The Post Offices of Weeting

In the 18th century letters were carried by specially designated Royal Mail coaches. They stopped at coaching inns to deliver mail, change horses and give the passengers the opportunity to rest and take refreshment. The White Hart at Weeting was a coaching inn and could well have serviced the Royal Mail coach on the London to Norwich route. This method of distributing letters was unpopular and so expensive that it was beyond the means of the working man. The cost of conveying letters varied between destinations and had to be paid by the recipient. The system was revolutionized by Roland Hill in 1840 when he introduced the penny post. By purchasing a penny (1d) stamp and affixing it to a letter, the sender would be guaranteed delivery to anywhere within the British Isles. The introduction of this uniform service required tremendous organisation, as every city, town and village in the country required an office where stamps could be purchased, letters posted and sorted for delivery.

The cheap postal service revolutionised communications for the working classes. Education for the masses had produced a newly literate population, who found they could now keep in touch with friends and relations living and working in other parts of the country for the cost of a stamp. The Post Office gradually brought in other services, such as telegrams, a savings bank and a secure way of transferring money by means of the postal order. The post card had been in common use on the continent since the 1870's, but it was not until 1894 that their use was approved by the Post Office in this country. They became such a popular form of communication that the period between 1900 and 1914 became known as the "Golden Age" of the post card when millions were sent. In 1908 Lloyd George introduced the Old Age Pension Act, rightly hailed as the greatest piece of social reform of the age, and it was payable locally at the Post Office.

It is not certain where the first post office was in Weeting but in 1868 the Sub Post Mistress was Mary Ann Arnold. In 1883 the position was held by Miss Lydia Arnold (her daughter?). From 1890 to 1900 the office was in the charge of Mr George Steele. The Steele family at this time, were the village blacksmiths, but it seems that the Post office was not in Forge Cottage but at number 1 The Row. It appears that the letters were delivered from Brandon Post Office by cart and when the driver reached the Wilton Road he would blow a horn to warn the Weeting Post Master to be ready with the mailbags for collection. Only stamps and postal orders were issued at the Weeting office; if any orders were to be cashed or telegrams sent, these transactions had to be performed at the Brandon Post Office. By 1904 the Weeting Post Office had moved to Walnut Cottage and the Post Master was Henry Malt. He continued in this capacity until the mid 1930's. Henry and his wife Agnes had nine children, all living at the cottage. During the 1914-18 war their son Alfred became postman for the district. The Post Office then moved to what was previously the White Hart Public House. It is curious that the Post office should move into what was the coaching inn and continue to provide service to the Royal Mail. In January 2001, following the national trend, the Post Office closed. Fortunately and to the delight of the villagers, two months later a new Post Office opened in Weeting Stores, thus continuing the story of a village Post Office for over 130 years. It is hoped that the villagers will continue to use the service, for the saying goes, "use it, or lose it".

©Gerry Moore 2001