Category Archives: Mortehoe

Mortehoe Post Office

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.

 

STRANGE PROCEEDINGS AT MORTHOE

In 1887 an event took place in Mortehoe that would be later reported in the press as ‘The Strange Proceedings at Mortehoe’, it would be a case that would end at the House of Commons and receive national press.

On the land where Ada’s Terrace now stands, opposite the Methodist Church, there used to be a small chapel and burial ground. This was owned at one time by Mr. T. Smith of Duckpool Farm, Mortehoe, the land having been given to his sister Mrs. M. Irwin of Dukes Cottage. It was she who had the chapel built, with the ground later being used for family graves. These can be seen in the far corner of the opposite picture. The land and chapel would later go on to be inherited by Mrs Irwin’s daughter, Mrs Agnes Coad, on the death of her mother.

Whilst in the ownership of Mrs Coad, it was discovered that the leasehold to the land was actually held by the Chichester Estate, and duly Mr and Mrs Coad tried to buy the land on which their chapel and graveyard were located.

In what became a very nasty dispute, the Chichester’s bailiffs decided that the Chichester Estate should have total possession of the land and what stood upon it, which in turn meant the chapel and the graves would have to removed. The shocking events that followed this, resulted in a case being taken to the House of Commons and later reported in the national press:

“It was reported by Mr and Mrs Coad that on the discovery that the leasehold belonged to the Chichester’s, that an agreement had been made many years previously between Mr. T. Smith and Sir Bruce Chichester, whereby Mr Smith exchanged some of his land for some of that belonging to Sir Chichester.

This land included that which the chapel and burial ground were sited, however as no paperwork verified this, Mr and Mrs Coad who had since inherited the chapel made attempt to buy or rent it from Miss Chichester.  The bailiffs for the Chichester’s refused these offers, and concluded that ‘the chapel must be pulled down for aesthetic reasons, and the buried must be dug up.”

A few days before Christmas an undertaker left Barnstaple at midnight with three coffins, arriving at the burial ground at two o’clock in the morning.When opening one of the graves, where a son and daughter lay, they found one of the new coffins was not large enough and after taking up the corpse, it had to be put back again into the existing grave. The other two bodies were carried to the parish churchyard, and left, above ground for two days before being buried.

In a report prepared for the House of Commons, Mr Coad’s statement read as follows:

“This is how it was done ; the bones of my dear wife’s mother were picked up and put into a bucket, and thus brought from the tomb. The coffins of my dear son and daughter were taken up, and then was found that one of the new coffins brought in at midnight from Barnstaple was not large enough, and the dear girl’s corpse was put back into the grave again.”

The House of Commons ruled that permission had been given to do this, in what was a heated argument, the disagreement was played out in the National Press for some time afterwards