Although Peldon no longer has a Post Office, the last one closing down in 2002 when the Village Shop closed, it has had a number of Post Offices; in the bakery, residential houses, attached to garden nurseries, and even in the Village Hall.
The first penny postage stamp system was introduced in 1840 and this made it essential that there be a network of Post Offices to deal with collection and delivery of mail. The first dedicated Post Offices were built in towns and cities but in villages such as Peldon a sub-postmaster was largely responsible for taking in letters. He or she would send and receive mail bags by carrier service to and from the nearest town, in this case, Colchester. Usually, the sub postmaster would be an ordinary villager with another job and delivering the mail was an extra part-time source of income. Villagers would simply drop their mail off at his house.
The earliest reference I can find to Peldon's postal services is in White's Trade Directory of 1848. The carrier, Henry Woodward, brings the post to the village from Colchester, no doubt for someone local to deliver.
According to the British Postal Service Appointment books, on 21st April 1851, Henry Cooper, whose bakery was by Peldon church (probably in what is now known as Priests House) was appointed sub-postmaster for Peldon. He was running the bakery with his wife, Sarah, and 15 year old nephew, Samuel Cooper, and appears in the 1848 White's Directory as a baker and shopkeeper.
He clearly takes on the job running the Post Office in addition to his bakery business.
In the Kelly's Trade Directory for 1859 Henry Cooper is listed as a baker, grocer and Post Office and a receiver of letters
letters arrive at 6.30a.m. dispatched at 6.30pm and are received through the Colchester office. The nearest money order office is at Colchester
In the 1861 census his wife is listed as running the bakery while Henry is the sub-postmaster. Henry appears again in the 1862 and the 1863 Kelly's Directories.
In 1869 Henry died and by the 1871 census Sarah has taken over running the postal services. She continued until her death in 1887.
In the 1891 census, Mary Overall is living at the Post Office as the sub-postmistress and receiver of letters. There are two empty properties next door described as Post Office buildings. Mary was 74, born in West Mersea, and the unmarried daughter of Stephen Overall who had lived and farmed at Brickhouse Farm, Peldon, in his later years.
The bakery and postal round were next taken over by a newcomer to the village, George Smallwood.
George Smallwood was one of the most celebrated Peldon Postmasters and he served the village for 44 years. He was born in Orpington and first appeared in Peldon in the 1891 census when he was listed as a baker living in the Bake House just a few doors away from Mary Overall who was running the postal services. He arrived in the village in about 1887 aged 28. The house he subsequently had built, to include a room for the Post Office, was Spring Cottage, the weather-boarded house by Peldon Green on Lower Road. The obituary from the Essex County Standard tells his story.
THE LATE MR G. SMALLWOOD A forty eight year old link with the village was broken when Mr George Smallwood passed away at the age of 77. Arriving at Peldon about a year after Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebrations, he took charge of a bakery on Church Green at the same time doing the postal round. Later he had a house built on the fringe of the common with a room fitted up as a post office, and was duly appointed sub-postmaster, being assisted by his wife who pre-deceased him 13 years ago. It was at this office that the crew of the Zeppelin, which fell in the neighbouring village of Wigborough in 1916, halted and waited whilst their commander entered, and asked for permission to use the telephone.
Mr Smallwood was a good pedestrian, who seemed to take positive pleasure in his daily bike, mile after mile, year in and year out, being always careful to protect the letters and parcels in rainy weather. When in the year 1933 he was presented with an easy chair as a mark of esteem from the inhabitants, it was estimated that in his 44 years of service, he had walked about 100,000 miles. Apart from his official duties he was always ready to do a good turn, and is gratefully remembered by the Methodists, whose chapel adjoins the post office, as a willing helper in the days when it was customary to hold a tea meeting on Good Friday. Quite early in the afternoon he would light the copper fire in his kitchen, and would remain on duty for several hours, cheerfully supplying boiling water to the caterers who passed to and fro. For the last two years of his life Mr Smallwood lived in retirement at Colchester.
Essex County Standard 10.10.1936
George Smallwood's house and Post Office, now Spring Cottage, Lower Road next door to the chapel.
The post box is to the left of the front door. The telegraph post outside tells us it is also a Telegraph Office.
In the 1911 census George and his wife, Fanny Ellen, who is assisting in the Post Office are living with their daughter and son-in-law, Celia Annie (1889 -1962) and Felix Thomas King (1887 - ?). Felix is working as a chauffeur and Celia is a dressmaker. They had married the year before in 1910. There were greenhouses to the side of the house which the family used in their Nursery Business, called Celia Nurseries.
In the Parish Council records of 27th January 1911 it was written that
due to the inconvenience of no postal deliveries on Sundays the clerk would write to the Post master in Colchester, and a Sunday delivery was subsequently granted by the April of the same year. In 1913 the Parish Council voted for a half-day closure of the Post Office on Wednesdays.
Upon George's retirement in the summer of 1933 his son-in-law and daughter, Felix and Celia King, took over the Post Office. Felix was officially appointed as sub-postmaster in June 1933.
One of their postmistresses was Rhoda Whiting. Upon her marriage to Albert French she left her job and was thanked with a presentation.
PRESENTATION A meeting of parishioners was held in the Schoolroom to make a presentation to Miss Rhoda Whiting on her approaching marriage. A collection had been made by Mrs George King at the houses where Miss Whiting had delivered letters, and a cheque was handed to her by Mrs Felix King of the Post Office. Congratulatory speeches were made by the Rev A A Giles and Mr C Smallwood (George Smallwood's son), of Colchester Post Office, and Miss Whiting was heartily thanked for her willing service
Essex County Standard 23/12/1932
As an additional service during the early twentieth century, the firm of A W Berry and Sons who ran bus routes between Mersea, Peldon and Colchester from 1904 to the 1930s also had an arrangement with Colchester Post Office to carry mail between West Mersea and Brightlingsea and Colchester. Two mailbags were carried on the last journey each weekday from West Mersea and Brightlingsea to Colchester. They were padlocked onto the bus at the outer terminus by a postman and met at Colchester Post Office by another postman who unlocked them and removed them from the vehicles. The payment was 1/- for each mailbag carried. On these journeys they also carried a 'pillar box'. This was a red box with a slot in the lid to enable people to post letters anywhere on the route to catch a late mail from Colchester Post Office. The boxes were padlocked onto the bus at the start of each journey and removed by a postman at Colchester being returned to West Mersea and Brightlingsea the following day.
Felix and Celia didn't run the post office for long for it was reported in the newspaper in March 1935 that
Mr J Bridge, late of the Royal Navy, has been appointed postmaster of the local sub-office.
A Fred Bridge is listed as running the Post Office as well as being a nurseryman at Celia Nurseries in Kelly's Trade Directory for 1937.
As for deliveries, in 1935 it is reported that the village has been successful in asking for a daily second post.
PostAN AFTERNOON POST In response to requests from several residents, an afternoon delivery of letters has been arranged. This is much appreciated by all and will prove a boon to those who have been obliged to make a journey of two or three miles to the Post Office to enquire if correspondence was awaiting them. Essex County Standard 14.12.1935
Next, Eric Campbell Prior took over, certainly by 1939, and then off and on between the sixties and late seventies. In all, over a forty year period to within months of his death in 1980.
It's not clear when he first came to Peldon. He was born in 1902 the son of a Burnham-on-Crouch boatbuilder, and married Constance Mary Crees (born 1904) in London in 1927. They were on the electoral registers for London in 1929, 1931 and 1932.
He was a huge man with the nickname of 'Tiny', and Constance who assisted him in the Peldon Post Office was small and slight. Chrissie South remembers him as
A great giant of a man who also used to sell winter flowering pansies.
In the 1939 register The Priors are already installed in George Smallwood's old house running the Post Office and running the nursery there that Felix and Celia had started.
Tiny was very involved with village affairs and was often secretary or treasurer to various fund-raising initiatives particularly during the Second World War, notably
Salute the Soldier and War Weapons Week. He went on the first village hall entertainments' committee when the old school building was given to the village to be used as a hall. He was also to champion the cause of farmers threatened with eviction by the War Agricultural Committee. This campaign was triggered by a local farmer, Stanley Ellis of Pete Tye Farm being faced with losing his home and business. Tiny stood as honorary secretary to the newly formed Essex Farmers and Countrymen's Association (EFCA) travelling all over the country to investigate abuses and advise persecuted farmers.
In the 1939 register a Market Garden was being run up a narrow lane off Lower Road on the north side by Alfred William Osborne. Penny Burr, brought up in the Peldon Rose, remembers that while they were there, Bill's wife, Rosa Osborne, ran postal services for a short while. At some point Tiny moved into the building and took over the nursery business. Now, the old lane leading up to the site of the Post Office between Fallen Oak and The Anchorage is marked by a new five-bar gate but the undergrowth is impenetrable and it is signed PRIVATE NO ENTRY. The old wooden building was demolished long ago.
We can presume Tiny moved in some time during or just after the war and continued up to 1950 when he resigned from the job ... for the first time!
After advertisements in the Essex County Standard for the job running Peldon Post Office, Albert Edward Beaumont, living in Rose Cottage, Mersea Road, Peldon, applied. He took over postal services the day after Tiny ceased in 1950. The local newspaper reported
The Peldon Post Office which received the attention of the House of Commons has had a happy ending
In an exchange on 29th March 1950 between Lord Alport, MP for Colchester and Ness Edwards MP and Postmaster General, Lord Alport asked
whether his attention has been drawn to the withdrawal of Post Office facilities from Langham and to the proposal to close the Post Office at Peldon; and what action he intends to take to ensure that proper Post Office facilities are available in both these villages.
Mr. Ness Edwards responded
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension with regard to Peldon. The present sub-postmaster is resigning on 31st of this month, but a successor has been appointed to take up duty on 1st April in new premises quite near to the existing premises. Hansard Archive
Albert had moved his family to Peldon in 1947; his second wife Emily and their young son Tony plus another son, Doug, by Albert's first wife.
Irene (Renee) Taylor, a daughter by Albert's first wife, had been widowed during the war within weeks of marriage. She had a baby, Valerie, and being unable to sustain her job as a housekeeper with a lively youngster returned with Valerie to live in the family home. On arriving in Peldon, Renee took a job at Hollingtons Factory in Colchester.
Although officially it was Albert who took on the Post Office in 1950 it was in fact his second wife Emily and daughter Renee who did the day to day running of the Post Office and deliveries. In an interview for the local newspaper he said the job would be shared by family
Mr Beaumont will give up his job of acetylene welding and devote more time to his present part-time work, that of training and breeding Alsatians Essex County Standard 1950
Albert worked as a welder for S B Wheeler, a company in Colchester and as a side-line worked for local farmer Johnny Knight, who ran a business as a 'knacker man' at the Hythe in Colchester. Albert's intention to breed and show German Shepherd Dogs was never a viable business although the family always kept Alsatians as pets ever after.
Rose Cottage possibly decorated for the Queen's Coronation in 1953
The Post Office was in the downstairs room on the right and access was through a side door off the drive.
Below Renee Ponder, Postwoman. The postbox is in the side wall.
Emily was the Postmistress and Renee was the Postwoman. Valerie, remembers her mother, Renee, going out on her bike delivering telegrams and regular post to different addresses all round the village and that involved cycling for miles every day.
Anne Taylor, Renee's granddaughter, wrote that Valerie, when old enough,
helped her mother, Renee, stamping envelopes and parcels with wax seals, probably so she was with her mum and being kept out of mischief. Mum does have a few memories of things at the PO. She can remember earning pocket money delivering telegrams. The furthest she cycled was to end of School Lane, Layer Road junction. She was also found asleep amongst the mail sacks on one occasion. And she remembers Nanna having a large wooden club under the counter (still got it) in case of trouble. She also remembers Nanna counting the day's money and taking calls about telegrams.
Albert Edward Beaumont died in 1951 and his widow Emily was to run the Post Office with Renee until Emily's death in 1960. Albert and Emily's grave is in Peldon Churchyard kept immaculate by Tony their youngest son.
In the meantime Renee had married Bob Ponder in 1953. Space was tight at Rose Cottage with seven family members so Renee, Valerie and husband Bob moved in 1957, first renting Whitakers on Lower Road, then buying the Lilacs on Wigborough Road, Peldon where Renee was to stay until 1996.
But as the Parish News relates, Tiny Prior took over as sub-postmaster again, working alongside Renee Ponder. He was clearly still living in the Osbornes' house and nursery on Lower Road.
New Post Office: Since the death of Mrs E Beaumont, former postmistress, the village has been without a Post Office working full time. On Monday of this week a new Post Office was opened at 'The Nurseries' Peldon with Mr E Prior as postmaster.
Tiny resumed duties as sub-postmaster in this Post Office and nurseries in the 1960s and the little lane leading up to the nursery and Post Office became known as Prior's Lane. In 1970 he was to resign for a second time.
After almost 21 years (on and off) Mr Prior is relinquishing the job of sub-postmaster of Peldon. As things stand at present, the village Post Office is due to close after business on Friday 29 January 1971. He will continue to attend to his Nursery work however Peldon and Wigboroughs Parish News December 1970
In February 1971 the Parish Magazine reports there is a presentation to Mr Prior and Mrs Ponder to thank them for their work providing postal services.
It is probably during the next few years that Phyllis Tuppenny was to run Post Office services once a week from the Village Hall that had been built in 1965.
But by August 1976 according to the Parish Magazine, Tiny Prior was offering Post Office services again from the old Post Office at The Nurseries, Mondays to Fridays between 9am and 12.30. Chrissie South who moved with her parents to Peldon in 1966 remembers Mr Prior's home was a wooden house
There were greenhouses up there and you could buy bedding and pansies. The Post Office used to stamp letters from Peldon with a 'Peldon' stamp.
However, by April 1980, it is reported, due to ill health, Tiny was stopping Post Office services at The Nurseries. He resigned for a third and final time and he subsequently died in September 1980.
Tiny's old house, nursery and the Post Office became derelict after he died, and a report in the parish magazine condemned it as a hazard and a magnet for vandals so the building was demolished and the village left without a Post Office.
Local resident Alan Miller remembers that shortly after this, in the early eighties, Lilian Grout, who lived at Seefar on Lower Road, ran Post Office services from her house for a short while. She had helped Tiny in the Post Office and had assisted nursing Tiny during his last illness. Lilian's daughter-in-law remembers customers walked down the drive to the back of the house where they would come in through the conservatory to be served through a hatch. Lilian would have the dining table set out in the back room with all that was needed for the Post Office services. The current owners of Seefar say there was a bell for customers by the back door when they moved in.
In April 1984 the Parish news tells of a new enterprise, in the shape of a new 'shop' within Dansie's Stores being run by Roy and Alice Mitchell. They sell greengroceries, flowers, pet food and Sunday papers. This was during the time of Don and June Plunkett's ownership and running of the village shop.
They are at present feeling their way but if trade is sufficient they hope to sell weekday papers too and perhaps look into the possibility of taking on the sub-post office which has been sorely missed since it closed. Peldon and Wigborough Parish News April 1984
It is not clear whether this happened nor when the Post Office first opened in the village shop. We do know that Post Office services were run at the village shop during Maureen Sanders ownership (1993 -1999) and Maggie and Ken Finch's time in the shop (1999 - 2002). With the closure of the village stores in 2002 the village finally lost its Post Office. A bid to rescue Post Office and shop resulted in a public meeting in the village hall and a resolution passed to investigate the possibility of the community buying the building and running the services with volunteers but this was not to be. Now the nearest Post Office services are at West Mersea.
Peldon History Project
With thanks to
Valerie and Anne Taylor
The Essex County Standard
Peldon Village Shop