Farewell to the postcard king

Basil Gowen with his Norfolk post card book

Basil Gowen with his Norfolk post card book - Credit: Archant

A special tribute to Basil Gowen, a much loved author and founder member of the Norfolk Postcard Club.

A postcard featuring Norwich bus drivers in the 1930s

A postcard featuring Norwich bus drivers in the 1930s - Credit: Archant

What Basil Gowen didn't know about postcards could be written on the back of one. He was one of the leading experts in the country.

A man always willing to help others when it came to telling them all about their cards, the story behind them and how sought after they were.

A man whose hobby turned him an historian with a deep sense of love for all things Norwich and Norfolk.


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Basil, who lived in the city, recently died at the age of 87 and today I would like to pay tribute to him and the best possible way of doing that is by showing you some of his cards.

A Stokesby boy he worked in insurance after leaving school at Great Yarmouth, and then for GRE in Norwich at Castle Meadow and St Peter's House at the top of Rouen Road.

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After retiring Basil went on to work three days a week for James of Timberhill where he was the postcard expert.

Hundreds of people came to see Basil with their cards. He would value, sort them and then they were taken to auctions around the country.

He had started collecting them in the early 1970s and built up a vast collection. His Norfolk collection alone ran into thousands.

When I first spoke to Basil in the early 80s I was struck by his passion for postcards and he spoke of his joy at coming across one valued at around £300.

'It was an early balloon card published on Lifeboat Sunday, 1904 or 1905, and had been dropped over the side of the balloon,' he said.

And the most valuable in his collection at the time? A Zeppelin card which he paid £50 for. It depicted Zeppelin travel and was rubber stamped.

It was his own Norfolk cards which were his pride and joy.

Basil was a founder member of the Norfolk Postcard Club with the late Philip Standley from Wymondham and Philip used several of Basil's cards for his postcard books - and some are shown here.

He was also a member of the Norfolk & Norwich Philatelic Society.

Further afield Basil's great interest was Gibraltar, which started when he was heard about the exploits of a certain Lord Nelson at school. For more than 30 years he collected stamps, postal history and postcards.

He was a member of the Gibraltar Study Circle and he assembled a unique collection of embroidered silk cards featuring the country which he bequeathed to the Gibraltar Museum in 2007.

Did you know that the original iron gates at the frontier with Spain were made by Boulton & Paul in Norwich?

In the summer of 1990 a collection of his postcards were published in a book Norfolk Broads in Picture Postcards featuring 120 old and rare cards showing towns, villages and waterways. It sold out in months.

Basil, also a lifelong and devoted Norwich City supporter leaves a wife Betty, son Paul and daughter Jayne.

His son Paul, also a postcard collector, ended his eulogy at the funeral service with a rendition of On The Ball City!

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