishment. Many Dartmoor walks are organized by members of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA).

   

Long Distance Walkers Association
The LDWA is composed of people with a common interest of walking long distances in rural, mountainous and moorland areas all across the UK. The LDWA organizes many challenge and group walks, and maintains a database of over 1000 long distance paths devised by its members and by other organizations. Challenge events are usually between 20 and 100 miles and must generally be completed within a designated time limit. Group walks are normally led by an experienced guide, and can be up to 20 miles. The LDWA publishes "Strider" magazine three times a year, which includes articles and news about long distance walking and details of upcoming events, including regular walking tours of Dartmoor. The larger example above is a woven silk badge with a heavy backing and embroidered edging. The smaller one is an unedged woven silk "ribbon" style patch without backing material.
Badges donated by: Long Distance Walkers Association

Cornwall and Devon LDWA
The LDWA can be further subdivided into specific Local Groups that organize group walks and challenges, as well as other social events, within their specific districts. Local Groups are run by their own committees and host annual meetings for their members to attend. The National Committee keeps in touch with all the Local Groups to make sure their walks are included in Strider magazine. The Cornwall & Devon Group of the LDWA is responsible for organizing most of the long distance walks in Dartmoor, and many of its members are avid letterboxers. They provide this embroidered badge for their membership, in addition to a monthly newsletter called "Footnotes".
Badge donated by: Cornwall & Devon LDWA

Amesbury Walkers
Amesbury Walkers was formed in 1986 to promote non-competitive walking as a healthy leisure activity for all ages. They are affiliated with the LDWA and several other British and international walking organizations, and have established a number of walking routes designed to be completed at one's own pace. Perhaps most famous for their popular trail in the area of Stonehenge, they have also organized several walking trails in the Dartmoor area. This badge was given to Mark and Sue Pepe by "Noddy, the Toontown Trekker" when they met at a UK letterboxing gathering in Plymouth.
Badge donated by: Mark and Sue Pepe
 

                

Dartmoor Forest Perambulation Tour (Ancient Boundary Walk of Dartmoor)
When you think of a forest, you probably picture acres of dense woodland, but in the case of the Forest of Dartmoor, it refers to a one time ancient royal hunting ground where all wildlife was considered property of the king. Today, Dartmoor is no longer reserved for the crown, but the term Forest of Dartmoor lingers on. In 1239, the Forest was granted to the Earl of Cornwall, and the following year a perambulation was conducted in which the Sheriff of Devon and twelve knights of the county traversed and documented the official boundaries of the parish. Their 42.5 mile trek is now a popular challenge for letterboxers and moor walkers. The first Dartmoor Perambulation Walk was organized in 1982 by Ian Kirkpatrick, a member of the Long Distance Walkers Association. The route leads through just about every aspect of wild Dartmoor, including rocky tors, bubbling streams, grassy fens and muddy bogs. Beginning at Rundlestone, the route heads through Great Mis Tor, Yes Tor, King's Oven, Dartmeet and Ryder's Hill. At Eastern White Barrow, it reaches its southern extreme and returns to Rundlestone by way of Siward's Cross. There is a special letterbox that is only available to those who have completed the journey, as well as an embroidered badge. Shown above left is a sample of the badge from the late 1980's. The placeholder image next to it represents a modern version of the badge with the word "perambulation" replaced by the term "ancient boundary". An example of this badge has not yet been obtained for the exhibit. Finally, the patch on the far right was awarded for completing an entire letterboxing series that followed the same route. The gentleman we obtained it from says it was probably awarded sometime in the 1990's.
Badges donated by: Der Mad Stamper (left); Der Mad Stamper and Lotus (right)
 
 

                

Ten Post Box Walk
This famous annual walk used to be the highlight of summer for many Dartmoor letterboxers. It started in the late 1980's, but was discontinued in the late 1990's after a very well-respected gentleman named John Wintour collapsed and died while participating in the event. A good friend of his remembers, "It was a huge shock to us all. The following year... it seems no one had the heart to do [the walk] anymore. He will never be forgotten as long as we remember his name." The Ten Post Box Walk was a whole day event that always started somewhere on either the South or North Moor. Usually, the point where everyone started and finished was a large tented area located near a good pub. Entrants were pre-registered for various lengths of walks. Some were short and suitable for families with small children, while others were considerably longer and more strenuous. Generally, there were clues to perhaps ten post boxes (letterboxes) along each walk. There were also check points along the way where participants received a stamp imprint. Upon completion of the event, cloth badges were awarded, such as the ones shown here from 1988, 1989, and 1990.
Badges donated by: RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper
 
 

                

St. Luke's Hospice Post Box Walk
Charity post box (letterbox) walks are somewhat common on Dartmoor. The badges shown here are from an annual walk where the admission fee goes to help St. Lukes' Hospice in Plymouth. St. Lukes is a registered charity that provides specialist care for more than 2,800 patients every year. Since government funding is limited, they rely heavily on charitable giving to stay in operation. The badges shown in this exhibit are from 1990, 1991, and 1992, although the walk continues to this day. In 2011, the walk included sixteen letterboxes with stamps of butterflies, along a walk of about 3 miles. To obtain the clues, participants were asked to make a £2.50 donation to St. Luke's Hospice.
Badges donated by: RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper
 
 
Two Moors Way
The Two Moors Way is a long-distance walking route from Ivybridge, on the southern edge of Dartmoor, to Lynmouth, on the north coast of Exmoor, crossing the wildest parts of both National Parks and the wooded valleys between them. It is 102 miles (163 km) in length, making it an ideal one-week walk. The route begins in the wild, heather-covered upland of Dartmoor and leads through the quaint village of Holne. It then goes past the granite tor of Hameldown and the ruins of a Bronze Age settlement to Chagford Bridge. At Drewsteignton, it leaves Dartmoor and continues to Exmoor. With the exception of one or two strenuous stretches, the walk is not difficult, although there are unmarked moorland sections that require navigational skills. This badge, with a printed design and embroidered edging, is available to those who have completed the hike.
Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper
 

Mount Batten Trail
This badge was mailed from Great Britain to Mark and Sue Pepe by "Noddy, the Toontown Trekker" for the express purpose of having it included in this exhibit. Mark and Sue, who have always been active contributors to this exhibit, were happy to forward it on to us. The badge can be earned by completing an 11 kilometer (7 mile) hike that was organized by the Amesbury Walkers, in affiliation with the British Walking Federation (BWF)—which is in turn affiliated with the International Federation of Popular Sports (IVV). Starting from what was once the Mount Batten Royal Air Force base, the walk includes views of Dartmoor National Park, Bodmin Moor, and across the city of Plymouth. Eddystone Lighthouse, 14 miles out to sea, can also be seen on good days.
Badge donated by: Noddy, the Toontown Trekker
 
 

O.A.T.S. Dartmoor Walk 1989

The O.A.T.S. walk from south to north across Dartmoor was an annual event, traditionally held on a Sunday in mid April. It was discontinued in 2005 to avoid conflicts with the nesting season of indigenous birds. For many, the walk consisted of two sections: the 16 mile trek from Ivybridge to Postbridge, and then the more popular 12 mile hike from Postbridge to Okehampton. The route was not particularly strenuous, but still a respectable challenge for anyone new to the moors. Completion of the walk was worthy of a certificate or, in some years, a cloth badge such as this one from 1989.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

 

 

Chudleigh Scouts Letter Box Walks

Since the late 1980's the First Chudleigh Scout Group has been holding Letterbox Walks as fundraisers for their organization. Money raised from the walks is used to help pay for activities for the Scouts, Beavers and Cubs in the group. Their walks are generally around 5 km, round trip. This badge was obtained from a retired letterboxer who earned it in the early 1990's, although we've heard that the Chudleigh Scouts are still creating new letterbox walks to this day.

Badge donated by:
RaqsEnigma and Der Mad Stamper

 

Please note that inclusion of a badge in this exhibit does not necessarily indicate that anyone directly associated with the collection has earned it. The badges in this collection are for display only and are being exhibited as an historical representation of the types of badges that might be worn by an experienced letterboxer. They are a permanent part of this display and will never adorn anyone's personal gear or be used to substantiate false claims of accomplishment.

NOTE: All patches are represented at the same scale for comparison purposes. However, images
have been reduced in size to help discourage the creation of counterfeit reproductions.

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