The Royal Mail can date it’s history as far back as 1516, however it would not be until 1635 that the postal service would be opened up to the public with a letter office being established in London, and a system developed to carry mail across the country. It was at this time that letters would be carried from one ‘post’ to another ‘post’ by carriers on foot or horseback.
A postage act was past by parliament in 1657 establishing fixed rates for the delivery of letters. The postal service continued to develop with mail being carried by coach.
It would not be until 1830 that the mail started to be carried by train, with the first route being between Liverpool and Manchester.
Mortehoe & Woolacombe on the record by Margaret Reed sheds some light on the start of the postal service in Mortehoe in her wonderful book:
“In 1836 George Tucker bought a cottage in Mortehoe, part of the tenement known as “Chantry’ at Mortehoe. He already owned the Barricane Inn (Barricane House) which he had inherited. The properties were altered over time, and eventually renamed post office cottages when George’s son, William became the first postmaster of the village. The house became known as ‘Tuckers House’
R.F.Bidgood in her book ‘Two Villages, the Story of Mortehoe and Woolacombe’ looks further at the history of the postal service in the area:
“Stories are told of how the mail arrived in earlier times. The earliest known postman was a Mr. Hooper. He carried the mail from Ilfracombe through Lee, Warcombe, Mortehoe, Woolacombe, Westdown and back to Ilfracombe three times a week for 6d a day.
He had developed a steady trot on his long journey. At one farm en-route there was a small window through which he could toss a letter without stopping. The next postman was a Mr. Connibear who had a little grey pony. He did the same journey three times a week. From a post office directory dated 1866, mention is made of William Tucker, “receiver of letters” which came from Ilfracombe.
In 1896 Mortehoe Post Office hit the headlines of many of the UK’s newspapers, when a ‘sensation’ was reported. The police arrested Miss Adela Ford who worked at the post office, for the crime of stealing a registered letter containing two £6 notes. Miss Ford was described in many of the press features as being a ‘young and most respectably connected’ person.
On the 25th June 1896 the reported incident had taken place at the Post Office. William Ashford, temporary postman, said “letters on which there was money to pay were usually handed to him the same as registered letters. On the day in question a letter bill was given to him, but he did not know that there was a letter with it.”
The postman Conibear and Mr. Gammon the postmaster gave evidence on the practice of the Post Office, Mr Gammon stated that the prisoner did not take part in sorting the general correspondence. It was usual for the registered letters with the wrappers to be placed aside. They continued to give evidence detailing procedures, however as the Judge summoned up the case, and the discrepancies in the evidence he came to a verdict of Not Guilty and Miss Ford was released. The story hit many newspapers and caused quite a sensation at the time.
The post office as we see it today, has been unchanged for many, many years. Today serving the community as well as the many visitors that come to Mortehoe each year.