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The Country Mails c 1904

The Country Mails c 1904

The clock says ten past six so presumably an early start by bicycle out into the country (not a pair of shorts in sight).

At this time Taunton’s main post office was in Church Square opposite Saint Mary’s Church.

The post office opened from 7am until 10pm on weekdays and on Sundays for two hours to conduct telegraph business. At this time Taunton had a very efficiant collection and delivery service. Nineteen wall letter boxes were cleared seven times a day. Deliveries from various local parts occurred at 7am, 9am, 11am, 2.15am, and lastly at 7.30pm. There was a 7am Sunday delivery with letters from all parts of the country.

This meant that arrangements could be made locally for same days meetings or collections of orders. Thirty two postmen operated in the town.

The postage stamp was first issued as Rowland Hill’s Penny Black in 1840. Over sixty million were printed so they are not rare. A one ounce letter cost two old pence to send in 1840. Previously the recipient paid for the postage. In 1915 a one ounce letter cost one pence to send. Today its very close to a pound (most folk don’t actually know how much). Yet for over seventy five years the cost remained basically the same.

The local newspaper said this in 1907. “The new Post-office for Taunton is slowly but surely becoming a certainty. There is every probability now that within a few months visitors to the town will no longer need to ask a policeman where the Post-office business is conducted, and after some difficulty succeed in finding the building which goes by that name, where the officials are said to be languishing for want of fresh air owing to their confined surroundings. All this is to be altered, and strangers to Taunton in the near future will be able to find without any difficulty the new building which is to be erected in the main thoroughfare, North-street.”

The new post office did not open until 1911 having been built on the site of The Spread Eagle Inn by Pollard of Bridgwater at a cost of seven thousand pounds. The clock was added the same year funded by public conscription. How times have changed. The post office now gets shuttled about to which ever shop can find space for it. One could also say that the cost of the services has rocketed whilst the actual service itself has declined.

By Nick Chipchase

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