Havant's Post Offices

The public postal service was instituted in 1635. Havant was listed in 1637 in John Taylor's "Carriers Cosmography", as a place you could send mail or collect letters and goods. Havant had deliveries from The Queens Head, Southwark on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The first recorded Postmaster for Havant in 1768, was Joseph Bingham Mant and by 1776 his salary was £75-6s-8d. The Royal Mail Coach system started in 1784 and mail was delivered to Portsmouth, and delivered to Havant by Cross-post on its way to Chichester. This was not suitable to Lord Keith of Purbrook House who did not get his mail until late in the day. At his suggestion mail bags were dropped off at Horndean Post Office (est.1797), then dispatched by horseman to Purbrook, then on to Havant with its post. He offered to pay two guineas for this service.

By 1802 the Havant Postmaster was James Linney , a cordwainer and salesman by trade and by 1808 James Pollington was postmaster. Horse delivery from Horndean to Havant was replaced by foot messenger at 12s-0d a week, saving £6-1s-0d a week! By 1820 we find Henry Skelton running the Post Office and a printing business. (He printed "The Hundred of Bosmere" by Walter Butler in 1817 :- Note - This book is in Havant library

During the next few years the cross-post from Horndean was stopped and replaced by one from Cosham. The next Postmaster was Arter Frederick Randall , schoolmaster and toy dealer, who ran the service from 1827 until 1846. It is during his service that we can pinpoint the first Post Office in Havant. It was on the north side of West Street where today stands number 52 The Cash Shop, but of course, the road was much narrower in those days. The present shop stands in the garden of the old Post Office. It is possible it was on this site from at least 1784.

The Post Office stood on the right of the picture at the corner of the alleyway that lead to the blacksmiths. Mr Randall made himself very unpopular by continually asking for a rise in salary. In 1840 he was successful and it was raised from £45 to £50 a year. A few years later he was reported several times for irregularities and was dismissed in 1846. In 1847 Henry Green became postmaster, he was also Master of the National School Brockhampton. In 1859 a directory shows William Tigwell as a letter carrier living in West Street with his wife Jane, a straw hat maker.

The same year Henry Green opened a new Post Office at number 4, East Street. It was noted at the time, that 60 letters a day did not warrant a second delivery! It took five more years before one was introduced. Mail Coach contractors were released from their contracts with the coming of the railway and Postmasters were allowed 6d a day to cover costs of delivery from and to the station.

In 1860 a new Postmaster was appointed. He was Henry Wood, tea dealer, wine and spirit merchant and Parish Clerk. Post for Hayling in 1863 was taken by horse omnibus and no tolls were paid at the Langston bridge. In 1879 Henry Wood he was presented with a purse containing £70 for his loyal 18 years service. He was described as " a pleasant looking genial man with an ecclesiastical look".

A new Post Office was built in 1892 in West Street opposite St Faith's Church by Mr Learmouth. It was open from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and 8am to 10am on Sundays! The cost of the Post Office was £706.5s.0d, the gas lamp hanging outside cost £10.17s.6d. By 1903 there was a new Postmaster, Henry Whittle. At this time there were 3 deliveries a day at 7am, 11am, and 6pm! When the telephone companies were taken over in 1912 the Post Office Telephone Exchange opened in the rooms above the post office.

If you rang up when there was a wedding in progress, people could hardly be heard for the sound of the church bells ringing just outside the windows! It is also said that at night you could ring up the switchboard operator for advice or to know if Mrs ….., had her baby yet! The next Postmaster was Richard Mann about 1923. He was followed by Arthur Owen Bourdeaux until about the mid 1930's.

The post office continued in those premises, now Curry's Electrical shop (2004), until 1936 when a new Post Office was opened in East Street on the corner of Beechworth Road. This was the site of "East End House" once the residence of George Stallard, joint owner with his brother Albert, of the Homewell Parchment works. When the West Street premises were sold all the coal from the cellars was given away.

As the word spread people came from everywhere, all pushing containers with wheels- prams, pushchairs, hand trucks and wooden boxes on wheels- to collect the free coal! The telephone exchange continued in the first floor of the old premises, until it moved in 1964, into a new purpose built exchange which was built in Elm Leigh Road.

Mr Holman was Postmaster at the opening of the new East Street Post Office, and in 1939 he was the last postmaster to run the office as a Head Post Office. It then became a sub-post office of Portsmouth. This Post Office was one of only seven in the country to display the cipher of Edward VIII. Mr J Richardson took over as Postmaster in 1939, he was followed by Mr Jackson from 1945 to 1949. Mr C. Norton for the next three years then Mr J. Grierson from 1951 to 1965, Mr G. Single was in post until 1975. Mr L Nurden took over the post for four years and he was followed by Mr T. Tasker.

By the middle of the 1990's the post office building closed and the Post Office service became a concession, first in a shop in the Meridian Centre and now in Martin's newsagents of North street.

Geoff Salter 2004

Last amendment date: 02/07/2015

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