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Postal services in North Mymms over the years

Photograph of postman collecting the post from Holloways Lane, Welham Green in 1966 Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms collection
Postman collecting the mail from a post box Holloways Lane, Welham Green in 1966
Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms collection

In the summer of 1972, local historian and photographer, Ron Kingdon, wrote an article expressing his sadness at the loss of the Rookery post box near his home in Welham Green. Ron wrote: “The facility of slipping down to the corner to post a letter, as must have been done for many years here, came to an end on that Sunday in July.”

Ron’s feature, which appeared in the March 1973 edition of Hertfordshire Countryside, is embedded at the end of this piece, just one chapter in the changing character of local postal services over more than 500 years.

The North Mymms History Project team has been researching the parish's postal past, studying documents, letters, photographs, books, and searching online to try to record the changes to the postal services over the years.

Photograph of the Rookery postbox at the junction of Dixons Hill Road and the A1000 before the roundabout June 1962 Photo from Ron Kingdon image from the Peter Miller Collection
The Rookery post box at the junction of Dixons Hill Road and the A1000
 before the roundabout June 1962
Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Peter Miller Collection 

Same day delivery and same day 'return of post'


In Victorian times, long before email and instant messenger, residents in certain parts of London could send a letter in the morning and receive a reply the same evening. This was known as 'return of post'.

There were up to a dozen collections and deliveries a day serving parts of the capital. Catherine J. Golden, a professor of English at Skidmore College and author of "Posting It: The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing" (2009) says that, in those days in London, "people complained if a letter didn't arrive in a couple of hours."

Further afield, in rural areas such as North Mymms, the frequency of deliveries and collections differed, based on population and demand. Hatfield, Potters Bar, and St Albans were the postal hubs for this area, with post boxes and post offices linked to the service. A team of postal workers operating from local sorting offices was established with routes passing every home in the parish.

The uniform penny post


The system was made possible by the Uniform Penny Post, introduced in January 1840, which aimed to link the British population:
“through setting a charge of one penny for carriage and delivery between any two places in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland irrespective of distance”. (Wikipedia)

This was followed, four months later, with the issuing of the first stamps - the Penny Black.

Photograph of a Penny Black image from the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Penny Black image from the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons

There had been primitive postal system before - dating back to 1516 (see timeline below), and many variations over the years, some of which proved costly for the receiver who had to pay the postage charge on delivery based on the weight of the item and the distance it had travelled.

A timeline of the Royal Mail's 500 year history


The Royal Mail has produced a timeline charting its 500 year history. The text in the bullet points below is reproduced with the permission of Royal Mail Group.
  • 1516: Henry VIII knighted Brian Tuke, the first Master of the Posts. Tuke had the influence and authority to establish key post towns across the country and build a formal postal network. 
  • Before 1635: The postal service operated only for the King and the Court 
  • 1635: The postal service was opened up to the general public by King Charles I. A Letter Office was established in London, and six post roads were formalised, including Dover to London, to carry mail across the country 
  • 1660: The Post Office Act created the publicly-owned postal service 
  • 1711: The Post Office Act paved the way for a unified postal service across Scottish and English (including Wales) administrations following the 1707 Act of Union. Ireland followed in 1808 
  • 1840: The reform - over a number of years - of the Post Office by Rowland Hill and others defined the basis of the modern postal service as we know it today and coincided with the broader social and technological changes sweeping across Victorian society at the time
  • 1883: The launch of Parcel Post reflected a growing appetite among both residential and business customers to send and receive parcels. The growth of parcels saw the term ‘Letter Carrier’ replaced with ‘postman’, which is still in use today

The birth of the modern postal service


But it was not until 1840, when postal reforms, campaigned for by Sir Rowland Hill, led to what Wikipedia describes as:

“a comprehensive reform of the postal system, based on the concept of Uniform Penny Post and his solution of prepayment, facilitating the safe, speedy and cheap transfer of letters. Hill later served as a government postal official, and he is usually credited with originating the basic concepts of the modern postal service, including the invention of the postage stamp.”

Photograph of Rowland Hill (postal reformer) taken before 1879 (date of Hill's death). Image from Wikimedia Commons
Rowland Hill (postal reformer) taken before 1879 (date of Hill's death)
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Hill’s recommendations, set out in 1838 in a proposal to parliament, stipulated that "the postage on all letters received in a post-town, and delivered in the same, or any other post-town in the British Isles, shall be at the uniform rate of one penny per half ounce”.

This, according to Wikipedia, led to the birth of the modern postal service.

“However, Hill did not include a specific timetable for the introduction of a "penny post" in his proposal, nor did he suggest a plan for its implementation. Nonetheless, Hill's 1838 proposal paved the way for the 1840 Act which introduced the Uniform Penny Post.”

Scan of The official handbill of January 19, 1840 announcing the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post in England
The official handbill of January 19, 1840 announcing the Uniform Penny Post in England
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Kelly's Post Office Directory


About the same time as Hill was drafting his proposals, Frederic Festus Kelly, was appointed the chief inspector of letter-carriers for the Post Office. One of Kelly's jobs was to take over the publication of the Post Office London Directory.

According to Wikipedia, he founded Kelly & Co. and he and various family members gradually expanded the company over the next several decades, producing directories for an increasing number of UK counties and buying out or putting out of business various competing publishers of directories.


Photograph of The Post Office directory of the six home counties, including Hertfordshire, edited by E. R. Kelly and published by Kelly and Co., 51, Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, W.C., London, 1878 Image courtesy of Abe Books https://www.abebooks.co.uk
The Post Office directory of the six home counties, including Hertfordshire, edited by E. R. Kelly
Published by Kelly and Co., 51, Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, W.C., London, 1878
Image courtesy of Patrick Marrin of Marrin's Bookshop Folkestone

Scan of The Post Office directory of the six home counties, including Hertfordshire, edited by E. R. Kelly Published by Kelly and Co., 51, Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, W.C., London, 1878 Image courtesy of Abe Books
The Post Office directory of the six home counties, including Hertfordshire, edited by E. R. Kelly
Published by Kelly and Co., 51, Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, W.C., London, 1878
Image courtesy of Patrick Marrin of Marrin's Bookshop Folkestone

The Kelly’s directory for 1890 shows two collections and two deliveries for North Mymms each day. The letters would be processed through three sorting centres at Hatfield, St Albans, and Potters Bar.

screen grab of Kelly's Directory showing collection and delivery times.
Screen grab of Kelly's Directory showing collection and delivery times taken from document below.

The page for North Mimms from Kelly's directory for 1890 is embedded below. The item is from the Peter Miller Collection.





North Mymms post offices

Bell Bar


There were two different locations in Bell Bar. The first c1890 - c1900 at Carpenters Cottage and then c1901 – c1937 next to the Bakery at the Bulls Lane junction with Bell Lane.

Location 1: Carpenters Cottage



Scan of the 1898 25 inch OS map - from the Peter Miller Collection
1898 25 inch Ordnance Survey (OS) map - from the Peter Miller Collection

The 1890, 1895 & 1899 Kelly’s Directory lists the sub-postmaster as Edward Wallas Howling with post delivered from Hatfield at 7am and 12 noon, and despatched at 12 noon and 6.45pm.

Edward Wallas Howling is also listed in the commercial section of the 1890 Kelly’s Directory as a carpenter, and by 1899 as builder, carpenter and clerk of the works.

Edward (39) from Wivenhoe, Essex is listed in the 1881 census as a builder employing three men and one apprentice with the household consisting of his wife Emily (37), also from Wivenhoe, their six children and a carpenter. No mention is made of a post office.

The 1891 census lists Edward as the postmaster, living with his wife and six children and a boarder, Alice Merry Jackson (15) telegraph clerk. By 1901, Edward is again listed as a builder and the post office has moved.

Photograph of Early 1900s postcard showing Carpenters Cottage far right and cottages now demolished in the centre NMLHS Images of North Mymms Collection
Early 1900s postcard showing Carpenters Cottage far right and cottages now demolished in the centre
Image from the NMLHS part of the Images of North Mymms Collection


Location 2: Right-hand end cottage, now demolished, next to the Old Bakery




Scan of the 1924 25 inch OS map from the Peter Miller Collection
1924 25 inch OS map from the Peter Miller Collection

The 1901 census lists Maud Louise Moon (27) from Coleford, Somerset as sub-postmistress and dressmaker, head of household and living with her brother, Oliver (28) piano tuner, sister Winifred (25) and sister Martha, sub-post office clerk.

The 1902 Kelly’s Directory lists Miss Maude Moon as sub-postmistress, but by 1908 her sister Miss Winifred Moon is sub-postmistress. The 1914 and 1922 directories lists Mrs Oliver Moon as sub-postmistress.

By the time the 1940 Ordnance Survey map was published (surveyed 1938) the cottages and post office had been demolished.

Photograph of early 1900s postcard published by Moon, Post Office, Bell Bar showing the Post Office far right.  Peter Miller Collection
Early 1900s postcard published by Moon - the Bell Bar Post Office is far right
Image from the Peter Miller Collection

Brookmans Park

There were four different locations for post offices in Brookmans Park, including a general store and, more recently in 2018, shared premises with a dry cleaning business.

Location 1 - Bradmore Green




Scan of the 1938 (revised 1935) 6 inch OS map Image from the Peter Miller Collection
1938 (revised 1935) 6 inch OS map
Image from the Peter Miller Collection 


Photograph of a 1930s postcard showing Moon's Stores Post Office Peter Miller Collection
A 1930s postcard showing Moon's Stores Post Office
Image from the Peter Miller Collection

Location 2 - Bradmore Green



Scan of the 1960 6 inch OS map Image from the Peter Miller Collection
1960 6 inch OS map
Image from the Peter Miller Collection


Photograph of Postcard c1960 showing the post office on Brookmans Park's Bradmore Green Image from the Peter Miller Collection
Postcard c1960 showing the post office on Brookmans Park's Bradmore Green
Image from the Peter Miller Collection

Location 3 - Bradmore Green


Photograph of Cards & Toys Post Office in August 1994 when the proprietor was Mr F Clark Image from N Akers and the NMLHS part of the Images of North Mymms collection
Brookmans Park Post Office in Cards & Toys, August 1994, proprietor Mr F Clark
Image from N Akers and the NMLHS part of the Images of North Mymms collection
The post office on Brookmans Park's Bradmore Green was managed by Postmaster Mohammed Ashraf until February 2018.

Location 4 - Bradmore Green



Photograph of The Brookmans Park postoffice relocated at Charlies Valet on February 24, 2018, managed by Postmaster Sheikh Islam Image from the North Mymms History Project
The Brookmans Park post office relocated at Charlies Valet on February 24, 2018
Managed by Postmaster Sheikh Islam
Image from the North Mymms History Project


Photograph of Welwyn Hatfield MP, Grant Shapps, opening the post office at Charlies Valet in February 2018 Image from the Peter Miller collection
Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps in a staged photo-opportunity to mark the post office opening
Image courtesy of Grainge Photography, taken February 2018

Welham Green

There have been five different locations for post offices in Welham Green.

Location 1: Dellsome Lane


In the mid 1900s, William George Goulbourn, master of the North Mimms National School is listed as postmaster and receiver in the 1855 Post Office Directory of Essex, Herts and Kent. Letters were delivered on foot from Hatfield at 8.45am and dispatched at 6.45pm.

Screen grab of 1873 25 inch OS map showing the location of the National School and also the recently built Post Office in Post Office Row, now demolished and replaced by a block of flats. NMLHS Images of North Mymms Collection
1873 25 inch OS map showing the National School and the recently built post office
in Post Office Row, now demolished and replaced by a block of flats
Image from the NMLHS and part of the Images of North Mymms Collection

Location 2: Post Office Row, Dellsome Lane



Photograph of Early 1900s postcard showing Post Office Row. Published by George J Knott, photographer, North Mymms. The Post Office was located at the far right of the terrace. Peter Miller Collection
Early 1900s postcard showing Post Office Row, Welham Green the post office far right in terrace
Image from G J Knott part of the Peter Miller Collection

The 1890 & 1895 Kelly’s Directory lists James Arnold as sub-postmaster and grocer.
Letters from Hatfield at 7.30am and 3.30pm; the latter arrival of letters is given to callers only between 3.30 & 8pm; dispatched at 11.30am & 6.30pm ; Sundays 8.10pm.
1899 No collection on Sundays.
1902, 1908 Mrs Cecilia Arnold sub-postmistress.
1914 Letters from Hatfield at 6.50am, 3.15 & 6.30pm. Dispatched at 8.25 & 11.30am and 3.55 & 6.55pm; no Sunday dispatch; delivery (to callers) at 8.45am; office open for telegraph business Sundays 8.30 to 10am. James Arnold is listed as bootmaker.
1922 Mrs Violet Lucy Goodman sub-postmistress and refreshment room.

Location 3: Holloways Lane


By 1922, the post office had relocated to Holloways Lane and was still shown in this location in 1939.

Screen grab of 1924 (revised 1922) 25 inch OS map
1924 (revised 1922) 25 inch OS map
Image from the Peter Miller Collection
Screen grab of 1939 25 inch OS map showing location of Post Office
1939 25 inch OS map showing location of Post Office
Image from the Peter Miller Collection

scan of 1930s postcard showing Post Office in Holloways Lane Image from the Peter Miller Collection
1930s postcard showing the post office in Holloways Lane, Welham Green
Image from the Peter Miller Collection

Location 4: Chuck's Bakery, Dellsome Lane



Scan of 1960 6 inch OS map
1960 6 inch OS map with post office marked as PO
Image from the Peter Miller Collection


Photograph of Jonah Chuck leaving on his bread round, 1900s Image from  P.Grant/G Knott from the Images of North Mymms Collection
Jonah Chuck leaving on his bread round, 1900s
Image from P.Grant/G Knott from the Images of North Mymms Collection
                                                                 
Chuck’s bakery and grocery store moved to 6-8 Dellsome Lane, Welham Green in 1890. The bakery was accepted as a sub-post office on October 4, 1950, and opened shortly after on December 1, 1950.
                         
Scan of the letter to Bill Papworth Image from Richard Papworth part of the Images of North Mymms collection
Appointment letter to Bill Papworth
Image from Richard Papworth part of the Images of North Mymms collection

Photograph of First customers of the new post office in Dellsome Lane. Mr Speary, Maude Littlechild, Bill Papworth on December 1, 1950. Image from R. Papworth part of the Images of North Mymms collection
First customers of the new post office in Dellsome Lane
Mr Speary, Maude Littlechild, Bill Papworth, December 1, 1950
Image from R. Papworth part of the Images of North Mymms collection

Photograph of Post office collection Dellsome Lane August 31, 1966. Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms collection
Post office collection from Dellsome Lane August 31, 1966
Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms collection

Scan of Thank you Mr Papworth cutting. Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms collection
A thank-you note to sub-postmaster Bill Papworth in the parish magazine
Image from Richard Papworth part of the Images of North Mymms collection

In 1981, after 30 years in the same building, the post office moved across the road to its present location.

Scan of Newspaper cutting of a staged photo-opportunity involving MP Christopher Murphy (centre), Dorothy Mitcham (left), and sub-postmaster, Bill Papworth (right). Cutting from the Peter Miller Collection
Newspaper article of a staged photo-opportunity
Christopher Murphy MP (centre), Dorothy Mitcham (left), and sub-postmaster, Bill Papworth (right)
Cutting from Richard Papworth, part of the Images of North Mymms collection

Scan of a Newspaper cutting of a staged photo-opportunity involving MP Christopher Murphy and sub-postmaster, Bill Papworth (right) Cutting from the Peter Miller Collection
Newspaper article of a staged photo-opportunity
MP Christopher Murphy and sub-postmaster, Bill Papworth
Cutting from Richard Papworth, part of the Images of North Mymms collection

Location 5: 13 Dellsome Lane

Scan of map of Dellsome Lane with the post office (PO) towards the middle of the image
Map of Dellsome Lane with the post office (PO) towards the middle
Image from the Peter Miller Collection

Photograph of Welham Green's Dellsome Lane post office image by the North Mymms History Project
Welham Green's Dellsome Lane Post Office
Image by the North Mymms History Project

Little Heath

Hawkshead Road

Scan of 1938 (revised in 1935) 6 inch OS map showing the location of the Post Office
1938 (revised in 1935) 6 inch OS map showing the location of the post office
Image from the Peter Miller Collection

The post office was located in Little Heath stores (now closed) and appears to have been relatively short lived. The 1960 OS map indicates that the Little Heath Post Office had ceased to exist by then.

Photograph of Little Heath Stores, Hawkeshead Road, July 1985. Image from Ron Kingdon from the Images of North Mymms collection
Little Heath Stores, Hawkeshead Road, July 1985
Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms collection

Below is a selection of letters and postcards posted in or sent to North Mymms over the years. The mail is from the Peter Miller Collection and Peter has explained the significance of each item in the text below the images.


Image from the Peter Miller Collection
Image from the Peter Miller Collection

Free Frank 1834 letter to The Hon. & Reverend Augustus Frederick Phipps, who was a guest at Brookmans Manor House and was later to become Chaplain in Ordinary to Queen Victoria 1847-1896. 

Prior to the introduction of postage stamps in 1840, Members of Parliament and the House of Lords were allowed the use of a free postal service in which to conduct their Parliamentary business.

The requirement for the free franking was that the letter had to be signed by the official sender. The signature on the example above is hard to decipher, but is probably that of Mr Gaussen, Lord of the Manor at Brookmans.

Scan of Letter addressed to Mr William Adams, Brookmans, Hatfield, Hertfordshire. The postage stamp is a Penny Red which was introduced in 1841. The letter was franked in Hatfield on January 15, 1853 Image from the Peter Miller Collection
Letter franked in Hatfield on January 15, 1853 with a Penny Red introduced in 1841
Image from the Peter Miller Collection


Letter addressed to Mr William Adams, Brookmans, Hatfield, Hertfordshire. The postage stamp is a Penny Red which was introduced in 1841. The letter was franked in Hatfield on January 15, 1853.

Image from the Peter Miller Collection
Letter dated 17 August 1797 sent to Jonathon Michie of Moffats House
Image from the Peter Miller Collection
Scan of Reverse of letter showing an early postmark called a  Bishop mark with the year 97 Image from the Peter Miller Collection
Image from the Peter Miller Collection (note envelop upside-down to show postmark more clearly)

The image above is of a reverse of letter showing an early postmark called a  Bishop mark with the year 97. Henry Bishop, who was Postmaster General from June 25, 1660 until April  6, 1663, is credited with introducing the postmark. Postmarks are believed to have come into use in late April 1661. Bishop later explained the reasons for the postmark’s introduction as follows:

"A stamp is invented that is putt upon every letter shewing the day of the month that every letter comes to the office, so that no Letter Carryer may dare detayne a letter from post to post; which before was usual."

A postcard franked at North Mimms Post Office on April 27, 1917 Image from the Peter Miller Collection
A postcard franked at North Mimms Post Office on April 27, 1917
Image from the Peter Miller Collection


This postcard was franked at North Mimms Post Office on April 27, 1917 and exemplifies the use of the postal system at this time, when most people did not have a telephone.

The sender is located at Bradmore, now demolished, which stood at the top of Bradmore Lane and the addressee, only a few miles away, is Fair View, a house also now demolished, which stood where Fair View the road is today.

So this card was written in North Mymms, posted in North Mymms, franked in North Mymms and delivered in North Mymms.

Changes to postal services in the 1970s


But back to the beginning of this piece. In the early 1970s, post boxes started to disappear, much to the disgust of local resident Ron Kingdon, who wrote the article mentioned at the start of the feature, about the removal of a small post box near his home.

The newspaper cutting, from the Peter Miller Collection, is embedded below the following pictures. Ron wrote:

“To mark the occasion one of my sons wrote three letters, and the envelopes were endorsed in type, ‘Last collection ever from the Rookery Post Box, Marshmoor, 2.30p.m. Sunday, 16th July, 1972’ - All the letters arrived safely by the first post the following day.”
Photograph of posting letters to catch the last collection at the Rookery post box in 1972. Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
Posting letters to catch the last collection at the Rookery post box July 17, 1972
Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms Collection

Photograph of letter posted in the the last collection at the Rookery post box in 1972. Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
Letter posted in the the last collection at the Rookery post box in 1972
Image from Ron Kingdon part of the Images of North Mymms Collection




Ron Kingdon's article from the March 1973 edition of Hertfordshire Countryside
Image from the Peter Miller Collection

Post boxes of North Mymms


This feature is a work-in-progress. The North Mymms History team has put together a feature plotting the location of all 14 post boxes in the parish (an item that might be appreciated by future historians).

Throughout this feature we have used the term post boxes, however they have been known by an assortment of terms, all valid, such as letter boxes, wall boxes, mail boxes, pillar boxes, and even lamp boxes (where they have been attached to street lighting). The Royal Mail and Historic England have produced a document recording all types, embedded below.






Contributions welcome


This is a community project, and we welcome any input and content from local residents. If you have any old photographs or documents relating to the changes in postal services in North Mymms over the years we’d love to hear from you. There is a contact form at the bottom right of every page on this site. Please get in touch and help us enhance and enrich these local history resources.



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