The Post Office
Post Master Glynn Drummond outside Bishopthorpe Post Office in Main Street, just a few months before he retired. (September 2014)
When Glynn Drummond announced he was going to retire as Bishopthorpe Postmaster, a tremor passed through the village. No one wished to lose the Post Office. However, as we now know, the P.O. has re-opened at the newsagent in Sim Balk Lane, and a collective sigh of relief was heard for miles.
It would, indeed, have been a great disappointment if the Post Office had closed down, bearing in mind that a postal service has operated in Bishopthorpe for 171 years. On 6th January 1844, just four years after the introduction of the Penny Post, the Postmaster General decided to establish an “official Post” for the residents of Bishopthorpe and surrounding area. A foot messenger set out from York Post Office each day at 6.00 a.m. delivering letters to the receivers of mail at the Mount, Dringhouses, Middlethorpe, Bishopthorpe, Acaster Malbis and across the ferry to Naburn. He returned to York with the day’s collection by 6.00 p.m. having reached Bishopthorpe at 4.45 p.m.
During the first two years, deliveries were also made on Sundays, much to the disapproval of certain inhabitants. It was not stated if Archbishop Harcourt’s influence prevailed but, following a communication sent to the Postmaster General, the Sunday post was withdrawn. The service was not re-instated until 1912.
The foot messenger was paid 14 shillings a week and the receivers, £4.00 per year. Letters were not delivered to individual properties, only to the receiving offices. These collecting points were located in existing businesses such as blacksmiths’ and wheelwrights’ workshops. The proprietors looked on this as a lucrative side line – not for the small P.O. allowance they were paid, but for the extra custom it brought through their doors when villagers called in to post or collect their letters.
The building on the right of this photograph is now known as Chestnut Cottage, but it used to be divided into two separate buildings. The left-hand side was the Post Office for at least fifty years until 1899. The telegraph wire can just be seen jutting from the chimney stack.
The Sub – Post Mistresses
Unfortunately, the identity of Bishopthorpe’s first receiver is not known but, by the time the1851 Census was taken, Mrs. Jane Dobson, a widow, received mail at the house we now know as Chestnut Cottage in Chantry Lane. Mrs. Dobson died in 1865 and her successor was another widow; Mrs. Ellen Hawkridge, who supported her family by dressmaking. She lived near The Woodman but later moved into Chestnut Cottage.
Mrs. Hawkridge served the community for more than thirty years but not without trial and tribulation. During that time she coped with the new telegraph service which was connected to her premises in 1889. Five years later a burglar smashed his way into the office stealing just £2 because Mrs. Hawkridge had already taken the week’s proceeds into York. When she retired in 1899, Archbishop Maclagan unsuccessfully appealed to the Postmaster General to provide her with a pension. However, sub-postmasters/mistresses were not considered to be full-time employees and therefore not eligible to receive a pension. There were no exceptions.
Gertrude Johnson set up the next sub-post office in the extension at the side of her brother’s house in Main Street [now no. 50, next door but one to The Ebor]. In her time, the business grew more complex: she dealt with insurance, savings, money orders, an express delivery service and, from 1908, the state pension. Her sister, Evelyn, served as the telegraph clerk which was just as well; in 1901, the Postmaster General offered the Parish Council the use of the telegraph at night, “in cases of urgent necessity.” The Council accepted the proposal at a charge of 10 shillings [50p]. Fortunately, all this extra work eventually earned Miss Johnson a half-day’s holiday on Saturdays, but not until eight years later.
In the 1920s, Joseph Bulmer merged the Post Office with his grocer’s shop in Main Street, eventually moving into the property we are familiar with, next door to The Marcia (see Glynn, above). After many decades, the Post Office has moved again where we hope it will continue to serve the people of Bishopthorpe for a long time to come.
Post Office Archives: Post Office Minutes: Post 35.
Bishopthorpe Parish Council Minutes.
1851 Census: HO107/2354/ f350, p2.
Slater’s Commercial Directory, 1855.
Wm. White’s Directory, 1867.
Steven’s Directory, 1881.
Yorkshire Gazette: 5 May 1894, p7.