The Early Post Office

  • 15 Jan 2012
  • Worcester People and Places
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Well over a century ago, the Worcester Post Office was in Mealcheapen Street, occuping the building known as the 'Shades Tavern', when that area was the very centre of commercial life of the City and County. The building of the two corn exchanges brought changes, and the post office moved, as all the commercial business eventually did, north around Foregate Street. It then became established in a house near the Foregate. It next moved to Shaw Street, to a building erected specially for the purpose, by Mr.John Hughes, a wealthy contractor, who built the entire north side of the street, as well as Victoria House. He built much other property in and around Worcester, including Bevere Manor, but he lived in the house adjacent to Post Office. As the City and its business seemed to grow more and more towards Foregate Street, the Post Office in 1880's moved back there. Local opinion favoured the Cross, but the sites there were expensive.In those days the office of Post Master was a comfortable and lucrative one, much sought by gentlemen of position. Even in the 1870's the position was a politcal 'gift'. The postmaster had no voice in the selection of his sub-masters. He could only refer candidates to the local agent of the party in power. When the 'General Post Office' was in Shaw Street, it was the only place in the 1870's where letters could be posted. There were no branch offices and no pillar boxes; so letters had to be carried there from Barbourne or St.John's for posting. Nor were there much greater facilities for the purchase of postage stamps, which could only be bought at 'The General', or at the shop of Thomas Lewis, the stationer near the top of Broad Street, and the free delivery of letters was confined to a restricted area forming the central portion of the City. Lewis's shop in Broad Streetlater became the Broad Street Post Office, and remained so until the 1920's, and then the office moved to the other side of the street, near Angel Place.                                                                                                                     In the 1860's there were two mails a day from London, and one from the north and west, and local offices dependent on Worcester could be counted on one hand. The Electric Telegraph service was installed at Worcester in 1848. The effect was unbelievable, for previously, messages had been delivered at the speed of a horse-rider. With the coming of the railway, life quickened, and provincial towns were no longer isolated. There were many advantages but in some ways it reduced the importance of Worcester as a county capital, for business could operate from a London headquarters.

The first Telephone was installed in Worcester in November, 1880, by the Midland Telegraph Co. Messrs. Needham and Walker had their offices in St.Nicholas Street connected with their wharf offices in Lowesmoor. The press commented: 'If 20 firms could be obtained as subscribers the Company would be ready to establish a Telephone Exchange in the City'.