Sometime after the Restoration the first Deputy would have been appointed to Hungerford. The first mention in the Accounts Books is dated 1690 when a Jeremiah Purton
is shown as having a salary of 5/- per month. (£3 p.a.). This salary indicates that Mr Purton did little more than 'mind the shop' and busied himself only with local letters.
The 'star' of the area was Francis Stanley, the postmaster of Wantage. His story is covered in the Postal History of Wantage. Suffice to say, Francis 'mopped up'
the whole postal area and by 1712 was running a Crosspost to Westbury in Wiltshire via Hungerford and was paid £200.4s. for doing the job. By 1715 his salary was some £475 p.a. whilst Mr Purton was
still on his £3 p.a.
With the collapse of Stanley's empire in 1716, the new Deputy of Hungerford, Thomas Nobbs (Nobs or Nodes) grabbed the opportunity presented and took over
much of Stanley's southern empire. By 1717 Thomas Nobbs' salary is given as £147.18s. By 1720 it was £196.4s and by 1723 it was approaching £300. Thus Hungerford under Mr Nobbs became the
Wantage of former years. He was responsible for delivery of letters to three counties. Unfortunately he went bankrupt in 1723 and the petition filed on July 22nd, lists his delivery area: ' ..
duties of Thomas Nodes, the Deputy of Hungerford, who as well as his predecessors, had the inspection and management of several places; viz: Hungerford, Great Bedwin, Pewsey, Upperhaven, Netherhaven,
Amesbury, Stoke, Lavington, Westbury, Trowbridge, Bradford, Warminister, Shipton Mallett, Bruton, Wells, Froome and Mere …. in default in his accounts, owing to the Crown £1,112.9s.1d". He
received the mail along the Great West Road and then used his personal delivery system to complete the contract. It seems he collected the money all right but failed to pay his dues to their
Thomas Nobbs was replaced by Richard Biggs who retained the route system but negotiated to be paid for one fifth of all letters through his hands.(£330 pa. during
Biggs' successor, Phillip Allen, took the routes and payment 'as is' and during the period 1733-1770 averaged a comfortable £300 pa. This payment
dropped in the mid 1750s as some Bristol Mail was routed on Witherings' old route via Oxford. Dodsley records this in 1756 in his " New description of the Roads".
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The Post along the Great West Road ran three times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and
Saturday, returning to London on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Ralph Allen, the doyen of the Bath postmasters was not satisfied with this, and records in his narrative that he ran at his own expense,
a ride six days a week.
Hungerford was made a Sub Office in 1754 under Phillip Allen and a Post Town in 1786 (Dendy-Marshall).
The Postboys were supposed to take about 38 hours for the journey to Bristol, but as the "Bath Journal" records on 5th Nov 1770, this was not always the case:
"The London Mail did not arrive here till five hours after the usual time owing to the Postman's getting a little intoxicated on his way between Newbury and Marlborough and falling off his
horse into a hedge; where he was found asleep by means of his dog...".
The Old Bath road ran north from Hungerford through Chilton Foliat, past Littlecote House to Ramsbury. In 1774, an Act was passed to improve the road. The Duke of Somerset
gave permission for the New Bath road to run through Savernake Forest to Froxfield. See also Coaching and Turnpike Trusts.
By 1770 John Powditch had replaced Mr Allen as deputy. He retained the Wells Bye Post with a salary of £197.4s.
Under the original plan of the G.P.O., country postmasters could demand a fee for delivery, usually an extra 1d or 2d. Several towns, including Hungerford brought action
against the GPO to decide if prepaid postage ought not to include delivery within the town boundaries. Hungerford was selected by the courts as a typical case and secured judgement in its favour at
From "The Bath Road", Chas.G.Harper,
"Hungerford contains little of interest and were it not for its singular Hock-tide customs, and for the fact that it was the first town to obtain free delivery of letters between its
Post Office and the houses to which letters are addressed, would scarce demand an extended notice.
"The original plan of the GPO, all over the country, was to allow "Postmasters of
country towns to demand a fee for delivery. Those who expected letters were expected to call for them. If they desired them to be delivered, the additional fee was 1d. or 2d. according to the
conscience or cupidity of the postmaster, whose perquisites these fees were. At last, several towns brought actions against the Post Office to decide if prepaid postage ought not to ensure
delivery in the boundaries of post towns. Hungerford was selected by the Courts as a typical case, and secured a judgement in its favour Michaelmas 1774."
John Powditch died in 1778 and his wife Mary Powditch
took over. Her salary was £37; a substantial drop from former years. A Tithing of Charnham Street dated 1780 gives Mr John Snook as the post-office owner, with Mrs Powdish (sic!) as occupant. The position of the post office in Charnham Street is not yet known. The 1781 tithing gives John Pearce as owner, with Mrs Powdish and George Thatcher as occupants.
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Mary saw the introduction of the coaching era in 1784 under the guidance of John Palmer,
the licensee of the 'Theatre Royal' in Bath. The Palmer family ran two theatres - the other was in Bristol. John ran a service of fast post chaises between the two theatres exchanging actors
and properties. It is thought that this activity gave him the idea for the fast mail coaches. The concept proved a great success and lasted for nearly 60 years.
The journey between London and Bristol took some 15-16 hours. The coaches left the 'Swan with two necks' in Lad Lane at 8pm arriving in Bristol around 11am.
By Victorian times under 12 hours was the target. Dinner in London and Breakfast in Bristol!
The physicians of the day stated categorically that "the Dew celerity of the coaches would give rise to affection of the brain". There was also a problem with
there being no standrd time across the country. Bristol's time was 20 min behind London's so the timepieces had to be adjusted to loose 20 min on the Down run and gain on the Up run.
were built in Millbank by John Besant. On his death in 1791, John Vidler carried on the business. The coaches were not sold but hired out on a double mile basis. London to Bristol including maintenance was about £14 per week.
The coaches transited Hungerford around 5am. There is a delightful story of the postmaster's wife, who, groping around in the dark for the letter bags, threw down her
husband's leather breeches to the waiting Mail Guard. These were packed in the boot and the error not discovered until the coach arrived at the GPO! The horses were actually changed at Froxfield,
3 miles west of Hungerford on the New Bath Road. In the 1820s due to congestion, the Western Mail was moved to the Gloucester Coffee in Piccadilly and the mail brought by cart from the GPO in a
The 1792 Universal British Directory (and the 1796 Billings Directory) both list Mrs Powditch as Postmistress, and the Post Office in Charnham Street. Details, times,
places and costs are listed. Hungerford to London post cost 4d. Eight or ten coaches pass daily through Hungerford except Saturday.
Universal British Directory, 1792:
The post Office is in Charnham Street, where mail coaches go through, the high road to Bath, Bristol, and Exeter, they leave the bags at Hungerford froma London, Maidenhead, Reading, and Newbury, about half past four in the morning, and take the Marlborough, Calne, Chippenham, Bath, and Bristol bags. On their return to town they reach Hungerford about eleven o'clock at night, and take the London, Maidenhead, Reading, and Newbury, leaving the Bristol, Bath, Chippenham, Calne, and Marlborough bags, the downward post every night in the week. No post goes from Hungerford to London on Saturdays consequently the London mail does not come in 'til the Tuesday morning.
The postage from London to Hungerford is 4d, from Hungerford to Maidenhead 4d, to Reading 3d, to Newbury 2d, Marlborough 2d, Chippenham 3d, Bath and Bristol 4d.
The Bath and Bristol mail coaches change horses at Hungerford, as do two of three other coaches, there being eight or ten that pass daily through the town except Saturday. The fare from Hungerford to London is 18s to Bath and Bristol 13s.
In the List of Post Towns 1793 Hungerford is shown with mail arriving at 5am and departing at 11pm.
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The cost of a single letter to London was:
Double letters twice above rates.
In 1793 a local woman, Sarah
Liddiard, was convicted at the Assizes at Salisbury of the theft of Bills and Notes from a letter in Hungerford - her husband was a Letter Carrier for the Post Office. She was sentenced to
transportation to Australia. Follow this for more..
Mrs Mary Powditch resigned on 27th Sept 1799 due to ill health. The Post Office noted that 'she is now penny less and owes money. .She was postmistress after her
husband, and an inspector in the Dead Letter Office. She is not hostile to the Government; suggest a pension of £5-6 pa'.
Lord Camden recommended a Mr Francis for the vacant post in October but Lord Ailesbury objected saying that the Post office should 'not take away the bread from a man
with eleven children and doing the job satisfactorily.' This means that the Surveyor, Mr Woodcock must have placed a man in charge of Hungerford in September on a temporary basis. His name is not
recorded. However Mr Francis
got the job with a salary of £41.12s. Bye Work £15: Riding £ 20. His appointment was clearly unpopular with someone as a stream of letters flowed into the GPO accusing him of various crimes. Most were rejected as having no foundation. One letter of November 1804 reports that a letter from Hungerford was stolen: "the crime was done by two lads, both of tender age, one the son of the postmaster; the other has been committed to Reading Goal charged on suspicion of a felony; the postmaster must be told not to employ persons under the age of sixteen and must not have access to the business of the Off ice. No dismissal is necessary. "... However by June 1808, Mr Francis after nearly nine years of what was clearly an unhappy time, resigned. The Post Office noted that he had suffered an unusual degree of calamity and misfortune and was the object for great commiseration!
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Lord Ailesbury pushed for a Mr Fowler but Thomas Atherton
was appointed in June 1808 with an increased salary of £71.12s: Riding £71. The £71 was for a Ride to Lambourn but as a letter of 17th August shows, Mr Francis had made other arrangements for this Ride prior to his resignation! "The late postmaster was in the habit of underletting the ride to Lambourn which is contrary to Standing Orders. The full price of £71 pa is at a very low rate and were it performed in the regular way by horse without the carriage of parcels, I am satisfied we could not get anyone to do it except at a great advance. But as it is now done for £42 by a common carrier who keeps a horse & cart for parcels & Pax and as the people of Lambourn appear to be satisfied, I see no reason for altering the plan. The only reform necessary is to reduce the postmaster's allowance to which the carrier receives.."
Note that as the contractor could carry parcels, he did not warrant the correct Post Office rate which would have demanded exclusive use of the cart for Post Office
business. Lambourn had been under Wantage since Francis Stanley's time (1695-1717). Stanley had paid for a deputy at Lamborn out of his own salary. In the 1793 List of Post Towns, Lambourn is
still under Wantage so a transfer to Hungerford occurred around 1800. The Lambourn mail came with the main Hungerford Bags on the coach which passed to the north of the Town. Mr Atherton was given an
allowance of £6 pa to employ a person to take in the Bags from the coach and deliver them by cart to the Post Office.
In August 1809 the Lambourn Ride was reviewed; the allowance was increased to £56 but the contractor had to pay £4 horse tax from his own pocket. The contract price
increased over the next few years due to the hostilities on the Continent which pushed up the price of provender. By 1810 the cost was £70 and by 1817 the Ride had been extended to Ramsbury in
replaced Mr Atherton in 1815 and their Lordships were quite happy to allow him the £70 as they noted that " we are only paying £5.8s per mile , whereas elsewhere we are paying £7.8s per mile.". It is still not known where the Post office was at this time. Joseph Westall, possibly John's brother, was at 44 High Street.
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In October 1818, as the Reward notice (above) shows, a bag of letters was lost from the
Mail Coach. It is not known if the 5gns was claimed. John Westall appears in the 1823 Directory working in the Market Place as an Auctioneer & Appraiser and agent for the Albion Assurance Co. By
1830 he had moved to larger premises in the High Street, was agent for the Phoenix Assurance and had added a Linen draper, haberdasher and hosiery business to bolster his income from the Post Office.
The Directory also shows an Elizabeth & Jane Westall running a day/boarding school in the High St; a busy family indeed.
How postmasters submitted their takings to London was answered by a letter of November 1824. Mr Westall wrote to their Lordships asking if he could now have his credit of
£8 from the year 1815. It seems that postmasters, when they had accumulated suitable amounts of coinage would go to the local Bank to buy Draft Notes. These were valid for a certain period of time
and could easily be included in the London Mail Bag. In Mr Westall's case the Notes were on the Newbury Old Bank for £16. These Notes were received in London on Saturday December 9th 1815 and
sent to the Receiver General who did not present them to the Bank of England until the Monday morning; too late to be honoured. Mr Westall went to the Newbury Bank and managed to get a refund of £8.
Nine years later, he was still trying to recover the other £8. Lord Chichester replied: "I think he should be paid the £8 but not his travelling expenses to Newbury. Why
don't postmasters submit their money in Bank of England Notes ?..." The Secretary replied: We have considered this but it is impracticable. In many parts of the country B of E notes are almost
unknown. In Offices with large receipts, the postmasters pay into local Bankers who furnish Drafts at short date without any charge for stamps (duty). I may mention that one off ice, the postmaster
is suffered to remit about £100 in silver which though inconvenient on many accounts, is considered preferable to his retaining large sums in his hand until he could procure Bills or Notes for that amount."
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In May 1825 John Westall applied for an increase in salary to pay the person collecting the
Bags from the coaches. The Post Office approved: " the distance is ½ mile and the individual who performs it is disturbed twice every night by the Up & Down coaches . £6 is considered
inadequate and a modest addition of £2 would be satisfactory." Unfortunately still no mention of who the 'individual' is but he/she must of course have lived on the main coaching road.
The Lambourn Ride continued under Mr Westall. In 1827 the cost was raised to £75 but he was warned that the bags were to be carried at 7mph and not the present tardy pace.
In December 1828 the Rider was armed with Pistols & Holsters as the route was through sparsely inhabited and lonely woods.
The Rider obviously upset a Tollgate keeper as a letter of April 1829 demonstrates : "A short time ago the Keeper of the Preston Toll Gate between Hungerford and
Lambourn advised the Rider was carrying Pax. I encouraged him next time this occurred to lay information in front of a Magistrate, which he did and the Rider was fined in the Courts. In consequence
of this the Rider has conducted himself in the grossest manner towards the Gatekeeper who appealed to this Office for protection. The Rider was dismissed as a very improper person. The offence is
punishable with hard labour in a House of Correction. . . "
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A natural reaction
perhaps? The story continues with another report three days later: "I have received a Memorial signed by all the decent people in the neighbourhood, besides individual applications setting forth
that the account upon which the Rider was dismissed were false! He has not carried Pax; that his general character is irreproachable and also that the Gatekeeper, his accuser, is a man of no
reputation; that the Magistrates only fined the rider costs because the evidence was not satisfactory .Under the circumstances the rider should be re-employed. I only regret that when the matter was
reported more effort was not made to ascertain the facts. .". A happy ending after all! On January 5th 1832 Ramsbury was reduced to a Sub Office and John Westall was sent there via Lambourn to
instruct the new Receivers in their postal duties. He submitted a claim for expenses, -the Post Office noted cannily "If the Surveyor had proceeded to those places, the expense would have been
considerable. Now however it is confined to the allowance for the postmaster of Hungerford ..... £2. . "
The 1830 Piggots Directory states that "Letters arrive from London and the North every morning at a quarter before four, and are dispatched every night at half past
eleven. Letters arrive from the West at 11.30pm and are despatched at 3.45am. Office hours - the box closes every night at nine, but letters are received until ten by payment of one penny with
In September 1836 the Revd. Atwood wrote to the Post Office to ask if the Bristol Mail could carry the Bag of letters for Froxfield. The Surveyor, Mr Rideout went to
Hungerford and having spoken to Mr Westall, responded: "As the Mail Coach only stops at Froxfield to change horses, it would be necessary to make Froxfield a Post Town and as the letters do not
exceed 3 in a day, the expense of delivering such trifling correspondence would scarcely cover the expense of delivery. .Refused. "
Thus we can leave the 'pre-adhesive' era with Hungerford, under John Westall, receiving the mail via the fast Bristol Mail Coaches which thundered through the
night. At least a dozen mail coaches and stage coaches ran on the Bath Road daily. The Town itself was not disturbed by this noise but no doubt the cart carrying the Bags creaked in the early hours
of the morning on its journey down the High Street to the Post Office. Such silence was to become more permanent in a short while, for with the young Queen came modern ideas and new machinery of an
emerging industrial nation. Soon the "fine fluid motion" of the Bristol Mail would be seen no more.
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The arrival of the Penny Post:
It is said that Rowland Hill
was inspired to institute the Penny Post in 1840 because he had seen a poor woman refuse a letter from her son. The charge was a shilling, and this she could not afford. He paid it for her, and she
told him he should not have done so, for there was nothing in the letter but a blank sheet of paper. She said it was useless for her son to write, for the postage was far beyond her means; but when
he went away to work she had arranged with him to send a blank sheet at regular intervals. She always refused to take it in; but as long as it came, she knew he was alive and well. Rowland Hill
understood what a grief it must be to poor people to have no real news of absent relatives; and this was one of his strongest weapons in his fight to reform the postal system. It followed that
letters could travel over any distance in Great Britain for the standard rate of one penny. For emergencies there was the telegraph.
The first stamps were issued in May 1840 - the Penny Black, and
the Two Pence Blue.
The arrival of the Penny Post also heralded in a new postmistress- Ann Hincks. (A Sarah Hincks had run the Black Bear (now The Bear) in 1823.) The 1840 Directory
shows an Ann and Mary Hincks (possibly her sister) running a Booksellers & Stationers in the High Street. She continued to supervise the Lambourn Ride and until 1841 received the London Bags by
The arrival of the Railway Age, in particular the opening of Brunel's Great Western Railway from Paddington to Templemead Station, Bristol on 30th June 1841, brought about
the demise of the Mailcoach. Much to many people's surprise, this was followed very rapidly, by a collapse of the coaching trade, and everything associated with it (see Coaching). Ditchfield in his book notes the 'gloom and desolation of the once bustling hostelries'. The contractors tried to save some
business by running linking coaches to the nearest station.
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Unfortunately the GWR
track did not follow the Bath Road. At Reading, the line swept northwest in a large arc passing through Didcot, Uffington ,Shrivenham and Swindon. This isolated the old Bath Road towns like Newbury,
Hungerford & Marlborough. They were forced to find links with the Railway. Strangely, records for 1841-45 do not recount any facts of this period. However, if one recalls the Newbury delivery
system of this period, we know that a Mailcart was established in 1841 linking Newbury with Swindon. As Hungerford is on the direct route to Swindon, there is little doubt that the service also
encompassed Hungerford and explains the lack of records for the period from Hungerford. The Newbury contractors were:
- 1841 Mr Hearne
- 1848 Mr Hayne
- 1850 Mr Dubber
- 1855 Mr
- 1856 Mr Wivill.
There is a letter dated 25th January 1846 stating that the Swindon contractor (Mr Hearne?) was dismissed for overturning the mailcart.
Ann Hincks resigned on 15th June 1846 due to a 'serious illness' and was replaced by Charles Osmond
of the High Street, Parish clerk, Stationer, Toy dealer & agent for the Norwich Union. He must have been a youngish man as he remained in office for the next 44 years. (This was probably the same Charles Osmond recorded in the 1841 census as a butcher, aged 20 years at 10 High Street. He seems to have been a versatile young man!). Shortly after his instalment, he was given an allowance of £20 pa for a letter carrier to deliver Town letters.
He wrote to the Post Office volunteering his wife for the duties! The Secretary replied: "We should not allow the postmaster's wife to be a letter carrier. It utterly
destroys the check on the local letter account and also there strong objections to the office of licencee being in any instance held by a female." The Postmaster General, the Marqee of
Clan-Ricarde, did not however agree: "I presume this opinion is forwarded upon experience but I do not see why man and wife cannot perform the duties of postmaster and licensee in small towns.
Such arrangements impose more responsibilities on the postmaster".
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Hungerford's first town delivery was undertaken by a woman. Mr Osmond moved the site of the Post Office on July 17th 1849, no doubt to larger premises; address still given as 'High Street'.
The Berks & Hants Railway Co. had built a line from Reading to Newbury and in December 1847 had extended the line- a double track broad gauge to Hungerford. The
Company was bought by the GWR and the Post Office initiated plans to carry mail bags on this line for £50 pa. This offer was rejected by the GWR who demanded £100 per annum. The Post Office in turn
rejected this amount stating that £100 was more than a quarter of the value of the letters— £216.4.8d. It seems that the postmaster used a 'quarter value' as a rule of thumb for expenditure.
The Secretary kept at the problem and during the period December 1852 - Febrary 1853 made the following arrangements with the GWR: The P.O. would buy a second Class fare ( Mon-Sat ) at 3s.5d per day
for a messenger to take the London Bags from Reading via Newbury to Hungerford. Cost £53 pa. The GWR agreed but stated that they would in no way be held responsible for the Bags and postmaster must
employ their own Guards. The bags were then picked up from the Station and delivered to the postmaster.
By 1856 there were two deliveries by train per day and yearly receipts about £300. 1856 was also the year in which Mr Osmond's career nearly came to a close, as
"charges of a serious nature" were brought by the Post office.
The postmaster of Newbury at that time was a Mr Henry Ashley (1847-56)- who was dismissed for being a debtor and falsifying accounts. Apparently Mr Ashley was tipped off
that the Surveyor was going to pay him a visit and knowing that his stamp account was short, sent to Hungerford in the middle of the night for a supply of stamps to complete his stock. A letter of
28th Oct continues the story: " ...that Mr Osmond complied with the request, doubtless being well aware at the time of the purpose for which the stamps were required... Next day, when Mr
Osmond discovered the serious state of Mr Ashley's position, he resorted to the disgraceful expedient of passing himself off as a "Mr Williams" sub distributor of stamps at Hungerford, who
had at one time given the postmaster of Newbury £10 worth of stamps, in hope that he would, by this means regain compensation for his loss. The whole transaction is so discreditable that postmaster
of Hungerford should be dismissed."
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During the following weeks testimonials
arrived from Hungerford requesting the return of their valued postmaster. The Surveyor confirmed the hitherto blameless character of Mr Osmond and after some deliberation the Post Office decided that
Mr Osmond may not have known the true purpose of the 'middle of the night' stamps so agreed to his reinstatement on Nov 26th. Mr Frederick Adnams became postmaster of Newbury and like Mr Osmond
remained for another 35 years in office.
By 1857 postal business was on the increase so Mr Osmond moved again in the High Street to larger premises on May 18th.
In October 1859, the Post Office agreed that as the correspondence for the Southwest was 'amply sufficient' a direct link should be initiated with the London and
Southwest Railway at Micheldever station. The new SW Bag would be included with the Day Bag for Newbury and then transferred to the Mailcart contractor for Micheldever. This Newbury SW link was
established in 1843. This became then the second link with the Newbury Postal system.
In November 1862 a 24m single track extension of the original Berks & Hants Railway was opened to Seend near Devizes. The High Street was now spanned by a railway
bridge which was replaced in 1898 when the line was converted to double track.
In 1863 a postal link with Marlborough was established and I feel that this extension railway may well have been used. The Post Office noted that "although there were
only 56 letters per week for Marlborough from Hungerford, the addition of the Reading Bag would make the link worthwhile.. "
In 1870, in common with other post offices the Hungerford office was connected to the Telegraph system.
1869 - Introduction of Telegraph working. 1/- for first 20 words, 3d.
for each additional 5 words or part thereof.
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In October 1879, Mr Osmond lost some letters from his office. On investigation by the Post
Office, it seemed that his son, Charles Alexander Osmond had something to do with their disappearance, and the Authorities insisted that the son 'should be sent away from home'.
Presumably he was, for we next hear of him again in a splendid advert in the 1887 Directory as Proprietor of "The Plume", High Street, with 'marquees and tents
suitable for garden, fishing, lawn tennis and cricket parties on the shortest notice'! A few years later a Mrs Edith Osmond was running the Bear in Charnham Street; an enterprising family.
In December 1889, after nearly 44 years the office at Hungerford became vacant with, I assume, the death of Mr Osmond.
Henry John Barclay
became the new postmaster on 4th February 1890 and the Post Office took the opportunity to reorganise the office. The Surveyor noted dryly that "the salary of the late postmaster was decidedly below average and I propose £150pa forthwith. Three Assistants in the office at £100 work 11hrs daily."
The quality of work under such conditions is not satisfactory so I propose to establish two Sorting Clerks/Telegraphists plus an allowance of £39 pa to reduce the hours to
9½ daily. This will cost an additional £43 pa." Further staff - a Clerk and two extra Temps (one the postmaster's wife) were engaged in Nov.1895.
In 1891 the Surveyor decided that the Post Office was too small so increased Mr Barclay's rent allowance from £25.10s to £52pa to "enable the postmaster to fit up
an enlarged and improved office adequate to the increased requirements of the service. The postmaster must find personal accommodation elsewhere." Mr Barclay's personal accommodation
must have been extensive as we shall see shortly!
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In August 1891, after numerous
complaints about missing letters, the Authorities arrested the postmaster's assistant, a Mr J.W.H. Osmond. A search of his house revealed a brooch subsequently identified as having been enclosed in a
letter which failed to arrive. Other Post Office articles were found and there was little doubt that the theft ''was of a systematic kind'. He was sentenced to 3 years penal servitude in November
A few years later the postmaster himself was under suspicion as a letter of November 1898 reveals: "When the Account at Hungerford as checked by the Surveyor, the
cash was deficient by £198-13s-0¼d. Mr Barclay, unable to make good the account, was suspended. His explanation was that the deficiency had been growing for 3 years during which period he had
continually missed money and stamps from his safe although he only, so far as he knew, had a key. He had been afraid to report losses for fear of loosing his appointment as careless and
untrustworthy. Mr Barclay has no income other than £150 salary and has a wife and 13 children to support. There is a suspicion against one of Mr Barclays sons, a youth who appears to have had access
to the premises and has been spending money beyond his earnings. His attitude during the hearing was unsatisfactory. However it seems the postmaster has been using official cash for personal reasons
and with no little cunning manipulated his accounts to conceal their nature. I propose Mr Barclay should be appointed a Sorting Clerk elsewhere.". To no avail! In spite of his large family,
their Lordships however did not agree, and demanded that he be dismissed.
He was replaced by Joseph Mathews
who had come to the attention of their Lordships in a unusual manner as a letter of 9th Dec 1898 shows: "I bring to your notice the case of J Mathews , Clerk at Ashford. In 1891 he rendered valuable assistance in the Sandgate Lifeboat when the crew of the 'Benvenue' were rescued. The Postmaster General besides expressing his appreciation of the gallant conduct displayed by Mathews directed that his name should be noted for future promotion. He is now 31 yrs old and doing Post Office work for 15 years and in receipt of maximum scale, viz £140 pa. Considering the circumstances under which the previous postmaster left, I submit that the office should he placed in the hands of an officer who has no previous connection with Hungerford."
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Under Mr Mathews, the first Town Sub Office at Eddington
was opened on 10th April 1899 under a postmistress, Miss Mary Brothers, and a Wall box was placed outside.
In 1904 a petition was received from Hungerford for a connection with the Telephone System. The Surveyor reported that 'sixteen persons would undertake to rent
apparatus, and as a trunk circuit has recently been erected between Newbury and Marlborough, a line could be led to Hungerford for £145 to include apparatus etc.'.
Mr Mathews supervised this installation and in the summer of 1905 returned to his native Kent at Chislehurst.
Mr J. Pontain arrived from Derby where he was an Overseer on 15th August and £200 pa.
By 1913 the Surveyor was reporting that the Post Office in Hungerford was far too small and recommended the cancellation of the current lease on Ladyday 1914. The
Landlady, a Mrs Hewer, objected to the loss of her lease as she had adapted the rooms for Post Office business and felt that it was not now suitable for other usage.
After much correspondence the Surveyor decided that a site for a new Class II office
should be sought. Messrs Tutt & Son offered to erect premises provided a 21yr lease was signed at a rent of £156 pa. The Treasury approved in Feb 1914. This Crown Post Office building was erected on the site of Earle's Engineering workshop, and is dated 1914.
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Further rural routes developed:
- Northern Ride to Lambourne (from early days)
1842: Froxfield and Ham
- 1847: Mail Cart Route: Chilton - Ramsbury - Aldbourne - Lambourn. On 16th October 1865 a Mr Durren the Mail Cart driver was prosecuted and convicted of being drunk on
duty. (Later Baydon served from Aldbourne)
- Froxfield - Shalbourne - Ham: (later the Bedwyns)
- Kintbury - Benham(Halfway) - Gravel Hill
- Hungerford New Town -
Shefford - East Garston - Woodlands - Eastbury
- Inkpen - Combe (Later Fosbury & the Vernhams)
All were initially performed on foot. The Kintbury Postman had to relinquish his 'Boot Allowance' as in 1903 his walk was shortened to less than 5 hours per day! Records
show various problems on the Walks: £8 Remittance for Great Bedwyn lost in transit,-the Under-Secretary of the Home Office lived at Gt.Bedwyn and had his own personal pouch sent from Hungerford:
Warrant embezzled,-Postman struck by lightning; Heart Strain and selling Insurance on his walk!
The first Tricyle seems to have arrived in 1887 and was put on the Froxfield - Ham Route. Its use spread to other Routes. The cycling Rules & Regulations were somewhat
harsh— I do not think I'd like to cycle 25 miles with 112 lbs aboard! Wheel Wobble could be very nasty - a rural cyclist was dismissed for riding his bicycle into a tree whilst intoxicated!
The Cycle post on the Fosbury - Vernhams - Lower Green Route which is at the extremity of the Hungerford system was replaced with a Mounted Horse Post in 1902 but after
various claims for horse keep and lost horses, the Post Office gave up and reinstated the cyclist in 1908.
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more information on the expansion of rural deliveries, and the hand stamps used, see:
- The Postal History of Hungerford, by G H R Homer-Wooff
Postmasters in the Crown post office were
1915–1923 A. Wise
1923–1941 H.G. Rickard
1941–1947 A.E. Baldock
1961–1980 R.W. Talbot
1980–1986 W.A. Wilson
Mr. Wilson was the last Postmaster at Hungerford. His responsibilities were replaced by Area Control from Reading with a Supervisor for each service ie. Counter, Parcels
In 1989 the Post office planned to reduce the Hungerford Post Office running costs further by moving the services out of the 126 High Street building and
providing the services in a Sub-PO in a High Street retail business.
In 1990 the Crown Post Office at 126 High Street closed for normal business. Services were transferred to "Post Office Counters" in Martin the Newsagent (5/6 High
Street). A new red double post-box was erected in the pavement outside Martins.
- History of coaching and Hungerford
- Victorian letter boxes in Hungerford
- The 1907 Hungerford Telephone Directory
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Chronological Summary on the Postal Service in Hungerford:
c13th: (Henry III) King's Messengers introduced & paid, Postmaster's job to provide relay of horses.
1635: GPO started regular
conveyance of public mail. Letters from London to Edinburgh took 3 days
1640: Stage coaches appeared. Roads very poor.
1649: Commonwealth developed postal services for government use.
1660: Restoration of the monarchy. Roads still poor but stage coaches and mail coaches increasing.
1690: Turnpike Act
1695: First reference to Postmaster in Hungerford - Purton.
c1780: (Tithing of Charnham St 1780) Mr. John Snook for the post-office (owner), Mrs Powdish (occ). (Position of PO in Charnham Street unclear)
1781 (ibid) John Pearce for house, Mrs
Powdish and George Thatcher (occ).
1792 (UBD) Mary Powditch (sic!) - Postmistress. Post Office in Charnham Street, where mail coaches go through the high road to Bath, Bristol, and Exeter. They
leave the bags at Hungerford from London etc. Details, times, places, cost, and change of horses at Hungerford. 8 or 10 coaches pass daily through Hungerford except Saturday.
Postmistress Mary Powditch petitioned the PMG , praying his office to purchase a house in which to conduct the business of her office.
22.10.1795: We cannot purchase a house at Hungerford for a
1796 (BD) Mary Powditch - Postmistress, Post Office in Charnham St.(includes details of Mail coaches, frequency, days, postage costs, eg London - Hungerford 4d) Inns in Charnham
St.(possible site for PO since directory does not state where PO is sited in Charnham St.) : The Black Bear - Elizabeth Whale, innkeeper; The Red Lion - Henry Blake,I/K; & The White Hart -
Elizabeth Heath,I/K. NB The High House, Charnham St. has a "VR" post box in its street wall. ??site of a previous PO?
27.9.1799: Prs Powditch is inill health and seeks a retirement
pension. Lord Gower recommended £5 or £6 p.a.
4.12.1799: Lord Campden testified to the lady's good character.
22.11.1800: Mr Francis, Postmaster, having been charged with writing silly libels
and anonymous letters to Lord Ailesbury, admitted to having been a pamphlet writer but not to writing the offending letters. Lord Aucland and Lord Gower agreed wit him.
21.4.1809: Mr Atherton
sought to resign. Lord Ailesbury declined to nominate a successor.
6.1809: Lord Ailesbury recommended the appointment of Mr John Westall (shopkeeper).
1823 (PD) Sarah Hinks, Black Bear, posting
1823 Sarah Hincks - Innkeeper at The Bear; Any relation or relevance to Ann Hincks, PM?
1830 (PD) Post Office, High Street - John Westall, Postmaster. "Letters arrive from London and
the North every morning at a quarter before four, and are dispatched every night at half past eleven. Letters arrive from the West at 11.30pm and are despatched at 3.45am. Office hours - the box
closes every night at nine, but letters are received until ten by payment of one penny with each".
17.2.1835: Mr John Pearce of Lothbury recommends Mr S Westall to succeed his father as
Postmaster of Hungerford in the event of a vacancy.
17.8.1835: Hungerford Postmaster dead.
1836 (QRR) ?44HS: Edward Dismore for a house late Joseph Westall. ?PO sited at 44HS or just where JW
1836 Dozen mail coaches and stage coaches on Bath Road.
1840 Rowland Hill started Penny Post. Previously, postal charges paid by receiver of letter & cost depended on distance. Only
the wealthy could afford this unless franked by a M.P.! Penny Post was 1d, paid by the sender for any distance. First stamps issued in May 1840 = Penny Black Stamp & Two Pence Blue
No entry for Ann Hincks in HS or Bridge St. No entry of a Postmaster But a Charles Osmond (20) at 10 HS as a butcher
1844 (PD) Anne Hincks, Postmistress, Post Office, High Street (includes details
1844 (PD) William Burtt, Bear, Charnham Street, Commercial inn and posting house.
1844 (SD) Bear Inn, Charnham Street. William Burtt, and posting.
1847 Railway opened to
H'ford - provided faster mail service
1847 (KD) Charles Osmond, Postmaster, High Street. (includes details of services, eg "Mail cart 5.45am to villages, Chilton, Ramsbury, Aldbourne, and
Lambourn. Foot messenger at 7am to Kintbury, Benham, and Gravel Hill, Froxfield, Shalbourne, and Ham. Returns 7.30pm!" ?PO sited at 10HS or just where CO lived?
1847 (KD) William Burtt, Bear,
Commercial Inn and posting house, Charnham Street.
1847 (SD) Bear Inn, Charnham Street. William Burtt, and posting.
1850 (SD) Post Office, High Street. Chas Osmond PM. Letters from London and
all parts arrive every morning at four, and are despatched at a quarter before nine at night. Post, Kintbury, receiving house at Robert Criswicks – letters from all parts arrive from and are
despatched to Hungerford daily.
1850 (SD) William Burtt, Bear, Charnham Street. Commercial Inn and posting.
1851 (CS) 130HS:Charles Osmond (33) Postmaster,(PO sited 130HS?) 25HS:James Bodman
(47), Linen draper. ?6HS:Fanny Westall (81) Formerly postmaster ?124HS:Mary Hincks (70) Bookseller (??Ann Hincks'PO here)
1852 Post boxes introduced in this country. Victorian boxes (VR) are listed due to the efforts of the Pillar Box Society. eg. in H'ford: High House, Charnham St., Police Station, Park St., The Old Sub PO at 2 Oxford St., Eddington
1857 (Deeds of 25HS) 25HS:Bishop Thomas Grant (owner) leased to Charles Osmond
1861 (CL) 25HS: Bishop of Manchester (own), Charles Osmond (occ)
1861 (CS) 25HS: Charles Osmond (43),Postmaster, Post Office Arman's Yard (rear 11 Bridge St) John Adams (48) Postboy
1862 (Deeds of 25 HS) 25HS: Bishop sold to Charles Osmond for £650
1862 Railway extended west from Hungerford to Devizes
1863 Three Swans, Market Place. John Clarke Free - Commercial and family hotel and posting house.
1863 Bear, Charnham Street. John Welch – Commercial and family hotel and posting house.
1869 Telegraph arrived in Hungerford, office established at 14 HS
1871 (CS) 25HS: Charles Osmond, Postmaster Willes Cottages (N. of Salisbury Arms) Frederick Barns post messenger to Kintbury
1877 (KD) Three Swans Hotel: Mrs. Jane Bell Free – family and commercial hotel and posting house.
1881 (CS) 25HS: Charles Osmond (illegible), Charles Woolston and James Shaw, Postal Clerks. BellYard:Charles Dobson (27) Postboy ?36HS: George Challis, rural postman 90HS: Ephraim Vockins, postman
1890 (Deeds of 25HS) Charles Osmond died, aged 72 NB Who was PM from 1880 - 1890? Pity census record of CO's occupation illegible. Did he c/t as PM or was his son, also Charles, the following PM?
1891 (KD) ?site: Henry John Barclay, Postmaster, High Street.
1891 (KD) Three Swans Hotel: Mrs. Jane Bell Free – family and commercial hotel and posting house.
1896 (CL) 25HS: Charles Osmond Trustees (own), Charles Alexander Osmond (occ).
1896 (CL) 14HS: Joseph Matthews
1898 Mrs. Osmond - Innkeeper at The Bear. Any relation or relevance to Charles Osmond?
Oct 1898: H J Barclay dismissed for fiddling the books. His salary at the time £150 p.a. He had a wife and 13 children.
Dec 1898: Barclay succeeded by J Matthews (formerly clear at Ashford). The official record says of him that "In appreciation of his gallant conduct in 1891 in ering valuable assistance in the Sandgate (Folkestone) life-boat when the crew of the Benuene were rescued, the PMG has directed that his name should be noted for promotion".
1903 (KD) Joseph Matthews (includes details of Sunday deliveries - town 7am, rural 6am)
1911 (KD) Three Swans – family and commercial hotel and posting house. Francis Waldron Church
1914 New Post Office built on site of Earl's Engineering Workshop, 126 High Street. Builders were George Belcheno Tutt & Bertram George Howard bought land from Mrs Nellie Hawkes for £450. They leased it to HM Postmaster General in Dec 1914. The PO subsequently (?when) acquired freehold from F.R. Stoneham. Rain hopper dated 1914. The Post Office land backed on to Mr Astley's land, with Mrs Hawkes to the north, and Mrs Gibbons to the south. South Berks Brewery was at the end of the south border.
1914 (CL) 14HS: Isaac Pountain, Postmaster
1920 (KD) Alfred Wise Postmaster (1st at 126 HS PO) Sub PO at Newtown, Miss Florence Elizabeth Jessett, sub- postmistress
1939 (BL) Mr HG Rickard, PM, Post & Telegraph & Money Office, details of services, including Sundays.
1986 Mr. Wilson last Postmaster at Hungerford. Replaced by Area Control from Reading with a Supervisor for each service ie. Counter, Parcels & Letters
1989 The PO plans to reduce Hungerford PO running costs further by moving the services out of 126HS building & providing the services in a Sub-PO in a HS business
1990 Post Office at 126 High Street closed. Services transferred to Post Office Counter in Martin the Newsagent (5/6 High Street). New red post-box erected in pavement outside Martins.
- History of coaching and Hungerford
- Victorian letter boxes in Hungerford
- The 1907 Hungerford Telephone Directory
- "The Postal History of Hungerford" by G.H.R. Homer-Wooff, 1996
- Eddington Post Office.
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