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Title: The Bristol Royal Mail - Post, Telegraph, and Telephone
Author: Tombs, Robert Charles, 1842-1923
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bristol Royal Mail - Post, Telegraph, and Telephone" ***

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Transcriber's Note:

No copyright date is indicated in the source material, but the last date
mentioned is November, 1899.

Found at the end of the text is a list of corrections of discovered
publisher's typographic errors.



_From a photograph by Mr. Protheroe, Wine St., Bristol._]

  _All rights reserved._




  R. C. TOMBS,

  _Postmaster of Bristol,
  Ex-Controller of the London Postal Service._



  CHAPTER I.                                                   _Page_
  1532-1764                                                       1

  MAIL COACH ERA. JOHN PALMER. 1770-1818                         17

  GUARDS                                                         35

  RAILWAY. TRAVELLING POST OFFICES                               49

  BRISTOL POSTMASTERS. 1678-1899                                 68


  POST OFFICE BUILDINGS                                          89

  HILL. RECENT PROGRESS                                         121

  BRISTOL AS A MAIL PORT                                        141

  RESPONSIBILITIES. VOLUME OF WORK                              160

  CHRISTMAS AND ST. VALENTINE SEASONS                           175

  PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS                                         186


  TELEGRAPH MESSENGERS                                          222

  AND RECREATIONS                                               234

  USES                                                          253

  INCIDENTS                                                     257

  GENERAL FREE DELIVERY OF LETTERS                              287

  RETURNED LETTER OFFICE                                        292



  RALPH ALLEN OF CROSS POST FAME             _Page_   8

       "      HIS RESIDENCE AT PRIOR PARK, BATH      10

       "      HIS TOWN HOUSE IN BATH                 12

       "      HIS TOMB AT CLAVERTON                  16


  OLD ENGLISH "FLYING" MAIL COACH                    22


  PICCADILLY                                         36

  THE LAST OF THE MAIL GUARDS                        44

  ROADSIDE INN                                       48


  THE OLD PASSAGE, AUST                              56

  JOHN GARDINER                                      70

  THOMAS TODD WALTON, SENIOR                         72

  THOMAS TODD WALTON, JUNIOR                         74

  EDWARD CHADDOCK SAMPSON                            80

  SIR FRANCIS FREELING, BART                         82

  THE BRISTOL HEAD POST OFFICE IN 1899              118

  THE "GREAT WESTERN"                               152

  R.M.S. "MONTEREY"                                 158



  CRIBBS CAUSEWAY POST OFFICE                       261

  MR. EDWARD BIDDLE                                 263

  LETTER BOX AT WINTERBOURNE                        269



In these days when books on every conceivable subject are written in
their thousands annually; when monthly journals are produced by scores,
and daily newspapers in hundreds, to supply the public with a record of
the world's doings; and when readers are found for them all, it may not
be thought unfitting that each large mail centre in the United Kingdom
which contributes by its postal and telegraph organisation to the
dissemination of much of this literature, should in its turn have some
record of its own doings. This present compilation has, therefore, been
undertaken with that object in view, as regards the Bristol Post Office,
and in the hope that the facts, figures, and incidents contained in it
relating to past doings and present days and present ways may prove of
interest to the inhabitants of the County and City, and its surrounding
districts, and in an unpretentious way commence, or add to, local
Post Office history, and demonstrate that though Bristol is not,
unfortunately, the leading provincial seaport, as of yore, she has not
lagged one step behind her competitors in respect of postal progress.

The profit which may accrue from the publication of _The Bristol Royal
Mail_ will be devoted exclusively to the Rowland Hill Memorial and
Benevolent Fund, the chief patron of which is Her Most Gracious Majesty
the Queen-Empress, who is about to show her great interest in works of
the kind by visiting our ancient city to open the new Convalescent Home.
The object of the fund is the relief of all Post Office servants
throughout the United Kingdom, who, through no fault of their own, have
fallen into necessitous circumstances. It also affords assistance to
their widows and orphans, for whom no provision is made under the
Superannuation Acts. The fund is managed by a body of trustees, who are
assisted by a committee of recommendation composed of officers of the
Post Office. The trustees are well-known gentlemen of high standing and
repute in the city of London, to whose benevolent efforts on behalf of
the department the fund owes its origin. The Superannuation Acts afford
pensions to those who have been in the Post Office not less than ten
years. Sometimes a deserving and distressed Post Office servant has not
served long enough to qualify for a pension, and sometimes help is
needed by persons whose time has been partly spent in the postal
service, but who, because they have been permitted to carry on some
other occupation, are not entitled by law to any pension at all. A
pension, even if it should prove to be sufficient for the pensioner's
own support, ceases at death, and the widow and orphans are often left
destitute. There are more than eighty-one thousand, and, counting those
employed only a portion of their time, nearly one hundred and fifty
thousand servants in the Post Office; and in comparison with the number
of persons amongst whom cases needing relief may arise, the assured
income at the disposal of the trustees of the fund is still inadequate.
In the period since 1893 the trustees have granted to necessitous cases
in the Bristol district £120, so that any proceeds from the sale of this
book will be bestowed where such bestowal is certainly due.

It is right to state that some of the information in these pages has
been derived from _The History of the Post Office_, by the late Mr.
Herbert Joyce, C.B.; _Forty Years at the Post Office_, by Mr. F. E.
Baines, C.B.; _The Royal Mail_, by Mr. J. Wilson Hyde; and from _St.
Martin's-le-Grand Magazine_, also Latimer's _Annals of Bristol_. Thanks
are due also to Mr. Norris Mathews, the Bristol City Librarian, for his
courtesy in permitting and facilitating access to old records in the
Public Library; to Mr. H. J. Spear, Secretary to the Chamber of
Commerce; to the proprietors of the _Times and Mirror_, for allowing
inspection of their old files; and for illustrations to Mr. A. F.
Walbrook, of the _Bath Chronicle_; to the proprietor, _Black and White_,
and many others whose kindness is hereby acknowledged.

The Bristol Royal Mail.





It appears that before Post Offices were established special messengers
were employed to carry letters. It is recorded that such a special
messenger was paid the sum of one penny for carrying a letter from
Bristol to London in the year 1532, but the record affords no further
particulars as to the service, and the assumption is that the special
messenger was, in his own person, a rough-and-ready "post." Later on, a
post would be suddenly established for a particular purpose, and as soon
abandoned when no longer specially required. Thus in the year 1621 a
post to Ireland--Irish firms being then considered to require "oftener
despatches and more expedition"--was set up by way of Bristol, only to
be discontinued in a few years.

There was in 1660 a direct but irregular post between London and some of
the larger provincial towns, but there were no cross posts between two
towns not being on the same post road. Letters could only circulate from
one post road to another through London, and such circulation through
London involved additional rates of postage. Bristol and Exeter are less
than eighty miles apart, but, not being on the same post road, letters
from one place to the other passed through London, and were charged, if
single, 6d., thus:--one rate of 3d. from Exeter to London, and another
rate of 3d. from London to Bristol. This was in conformity with a system
established in the reign of Charles II. That system went on until 1696
when a post was established between Bristol and Exeter, that being the
first cross post in the kingdom authorised by the Monarch's own personal
assent. From Bristol the posts went on Mondays and Fridays, starting at
10.0 in the morning. The posts left Exeter on Wednesdays and Saturdays
at 4.0 in the afternoon, and arrived at Bristol at the same hour on the
following days. Under this cross post plan, the two towns being less
than eighty miles apart, the charge was reduced to 2d. for a single
letter. In three or four years the new post produced a profit of £250 a
year. In 1678 Provost Campbell established a coach to run from Glasgow
to Edinburgh, "drawn by sax able horses, to leave Edinboro' ilk Monday
morning, and return again (God willing) ilk Saturday night." In 1700 the
service between Bristol and London became fixed, and on alternate days
at irregular hours, depending upon the state of the weather and the
roads, the extent of the journey and the caprices of the postboys and
the sorry nags that carried them, the mail arrived in Bristol. There
were, however, only a mere handful of letters and newspapers. At the end
of the same year, the Post Office authorities in London, after being
earnestly petitioned by local merchants, counselled the Government to
establish a "cross post" from this city to Chester. Up to that time the
Bristol letters to Chester, Shrewsbury, Worcester, and Gloucester had
been carried round by London under the system already described,
involving double postage and great delay. The effect of this system, as
on the Bristol and Exeter road, had been to throw nearly all the letters
into the hands of public carriers, by whose wagons they were conveyed
more quickly than by the postboys through London, and at a cheaper rate.
Moved by the success of the new cross posts from Bristol to Exeter, the
Treasury consented to the starting of the Chester service. The Post
Office reported to the Treasury in March, 1702, that the profit for the
first eighteen months of the Chester service had been about £156. The
accounts of Henry Pyne, the Bristol postmaster, appended to the report
in the State papers, show that so far as this part of the service was
concerned, he had received £168 for letters by this post, whilst his
expenses had been £60.

The people of Cirencester and Exeter, hearing of the Chester concession,
hastened to complain of shortcomings affecting themselves. The
Devon clothiers had a considerable trade with the wool dealers of
the district of Cirencester, which town was served by the postboys
riding between Gloucester and London, with a branch postboy mail to
Wotton-under-Edge. By there being no direct postal service of any kind
between Bristol and Wotton-under-Edge, correspondence between Exeter and
Cirencester had to be sent _viâ_ London, and a fortnight elapsed between
the despatch of a letter and the receipt of an answer, the result being
that not one letter in twenty was sent through the post. All that was
needed to shorten the transit from fourteen days to four was to put
Bristol in direct communication with Wotton, the expense being estimated
at only £30 a year. The Government declined to comply with this
reasonable request, and nothing was done!

[Illustration: RALPH ALLEN.

_By permission of the Proprietor of "The Bath and County Graphic."_]

Soon after this time a Post Office reformer arose in our immediate
district in the person of Ralph Allen. He, unlike later reformers,
passed all his working days in the Post Office service. Born at the
"Duke William Inn," at St. Blazey Highway, in Cornwall in about 1693, he
went as a boy to help his grandmother, who was postmistress at St.
Columb. In 1710 he was transferred as a clerk to Bath, and on the 26th
March, 1712, he became postmaster of that city, in succession to one
Mary Collins, and in that year appears to have taken over the management
of the Bristol and Exeter Cross Road Post, previously farmed by Joseph
Quash, postmaster of Exeter. In 1720 Ralph Allen contracted to farm the
cross-country posts throughout the country generally, and to carry the
mails by what were subsequently known as "Allen's Postboys," who were
supposed to travel on horseback at a pace averaging five miles an hour.
A robbery from these postboys carrying the mails between London and
Bristol was a common occurrence. Two men were executed in April, 1720,
for having twice committed that crime, yet the letter bags were again
stolen seven times during the following twelve months. The _London
Journal_ of August 27th remarked: "It is computed that the traders of
Bristol have received £60,000 damages by the late robberies of the
mail." In 1722 the postboys were robbed twice in a single week, and for
the crimes three men were executed in London. Another incident of the
kind worthy of mentioning occurred in September, 1738. The bag then
carried off by three highwaymen contained a reprieve for a man lying
under sentence of death in Newgate, and a second reprieve despatched
after the robbery became known would have arrived too late to save the
man's life, had not the magistrates postponed the execution for a day
or two in order that it might not clash with the festivities of a new
Mayor's inauguration.

[Illustration: PRIOR PARK, BATH.

(_Formerly residence of Ralph Allen._)

_By permission of the Proprietor of "The Bath and County Graphic."_]

About 1732 the Bristol riding boys were deprived of their perquisite of
1d. a letter for "dropping of letters" at the towns and villages through
which they passed. This was done because the postboys not only carried
letters which they picked up on the road and did not account for at the
next post office of call, but even went to the length of taking out
letters from the mail bags when those bags were, as was the case
sometimes, not properly chained and sealed. In connection with Ralph
Allen's "By-Posts," in the year 1735 arrangements were made so that the
mails sent from Manchester, Liverpool, or any other place in Lancashire,
to Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Devon, etc., might be
answered four days sooner than they could possibly have been answered
before. In 1740 a new branch by-post was established from Bristol and
Bath to Salisbury, through Bradford, Trowbridge, Devizes, Lavington,
Tinhead, Westbury, Warminster, Heytesbury, and Wilton. In 1741 the
growth of trade and population encouraged the Bristol citizens to
appeal to the Ministry for an improvement in the postal communication
with London, which was still limited to three days per week. Yielding to
this pressure, Allen converted the tri-weekly posts into six-day posts
in June, 1741. The post began to run every day of the week, except
Sunday, between London and Bristol, and all intervening towns
participated in the benefit. In 1746 a further extension took place,
whereby letters were conveyed six days in every week, instead of three
days, at Mr. Allen's expense, between London and Wells, Bridgwater,
Taunton, Wellington, Tiverton, and Exeter, through Bristol. The mail
service is not in further evidence in local history until 1753, when the
Bristol merchants again showed themselves tenacious of their rights, and
waged a bitter war against the Postmasters-General in respect of the
imposition of a double rate of postage on letters which, although under
an ounce in weight, contained patterns of silk or cotton or samples of
grain. There was a lawsuit, and the Bristol merchants won it.

A Government notification in the local newspapers of the 4th September,
1752, announced an acceleration of the mails between the Southern
Counties and Bristol. In future a postboy was to leave Salisbury on
Mondays at six o'clock in the morning, to arrive at Bath (a distance of
about thirty-nine miles) at eight or nine at night, and to leave Bath
for Bristol at six next morning. On Wednesdays and Fridays the departure
from Salisbury was in the evening, the journey occupying about nineteen
hours. By this arrangement letters from Portsmouth were received in this
city two days earlier than before.


_By kind permission of the Proprietor of the "Bath and County

Ralph Allen's improvements had great influence in the Post Office
services in this western city. The profits on the contracts enabled
Allen to take up his residence at Prior Park, Bath, one of the finest
Italian houses in England, in addition to having a grand house in the
City. It is said that the profits which accrued to him from his long
contracts amounted to about half a million of money.

Mansions so lordly are not for the hardest and best workers in the Post
Office field of present times, for the nation does not reward its great
men so liberally as then. Nowadays an introducer of the inland parcel
post service, the foreign parcel post service, an improver of the
telegraph service, and leader in bringing about vastly accelerated mail
services throughout the country,--works of great moment, even if not
comparable with Ralph Allen, John Palmer, or Rowland Hill's great
achievements,--has, after forty years at the Post Office, to be
contented on retirement with no more than the modest pension due to him,
which will not even be continued to his nearest and dearest relative.

Allen benefited the Bristol postal district in another way than by his
improved Post Office services when he built the bridge over the Avon at
Newton-St.-Loe at a cost of £4,000. He was buried in Claverton
Churchyard, near Bath. The inscription on his tomb runs thus:--"Beneath
this Monument lieth entombed the Body of Ralph Allen, Esqr., of Prior
Park, who departed this life y^e 29th day of June, 1764, in the 71st
year of his Age. In full hope of everlasting happiness in another state
thro' the infinite merit and mediation of our blessed Redeemer, Jesus

Ralph Allen did not hoard up his money or spend it on riotous living,
but bestowed a considerable portion of his income in works of charity,
especially in supporting needy men of letters. He was a great friend and
benefactor of Fielding, and in _Tom Jones_ the novelist has gratefully
drawn Mr. Allen's character in the person of Squire Alworthy. He enjoyed
the friendship of Chatham and Pitt; and Pope, Warburton, and other men
of literary distinction were his familiar companions. Pope has
celebrated one of his principal virtues--unassuming benevolence--in the
well-known lines:

    "Let humble Allen, with an awkward shame,
    Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame."

Derrick has thus described Allen's personal appearance shortly before
his death: "He is a very grave, well-looking man, plain in his dress,
resembling that of a Quaker, and courteous in his behaviour. I suppose
he cannot be much under seventy. His wife is low, with grey hair, and of
a very pleasing address." Kilvert says that he was rather above the
middle size and stoutly built, and that he was not altogether averse to
a little state, as he often used to drive into Bath in a coach and four.
His handwriting was very curious; he evidently wrote quickly and
fluently, but it was so overloaded with curls and flourishes as to be
sometimes scarcely legible.

The lack of all show about his garb seems to have somewhat annoyed
Philip Thicknesse, the well-known author of one of the Bath Guides, for
he speaks of Allen's "plain linen shirt-sleeves, with only a chitterling
up the slit."

Allen's son Philip became Comptroller of the "By-Letter" Department in
the London Post Office.


_By kind permission of the Proprietor of the "Bath and County




Notwithstanding Ralph Allen's innovations, the conveyance of letters
between the principal towns was carried on in a more or less desultory
fashion. Speaking of the want of improvement in 1770, and the haphazard
system under which Post Office business was conducted, a local newspaper
gave this instance of unpunctuality: "The London Mail did not arrive so
soon by several hours as usual on Monday, owing to the mailman getting a
little intoxicated on his way between Newbury and Marlborough, and
falling from his horse into a hedge, where he was found asleep, by means
of his dog." Mr. Weeks, who entered upon "The Bush," Bristol, in 1772,
after ineffectually urging the proprietors to quicken their speed,
started a one day coach to Birmingham himself, and carried it on against
a bitter opposition, charging the passengers only 10s. 6d. and 8s. 6d.
for inside and outside seats respectively, and giving each one of them a
dinner and a pint of wine at Gloucester into the bargain. After two
years' struggle his opponents gave in, and one day journeys to
Birmingham became the established rule.

The mail service was carried on chiefly by means of postboys (generally
wizened old men), who continued to travel on worn-out horses not able to
get along at a speed of more than four miles an hour on the bad roads.
On the London and Bristol route, indeed, it had been found necessary to
provide the postboys with light carts, but that method of conveyance of
the mail bags brought about no acceleration in time of transit,--from
thirty to forty hours, according to the state of the roads. A letter
despatched from Bristol or Bath on Monday was not delivered in London
until Wednesday morning. On the other hand a letter confided to the
stage coach of Monday reached its destination on Tuesday morning, and
the consequence was that Bristol traders and others sent letters of
value or urgency by the stage coach, although the proprietors charged
2s. for each missive.

At this period John Palmer, of Bath, came on the scene. He had learnt
from the merchants of Bristol what a boon it would be if they could get
their letters conveyed to London in fourteen or fifteen hours, instead
of three days. It is said, however, that it was the sight of Ralph
Allen's grand place at Prior Park, and the knowledge of how Allen's
money had been made, which first suggested to Palmer the attempt to
bring a scheme for a mail coach system to the notice of the postal
authorities. John Palmer was lessee and manager of the Bath and Bristol
theatres, and went about beating up actors, actresses and companies in
postchaises, and he thought letters should be carried at the same pace
at which it was possible to travel in a chaise. He devised a scheme, and
Pitt, the Prime Minister of the day, who warmly approved the idea,
decided that the plan should have a trial and that the first mail coach
should run between London and Bristol. On Saturday, the 31st July, 1784,
an agreement was signed in connection with Palmer's scheme under which,
in consideration of payment of 3d. a mile, five inn-holders--one
belonging to London, one to Thatcham, one to Marlborough, and two to
Bath--undertook to provide the horses, and on Monday, the 2nd August,
1784, the first "mail coach" started. On its first journey it ran from
Bristol,--not from London as generally supposed,--and Palmer was present
to see it off. A well-armed mail guard in uniform was in charge of the
vehicle, which was timed to perform the journey from Bristol to London
in sixteen hours. Only four passengers were at first carried by each
"machine," and the fare was £1 8s. The immediate effect was to
accelerate the delivery of letters by a day. The coaches were small,
light vehicles, drawn by a pair of horses only, but leaders were
subsequently added, and four-horse coaches soon became the order of the
day, and more passengers were carried. An old painting represents the
Bath and Bristol mail trotting along close to a wall, the guard
receiving one bag and handing another to the postmaster without the
coachman pulling up. One coach left Bristol at 4.0 in the afternoon,
reached Bath a couple of hours later, and arrived at the General Post
Office, London, before 8.0 the next morning. The down coach started from
London at 8.0 in the evening, was at the "Three Tuns," Bath, at a few
minutes before 10.0 the next morning, and pulled up at the "Rummer
Tavern," Bristol, at noon. Palmer gave up his theatrical enterprises and
entered the service of the Post Office as Comptroller at a salary of
£1,500 a year, and certain emoluments, which, after a year or two,
brought him in an annual sum of more than £3,000. Before Palmer's mail
coaches were at work the post left London at all hours of the night, but
it was part of his scheme that the mails should all leave at the same
time, 8.0; and as the number of mails increased so there was more and
more bustle in the vicinity of the General Post Office at that hour. In
London the arrival of all the mails was awaited before any one of them
was delivered; and this led to the delivery sometimes not taking place
until 3.0 or 4.0 in the afternoon, or even later. Palmer, with his
regard for the Bristol coach, occasionally had the Bristol mails
distributed immediately on reaching St. Martin's-le-Grand, but all other
mails if behind were kept waiting as before.

[Illustration: JOHN PALMER.


_By kind permission of the Proprietor of the "Bath and County

Upon the beginning of Palmer's system on the Bristol road a marvellous
superstructure was raised. Coaches were at once applied for by the
municipalities of the largest towns, Liverpool being the first to aim
at equality with Bristol, and York claiming what was due to the great
highway to the North. Palmer's plan made rapid progress and was attended
with complete success. A splendid mail service was eventually set up all
over the country. One result was that the "expresses" to Bristol, which
before had been as many as two hundred in the year, ceased altogether.
In July, 1787, the mails from Bristol to Birmingham and the North,
previously three per week, were ordered to be run daily. The London to
Bristol coach was stopped by other means than those employed by
highwaymen, the service having at one time in 1790 been suspended for
several days by Palmer, in defiance of the Postmaster-General.

In Bonner and Middleton's (weekly) _Journal_ for the 11th February,
1792, is an announcement to the effect that the Irish mails arrived in
Bristol on the 6th instant instead of on the first of the month. The
bare fact was stated, and the assumption is, therefore, that it was not
an unusual circumstance. Five days' delay would be thought intolerable
now, as, indeed, is the present length of time occupied by the Irish
night mails on their journey to Bristol. After being conveyed by fast
boat to Holyhead and express train to Birmingham, they come on from that
city by a "crawler" and do not reach Bristol until nearly the mid-day


In the same year (1792) sixteen mail coaches worked in and out of London
every day. There were fifteen cross-country mail coaches, as, for
instance, the coach between Bristol and Oxford, or, as it was commonly
called, Mr. Pickwick's coach. During winter, in frosty weather, at this
period, some of the mail coaches did not run at all, but were laid up
for the season, like ships during Arctic frosts.

There is a model of an old mail coach at the General Post Office, St.
Martin's-le-Grand, London, popularly supposed to be the model of the
first mail coach which was built, but such is not the case, for, as
already stated, the first mail coach ran between Bristol and London, and
the model has upon it the inscription "Royal Mail from London to

The expense of horsing a four-horsed coach running at the speed of from
nine to ten miles an hour was reckoned at £3 a double mile. Mails were
exempt from turnpike tolls.

With the introduction of the mail coaches with well-armed, resolute
guards, there was a cessation of mail robberies on the main roads.
Pilfering, however, was occasionally carried on; for instance, in the
early winter of 1794 one Thomas Thomas travelled day after day up and
down on the London and Bristol coach. At last his opportunity came when
the guard temporarily left his coach with the mailbox unlocked, and then
Thomas Thomas looted the mails. On the cross roads the saddle horse and
cart posts were frequently stopped and robbed (1796). One of the worst
roads in this respect was that between Bristol and Portsmouth. Proposals
for the postboys to be furnished with pistols, cutlasses, and caps lined
with metal, like hunting caps, for the defence of the head, fell through
on account of the expense which their supply would have entailed.

There exists a popular belief that the mail coaches were driven up and
down the steep Queen Street in Bristol now known as Christmas Steps. The
belief is erroneous, for an inscription over the recessed seats at the
top of the passage tells us that--

    & Finished, September, 1669.
    The Right Worpfl Thomas Stevens,
    Esqr. Mayor.

        Named QVEENE STREETE."

Probably, however, the postboys who carried the mails in earlier days
rode up the steep incline.

A gentleman now writing in the _Bristol Times and Mirror_ under the
_nom-de-plume_ of "Old File," delving in the historical garden of _Felix
Farley's Journal_, has unearthed the following very interesting
announcements and advertisements, which throw light on the mail services
of the time:--


"A coach sets out from the 'White Hart,' Broad Street, Bristol, over the
Old Passage (Aust), every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, at noon, and
joins the above coach at Ragland the same day; and a corresponding coach
returns from Milford on certain days." The chief point in the
advertisement was in the paragraph: "N.B.--This road is nineteen miles
nearer to Carmarthen and Milford than the lower one," that is, by the
New Passage.

This was replied to by another advertisement, as follows:

"A CAUTION.--The public will please to observe that no other mail coach
whatever does now, or ever has, run from Bristol to Milford Haven,
excepting the Royal London, Bath, Bristol, and Milford Haven mail coach,
which sets out from the 'Bush Inn and Tavern,' Corn Street, every
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and the mail coach to Swansea
every day from the same inn, notwithstanding the flaming advertisement
of a certain set of men to deceive and mislead the public, by their
asserting that the road over the Old Passage is nineteen miles nearer
than that over the New Passage, which is so far from being a fact that
the road of the New Passage is seven and three-quarters nearer, as was
proved by admeasurement by orders of the office, making a difference of
twenty-six miles and three-quarters nearer the lower (that is, the New
Passage) than the upper road."

On August 4th the proprietors of the New Passage coach came out with a
larger announcement, and produced figures to prove their assertion--

"N.B.--This road is nineteen miles nearer to Milford than the lower one,

         UPPER ROAD.         |         LOWER ROAD.
                     Miles.  |                    Miles.
  Old Passage          11    |  New Passage         10
  Across the Water      1    |  Across the Water     3
  Ragland              14    |  Newport             15
  Abergavenny           9    |  Cardiff             12
  Brecknock            19    |  Cowbridge           12
  Trecastle            10    |  Pill                12
  Llandovery            9    |  Neath               13
  Llandilo             12    |  Ponterdilas         10
  Carmarthen           15    |  Kidwelly            14
  St. Clare's           9    |  Carmarthen           9
  Narberth             13    |  St. Clare's          9
  Haverford-West       10    |  Narberth            13
  Milford              10    |  Haverford-West      10
                             |  Milford             10
                      ---    |                     ---
  Total               142    |  Total              161

In favour of the Upper Road, 19 miles."

  "BRISTOL, _4th January, 1799_.

"Lost, on Monday morning, small letter-bag, marked on it 'Worcester and
Bristol.' Whoever has found the same shall, on delivering it at the Post
Office, receive five guineas reward; and whoever detains it after this
notice will be prosecuted."

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Friday, 15th February, 1799_.

"George Evans, of Steep Street, St. Michael's, in the City of Bristol,
Grocer, having been committed to the Gaol of Newgate, in the said City,
charged with feloniously negotiating two Bills of Exchange contained in
the bag of letters from Worcester for Bristol of the 30th December last,
which was lost or stolen, and there being great reason to believe that
one or more person or persons is or are privy to or concerned with him
in the said felony: Whoever will give information at the Council Chamber
in Bristol within one month from the date hereof, so that the said
George Evans may be convicted of the offence with which he is charged,
shall be entitled to a reward of fifty pounds. And if an accomplice
shall make discovery he will also receive His Majesty's most gracious

  "By command of the Postmaster-General.
  "FRANCIS FREELING, Secretary."

       *       *       *       *       *

  _June 29th, 1799._

"We understand that a bill for £50, drawn by the Worcester Bank on
Messrs. Harfords, Davis and Co., of this City, and which was one of the
bills contained in the Worcester bag lost on the 31st December last, has
been presented within these few days for payment--a circumstance which
may probably lead to the discovery of the party who found the said bag."

       *       *       *       *       *

  _August 10th._

"Last week George Evans, who was tried at the Old Bailey in June last on
a charge of forging endorsements on two bills (which, with many others,
were contained in the Worcester bag destined for this City that was lost
on the 21st December last, and of which intelligence has since been
obtained), but who was acquitted for want of sufficient evidence, was
again apprehended, and was committed to gaol on a charge of having
stolen a promissory note, drawn by Messrs. Harfords, Davis and Co., of
this City, value fifty pounds, which note was likewise sent by the same
conveyance from Worcester, and being attempted to be negotiated, was
stopped and traced back into the hands of the said Evans, against whom a
detainer was lodged on account of a similar charge for another bill of
the same value, and precisely under all the circumstances attending the

       *       *       *       *       *

  "_October 11th, 1798_.

"The postboy carrying the mail from Bristol to Salisbury on the 9th
instant was stopped between the hours of eleven and twelve o'clock at
night by two men on foot within six miles of Salisbury, who robbed him
of seven shillings in money, but did not offer to take the mail. Whoever
shall apprehend the convict, or cause to be apprehended and convicted
both or either of the persons who committed this robbery, will be
entitled to a reward of fifty pounds over and above the reward given by
Act of Parliament for apprehending highwaymen. If either party will
surrender himself and discover his accomplice he will be admitted as
evidence for the Crown, receive His Majesty's most gracious pardon, and
be entitled to the said reward.

  "By command of the Postmaster-General.
  "FRANCIS FREELING, Secretary."

      *       *       *       *       *

There is no record that anyone claimed the reward.

This, so far, is the end of "Old File's" researches.

As the Bristol mail coach was going through Reading on the night of
Thursday, the 18th January, 1799, the coachman was shook off the box,
and, through his hands having been so benumbed by the cold, was unable
to save himself. The guard jumped down and endeavoured to stop the
horses, but without effect. They ran as far as Hare Hatch (four miles),
where the coach changed horses, and then stopped, having met with no
accident whatever, though they passed two wagons. The passengers in the
coach did not know anything of it at the time.

According to the _Bristol Directory_ for 1811, the "Bush Tavern" office
in Corn Street, conducted by John Townsend, played an important part in
the mail coach system of the country. Its announcement ran thus: "Royal
mail coach to London at 4.0 every afternoon; comes in at half-past 11
every morning. 'Loyal Volunteer' to London at 12.0 every day. Royal mail
coach to Newport, Cardiff, Cowbridge, Neath, Swansea, and Carmarthen
every day on the arrival of the London mail. Royal mail coach through
Newport, Cardiff, Cowbridge, Swansea, Carmarthen, to Haverford-west and
Milford Haven every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday on the
arrival of the London mail. The 'Cambrian,' a light post coach, the same
route as the mail, to Swansea every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
morning at 6 o'clock; returns every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

"Royal mail coach to Birmingham through Gloster, Tewkesbury, Worcester
and Bromsgrove every evening at 7.0; comes in every morning at 6.0. A
post coach to Birmingham every day. Royal mail coach through Bath to
Tetbury, Cirencester, and Oxford, every morning at quarter-past 7, comes
in at 6.0 every evening. Royal mail coach through Bath, Warminster, and
Salisbury to Southampton and Portsmouth at 3.0 every day; comes in at
10.0 in the morning. Coach to Salisbury, Romsey, Southampton, and
Gosport every day at 5.0 (Saturdays excepted), comes in at half-past
10.0 at night. Exeter, _Original_ 'Duke of York' coach, through
Bridgwater, Taunton, Wellington, and Cullompton every Tuesday,

In 1813 the London to Bristol mail coach was robbed of the Bankers'
parcel, value £2,000 or upwards. This was made known in the form of a
warning to the mail guards who travelled in charge of the Post Office
bags. When in 1813-14 the great frost occurred, the Bristol mail coaches
were obstructed by the heavy snowdrifts on the roads, and they came in
day after day drawn by six horses each when they could struggle into the

The literature of the period yields nothing of interest again for some

The "Bristol Guide" in 1815 stated that--"Bristow is the richest city of
almost all the cities of this country, receiving merchandize from
neighbouring and foreign places with the ships under sail." And again,
"Bristow is full of ships from Ireland, Norway and every part of Europe,
which brought hither great commerce and large foreign wealth." There was
no mention of their carrying mails.

The year 1818 is memorable in postal annals as that in which John Palmer
died. His decease took place at Brighton, but not before he had lived
long enough to see mail coaches splendidly turned out. Palmer, on the
conclusion of his connection with the Post Office, was awarded a pension
of £3,000 a year, equal to his full salary, which sum he declared did
not represent the amount of his salary and emoluments. Further
difficulties ensued, and his son, Colonel Palmer, fought his father's
battles right manfully in the House, and eventually, in 1813, the
Government gave John Palmer a sum of £50,000.

In recognition of Palmer's great invention, the Chamber of Commerce of
Glasgow not only made him an honorary member, but voted him fifty
guineas for a piece of plate. The fifty guineas was spent on a silver
cup, which bore the following inscription:--






A new coach, from "The Bush Hotel" to Exeter, was put on the road on the
6th of April, 1819, the time allowed for the journey--74-3/4
miles--being fourteen hours--less than 5-1/2 miles an hour. In June,
1820 a new coach started for Manchester, performing the journey in two
days, the intervening night being spent at Birmingham. To accomplish the
first half of the task, the vehicle left Bristol at half-past 8 in the
morning and reached Birmingham--85-1/2 miles--in thirteen hours. An
advertisement, published in December, 1821, headed "Speed Increased,"
informed the public that the "Regulator" coach left London daily at 5
a.m. and arrived at the "White Hart," Bristol, at five minutes before 9
at night, the speed being barely seven miles an hour.

No fewer than twenty-two coaches were by this time utilised daily
between this city and London. The start of the West Country mail coaches
from Piccadilly at this period was an interesting sight. The continued
wretched condition of the highways was not conducive to quick
travelling; but in about 1825 matters were improved in that respect in
our district by Mr. John Loudon MacAdam, who studied and practised
road-making. Mr. MacAdam was general surveyor of Bristol turnpike roads,
and although he found the trustees' funds only one remove from
bankruptcy and their roads almost impassable, he succeeded so well that
the finances flourished, and his highways became an object lesson to the
world. Mr. Latimer, the Bristol historian, mentions that although
MacAdam was shabbily treated by members of the old unreformed
Corporation, and had many opponents, Bristol deserves the credit of
being the first to appreciate the value of his labours, which were
recognised later by a Parliamentary grant. He left Bristol for London,
and died in 1836; but his son became surveyor of the Bristol roads, and
continued to hold the appointment till his death in 1857.


The _Gentlemen's Magazine_, November, 1827, announced: "A Steam Coach
Company are now making arrangements for stopping places on the line of
road, between London, Bath and Bristol, which will occur every six or
seven miles, where fresh fuel and water are to be supplied. There are
fifteen coaches built." The Turnpike Trustees, who imposed extraordinary
tolls on steam carriages, frustrated this scheme; but the threatened
competition stirred up the coach proprietors, who increased the speed of
their vehicles from the jog-trot of six or seven miles an hour, although
not to such an extent as desired by the Bristol Chamber of Commerce,
which in this year made a suggestion to the Post Office for bringing the
London mail to the city in twelve hours. The Postmaster-General was also
memorialised to accelerate the arrival of the West mail, so as to effect
its delivery before the departure of the London mail,--a convenience of
no little moment to the West India trade of the port, since it was
thought that it would save one day in the conduct of business with the
metropolis. At a general meeting in January, 1828, it was announced that
the president had a conference on the subject with the leading officer
of the Post Office Department, with the result that the latter proposed
alterations which were carried out, and were held to be proofs of the
Postmaster-General's disposition to consult the accommodation of the
Bristol public. The former proposal was not adopted at the time, for at
the Accession of his late Majesty King William IV. (1830) the London
mail coach took 13 hours 37 minutes on its journey _viâ_ Reading. It
departed at 8 p.m., reached Bath 8.11 a.m., and arrived in Bristol at
9.37 a.m., leaving again at 5.50 p.m. for the G.P.O. The Bristol and
Brighton coach (138 miles) was bound to a speed of 10.4 miles per hour.

In January, 1830, there were further Post Office matters on the agenda
of the Chamber of Commerce, for it was resolved--"That this meeting
recommends to the Board the instituting an enquiry into the exact
distance between the Post Office of London and Bristol, with a view to
ascertain whether the rate of postage at present demanded is correct."
The enquiry was prosecuted with vigour, for at the January annual
meeting in the following year reference was made to the Turnpike
Commissioners for the several districts on the line of road between
London and Bristol having supplied a statement of the precise extent of
ground over which the mail coach travelled, comprised in their
respective trusts. In several instances measurements were expressly
made. In the result it appeared that the route exceeded in distance 120
miles, and the Post Office Department was therefore entitled legally to
obtain the rate of 10d. per letter as the amount fixed by the provisions
of the Act of Parliament. It was thought by taking the route from
Chippenham through Marshfield instead of Bath the distance would be
considerably shorter, and consequently bring about a reduced rate of
postage. It was reported in the next year (January, 1832) that the
requisition for changing the route had been pursued, and the president
held a conference with Sir F. Freeling on the subject; but though every
due consideration was promised, the alteration had not yet been acceded
to. There was the significant addition that the application would
nevertheless be renewed. A new royal mail direct from Bristol to
Liverpool was established in 1831, leaving the "White Lion," Broad
Street, Bristol, at 5.0 p.m., reaching Liverpool at twenty minutes past
12 a.m. The new service was notified to Mr. Samuel Harford, the
President of the Commerce Chamber, by Sir Francis Freeling, in the
following terms:--

  "G.P.O., _27th August, 1831_.

"SIR,--Having brought under consideration the memorial from the Board of
Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Bristol, and from the bankers,
merchants, and other inhabitants of Liverpool, transmitted in your
letter of the 2nd May last, I have the satisfaction to acquaint you that
His Grace the Postmaster General (Duke of Richmond) has consented to try
the experiment of a mail coach between those towns, through Chepstow,
Hereford, and Monmouth, and I flatter myself that it may commence about
the middle of next month.

  "I have the honour to be, Sir,
  Your most obedient Servant,
  F. FREELING, Secretary.

  "Samuel Harford, Esq."

      *       *       *       *       *

In the next year the Chamber learnt with satisfaction that the direct
Liverpool mail through Chepstow, Monmouth, Hereford, Shrewsbury and
Chester, which was started as an experiment, had been continued, to the
decided advantage of the public, particularly to all connected with the
line of country through which it passed. As compared with the former
route, the saving of time was equal to one day; the rate of postage was
likewise reduced. The starting and arriving were at the most convenient
hours the distance and circumstances, with reference to the passage of
the two rivers, Severn and Medway, would permit. The coach had to run
over the flat parts of the ground at a great pace, to make up for time
lost at the hills. The contract time was 9 miles 2 furlongs in the hour.

One of the chief mail coaches in the kingdom in 1837 was the Bristol,
Carmarthen and Milford (150 miles _viâ_ Passage, one hour allowed for
ferry), Cardiff and Swansea. Its down journey occupied 19 hours 38
minutes, and its up journey 20 hours.

The Liverpool and Milford mails were conveyed across the Severn at Aust
Passage, where the ferry had been located since the Lord Protector's
time. A moderate expenditure on the piers at Aust Passage, though little
regarded by the citizens at the time the work was in progress, with the
introduction there of a steam vessel, was one of the principal means of
bringing about the establishment of the additional communication with
the districts over the Severn, the uncertainty and inconvenience of
crossing its estuary being then to a large extent removed.

Mr. Oliver Norris, now nearly 80 years of age, and who has lived in the
district adjoining the Severn Tunnel from his boyhood, can call to mind
the time when the Liverpool and Milford coaches were running. They had
to make their way from Pilning through Northwick, up to the Old Passage
at Aust, and in rough weather the passengers must have had a cold ride
on the bleak river banks over which they had to journey. When the
Bristol and South Wales Railway was opened in 1863, the Aust Passage was
abandoned, and the ferry steamers commenced to cross from the revived
New (or Pilning) Passage, to connect with the new train services at
Portskewet. When the penny post was introduced, Mr. Morris says that as
the coaches passed through the villages the inhabitants in his district
adopted a primitive way of posting their letters, which was to place
the letter and penny in a cleft stick, and so hand up to the mail guard
as the coach was driven by, and who, if the penny was not forthcoming,
promptly threw the letter to the ground.

The mail coach system was attended with many adventures. Mr. Moses James
Nobbs, the last of the mail coach guards, recounted in the history of
his career how, in the winter of 1836, when guard of the Bristol to
Portsmouth coach, there were terrible snow-storms towards Christmas
time, and many parts of the country were completely blocked. After
leaving Bristol one night at 7 p.m. all went well until the coach was
nearing Salisbury, at about midnight. Snow had been falling gently for
some time before, but after leaving Salisbury it came down so thick and
lay so deep that the coach had to be brought to a standstill, and could
proceed no further. Consequently Nobbs had to leave the coach and go on
horseback to the next changing place, where he took a fresh horse and
started for Southampton. There he procured a chaise and pair, and
continued his journey to Portsmouth, arriving there about 6 p.m. the
next day. He was then ordered to go back to Bristol. On reaching
Southampton on his return journey the snow had got much deeper, and at
Salisbury he found that the London mails had arrived, but could not go
any further, the snow being so very deep. Not to be beaten, he took a
horse out of the stable, slung the mail bags over his back, and pushed
on for Bristol, where he arrived next day, after much wandering through
fields, up and down lanes, and across country--all one dreary expanse of
snow. By this time he was about ready for a rest. But there was no rest
for him in Bristol, for he was ordered by the mail inspector to take the
mails on to Birmingham, as there was no other mail guard available. At
last he arrived at Birmingham, having been on duty for two nights and
days continuously without taking his clothes off. For his exertions and
perseverance in getting the mails through Mr. Nobbs received a special
commendation from the Postmaster-General.

[Illustration: MOSES NOBBS.


Mr. Nobbs tells that one night when the Bristol coach was between Bath
and Warminster, two men jumped out of the hedge; one caught hold of the
leaders, and the other the wheelers, and tried to stop the coach. The
coachman, immediately whipped up the horses, and called out, "Look out!
we are going to be robbed!" Mr. Nobbs took the blunderbuss out of the
arms case (which was a box just in front of the guard's seat); but, just
as he did so, he saw the fellows making towards the hedge, and then lost
sight of them altogether. To let them know that he was prepared, he
fired off into the hedge. He didn't know whether he hit anything, but he
heard no cries or groans. The recoil of the blunderbuss, however, nearly
knocked him off his seat. The blunderbuss, he said, kicked like a mule.
It had no doubt been loaded to the muzzle, as was usual with those
weapons. In the memorable storm of Christmas, 1836, alluded to by Mr.
Nobbs, the Bath and Bristol mail coach, due in London on Tuesday
morning, was abandoned eighty miles from the metropolis, and the mails
taken up in a post-chaise and four by the two guards, who reached St.
Martin's-le-Grand at 6.0 on the Wednesday morning. For seventeen miles
of the distance the guards had from time to time to go across the fields
to get past the deep snowdrifts.

In the annual procession of mail coaches round London, at the head
thereof was "the oldest established mail,"--the Bristol mail, probably
with Guard Nobbs in charge. Some twenty-seven to thirty coaches took
part in the procession thus headed. The old mail guards had a literature
of their own. As an example, one report on a guard's way-bill ran as
follows (it was a note to account for loss of time on North Road):--"As
we wos comin' over Brumsgroove Lickey won of the leaders fell, and wen
we com to him he was ded."

One old fellow used to laugh, as the men said, down in his boots, or
like a pump losing its water. Another used facetiously to say that he
had better than a dozen children. "Oh, Mr. ----," said a barmaid to him
one day, "what can you do with so many?" "Well, my dear," he replied,
"you see I've got but two, and they be, you must confess, a good deal
better than a dozen."

It is said that, with the exception of a single instance, no guard was
ever convicted of a breach of trust while performing his duties.

In the year of Her Majesty's accession (1837) there were no fewer than
twenty-seven coaches running daily between Bristol and London, and
twenty-seven others passed between this city and Bath every twenty-four
hours. The times of the London coach were as follow: London depart 8.0
p.m., Bath 7.21 a.m., Bristol arrive 8.43 a.m., depart 6.15 p.m., arrive
G.P.O. 6.58 a.m.,--a slight acceleration over 1830.

Where now is the fashionable roadside "Ostrich Inn" on Durdham Down of a
century ago, approached by a rough and winding track from Black Boy
Hill? At this inn the coaches called on their way to the Passage. Where
now are the old four-horsed coaches rattling up to "The Bush," "White
Hart," and "White Lion" hostelries, and the old jolly dozen-caped
coachmen and scarlet-liveried mail guards, with blunderbuss and horn?
Where now the Bath and Bristol mail pulling up at the roadside "King's
Head Inn"? The inns are gone, the coaches gone, the jolly guards all
gone too. What happiness their smiling faces brought to many who watched
for their arrival by the mail coach from the West of England, and how
gladdening the sight of their colonial mail bags to the merchants of the
city and to the sailors' wives looking out anxiously for the monthly
mail of those days! Though single-sheet letters cost 2s. 1d. each, what
of that? Did they not contain accounts of sugar and rum cargoes, and of
good news from absent ones. Letters were letters in those days, and not
the notes and cards and "flimsies" of to-day.



VICTORIAN ERA, 1837-1899.


Although the world's railway system was inaugurated by the opening of
the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825, it was not until 1838 that
any attempt was made by a great railway to open up the traffic to the
West from the Metropolis. It was in that year that the Great Western
Company made a line between Paddington and Maidenhead, and mails were
sent by it. The section from Bristol to Bath was opened in the same
year. _Woolmer's Gazette_ of January, 1840, speaks of the 9.0 a.m.
"Exquisite" coach for Bristol, Cheltenham, Birmingham, Manchester, and
Liverpool, with part of the service by rail. Intermediate sections of
the railway were completed from time to time, and, finally, on the 30th
January, 1841, the Western line was opened throughout, and the coaches
which had formed so striking a feature both of town and country life
generally disappeared. One coach, however, obstinately held its ground
in spite of the railway, and continued to carry passengers from and to
London and Bristol at the rate of 1d. per mile until October, 1843.

In consequence of the completion of the Great Western Railway to
Bristol, extensive mail alterations had to be made, and they were
commenced on the 30th July, 1841, affecting the whole district right
through Somersetshire and Devonshire into Cornwall. Some towns were made
post towns and others were reduced from the rank of post towns to that
of sub-post offices. To meet the altered circumstances, revised sacking
of bags had to be resorted to. The instructions given by the President
to the staff in St. Martin's-le-Grand ended thus:

".... Any bags in addition to the ordinary number must be reported to
the road officers by the clerks of the divisions, that they may be
entered under the head of 'extra,' also any agents or portmanteaus for
Falmouth; and they must instruct the men carrying out the sacks and bags
first to report them to the check clerk, and then take them through the
letter carriers' office to the Devonport or Gloucester omnibus, as the
case may be, as the guards will not for the future come into the

It was at this time that the villages of Hallatrow, High Littleton,
Paulton, Harptree (East and West), Farrington Gurney, Temple Cloud,
Cameley, and Hinton Blewett were transferred from the postal control of
Bath to that of Bristol, under which they still remain.

For several years the only trains carrying third-class passengers from
Bristol started at 4.0 o'clock in the morning and 9.0 o'clock at night,
offering the travellers, who were wholly unprotected from the weather,
an alternative of miseries, and at first travellers were not much better
off in point of speed when travelling by railway, as third-class
passengers were 9-1/2 hours on the railway between Bristol and London.
The coach at the time of its being taken off performed the journey under
12 hours.

The "Bush" coach office was closed in March, 1844.

The Bristol and Gloucester Railway was opened to the public on the 8th
July, 1844. Of the seven coaches which had been running between the two
cities six were immediately withdrawn, and on the 22nd July the
time-honoured "North Mail" left Bristol for the last time, the horses'
heads surmounted with funereal plumes and the coachman and guard in
equally lugubrious array.

As late as 1845 Her Majesty's mails were conveyed between Bristol and
Southampton in a closed covered cart, "proper for the purpose," as set
forth in an advertisement inviting tenders for a new contract. The whole
journey had to be performed at the rate of eight miles within the hour,
stoppages included. The hours of despatch were: From Bristol at about
6.0 p.m., and from Southampton about 9.0 p.m.


_From a picture in the possession of E. G. Clarke, Esq._]

In 1849 a great mail robbery took place, which was committed with very
much daring. The robbers, who booked from Starcross station on the 1st
January, left a compartment of the up night mail train (which left
Bridgwater at 10.30 p.m. and reached Bristol at midnight); they crept
along the ledge, only 1-1/2 inch wide, to the mail-brake at the rear of
the post office sorting carriage, and effected an entrance, having
previously possessed themselves of a key of the lock. After having
rifled the mail bags they crept back to their compartment, and
alighted from the train at the Bristol station, giving up their tickets
to the Great Western Railway policeman. Not contented with robbing the
up mail, they got into the night mail train from London to the West,
which left Bristol at 1.15 a.m., and actually had the daring to pursue
the same tactics with regard to the mail bags in the locked brake. This
further audacity brought about their capture, for the news of the
robbery of the up mail reached the ears of the officers at Bristol who
were in the down mail, and so they were on the alert. On arrival,
therefore, at Bridgwater the second robbery was at once detected, all
exit from the station was stopped, and the train searched. Two men were
discovered in a first-class compartment near the travelling post office,
and registered letters and money letters were found upon them. In
addition to the letters, masks, and false moustache found, a
woolstapler's hook, which it is supposed was used by the thieves to hang
on to the tender when leaving the first-class carriage, was also
discovered. One of the registered letters stolen, it was stated,
contained £4,000, and the loss, as far as it was known, unquestionably
amounted to _fifty times_ that sum. The robbers turned out to be Henry
Poole, a discharged Great Western guard, and Edward Nightingale, a
London horse dealer. The case excited a great deal of interest in the
West of England, and when the trial took place at Exeter the court was
crowded to excess, and the avenues and approaches thereto were very
inconveniently crowded. Mr. Rogers, Q.C., and Mr. Poulden appeared for
the prosecution, and Mr. Slade, Mr. Cockburn, Q.C., and Mr. Stone

Evidence was given by clerks in the Lombard Street Post Office,
messengers and letter-carriers in the G.P.O., "register" clerks, clerk
at Charing Cross Post Office, the clerk of the Devonport Road, guard of
the mail from St. Martin's-le-Grand to Paddington, and by letter-sorters
in the travelling Post Office. Jane Crabbe, barmaid at the "Talbot Inn,"
Bath Street, Bristol, recollected the two men entering the bar and
calling for two small glasses of brandy-and-water. They were shown to an
adjoining room, where they remained until 1 o'clock, and then went to
the bar to pay. They appeared impatient, and looked at the clock. It was
suspected that all the property which, had been abstracted from the up
mail was secreted somewhere in Bristol, and a most rigid search was
instituted, but without success. Mr. Cockburn's speech to the jury for
the defence occupied over two hours. Lord Justice Denman, the Judge of
the Spring Assize, sentenced the culprits to fifteen years'

A Select Committee was appointed in 1854 to inquire into the causes of
irregularity in the conveyance of mails by railways, and to consider the
best means of securing speed and punctuality; also to consider the best
mode of fixing the remuneration of the various Railway Companies for
their services. The local witnesses, Mr. James Creswell Wall and Mr. J.
B. Badham, Secretary and Superintendent respectively of the late Bristol
and Exeter Railway Company, and Bristol residents, gave evidence before
the Committee, composed of Mr. Wilson Patten (chairman), Mr. James
MacGregor, Mr. H. G. Liddell, Mr. H. Herbert, Mr. C. Fortescue, Mr.
Cowan, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Philipps, and Mr. Milner.

Replying to questions, witnesses considered two hours forty minutes, as
fixed by the Post Office Department, insufficient time for the down
night mail to travel from Bristol to Exeter, including six stoppages.
The delivery of mail bags at certain stations by apparatus without
stopping the train was suggested, but witnesses considered the plan
dangerous and that it could not with safety be adopted.

The Secretary of the South Wales Railway Company, Mr. F. G. Saunders,
gave evidence as to the frequent loss of time sustained by the South
Wales night mail through the late receipt of the Bristol and West of
England mails at Chepstow. At that time the bags for South Wales were
still conveyed from Bristol to the Aust Passage, thence by ferry to the
opposite bank of the Severn and on to Chepstow. The conveyance of mails
for South Wales _viâ_ Gloucester was subsequently adopted.

All the witnesses complained of the reduction of railway parcel traffic
through the then recent establishment of book postage and consequent
falling off of receipts, also that the remuneration awarded for the
carriage of mails was insufficient, although decided by
mutually-appointed umpires.

[Illustration: THE OLD PASSAGE, AUST.]

For many years the night mails were conveyed between Paddington and
Bristol by a special train, which did not carry passengers. It was the
only train of its kind in the kingdom, but so useful was it held to
be in securing a regular delivery of letters that the Government
introduced a clause in a Postal Bill in 1857 rendering it compulsory for
all railways to provide similar trains. On the 1st June, 1869, the Post
Office special Great Western train commenced to be a mail train limited
to carry a certain number of passengers, so that opinion had by that
time become altered as regards the value in relation to cost of a train
exclusively for Post Office purposes.

The travelling Post Office service assists greatly in the speedy
distribution of letters, and by its agency remote places are put on an
equality with the country generally in respect of deliveries and
despatches. Two of the most important travelling Post Office systems in
the kingdom are conducted through, or to, Bristol--the gate to the
Western country--viz.: The Great Western Railway, with a travelling Post
Office annual mileage of 500,000; and the Midland and North-Eastern
lines from Newcastle, with a mileage of 220,000. Travelling Post
Offices, with a combined coach length of from 48 feet on the day mails
to 158 feet on the night mails, are attached to the Great Western down
trains which arrive at Bristol at 12.13 a.m. and 8.48 a.m.; to the up
trains, at 12.45 a.m. and 3.0 p.m.; to the trains leaving Bristol for
the West at 6.15 a.m. and 12.9 p.m., and for the North at 7.40 p.m. The
Midland travelling Post Office carriages are attached to the 5.40 a.m.
inward train and to the 7.0 p.m. outward train.

There is living at Midford, about fifteen miles distant from Bristol, a
gentleman (Mr. Coulcher) who--now pensioned from the Post Office--was
the clerk in charge of the Midland Travelling Post Office on its first
run from Bristol to Derby in 1857. He well recollects the night, and
what impressed it upon his memory more than anything else was the fact
that on reaching Bristol, after he and his two subordinate clerks and
his mail-guard (Samuel Bennett) had made almost superhuman efforts to
get the work completed, he had to send 13,000 letters unsorted into the
Bristol Post Office, there to await despatch by day mails to towns in
the West of England, instead of going at once in direct travelling Post
Office bags by the connecting early morning train.

Samuel Bennett, the old mail guard mentioned, and contemporary of Moses
Nobbs, was frequently injured on road and rail. In 1847 he was much
shaken when a Birmingham-to-Bath train by which he was travelling ran
off the line. A few years later he nearly came to an untimely end,
having been regarded as dead after being much knocked about when two
trains between Bristol and Birmingham collided. On that occasion, after
he recovered consciousness, he got together some of his mail bags and
carried them on to Bristol.

The _Gloucester Journal_ said of the occurrence:--"Samuel Bennett, the
guard of the mail bags, appeared dead when found, and was dreadfully
cut; but on recovering, he manifested great anxiety for the bags. When
the special train arrived in which the wounded passengers were conveyed
onward, Bennett, with great courage, determined to take the bags by this
train, which was done."

And the _Bristol Mercury_ wrote of him as follows:--"The mail guard,
Samuel Bennett, was very much cut over the face and head, and bled
profusely. Happily, he was not rendered long unconscious or disabled,
and with a conscientious and self-denying attention to duty not often
met with, he refused any attention to his hurts until he had gathered up
the mutilated letter bags and their contents, and made provision for
bringing them on to this city."

In the Bristol district there is a railway Post Office apparatus station
at Fishponds, on the Midland Railway, bags being deposited thereat by
the train due at Bristol at 5.40 a.m., and taken up by the train ex
Bristol at 7.0 p.m. On the Great Western Railway, the apparatus
arrangement is in operation at Flax Bourton, Nailsea, Yatton, and
Hewish, chiefly in connection with the 6.15 a.m. train ex Bristol. It
rarely happens that any failures occur at Fishponds or Hewish, but
vagaries of the apparatus are more frequent at Yatton. About once a year
something or other goes wrong, the pouch usually being dropped and
carried along by the train, with mutilation of the mail bags and a
general scattering of the letters. On the last occasion, after the line
had been searched up and down, the embankment closely looked over, and
the ground on the other side of the hedge on the down side closely
scrutinized, all unavailingly, some two or three days after the
accident a bundle of letters was picked up which, such was the force of
the impact, had been "skied" into a field over two hedges of an
intervening lane.

On another similar mishap, a Post Office remittance letter containing
£20 in gold was burst open and the coins scattered over the line. After
diligent search in every direction, £18 10s. was recovered. One half
sovereign, bent in an extraordinary manner, was found between the metals
three-quarters of a mile from the apparatus standard. The apparatus has
to be adjusted with mathematical nicety, and if not so arranged failures
are liable to occur. It is well that the public should bear in mind that
packets sent by mails which are exchanged by apparatus are in more or
less danger, and any article of a fragile or costly nature should, if
possible, be forwarded by mails carried by stopping-trains. The places
so affected in this neighbourhood are:--Alveston, Bitton, Blagdon,
Burrington, Clevedon, Congresbury, Downend, Fishponds, Flax Bourton,
Frampton Cotterell, Frenchay, Glastonbury, Hambrook, Hewish, Iron Acton,
Langford, Mangotsfield, Nailsea, Oldlands Common, Portishead,
Pucklechurch, Rudgeway, Sandford, Staple Hill, Thornbury, Tockington,
Warmley, West Town, Willsbridge, Winterbourne, Wrington, and Yatton.

Until lately mails for Bristol were forwarded by the midnight train from
Euston (L. & N. W. R.) and reached this city by way of Birmingham in
time for the North mail delivery. It was on that railway that in 1890 a
sad occurrence happened at Watford, when a young man whilst in the
discharge of his duties as fireman lost his life. The deceased was
leaning over the side of his engine, which was stationary, watching for
the signals to be turned, when the day mail train from London dashed by.
The travelling Post Office apparatus net which had picked up a pouch at
a point a few score yards away was still extended and it struck the
unfortunate young man on the head, completely severing it from the body.
The poor fellow's cap was torn from his head by the apparatus net and
fell into the travelling Post Office carriages with the mail pouches
much to the consternation of the travelling sorters, who found evidence
of the mutilation on the apparatus framework. The net was only down for
the short space of ten seconds. The travelling officials first heard
full details of the accident on their arrival at Tring, where the train
next stopped.

"Once upon a time," writes Mr. A. W. Blake in the _St. Martin's-le-Grand
Magazine_, "the London afternoon mail was made up at a provincial office
down West (Chippenham), and despatched to be taken off by apparatus. All
proceeded as usual up to the actual point of transfer, when a strange
thing happened. Instead of falling soberly into the net, the man in
charge was astonished to see the pouch leap high into the air and
descend he knew not whither. Search was carefully made along the track
of the departed train, but not a vestige of the missing pouch could be
seen, and a local inspector who was travelling up the line promised to
keep a look-out for it. Just at this time an 'S.G.' was received from
the officer in charge of the sorting tender notifying the non-receipt of
the pouch. As the mystery seemed to deepen, word was received that a
signalman at a level crossing two miles away had noticed the missing
article on the top of the train. Quoth the worthy apparatus man: 'If
it'll ride two miles, it'll ride two hundred'; and accordingly a wire
was sent to the sorting-tender people asking them to search the top of
the train, and soon came the reply that the pouch had been found on the
roof of the guard's van at Didcot. The train had stopped the regulation
time at that hub of the Great Way Round, Swindon, and proceeded on its
way without the extraordinary position of Her Majesty's mails being

The occurrence was attributed to the swaying of the carriage, and to the
apparatus-net not working quite steadily in consequence.

At a later period than the mishap narrated by Mr. Blake, the bags for
Oxford and Abingdon, due to be picked up at Wantage by the up night mail
travelling Post Office apparatus, and to have been delivered by the same
process at Steventon, were not found when the net was drawn in, and it
was thought they had been missed; but at Didcot it was discovered they
had been thrown over the end of the net and were hanging outside it.

Since the opening of the Severn Tunnel in 1883 it has not often been
found an absolute necessity to make use of it for the conveyance of
mails diverted from the route from South Wales through Gloucester to
London; but such was the case in February of the present year (1899),
when a tidal wave of forty feet was experienced in the Bristol Channel,
which caused serious damage by displacing the railway line between
Lydney and Wollaston. The effects of the high tide were disastrous. A
wave dashed on to the Great Western Railway with huge force, and so
disintegrated the ballasting of the permanent way that the lines were
twisted into all manner of shapes. The mails to and from Paddington to
South Wales were circulated _viâ_ Bristol and the Tunnel for some time.

Bristol is at a disadvantage as compared with London in respect of its
Continental correspondence, but is far better situated than many other
provincial towns. The letters from the Continent by night mails reach
Bristol by the train leaving London at 9.0 a.m. and, arriving at Temple
Meads at 11.57 a.m., are on delivery in the private box renters' office
at about 12.30 p.m. The postmen start out with the letters at 1.10 p.m.
As the hour of posting for the outward Continental night mails is 2.10
p.m., it is only the private box renters who have time, brief though it
be, to reply to their correspondence on the day of receiving it.

An appeal to the Hon. Member for Bristol East was made by the writer at
a Chamber of Commerce dinner to exercise his influence as a director of
the Great Western Railway in the direction of obtaining the use of a
goods train for the conveyance to Bristol of a midnight mail from
London. In the end the Railway Company afforded the Post Office the
means of bringing down a midnight mail, not by goods train as was
originally contemplated, but by new and fast passenger train, with the
result that half a million letters a year now fall into the first
delivery throughout the town, instead of into the second delivery as
heretofore. The letters posted in London up to 9.0 p.m. reach the head
office in Small Street in time to be delivered throughout the city and
suburbs by the postmen on their first round. Under the old system, when
"routed" _viâ_ Birmingham, the arrival was often so late and irregular
that the letters missed even the second delivery. The letters for the
rural districts having no day mail deliveries had to lie at Bristol for
twenty-four hours, while now they are delivered on the morning of
receipt from London. The advantages o£ the new system apply to parcels
as well as letters, and the acceleration in delivery is particularly
serviceable as regards parcels containing perishable articles.

The Railway Company recently gave the Department another opportunity of
improving the mail services by establishing a merchandise train from
Cornwall and the West to London, reaching the Metropolis in time for the
letters sent by it to be delivered some three or four hours earlier than
when conveyed by the first passenger train in the morning. Strangely
enough, the establishment of this new mail service was the means of
enabling the hon. baronet (Sir W. H. Wills), the Member for Bristol
East, to take his seat in the House of Commons on the day of his last
election, for the writ and return were sent by that mail to London in
time to reach the Crown Office for all formalities to be gone through in
connection with the seat being taken at once.




Official records at St. Martin's-le-Grand show that postmasters of
Bristol were appointed as follows; viz., Thomas Gale, 1678; Wm.
Dickinson, 1690; Daniel Parker, 1693; Henry Pine, September, 1694;
Thomas Pine, senior, 1740; Thomas Pine, junior, 16th January, 1760;
William Fenn, 1778; Mrs. Fenn, 1788; Mr. Fry managed the office for Mrs.
Penn from 1797 to December, 1805, when he died, and Mrs. Fenn retired on
an allowance in 1806; Mr. Cole, March, 1806, died whilst holding office;
John Gardiner, 9th June, 1825; Thomas Todd Walton, senior, 21st
February, 1832; Thomas Todd Walton, junior, 23rd May, 1842, succeeded
his father; Edward Chaddock Sampson, 21st June, 1871; Robert Charles
Tombs, 19th April, 1892, after having been invalided from Controllership
of the London postal service.

In his history of the Post Office, Mr. Joyce tells us that in 1686 the
Postmaster-General himself settled applications for salary. Thus when
Thomas Gale, postmaster of Bristol, applies for an increase of salary,
Frowde the governor satisfies the Earl of Rochester, the
Postmaster-General, that the increase will be proper. Forthwith issues a
document, of which the operative part is as follows:--

"You are therefore of opinion that the said salary (£50) is very small
considering the expense the petitioner is att, and his extraordinary
trouble, Bristoll being a greate Citty, but you say that you doe not
think all the things he setts downe in the aforesaid accompt ought to be
allowed him, the example being of very ill consequence, for (as you
informe me) you doe not allow either candles, pack-thread, wax, ink,
penns or paper to any of the postmasters, nor office-rent, nor returns
of mony, you are therefore of opinion that tenn ponnds per annum to his
former salary of £50 will be a reasonable allowance, and the petitioner
will be therewith satisfied, these are therefore to pray and require you
'to raise his salary from £50 to £60 accordingly.'

  Whitehall Treasury Chambers,
  _December 13th, 1686_."

The office of postmaster was in the hands of the Pine family,
grandfather, father, and son, from 1694 till 1778. In an old manuscript
in the public library it is stated that there was a portrait in the
possession of a descendant of the family, then residing on Kingsdown,
representing the older Pine in the midst of his official duties, a
bracket supporting a bust of Mercury, and in his hand a letter thus
addressed:--"On His Majesty's Service. To Mr. Pine, Postmaster of
Bristol," and in the corner, "P. Express. T. Strickland." Endeavours to
trace the descendants and the portrait have proved fruitless.

[Illustration: MR. JOHN GARDINER.

_Postmaster of Bristol, 1827-1832._]

There is little history obtainable of the postmasters until the time of
Mr. John Gardiner, of whom it is related that, born October 15th, 1777,
he held the office of postmaster of Bristol from 1825 till his death in
1832. It is believed that he obtained his appointment in a great measure
through friendship with Mr. Francis Freeling. Mr. Gardiner had to bear
the brunt of the Bristol Riots (1831), in so far as they affected the
Post Office administration of the city. In order to save the mails and
belongings which were portable, such as the books, post dating stamps,
etc., he set off with them in a coach and four for Bath Post Office. He
got safely through the mob and reached Bath, where the Bristol Post
Office business was carried on until the riots had been quelled. Mr.
Gardiner, in addition to being postmaster, was also an exporter of
woollen and Manchester goods, chiefly to the West Indies until the slave
trade was abolished. He then traded with Newfoundland. He was High
Sheriff of the city in the year 1820, residing at that time in Berkeley
Square. Later, however, he was enabled to live quietly at the Old Manor
House, Easton-in-Gordano. He was buried at St. Peter's Church, Bristol.

[Illustration: MR. THOMAS TODD WALTON.

_Postmaster of Bristol, 1832-1842._]

Mr. Anthony Todd, the Secretary to the Post Office, 1762-65 and 1768-98,
seems to have been attracted to Todd Walton, of Cheshunt, Herts, either
by relationship or from his name, and took him in hand. Born in 1772,
Mr. Todd Walton entered the Post Office in 1786 (fourteen years old). He
had the long spell of service of forty-six years in the foreign Post
Office and ten years as postmaster of Bristol. He was five times
selected for foreign missions, which compelled his residence in Holland,
Sweden, Spain, and Portugal during the most disturbed state of those
countries. Mr. Walton is described as having been a fine old English
gentleman, one of the olden time, who wore hair powder, blue coat with
gilt buttons, and shoes and gaiters; one who used to express his meaning
distinctly, and mean what he said too. This description is borne out by
his appearance in his portrait. He used to visit the Bristol Post Office
after his retirement, especially to have a morning glass of water from
the old well on the premises. He died in July, 1857, at his residence,
King's Parade, Clifton, in his eighty-fifth year, and was buried in the
adjacent church of St. John's. On his tombstone is this inscription:
"Here rests the body of Thomas Todd Walton, late of Cheshunt, Herts, and
of the foreign post, London, Esquire. A quarter of a century an
inhabitant of this parish, and for some years head postmaster of the
Bristol district. Deceased 13th July, 1857. Aged 85. Also of Catherine
Elizabeth, his wife, elder daughter of Thomas Todd, of Durham, Esquire.
She died April 11th, 1860, aged 77 years."

On Mr. Walton's retirement, in 1842, in view of his services, Lord
Viscount Lowther, the Postmaster-General of the day, conferred the
appointment of postmaster of Bristol on his son, Thomas Todd Walton, who
had been employed as chief clerk in the Bristol Post Office for ten
years. Mr. Todd Walton, it seems, was properly initiated into the
mysteries of the Post Office art by his father, who decreed that he
should commence at the bottom of the ladder and work his way up thence,
so that young Todd Walton was in his day to be found at mail-bag
opening, letter sorting and other routine work of the kind, which will
account for the thorough knowledge of his business which he is said to
have possessed when called upon to take the reins of office handed over
to him by his popular parent.


_Postmaster of Bristol, 1842-1871._]

In connection with the recent selection of the port of Bristol as a mail
station, alluded to in later pages, it may be mentioned that Mrs. Todd
Walton well remembers how, when the _Great Western_ steamship, which
carried the American mails between Bristol and New York for several
years, was first due (1838) to reach this port, her husband organised
his small staff for a night encounter with the pressure of work which
the heavy mail would inevitably occasion, and obtained auxiliary aid.
The little staff was at "attention" for two or three days, and when the
news came by means of the runner from Pill that the ship was coming up
the Avon, Mr. Walton turned out at 2 a.m., rallied his little band, and
went manfully to the work, which lasted for many hours before the
letters were fully sorted and sent off to their respective destinations
or delivered through the streets and lanes of the old city. In the
autumn of 1841 the _Great Western_ happened to arrive on the same day
that a large ship mail from Australia by the _Ruby_ was received, and
the whole staff available--then only ten men for all duties--had to work
night and day continuously to get off the letters by the mails to other
towns. As many as 20,000 letters and newspapers were brought by these
two vessels on that occasion. It is recorded that every available space
in the premises was filled with letters piled as high as they could be
got to stand, and great was the joy of the sorters when the flood of
letters subsided.

Mr. Todd Walton had many other night reminders of the mail services
besides those respecting the arrival of direct mails from America, as
the rattling of the horses' hoofs, the clang of the pole-chains and the
twang of the mail guard's horn as the coaches dashed past his house on
their way to the passages must have frequently reminded him of his
responsibilities as "mail master" of Bristol. He would have blessed
Bristol's very able General Manager of the Tramways Company had he been
to the fore in those days to procure the benefit of freedom from the
noise of traffic by the use of wood paving in our principal

Mr. Todd Walton had the interests of the staff of the Post Office at
heart, and, as an exemplification of his sympathy with them, it may be
mentioned that when a promising officer in the heyday of youth met with
an accident which eventually necessitated the amputation of his right
leg, Mr. Walton did not allow the misfortune to stand in the way of the
young man's continuing in remunerative employment in the Post Office,
but found for him a suitable sedentary duty which he performed for
fourteen years.

Mr. Todd Walton the second counted amongst his contemporaries and
personal friends those Post Office literary stars, Anthony Trollope and
Edmund Yates.

Mr. Walton retired from the Post Office in 1871. His death occurred at
the Clifton Down Hotel on the morning of Christmas day, 1885. He was in
the act of dressing to attend the early morning service at All Saints'
Church, when he fell into a fit of apoplexy, from which he did not
rally. The _Times and Mirror_ of January 2nd, 1886, gives the following
memoir of him:--"The death of this estimable gentleman calls for more
particular notice than the necessarily brief one given in last
Saturday's impression; for although Mr. Walton had for some time past
ceased to be a citizen of Bristol, he continued to feel an interest in
the old city and its surroundings, and was remembered by many
Bristolians as one who had obtained, as he deserved, their affectionate
esteem. Succeeding his father--a gentleman of the 'old school'--as
postmaster of Bristol, Mr. Todd Walton, through the long series of years
in which he occupied that public position, evinced unwearied industry,
keen intelligence, and singular courtesy in discharging the
multifarious duties connected with it, and when on his retirement
(carrying with him into private life the respect of his fellow-citizens)
he was called upon to fulfil the duties of High Sheriff of Bristol,
those duties were discharged by him for two years successively in a
manner distinguished by great public spirit and generous hospitality. He
was a man of considerable culture and taste, an extensive reader, and a
reader who, happily, remembered what he had read. He possessed also a
sense of humour and a ready wit which made him an agreeable and
intelligent companion; whilst to those who enjoyed his friendship he was
ever a friend, courteous and kind. Blessed with abundant means, he
helped without ostentation the poor and needy, many of whom in our own
city will share in the general regret his loss has occasioned."

In the centre of the church garden at All Saints', Clifton, stands a
cross, which Mrs. Walton erected in 1888 to the memory of her husband.
It was designed by Mr. J. L. Pearson, R.A. It is of granite, and stands
on three steps. In the centre of the shaft is a figure of the Good
Shepherd, and at the top are four sculptures, beautifully executed, of
the Annunciation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension.
Over these rises a crocketed finial, and the whole is surmounted by a
cross. At the base are inscribed the words: "In loving memory of Thomas
Todd Walton, sometime churchwarden of the Church of All Saints, and a
most generous benefactor to that church."

By the death of Edward Chadwick Sampson, the next postmaster, which
occurred at Clevedon, December 7th, 1895, the Post Office lost one of
its most gentlemanly and genial pensioners.

For many years postmaster of Bristol, Mr. Sampson was well known
throughout the city, and held in high esteem by all with whom he was
brought into contact. He had a long service in the postal department,
dating, as it did, from 1837 to the last day of 1891. In 1837 he began
his connection with the Bristol Post Office. He went to Manchester as
chief clerk in 1865, but was away only six years, and returned in 1871
to assume the postmastership of his native city. It is interesting, as
showing the enormous increase in the postal traffic, to recall the fact
that when Mr. Sampson joined the Corn Street office in 1837 the
premises were only twenty feet square, there were only fifteen clerks
and postmen all told, and no one was allowed to have his letters from
the boxes whilst a mail was being sorted.

For his wide experience, his ability, and high integrity his work was
greatly valued by leading officials in the postal service; whilst his
sincerity and kindliness of disposition endeared him to employés of
every grade over whom he had control.

As the postman came to Mr. Sampson's door one morning, it was seen that
the man was too ill to discharge his duties. Mr. Sampson thereupon
begged the man to come into his house and rest, and he himself, with the
aid of his son, delivered every one of the letters at its destination,
afterwards seeing the poor man safely home. That kind act was indicative
of Mr. Sampson's general consideration for those over whom he ruled.


_Postmaster of Bristol, 1871-1891._

_From a photograph by Mr. Abel Lewis, Bristol._]

On the resignation of Mr. Sampson, it was generally felt that he should
not be allowed to retire into private life without taking with him
tangible evidence of the goodwill and respect of those with whom he
had been associated. This feeling found expression in a gratifying
manner, and the services he had rendered the commercial community during
his postmastership were gracefully recognised by the Chamber of Commerce
presenting him with an address illuminated and engrossed on vellum.

Exactly at midnight on the last night of 1891 he was invited, as his
last official act, to seal what is known to Post Office employés as the
"London and Exeter T.P.O., going west"--that is, the mail bag of the
travelling Post Office bound for Exeter. Mr. Sampson discharged the
slight duty devolving upon him, and received the new year greetings of
his former colleagues, "Auld Lang Syne" being afterwards sung.



Probably the most illustrious man of the Post Office service who had
Bristol for a birthplace was Sir Francis Freeling. Sir Francis was born
in Redcliffe parish, Bristol, in 1764, and was educated partly at
Colston School and in part by the Master of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar
School. In an ancient city record it is stated that he commenced his
official career as "an apprentice" at the Bristol Post Office, where the
combined results of his education, probity, and talents were soon
discovered. On the establishment of the new system of mail coaches in
1784, he was appointed to aid the inventor, Palmer, in carrying his
improvements into effect. Two years later he was transferred to the
General Post Office, London, where, in course of time, he successively
filled the offices of Surveyor, Principal and Resident Surveyor,
Joint-Secretary, and Secretary from 1798-1836. In a debate in the
House of Lords, in 1836, the Duke of Wellington stated that the English
Post Office under Freeling's management had been better administered
than any Post Office in Europe, or in any other part of the world. He
possessed "a clear and vigorous understanding ... and the power of
expressing his thoughts and opinions, both verbally and in writing, with
force and precision." For his public services a baronetcy was conferred
upon him on March 11th, 1828, a meet reward for his long, arduous, and
valuable services. He was a warm supporter of Pitt, but he suffered no
political partisanship to affect his administration of the Post Office.
Freeling's leisure was devoted to the formation of a curious and
valuable library. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
in 1801, and was one of the original members of the Roxburgh Club,
founded in 1812. He died while still at his post on the business of the
country which he had so faithfully served, and was buried in the church
of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol.


_Secretary to the G.P.O., 1798-1836._]

The inscription on the memorial tablet runs thus: "To the memory of Sir
Francis Freeling, Baronet, who was born in this parish the 25th August,
1764, and who died in Bryanston Square, in the county of Middlesex, the
10th July, 1836. For more than half a century his life was devoted to
the public service in the General Post Office, in which for thirty-eight
years he discharged the arduous duties of Secretary. By unwearied
industry in the employment of great talents, and by unblemished
integrity, grounded upon Christian principles, he acquired and retained
the favour of three successive Sovereigns, and the approbation of the
public. He has left a name which will be remembered with honour in his
birthplace, and which is cherished with affection and veneration by his
children, who have raised this monument."

Sir Francis Freeling was thrice married. By his first wife, Jane,
daughter of John Christian Kurstadt, he had two sons. He was succeeded
in the baronetcy by the elder, Sir George Henry Freeling, born in 1789,
who matriculated at New College, Oxford, 17th March, 1807, and was for
some time Assistant-Secretary at the Post Office, and subsequently
Commissioner of Customs (1836-1841). There is a descendant of Sir
Francis in the service, and the name may again be read of in Post
Office history.

The editor of _Felix Farley's Journal_ (Mr. J. M. Gutch), of 15 Small
Street, Bristol, wrote many letters on "the impediments which obstruct
the trade and commerce of the city and port of Bristol," under the
signature of "Cosmo," in the years 1822-3. The letters were afterwards
published in book form, and the dedication was--"To Francis Freeling,
Esq., Secretary to the General Post Office, F.A.S., etc., a native of
Bristol, than whom, whenever opportunity has occurred, no citizen has
exerted himself more in the promotion of the public and private welfare
of this city, the following letters are dedicated, and this humble
opportunity gladly embraced of testifying the obligations and sincere
respect of his obedient servant, THE AUTHOR."

A Postmaster-General has not emanated from our western city, but Mr.
Arnold Morley, late General-in-Chief, is the son of one who worthily
represented Bristol in Parliament for many years, the late
highly-respected Mr. Samuel Morley, the legend on whose statue near
Bristol Bridge tells us--"Samuel Morley, Member of Parliament for this
city from 1868 to 1885. To preserve for their children the memory of the
face and form of one who was an example of justice, generosity, and
public spirit, this statue was given by more than 5,000 citizens of
Bristol."--"I believe that the power of England is to be reckoned not by
her wealth or armies, but by the purity and virtue of the great men of
her population."--S. MORLEY.

Although Sir Francis stands out pre-eminently, there is a long list of
Bristol officers who have gone forth and gained Post Office laurels.
First on that honourable roll may be mentioned J. D. Rich, who, over
half a century ago, first hung up his hat in the Bristol Post Office, a
"furry" hat of the old stovepipe kind, as he tells the story. Mr. Rich
showed so much ability in meeting the requirements of the times at
Bristol that he rose to the position of president clerk. In 1848, on the
recommendation of the Surveyor General, he was removed to Bath, as
peculiarly fitted to assist Mr. Musgrave, who from his advanced age was
unequal to the duties, and the result was apparent in a great
improvement of the local service. That Mr. Rich won golden opinions was
proved by a memorial for his appointment to succeed Mr. Musgrave,
addressed to the Postmaster-General, and signed in a short time by more
than a thousand citizens. The memorial was, however, unavailing. Mr.
Rich, after performing various services under five other provincial
postmasters, found himself at last in the enviable position of lord of
postal matters in Liverpool, and Surveyor of the Isle of Man. On
retiring from the Service recently, he was made a Justice of the Peace
in recognition of his distinguished services to the city. Mr. Kerry,
telegraph superintendent, became postmaster of Warrington, Mr. Harwood
of Southport, Mr. Carter (chief clerk) of Southampton, Mr. Brown
(telegraph assistant-superintendent) of King's Lynn, Mr. Rogers (postal
assistant-superintendent) of Newton Abbot, Mr. Walton of Teignmouth, Mr.
Righton of Penzance, and Mr. Barnett (chief clerk for twenty years) of

Several officers of the Bristol Post Office have entered telegraph
services abroad. Mr. J. Wilcox is in the service of the Western
Australian Government at Perth, and Mr. W. A. Devine in that of the
British South Africa Chartered Company at Fort Salisbury. Mr. C.
Harrison is employed at Pretoria, and was carrying on his vocation of
telegraph operator at that town at the time of the Jameson raid. Mr.
Keyte has become assistant storekeeper under the British Government in
Chinde, on the East Coast of Africa.



There is record of a Post Office having been established in Bristol by
the Convention Parliament in 1670, but the site is unknown, and probably
the postmaster had post horses--not letters--to attend to. In the year
1700 Mr. Henry Pine, the postmaster of the day, was one of the parties
to an agreement for leasing a piece of land "with liberty to build upon
the same for the conveniency of a Post Office." The wording of the said
agreement shows that the old-fashioned form of building was not in every
instance (as it now seems to us to have been) so grotesquely shaped from
fancy, or, perhaps, from a desire to economise ground space, for it is
therein expressly stated that the building to be used for a Post Office
was to have the second storey extended to a truss of eighteen inches
over the lane, for the purpose of enabling people to stand in the dry;
for there was no indoor accommodation for the public provided in those
days. "Let the imaginative reader," wrote an imaginative writer years
ago, "picture to himself our great-great-grandfathers in doublet and
ruff, standing in a row under the eighteen-inch truss, while the worthy
postmaster, Pine himself, with perhaps one assistant, was sorting the
contents of the mail bag. Doubtless," wrote he, "they grumbled when it
rained that the said truss was not half a dozen inches wider, and many a
person as he became saturated in his time of waiting for his letters
growled out his intention of doing something very desperate to the
powers that were."

In the "Bargain" books of the Corporation is the following memorandum
relating to the foregoing:--

"_22nd June, 1700._ Then agreed by the Surveyors of the city lands with
Henry Pine, deputy postmaster, that he, the said Henry Pine, shall have,
hold, and enjoy the ground whereon now stands a shedd having therein
four severall shopp seituate in All Saints' Lane, and as much more
ground at the lower end of the same shedd as that the whole ground shall
contain in length twenty-seven foot, and to contain in breadth from the
outside to the churchyard wall five foot and a half outward into the
lane, with liberty to build upon the same for conveniency of a Post
Office (namely) The first storey to go forth into the said lane to the
extent of that ground and no farther, and the second storey to have a
truss of eighteen inches over the lane or more as the said Surveyors
shall think fitt that persons coming to the Post Office may have shelter
from the rain and stand in the dry. To hold the same from Michaelmas
next for fifty years absolute in the yearly rent of 30s. clear of

This agreement must have been afterwards modified. For some reason or
other, Pine paid no rent until Michaelmas, 1705, when a sum of 25s. was
received by the Chamberlain, and "The post house produced the same
yearly sum until 1742 when the rent was raised to £3."

The site of the little Post Office alluded to was required in 1742 in
connection with the building of the Exchange, and the Post Office was
transferred to a house in Small Street, in later days occupied as the
printing office of the _Times and Mirror_ newspaper.

There seems to have been some informal understanding that when the
Exchange was finished a suitable site would be provided by the
Corporation for postal business, and in August, 1746, a Committee
reported to the Council that they had contracted for the erection of "a
house intended to be made use of as a Post Office, certain workmen
having agreed to build and find all the materials at the rate of £60 per
square (_sic_); while Mr. Thomas Pine (nephew to Henry, the former
postmaster) had offered to become the tenant at £40 a year, which he
alleged is the highest rent he is able at present to pay." The Council
approved of the proposal, recommending the Committee to get as much rent
as was practicable. The house, which was of scanty dimensions, cost £700
exclusive of a ground rent of £15 a year given for the site. Only the
ground floor was set apart for postal business, Mr. Pine residing on the
premises. The first year's rent (£43) was paid in 1750. Between 1750 and
1815 the building must have been considerably enlarged, for in the
latter year the Post Office is spoken of as a handsome and convenient
building of freestone, near to the western end of the Exchange, to which
it has a wing projecting forward into the street; and there is another
building, exactly similar to it, at the eastern end, which is occupied
for a stamp office. In 1827 there was a contemplated removal of the Post
Office, and it was deemed proper by the Chamber of Commerce to come on
the scene by presenting a memorial to the Postmaster-General; it is
stated that the timely remonstrance no doubt contributed to relieve the
public of the inconvenience of such removal. Colonel Maberly, the
Secretary to the Post Office, advised Lord Lichfield in 1838 that as the
ground-floor portion of the Post Office premises occupied by the
solicitors was necessary for the extension and improved accommodation of
the office, no time should be lost in giving the several sub-tenants
notice to quit, and Mr. Hall or the postmaster should be instructed to
communicate with the Corporation as to the means of effecting such
alterations as might be requisite. His lordship gave authority to that
effect. In 1839 the Corporation granted the Government a new lease of
the premises and of additional ground behind for the purpose of having
the Post Office enlarged. The annual rent previous to this new
arrangement had risen to £100.

The building alluded to is that now rented by Messrs. Corner and Co. as
a tea warehouse. Few indeed, even of the oldest citizens will remember
the Bristol Post Office as located there, and the old square open public
lobby where the letters were given out through barred windows. Only the
ground floor was utilised, and the area, of the site was but 21 ft. by
20 ft. A door opened from the passage by the Exchange into a very small
public lobby. In this lobby was the letter-box, and here all business
with the public--viz., giving out private letters, taking in letters
prepaid in money, and the issuing and paying of money orders--was
transacted by clerks standing in the office behind a glass partition.
The prepayment of letters by means of postage stamps was not introduced
till some months after penny postage was established. There was not at
the time a continuous attendance of clerks at the glass partition. At
two of the slides in the partition there were small brass door-knockers,
and on the public knocking a clerk appeared; from the inside office and
attended to the wants of the applicants. When letters for the private
box renters were being sorted a blind was drawn down. When the mail was
ready the blind was drawn up, and three clerks attended to disperse the
crowd which had gathered during the half-hour or so while the office was
closed. The small space behind the public lobby sufficed for the
stamping, sorting, and other necessary duties. One man, history saith,
amongst the crowd generally got to the front without difficulty; he was
a flour-dusted messenger from the Welsh Back!

In 1847 the Money Order Department had grown amazingly, and a separate
room had to be provided for its accommodation. This caused the removal
of certain solicitors from the first floor to make room for the
postmaster's office, the one formerly held by him on the ground floor
being converted into a money order office. In 1855 the shop on the north
side of the entrance to Albion Chambers from Small Street was taken by
the Post Office and converted into a money order office, it being found
that the department devoted to this purpose at the general office in
Exchange Buildings was not sufficiently commodious or convenient.

It is on record that in 1863 the Post Office authorities offered £10,000
towards erecting a new Post Office if the citizens would consent to
contribute £2,000 more. A meeting of some gentlemen took place in the
committee-room of the Council House to take the proposition into
consideration, but owing to the small number of persons that attended
further deliberation was postponed to a day not named. Some of the
leading citizens were of opinion that it would be wise to defer any
decision on the subject until the intention of the Government as to
granting a criminal assize for Bristol was known; for should the answer
from head-quarters be in the affirmative, it would be necessary to build
a new court somewhere, in which case the Guildhall would perhaps suit as
a Post Office. Nothing appears to have come of the negotiations, and the
business of the Post Office was removed on the 25th of March, 1868, to
the new office erected in Small Street on the site where it is now
carried on. This original portion of the structure covers 11,000 square
feet. The purchase of the site was completed on the 21st December, 1865.
It is stated in a legal document that the bricks, stones, and material
on part of the site belonged to the Bristol Chambers Co. Limited. Where
the sorting office stands there formerly flourished a fine mulberry
tree. There appears to have been no ceremonial in the way of laying a
foundation stone, and the antiquarian of the distant future may be
disappointed in not discovering the usual coins deposited on such

In fifteen years the need arose for more space, and that then the
Bristol public manifested a keen interest in the position of the Bristol
Post Office was indicated by an animated debate which took place in our
Council Chamber; and as this book affects to be in part a history as
well as a narrative, it is thought well to give the report of the
proceedings a full record herein, under permission from the proprietors
of the _Bristol Times and Mirror_:--

  _Friday, January 2nd, 1885._

"The TOWN CLERK said that as the next part of the report referred to the
site for the Post Office, he would read a letter he had received from
Mr. Lewis Fry, M. P., which was as under:--

  "'Goldney House, Clifton Hill,
  _30th December, 1884_.

"'My dear Sir,--As I observe that the question of the site of the new
Post Office will come before the Council on Thursday, I think it best,
in order to avoid any misunderstanding, to ask you to state to the
Council that the matter is not to be considered as a proposal made by
the Postmaster-General or the first Commissioner of Works. The exact
position of the matter is this, that Mr. Shaw-Lefevre, soon after his
visit to Bristol, requested me to intimate to the Corporation that in
case they desire the change of situation to Baldwin Street, he is ready
to entertain any proposal which they may make to him with that object,
provided it be upon the basis of an exchange of properties as mentioned
in the report of the Finance Committee.

  "'I am, yours truly,
  The Town Clerk of Bristol.'

"Mr. ROBINSON said he would like to say a word or two on the subject of
a new Post Office, as the wording in Mr. Fry's letter referred to the
subject of the proposed change in the position of the Post Office. They
did not want change for change's sake (applause), and if they could do
without it they would be glad to do so, but sometimes change became a
necessity (applause). He would wish to say a word or two with reference
to the provisions for the postal arrangements in Bristol, as to the
inconvenience that the officials and the public were subject to, and a
word as to the great increase in postal matters in the city and in the
country generally. He wished to convey to them the magnitude of the
question and the very growing character of the communications by
letters, parcels, and newspapers, which were being circulated through
the medium of the Government and through the Post Office. He the
previous day called upon Mr. Sampson, the head official of the Bristol
Post Office, and he might say that his ability was only exceeded by his
courtesy (applause). He gave him all the information he had asked for,
and he showed him over a considerable part of the building. In the
course of the interview he gave him no opinion as to the site, and he
did not think it wise to ask him. All he asked him, was as to facts--as
to the present accommodation. He described the condition of the office
as being one of congestion, and that they were put to all kinds of
shifts, and that the sorting and minor offices were inadequate for their
respective purposes (hear, hear). He saw a room where eighty postmen
were engaged in partial sorting. It was upstairs and was approached by
winding stairs with only a 21-inch tread, and the room was utterly
inadequate for the purpose. Letters had to be sent to Clifton to be
sorted because of the want of space in the Post Office. Mr. Sampson said
more particularly that a large hall was necessary on the ground floor
for an entrance, from which the various subsidiary offices should be
entered. Then he said that a good frontage was desirable. Some people
had suggested tunnelling and going to the other side of the street, and
others had suggested a viaduct. Offers of property had come from
different people, so that the want of further accommodation seemed to be
recognised not only by the Post Office itself, but outside. The present
office was erected in 1868, and had the officials been sanguine, or
known that the business would have increased as it had, they probably
would not have selected the present site. The work of the office had
perfectly outgrown the capacity of the place. Since 1868 new departments
had been opened, and new duties had been created, and they wanted more
room. The telegraph work was added in February, 1870, and the sale of
revenue stamps and payment of stamps as money had also been added. The
parcel post came into operation in 1883. They did not desire an
extravagant outlay. The increase of the population was 1 per cent., and
the letters increased 3 per cent. They were not asked to buy a whole
street. He felt it would be admitted that the telegraphic despatches
formed the essential, if not the primary, part of the arrangements of
the Post Office. He was informed that the site in Baldwin Street was
more convenient and closer to the warehouses and offices which greatly
used the present telegraphic advantages than the present site in Small
Street (a voice: 'No'). Well, he gave his word for what he had heard. He
maintained that the Council had a supreme moment at the present time.
They had a gentleman at the head of the Post Office who had viewed the
new site, and now they found that the Post Office authorities were in
the humour to make the outlay they had better embrace the opportunity.
His resolution was: 'That, considering the want of adequate space in
Small Street for postal and telegraphic arrangements, it is desirable
that a new Post Office be erected in Baldwin Street, on the site
recently viewed by the Postmaster-General, if equitable arrangements
can be made with the Government for the transfer of the property.' If
the Government were not prepared to lay out money for the site, they
could let them have the property on a ground-rent, without an outlay
being made. It would not cost less than £20,000 to £25,000 to enlarge
and improve the present Post Office, and he maintained that that sum
would go a great way towards erecting a new Post Office in Baldwin
Street. They would not always be able to get sites; and they could not
always buy sites as they could oranges and nuts (laughter). In America
people ran after him and asked him to buy land. Not so here. He repeated
that they had Mr. Shaw-Lefevre looking favourably upon the new site, and
he thought it desirable that they should take a bold step--such a step
as indicated in the resolution--and put up a building which not alone
should be noble, but commodious (applause).

"Mr. Alderman EDWARDS seconded the resolution. He was glad that the
matter had been laid before the Postmaster-General. A great deal had
been said about the present site being more useful and convenient than
the proposed, but he felt that the difference was very small indeed. The
sites were within a minute or two of each other. In Baldwin Street they
had a road 60 ft. wide, and if Small Street were altered, however much,
they would not widen it half as much as that. As to the positions of the
banks, some of the important ones were nearer Baldwin Street than the
other street. At any rate, the Old Bank, Stuckey's, and the National
Provincial Banks were nearer Baldwin Street than Small Street. The
speaker then named several large warehouses which were, he urged, closer
to the proposed site than Small Street. At Baldwin Street they had an
acre of ground for the present or future. He would not give the land to
the Post Office authorities, but he suggested that they should be
liberal towards them in their offer. If the Post Office authorities
wished to give them the old office in exchange for the site, it might be
utilised by the Corporation.

"Mr. C. WILLS supported the resolution. He would advance one or two
reasons why they should make the best terms they could with the
Postmaster-General. That the present Post Office was inconveniently
small was generally admitted, and he maintained that if the proposed
additions were made to the existing building, the extra facilities would
not meet the ever-increasing demands on the Post Office for more than
six or eight years. The various departments of the present building were
too small for development and carrying on the important work of a Post
Office. Personally, he would as soon for the Post Office to be in one
street as the other, but he felt it would redound to the credit of the
city to see a fine building erected in Baldwin Street. If they had the
Post Office there it would enhance the value of the other sites in the
thoroughfare. Very shortly they would have the sixpenny telegrams, and
then the increase in telegraphic communication would be very great
indeed, and the present building would soon become inadequate to the
demand. Then, again, they saw that the present Postmaster-General did
not intend to give up the parcels post, and the development of this
branch of the Post Office work would be very great indeed. Then, again,
there would be increased vehicular traffic to the Post Office; and could
this, he asked, be carried out to the comfort of the citizens in Small
Street? The turning point arose from Mr. Shaw-Lefevre visiting the
Chamber of Commerce recently. That gentleman visited the site in Baldwin
Street, and he, no doubt, saw that the site would be better and superior
to the one in Small Street.

"Mr. PETHICK said that they had come to a turning point in the history
of the city of Bristol. The question was whether they should continue
the system of compression that they had suffered from for so many years.
Small Street was a narrow thoroughfare; it was only a back lane to Broad
Street. ('Oh! oh!') It was called Small Street and had a carriage way of
only 9 ft. ('No, no.') He must repeat that at one point in Small Street
the carriage way was only 9 ft. wide.

"Mr. DANIEL protested against Mr. Pethick saying that Small Street was
the back lane to Broad Street, and that the carriage road was only 9 ft.
(hear, hear). The narrow part of Small Street would come down when the
improvements to the Post Office took place.

"Mr. PETHICK: I state facts--what the street is to-day.

"Mr. DANIEL: But is the narrow part you speak of the entrance to Small

"Mr. PETHICK: It is the approach from Bristol Bridge, _viâ_ the
Exchange, for mail carriages and other traffic, and all must pass
through the narrow part, which is only 9 ft. wide. Even if this were
taken away, Mr. Pethick continued, they would still have a narrow space
to pass through. The whole would not be 14,000 superficial feet; and
above all, with so bad an access, they proposed to enlarge the present

"Mr. Alderman PROCTOR BAKER: It is not proposed.

"Mr. PETHICK observed that in Baldwin Street they had a good carriage
way, and they would have a front and back entrance to a new building. He
hoped no little or narrow parochial spirit would be put forward in this
matter. The difference of the distance of the two sites was so small as
to be insignificant, and he trusted they would endeavour to get a
handsome and commodious building erected on the Baldwin Street side of
the city.

"Mr. Alderman PROCTOR BAKER said they were indebted to Mr. Robinson for
his interesting details, but he did not think they were details for the
Council to study, but for the study of the Government. The Post Office
was a Government undertaking, and carried on for profit by the
Government, and it was on their shoulders, and theirs alone, to provide
proper premises. There were two questions involved in the resolution
before them, and if it could be so arranged he should like a separate
opinion being taken. One question was the actual position of the future
Post Office--whether it was to be in Small Street or Baldwin Street. The
other question was whether the Council was prepared to sell to the Post
Office the land in Baldwin Street and receive in exchange the building
in Small Street. As regarded the question of convenience there was very
little to be said on either side; but with regard to the other matter he
thought they should not agree to exchange the land for the present Post
Office building. If they took over the existing building, it could only
he pulled or used for public offices. Already they had a population of
200,000 persons, and the area of the city was to be extended; and if
they believed in the progress of the city they must expect it by-and-by
to be the centre of a quarter of a million of people. It would be
impossible, as it would be discreditable, for them to attempt to carry
on that great municipality in such buildings as they now had. The
chamber in which they were assembled was in a bad condition; the air at
that moment was as foul as it could be; and if they took over the
present Post Office and applied it for the purposes of the municipality,
they would perpetuate the present discomfort, inconvenience, etc., of
having divided offices, and postpone for half a century the erection of
a large municipal building, in which all their offices would be. As to
Baldwin Street and Small Street sites, there was much to be said on both
sides; but if it was proposed to take in exchange the Post Office
building for their land the Council should vote against it (hear, hear).
He sincerely trusted they would not take over a building which would
keep up the inconvenience they now suffered from (hear, hear).

"Mr. LANE said it seemed to him that they were simply asked the question
whether the Council were desirous that there should be such a change in
the position of the Post Office. Every argument for the change was a
thoroughly good one which should weigh with them. Selfish considerations
and every consideration should be banished (applause), and they should
consider it in the interest of the city and in the interest of the
development of the trade of the future. The opinion of the postmaster
was a great argument in favour of larger premises.

"Mr. INSKIP argued that the representatives of the ratepayers were not
there to carry out the bidding of the postmaster. It might be wise and
proper for him to communicate his views to the department with which he
was connected, but it seemed unreasonable to ask members of the Council
to vote for what he was in favour of. He ventured to suggest that the
arrangement proposed by the report would be unlawful, and to enter into
the exchange would be an unlawful proceeding. They acquired land in
Baldwin Street under the Public Health Act for carrying out
improvements, and he could not see how it could be said that the
buildings in Small Street would be required for the purpose of
improvements. Before they entered into the exchange they ought to obtain
power by Act of Parliament. If they entered into a speculation of that
sort they would be transgressing the law of the land. With regard to the
matter of convenience, if they took the outlying districts of the city
they would see that the people who lived there went to the Post Office
after the branch offices were closed, and they would see that Small
Street was appreciably more convenient for the outlying population than
the Baldwin Street site could possibly be (applause). Then as to the
piece of land which would be obtained, the argument of Mr. Pethick was a
strong one to retain it. The Guildhall was there, and it had been
promised for years that Small Street should be improved, and that
improvement would be accomplished if the Government had No. 3, Small
Street, which would be set back, and they would have done a great deal
to redeem the promise made some years ago (applause).

"Mr. DIX said he was very much obliged to Mr. Robinson for his figures.
They all felt that there had been a great growth in the postal
arrangements of the country, and that there would be a great growth in
the future; and if it had been shown to him that they could not have a
good building in Small Street by having the one there altered by the
authorities, and that they could have a proper one in Baldwin Street, he
would say let them go to Baldwin Street; but it did not come before them
in that light. They were anticipating that the postal authorities could
not make a proper building in Small Street; but he could not see how Mr.
Robinson and those who advocated the Baldwin Street site came to such a
conclusion. If they had the buildings in Small Street, that street would
be improved, which had been anticipated for years, and they would have
the Post Office close to the Guildhall and that great place of
commerce--the Commercial Rooms (applause). He argued that the city did
not want the property in Small Street--it would be useless to them; and
he hoped they would pronounce against it going forth to the
Postmaster-General that it was the wish of the Council to alter the site

"Mr. S. G. JAMES said he did not think that they should be saddled with
a building that would not be any good to them. He suggested that it
should be represented to the Government that the building would be a
good one for a Stamp and Excise Office, and that it would be convenient
to have those offices moved from Queen Square to the building in Small
Street. He thought that would be a very wise suggestion to make to the

"Mr. DANIEL said he viewed the proposition to shift the Post Office as
one of the most solemn and weighty that had been considered by the Town
Council for years (hear, hear). By common consent, and by the
development of the city trade, where the Post Office now was the centre
of commerce, and they should hesitate very much before they changed it
(hear, hear); and the Council, being trustees of the property owned by
the city, and looking at the extent of that property in the
neighbourhood of the Post Office, and the outlay made on it by the city,
he could not understand why they made the suggestion to run away from
Small Street (applause). They had under arbitration paid to the bank
£9,600 for a piece of land, and that was surely not to keep the street
as a narrow lane. If the present Post Office were retained, the
authorities would take the houses that would be put in a line with the
Post Office, and two-thirds of Small Street would be converted into a
wide street--and it was only to shave off the Water Works offices and
adjoining building, and then they would have a good wide street (hear,
hear). The Corporation during the last twenty years had spent in the
neighbourhood not less than £50,000, and if by establishing the Post
Office in Baldwin Street they would enhance the value of the adjoining
property, so taking it away from the centre of the city would depreciate
the property there. It would not be doing justice to the citizens to
take it away from Small Street and remove it to a remote spot like
Baldwin Street. ('Oh, oh!' and laughter.) It was a remote spot, and he
did not know that a street through which were a tram line and continual
cab traffic was the best place for a Post Office. He believed a quiet
street would be the better place. He farther argued that the proper
place for the Post Office was where it was--in the neighbourhood of the
Assize Courts, where the County Court was held all the year round, and
the assizes and sessions were held, and at the back of the Commercial
Rooms, to which there were upwards of 600 subscribers.

"Mr. Alderman NAISH said that what weighed with him was that the
Government had not applied for a better site. He apprehended that Mr.
Shaw-Lefevre was perfectly satisfied with the accommodation he could get
on the present site. He had seen the draft of the Bill promoted by the
Government for taking possession of a building under the compulsory
powers at a fair valuation. Someone in Bristol wished them to go
somewhere else. All Mr. Shaw-Lefevre said was that if the citizens
wanted to go elsewhere they must take the old building. The
Postmaster-General did not suggest the removal, but somebody else did
(hear, hear). The Postmaster-General knew his business, and he probably
considered that the present office could be enlarged so as to provide
all the accommodation necessary. They could thus have a good public
improvement in the centre of the city, and at the same time provide for
the postal requirements. They were simply asked to go to a street in
which certain people were interested, which, although a large
thoroughfare, had two lines of tramways running through it. He hoped the
Council would not agree to the proposal.

"Mr. MATTHEWS said if the question was put to them simply, did they
require more postal accommodation?--they would unhesitatingly say that
they did; but the question of site was a totally different matter. They
had not gone into the question whether another site would not be a
better one than the Baldwin Street one. He moved that the question of a
site be remitted to a committee, with instructions to report to the
Council, and that the committee consist of the Mayor, Aldermen Spark,
Harvey, and Naish, and Messrs. Townsend, C. F. Hare, Barker, and Inskip.

"Mr. LEVY considered that the city was indebted to those who suggested
the Baldwin Street site. There could be no two opinions about the matter
(cries of 'Oh,' and laughter). They had seen an amusing correspondence
in the papers about it. He would not do anything to injure the _Times
and Mirror_ for a moment (laughter). In Baldwin Street a Constitutional
Club had been established, and the _Times and Mirror_ might consider
that institution (laughter).

"Mr. WHITWILL thought they should simply confine themselves to an
expression of opinion as to the desirability of Baldwin Street site, for
he should be strongly opposed to the exchange (hear, hear).

"Mr. H. G. GARDNER said the position in Small Street was preferable to
him, but they ought to sink personal convenience. The Chamber of
Commerce suggested the matter, and he looked on that body as young

"Mr. ROBINSON said he only meant that the property should be taken over
if an equitable arrangement could be come to. He would drop the last
part of his resolution, and it would now read as follows:--'That,
considering the want of adequate space in Small Street for the postal
telegram arrangements, it is desirable that a new Post Office
be erected in Baldwin Street on the site recently viewed by the

"The motion was then put with the following result:--_For_: Aldermen
Lucas, Edwards, Jose, Spark; Messrs. Moore, Robinson, James, Pethick,
Wills, Bartlett, Fear, Bush, Townsend, C. Gardner, Jefferies, H. G.
Gardner, Low, Lane, Levy, Garton, Derham, Whitwill, Barker--23.
_Against_: The Mayor; Aldermen Morgan, Smith, Naish, Fox, Jones,
Hathway, Harvey, Cope-Proctor; Messrs. Terrett, Dix, Gibson, Alsop,
Francis, Bastow, A. Baker, C. F. Hare, C. B. Hare, Harvey, C. Nash,
Hall, Lockley, Daniel, Matthews, Follwoll, Sibly, Inskip--27. Aldermen
Proctor Baker and George and Mr. Dole did not vote.

"Mr. LEVY asked if the Postmaster-General made an offer it would be

"The TOWN CLERK said he supposed that any offer from the
Postmaster-General or anybody else would be considered."

The Council dropped the matter of removal, and an enlargement of the
Post Office was commenced in 1886 on 5,500 square feet of ground on
which the Rectory House of St. Mary Werburgh formerly stood. The
enlargement was completed in 1889. The structure was designed by the
Surveyor of Her Majesty's Office of Works. In making his plan in 1868 no
doubt the Surveyor thought he was building for, at least, fifty years;
and so he set back his building to form a square structure, instead of
following the line of street as laid down by the city authorities in
their Act of Parliament. The new part of the building had to conform to
the city line, and had, therefore, to be built at an angle with the old
office, which detracts from the general appearance. The Post Office
building in Small Street stands on a site 17,300 square feet in extent;
and now, thirty-one years from the opening of the new office and ten
years from its enlargement, further extension is necessary, and the
erection of a second or supplementary office larger in dimensions than
the present structure is about to be proceeded with.

As the work in the Post Office goes on through the whole day and night,
the air in the working rooms became vitiated and over-heated when
lighted with gas. In 1896 the effectual remedy of abandoning the use of
gas and adopting electric light was carried out. The Corporation
provides the current. The lamps used are 4 arc lamps, of approximately
750 candle-power each, and 450 glow lamps of 8, 16, or 25 candle-power.

Two million gallons of water a year are used to keep the buildings


_From a photograph by Mr. Protheroe, Wine Street, Bristol._]

As the Post Office, from its size, if not from its architectural beauty,
dominates Small Street in some measure it may be well here to introduce
particulars from an ancient manuscript in the City Library, which show
that Small Street has been a street ever since Anglo-Saxon times.
About Small Street and St. Leonard's Lane lived some of Bristol's
greatest merchants. For hundreds of years there was not within the walls
of Bristol a more fashionable street than Small Street. Many of the
mansions there had good gardens. In the reign of Charles II. there were
only six houses on the west, or Post Office, side of the street. Amongst
the worthies who resided there were the Colstons, the Creswicks, the
Kitchens, the Seymours, the Esterfields, the Codringtons, the Haymans,
the Kilkes; John Foster, the founder of the almshouse on St. Michael's
Hill; Nicholas Thorne, one of the founders of our Grammar School; and
Thomas Fenn, attorney, who in 1762 succeeded to the Earldom of
Westmoreland. It is not indicated whether he was related in any way to
William Fenn, who was postmaster, 1778-88, but it might have been so,
for William Fenn must have been a person of some note or the appointment
would not at his death have been conferred on his widow. In Small
Street, too, more Royal and noble visitors have lodged and received
hospitality than in any other street in Bristol. The Earl of Bedford and
his son were received there in 1569, and Robert Dudley, Earl of
Leicester, one of Queen Elizabeth's favourites, and the Earl of Warwick,
in 1587; the latter lodged at Robert Kitchen's. In 1643 King Charles I.,
with Prince Charles and the Duke of York, lodged there, so did Oliver
Cromwell and his wife in 1649; and James II., with George, Prince of
Denmark, and the Dukes of Grafton, Beaufort, and Somerset, in 1688.
Queen Catherine was entertained at Sir Henry Creswick's house in 1677,
where Sir Henry, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the good and great Duke
of Ormonde, lodged for several days in 1665. We learn that Small Street
was selected for the reception of these illustrious visitors "by reason
of the conveniency of the street for entertaining the nobility."



It is pleasing to look back to the time, little more than one hundred
years ago, when Bristol was the premier provincial post town. It had
long ranked next to London in wealth, in population, and in its Post
Office. Bristol has, however, in a postal sense, yielded place to other
towns, and now ranks after Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, and

Dipping into history, it is found that there was a Post Office at
Clifton a hundred years since. At about the time of the Battle of
Waterloo it was situated near Saville Place, in a small tenement. The
post keeper was a knight of the shears, who sat cross-legged at his work
on a shop-board in the window, whilst his better-half sold "goodies."
The "Staff" consisted of this pigeon pair, and the work of carrying the
bags to and from Bristol, and of delivering the missives, was
undertaken by them conjointly.

The year 1793 was signalised by the extension to Bristol of the penny
post for local letters, that is, letters for Bristol city, its suburbs,
and neighbouring villages. That post covered a wide area ranging from
Thornbury and Wotton-under-Edge in the North, to Temple Cloud,
Chewton-Mendip, and Oakhill in the South; eastward in the direction of
Box, and westward to Portishead. This institution had until then been
established nowhere else but in London and in Dublin; but Birmingham,
Edinburgh, and Manchester were granted the privilege at the same time as
Bristol. During the year 1794-95 the penny post brought a clear gain to
the revenue:--in Bristol of £469, in Manchester of £586, and in
Birmingham of £240. Notwithstanding these gains, the Post Office
authorities concluded that neither at Liverpool nor at Leeds, nor at any
other town in the Kingdom, would a penny post defray its own expenses.

There is little more on record about local Post Office details for some
years; but we learn that in April, 1825, an evening delivery of post
letters was ordered to Kingsdown, Montpelier, Wellington Place, and
Catherine Place, Stoke's Croft, all the year round; and to Lawrence
Hill, West Street, Gloucester Lane, in the parish of St. Philip and
Jacob, from 1st of March to 1st of November in each year. A receiving
house for letters was established at the corner of West Street on May
20th, 1825; and also one in Harford Street, New Cut. In December, 1827,
the population of Bristol was estimated at 50,000 persons; and in
August, 1831, the number of persons the Post Office had to serve was

Evans's _New Guide; or, Pictures of Bristol_, published in 1828,
furnishes the next record. It stated that "the London mail goes out
every afternoon at twenty minutes past 5, and arrives every day at 9.0
in the morning. Bath: Out every morning at 7.0 and 10.0, and at twenty
minutes past 5 in the evening; arrives at 9.0 morning, and a quarter
before 5 and a quarter before 7 in the evening. Sodbury, through
Stapleton, Hambrook, Winterbourne, and Iron Acton: Goes out at twenty
minutes before 10 in the morning; arrives at half-past 4 in the evening.
Thornbury, through Filton, Almondsbury, and Rudgeway: Goes out twenty
minutes before 10 in the morning; arrives at half-past 4 in the evening.
Bitton, through New Church, Kingswood, Hanham, and Willsbridge: Goes out
at 10.0 in the morning; arrives at half-past 4 in the evening. Exeter
and Westward: Out every morning between 9.0 and 10.0; arrives every
evening between 4.0 and 5.0. Portsmouth, Chichester, Salisbury, etc.:
Out at half-past 5 in the afternoon; arrives every day previously to the
London mail. Tetbury and Cirencester: Out every morning at half-past 9;
arrives every evening at 5.0. Birmingham and Northward: Out every
evening at 7.0; arrives every morning between 6.0 and 7.0. Milford and
South Wales: Out every day at half-past 9; arrives at half-past 3 in the
afternoon. The Irish mail is made up every day, and letters from Ireland
may be expected to arrive every day at half-past 3. Jamaica and Leeward
Islands, first and third Wednesday in the month; Lisbon, every week;
Gibraltar and Mediterranean, every three weeks; Madeira and Brazils,
first Tuesday in each month; Surinam, Berbice, and Demorara, second
Wednesday in each month; France and Spain, Sundays, Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Thursdays; Holland and Hamburgh, Mondays and Thursdays;
Guernsey and Jersey, Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Letters for all
parts may be put into the Post Office at any time, but should be
delivered half an hour before the mail is made up. Letters delivered
later than half an hour previous to the departure of the respective
mails to be accompanied with one penny. Payment of postage will not be
received unless tendered full half an hour before the time fixed for
closing the bags. Letters for Axbridge, Weston-super-Mare, and adjacent
places are sent and received by the Western mail. Letter bags are made
up daily, after the sorting of the London mail, for Bourton, Wrington,
Langford, Churchill, Nailsea, Clevedon, and their respective deliveries.
The letters must be put in by 9.0 o'clock. The return to Bristol is at
4.0 in the afternoon. Letters may be put into the receiving offices for
all parts of the kingdom, and the full postage, if desired, paid with
them. Letter carriers are despatched regularly every day (Sundays not
excepted) with letters to and from Durdham Down, Westbury, Stapleton,
Frenchay, Downend, Hambrook, and Winterbourne; and also to Brislington,
Keynsham, and other places. The delivery of letters at Clifton is each
day at 10.0 and 6.0. Letters should be in the offices at Clifton and the
Wells for the London and the North mails by 4.0."

It may be interesting to state, what the rates of postage from this city
were in 1830. Thus: Australia, 11d.; Buenos Ayres, 3s. 5d.; Canary
Islands, 2s. 6d.; Cape de Verde Islands, 2s. 6d.; Chili, 3s. 5d.; China,
11d.; Colombo, 3s.; Cuba, 3s.; East Indies, 11d.; Havana, 3s.; St.
Helena, 11d.; South America, 3s. 5d.; Van Dieman's Land, 11d.; whilst
for the Continent the rates were considerably higher, thus: Austria, 2s.
2d.; Belgium, 1s. 11d.; Corsica, 2s. 2d.; Denmark, 2s. 3d.; Flanders,
2s. 2d.; France--Calais, 1s. 5d.; Germany, 2s. 3d.; Gibraltar, 2s. 6d.;
Holland, 1s. 11d.; Italy, 2s. 2d.; Malta, 2s. 6d.; Poland, 2s. 3d.;
Prussia, 2s. 3d.; Russia, 2s. 3d.; Spain, 2s. 2d.; Turkey, 2s. 2d. At
that period the Inland Rates were very high, and the cost was regulated
thus: From any Post Office in England or Wales, to any place not
exceeding 15 miles from such office, 4d.; above 15 to 20 miles, 5d.; 20
to 30 miles, 6d.; 30 to 50 miles, 7d.; 50 to 80 miles, 8d.; 80 to 120
miles, 9d.; 120 to 170 miles, 10d.; 170 to 230 miles, 11d.; 230 to 300
miles, 12d. And one penny in addition on each letter for every 100 miles
beyond 300. Thus a letter from Bristol to Cirencester cost 7d.;
Cheltenham, 8d.; Banbury, 10d.; Leeds, 11d.; Hull; 12d., and so on. Now
a letter four ounces in weight can be sent from one end of the land to
the other for a penny, and a parcel one pound in weight for threepence.

The Bristol ex-Postal Superintendent, Mr. H. T. Carter, carrying his
mind back over his forty years of diligent and zealous service, recalls
the time when the mails for the not far-distant village of Shirehampton
were conveyed in a cart drawn by a dog, the property of rural postman
Ham. The cart was not large, but of sufficient size to carry postman and
mail bags. The dog, of Newfoundland breed, got over the ground at a
rapid pace. Ham was addicted to drink, but nevertheless, whether he was
drunk or sober, asleep or awake, in stormy or fine weather, the dog took
him and the mails to their proper destination.

A venerable man now living at Earthcott Green, a hamlet within ten
miles of our great city, well recollects the time when he received his
letters through Iron Acton, at a special cost to him of 2d. each, with a
delivery only every other day. The plan was for an additional penny to
be charged on all letters sent out by rural posts for delivery, and in
addition to this penny an extra charge was levied on all letters
delivered from sub-Post Offices to bye houses or places beyond the
several village deliveries. In some cases recognised men or women
attended at the Head Office, Bristol, once or twice a week to take out
letters for delivery in the remote country regions--of course for a

The Bristol district shared in the representations in 1838 of the
hardships borne by poor people in respect of the heavy charges for the
conveyance of letters. The postmaster at Congresbury deposed thus:--"The
price of a letter is a great tax on poor people. I sent one, charged
eightpence, to a poor labouring man about a week ago; it came from his
daughter. He first refused it, saying it would take a loaf of bread from
his other children; but, after hesitating a little time, he paid the
money, and opened the letter. I seldom return letters of this kind to
Bristol, because I let the poor people have them, and take the chance of
being paid; sometimes I lose the postage, but generally the poor people
pay me by degrees." Then the postmaster of Yatton stated as follows:--"I
have had a letter waiting lately for a poor woman, from her husband who
is at work in Wales; the charge was 9d.,--it lay many days, in
consequence of her not being able to pay the postage. I at last trusted
her with it." Of the desire of the poor to correspond, a Mr. Emery gave
evidence, stating "that the poor near Bristol have signed a petition to
Parliament for the reduction of the postage. He never saw greater
enthusiasm in any public thing that was ever got up in the shape of a
petition; they seemed all to enter into the thing as fully and with as
much feeling as it was possible, as a boon or godsend to them, that they
should be able to correspond with their distant friends."

Uniform penny postage came in 1840. The Bristol citizens, of course,
found it no cheaper than before to send a single letter to places in
their own neighbourhood, but a light enclosure could be put in without
extra charge, though the weight had to be brought down from four ounces
to half an ounce.

It may not be out of place to mention in these pages that one of the
penny postage stamps of the very earliest issue after the penny postage
system came into operation in 1840 was made use of for the prepayment of
a letter sent by His Grace the Duke of Wellington to H. Nuttall Tomlins,
Esq., of the Hotwells, Bristol. It was sent six days before stamps and
stamped covers were first used by the general public, the Duke, as Prime
Minister, having no doubt been supplied in advance with stamps, one of
which he attached to his letter, to give a surprise to his friend
Nuttall Tomlins. The envelope, with the stamp still upon it, is now in
the possession of a well-known philatelist in London.

The allusion to the "Penny Post" naturally calls to mind its originator.
On the hill slope of the still pleasant rural village of Stapleton, four
miles from Bristol Post Office,--once a Roman settlement, and in later
days the head-quarters of Oliver Cromwell during the siege of
Bristol,--the great postal reformer, Sir Rowland Hill, frequently spent
some of his leisure time with his brother, the late Recorder of Bristol,
Mr. Matthew Davenport Hill. There is in the Bristol postal service at
the present time a mail officer who recalls that, in his very young
days, it was his mission to set out from Heath House to fetch the
morning letters for Sir Rowland from the Stapleton Post Office. He tells
how he had to ride the old pony at a rapid rate, as, even in those days,
Sir Rowland's time was valuable, and if his letters were late he had to
curtail his "constitutional," which usually consisted of a three-mile
sharp walk, with cap in hand instead of on head, over Purdown, past
Stoke House, returning through Frenchay.

In December, 1844, Sir Rowland Hill, in connection with the National
Testimonial to him as the author of Penny Postage, recorded the
circumstance that he had received a letter from Mr. Estlin, an eminent
surgeon of Bristol, giving an account of proceedings in that important
city anterior to any movement in London. Sir Rowland believed it was in
Bristol, and from Mr. Estlin, that the testimonial had its origin. The
sum presented from Bristol to the national collection amounted to about

The celebration of the Jubilee of Penny Postage in 1890 took the
practical turn in one respect of increasing the Rowland Hill Benevolent
Fund. Bristol contributed its quota of £72 14s. 6d., made up in great
measure of public subscriptions. When the grand celebration took place
on July 2nd, at the South Kensington Museum, with the Duke and Duchess
of Edinburgh present at the conversazione, Bristol took its part, and
immediately after a signal from South Kensington was received over the
telegraph wire at 10 o'clock three hearty cheers for Her Majesty were
given, the postmaster leading. The Post Office band then struck up the
National Anthem, and cheers for the Queen were at once taken up by a
body of about 200 postmen who had assembled in the Post Office yard.

As in 1847 the state of things at the provincial offices generally was
not regarded as satisfactory, Sir Rowland Hill, in accordance with the
wish of the Postmaster-General, visited Bristol on April 1st in that
year. He found that the first delivery of the day, by far the most
important of all, was not completed until 12 o'clock; the
letter-carriers, as he was informed, often staying after departure from
the office to take their breakfast before commencing their rounds. He
was able to show how at a small cost (only £125 a year) it might be
completed by 9.0. The office itself he found small, badly lighted, and
ill ventilated. The day mail bag to London was nearly useless, its
contents for London delivery being on the morning of his inquiry only
sixty-four letters, thirty-seven of which might have been sent by the
previous mail on the mere payment of the extra penny. His impression
regarding this mail, both in and out of the office, agreed exactly with
his evidence in 1843; viz., that all day mails, to be efficient for
their purpose, should start as late as was consistent with their
reaching London in time for their letters to be forwarded by the
outgoing evening mails. The satisfaction Sir Rowland felt in such
improvements as he had been able to make on the spot was much enhanced
by his receiving at the termination of his visit the thanks of both
clerks and letter-carriers for the new arrangements. It should be said
that Sir Rowland Hill did not by his action cast any reflection upon Mr.
Todd Walton, junior, as he was at pains to say that, regarded as a
specimen of the administration of provincial Post Offices at the time
the Bristol specimen was by no means an unfavourable one. At that time
there were only about 20,000 letters, etc., delivered in a week.

The Bristol Chamber of Commerce took no notice of the Post Office for
nearly twenty years (1835-1855), but in the latter year it did so, for
its records of the annual meeting of 31st January, 1855, with John
Salmon, President, in the chair, shew the following, viz.:--

"The Post Office questions of salaries, internal arrangements, and local
inquiry, are still in the same position as they were six months ago,
except that, after repeated further applications to the
Postmaster-General, your Committee extracted, on the 10th December last,
a renewed promise from his lordship that 'no time should be lost in
making the enquiry at the Bristol Post Office.' As the inefficiency of
the public service arises from the unjust treatment of the employés and
defective internal arrangements of the local office, your Committee
cannot desist, notwithstanding the tedious and disagreeable nature of
the task which they have undertaken, from insisting on these repeated
promises being redeemed."

Then, under the same presidency, at the next half-yearly meeting in the
same year, it was stated that "Subsequent to the date of the last
report, your Committee discovered that the Postmaster-General had caused
a private local enquiry to be made with respect to the classification
and salaries of the officers of the Bristol Post Office."

There was this further remonstrance:--

".... It would have been more satisfactory to your Committee if the
Postmaster-General had fulfilled his promise to the deputation who
waited upon him on the 30th of January, 1854, to hold a local enquiry at
which they should be present, as there were several other matters
connected with the internal arrangements of the Bristol Post Office
(particularly the money order department, which is still very defective)
with respect to which they were desirous of making some suggestions."

Then followed a copy of the report made to the Postmaster-General by Mr.
Tilley, who conducted the enquiry, also a statement of the proposed

At the Chamber's next annual meeting on 30th January, 1856, with James
Hassell, the president, in the chair, the Post Office is again reproved

"No further reply than the official printed acknowledgment and promise
of attention has yet reached your Committee respecting the memorial on
the subject of the Welsh mail, the West India mails, etc.; but past
experience and general repute do not lead them to anticipate prompt
redress from the Post Office authorities. It required repeated
applications, extending over a period of about eighteen months, to
obtain a remedy for the grievances set forth in our former memorial; and
even now the Money Order Department is not completed, and probably
similar perseverance will again be required, as it is now more than a
month ago the memorial relating to the West India mail was presented."

It was thought worthy of note in the _Bristol Mirror_ of November 5th,
1831, that "500 letters were brought yesterday from Clifton for the
general post." In demonstration of the strides which the Post Office has
made, it may be mentioned that in the "fifties," in addition to the Post
Office at Clifton, the only offices were the branches at Haberfield
Crescent and Phippen Street, with four collections a day, and the
receiving houses at Ashley Road, Bedminster, Hotwells, and Redland, with
three collections a day. The city only boasted at that time of pillar
letter boxes at Arley Chapel, Armoury Square, Bedminster Bridge, Bristol
Bridge, Castle Street, Christmas Steps, College Green, Freemantle
Square, Kingsdown, Milk Street, Railway Station, St. Philip's Police
Station, Kingsland Road, Whiteladies Road, and Woodwell Crescent, with
three collections daily. Now there are 167 Post Offices in the district.
On the Gloucestershire side there are 99, at 41 of which telegraph
business is carried on; and on the Somersetshire side 68, 27 of which
are telegraph offices. In addition telegraph business is carried on for
the Postmaster-General at five railway stations on the Gloucestershire
side and five on the Somersetshire side. Licenses to sell postage stamps
are held by over a hundred shopkeepers.

There are now 350 pillar and wall letter boxes provided for public

It may be mentioned in passing that during the strike amongst the
deal-runners in Bristol, when men were brought from other towns and
housed and fed at "Huntersholm" (a large wooden building erected
specially in one of the timber yards), and allowed out under police
supervision, a stamp license was applied for and granted, to meet a
large demand for postage stamps which these men made in consequence of
having to send their wages home weekly to their families.

In detail, but without complication by mention of the names of all the
districts, the local improvements for the seven years from March, 1892,
to February, 1899, inclusive, were as follows:--New post offices
established, 33; telegraph offices opened, 18; money order and savings
bank business extended to 17 offices; postal orders sold at 6 additional
offices; new pillar and wall boxes erected, 142; new or additional day
mails from 34 districts; and out to 44 districts; new extra deliveries
established in 65 districts, and two extra deliveries in 7 districts.
Free delivery extended in 35 rural districts, and the ordinary second or
third delivery extended in 44 rural districts; morning delivery
accelerated in 63, and the day delivery in 8, rural districts. A later
posting for North mail in 6, and for the night mail in 58, rural
districts. New collections established in 73, and a later collection in
30, rural districts.

Increased facilities in the postal world are almost invariably followed
by augmentation of business. It certainly has been so in the Bristol
district, for there has been a marvellous development in the last seven
years. The letters delivered have increased by 60 per cent., and those
posted have grown at the rate of 55 per cent. Parcels have increased by
25 per cent. There has been a similar marked increase in all branches of
business. The three preceding periods of seven years were comparatively
"lean" periods, for the increase in the number of letters during the
whole twenty-one years was actually less than during the seven last
years. The increase is altogether out of proportion to the growth of
population, and it is far in excess of the general increase of letter
correspondence throughout the country generally, which has been only at
the rate of 22 per cent. during the period as against Bristol's 60 per
cent. It is hoped that this may be taken as a sure indication of the
well-being of the trade of Bristol, and as a sign that there is
quickened life in the commerce of the good old city. At all events, it
shows that the local Post Office organization is quite abreast of the
times, and that the facilities afforded are appreciated and are fully
taken advantage of.



From the archives of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce it transpires that
from the very first constitution of the Chamber in 1823, it had before
it a scheme for the conveyance of mails between this port and the South
of Ireland by direct steam packet. It was considered that such a service
would be highly advantageous to the city, and correspondence on the
subject from time to time took place with the Post Office Department.
Allusion is made to it in the Chamber's Annual Report in January, 1824;
again in 1828, when the President of the Chamber, Mr. Joseph Cookson,
had a conference with the leading officer of the Post Office; and once
more in 1829. The case is so fully and ably set forth in the Board's
Annual Report of the 26th January, 1829, that its reproduction _in
extenso_ cannot fail to be of deep interest to the citizens of the
present day as their attention is often drawn to the steamship traffic.
It ran thus:--

"The transmission of the mails direct from Bristol was earnestly pressed
upon the attention of the Postmaster-General in the year 1823, on which
occasion the Chamber minutely investigated the practicability, safety,
and general advantages of the measure, the material points of which were
embodied in a memorial, accompanied by a list of queries and replies.
The Civic Corporation, the Society of Merchant Venturers, and the
Bristol Dock Company each presented similar memorials.

"In resuming the enquiry, the Board have resorted to the channels best
calculated to convey accurate information. The managing proprietor of
the steam packet establishments at this port, Captain Dungey, an
individual on whose experience and judgment reliance may be placed, and
other persons of practical knowledge, have been consulted on the
subject. All concur in establishing the fact that the voyage to and from
Dunmore may, with general certainty, be accomplished by efficient
steamboats in from 24 to 26 hours during the eight summer months, and in
from 26 to 30 hours in the four months of winter; that the instances of
exceeding this scale would not be more frequent than at the present
station, the navigation of the Bristol Channel being protected by the
coast on either side, and consequently less influenced by severe weather
than the Irish Sea.

"The earlier arrival of the London mail and its later departure, as
altered some time since, accords materially with the proposition for
making Bristol a packet station. By the present regulations, the London
mail arrives in Bristol at five minutes past 9 in the morning; and
leaves at half-past 5 in the evening; it is capable of being still
further accelerated by taking the two last stages in the direct line
through Marshfield, instead of passing through Bath. According to the
present arrangements, the Irish mails may with ease and convenience to
passengers be despatched from the mouth of the Bristol river, five miles
from the Post Office, every day at half-past 10, and those from Ireland,
if arriving by 4.0, be forwarded to London the same evening. The time
saved by this route as compared with that of Milford would be, at least
during the summer months, equal to one whole day for the purposes of
business, since the arrival at Dunmore would be in the morning instead
of evening, and the departure at noon instead of at an early hour of the
morning as at present.

"The present slips at Lamplighter's Hall and Broad Pill now serve for
landing passengers from the packets on special occasions; with very
trifling expense they may be made efficient for passengers, and not more
objectionable than the present accommodation for crossing the estuary of
the Severn--carriages, horses, baggage, and heavy goods might at an
earlier hour be put on board at the Bristol Docks, which the boat would
leave at the height of tide in order to be in waiting for the mails at
the place appointed for receiving them. At Lamplighter's Hall an hotel
is established, which, with the contiguity to the city, would ensure to
the public a supply of all the accommodation a packet station would
require. These are the facilities which can at present be afforded. At
no very distant date the accommodation will, in all probability, be yet
further increased, first, by the erection of a pier with hotel and
establishment at Portishead on the Somersetshire side of the Avon,
which the Corporation of the City have for some time had under
consideration with a view to promote the convenience of passengers by
the steam vessels and thus encourage the intercourse between this city
and the South of Ireland. In aid of the present enquiry they have
directed a survey and report by Mr. Milne, the engineer, on the
practicability and probable cost of the proposed pier. Secondly, and
arising also from this scheme, is a plan for erecting a bridge across
the Avon, by the application in part of a fund amounting to nearly
£8,000, held by the Society of Merchant Venturers in trust under the
will of William Vick, deceased, for the especial purpose; with the
formation of an improved line of road by Mr. Gordon, Mr. Miles, and
other landed proprietors on that side of the river, for the short
distance to Portishead. These several improvements the respective
parties interested are disposed to effect, and which any impelling
motive, such as the establishment of a regular mail packet station, may
induce them immediately to undertake. The accomplishment of these works
would render Portishead a most eligible station. It is protected from
weather, is a safe anchorage, would have ample depth of water at any
state of the tide, the landing would be instant on arrival, and it would
be supplied with every convenience and accommodation for passengers.

"The Board believe an important saving of expense to Government would
result from establishing Bristol as a mail packet station. The great
deficiency on the Milford station in the receipts as compared with the
expenditure arises from the very limited number of persons who avail
themselves of that line of communication. The land journey of twenty
hours at a fare of £3 10s., followed by a twelve hours' voyage by open
sea at a further expense of £1 10s., with the inconvenience frequently
sustained in crossing the estuary of the Severn, deters people from
taking the Milford route by choice. The general introduction of steam
packets, the degree of perfection in sailing to which they have been
brought, the regularity and safety with which the voyages are performed,
the accommodation to passengers, and the moderate scale of fares, have
contributed to effect of late years a material change in the general
opinion on steamboat conveyance. The long voyage by sea is now
generally preferred to a long journey by land and the shorter one by
sea. The number and efficiency of the Bristol boats, and the economy in
the fares, induce a large proportion of travellers to take the direct
course from Bristol. Indeed, to so great an extent has this preference
operated that the contractors for conveying the mail throughout the
whole line from Bristol to Milford are understood to have given notice
of their intention to determine their engagement, on account of the
gradual decrease in the number of passengers and the consequent loss
they incur. A similar statement appears in the report of the
Postmaster-General on the memorial of the innkeepers on the Holyhead

"In favour of Bristol it may be fairly stated that, at a comparatively
trifling expense, the port may be made commodious for a packet station;
that the present strength of the establishment at Milford would serve,
with some addition, for that of Bristol; that the difference in price of
coal at Portishead would reduce the expense of sailing the packets from
that station; that Bristol affords every prospect of increase of
receipt, whilst at Milford it must, for the reasons before stated,
necessarily decrease; that the demands of a large commercial city, with
its populous adjoining and connected districts, will create a traffic
for boats making quick and regular voyages, which Milford, from its
position, never can acquire--the conveyance of fish and provisions alone
could be made to yield a revenue of consequence. Numerous other sources
of receipt would arise from the conveniency of its regularity and
expedition. Indeed, so much are the Board impressed with the belief that
the traffic would be extensive and productive that they venture to
anticipate it may, at no very distant period, relieve the Government
from any further charge than a comparatively nominal sum for the
transport of the mails. The Board are induced also to put the
proposition in a national point of view. They feel that the more closely
Ireland can be brought into direct and active communication with this
country, the more rapid will be its course of improvement. The
introduction of steam navigation has, at this port, given an energy and
extension to the Irish trade that far exceeds any previous expectations;
each succeeding month brings a vast increase of import and a
corresponding export, to the material benefit of each kingdom, and the
more complete the intercourse can be established the more important will
the trade become.

"The port of Bristol, from its position, possesses numerous capabilities
for a mail packet station. Its contiguity and means of land and water
communication with the capital; its being the principal shipping port
for the manufacturing districts of the South-west part of the kingdom;
its close connection and water communication with Birmingham, Worcester,
and other large towns in the centre of the kingdom; the convenience of
its floating harbour; the reduced scale of its local tolls--all these
circumstances combine to give Bristol a superiority over other places on
the coast, whether the subject he viewed as regards the economy of the
Post Office Department or the accommodation of the public.

"The Board have placed the subject of the Commissioners' enquiry in the
several points of view which appear to them fairly to arise upon the
investigation and consideration it has received, and they shall feel
sincere gratification if, on this or any future occasion, they should in
the least degree prove of assistance to a department of Government, or
should otherwise by their exertions conduce to the advancement of the
public interests.

  "THOMAS STOCK, President.
  July 7th, 1828."

A strong memorial (under the hand of Thomas Cookson, President) was
forwarded to the Postmaster-General.

Francis Freeling, Secretary, in his reply for the Postmaster-General,
refused to admit that the port of Bristol did afford the requisite
facilities for a station for His Majesty's packets. When the projected
works were carried out the matter would be reconsidered by the

Replying further, Mr. Freeling, on the 2nd March, alluded to the
impossibility of despatching the mails at a fixed time every day in the
year, and said that that presented insurmountable objections to the
choice of Bristol as a station for His Majesty's packets. He said that
the first requisite for a packet station was that the port should afford
the means for embarking and landing the mails at all times of tide and
under all circumstances of weather.

The Bristol Dock Directors and a Standing Committee of the Society of
Merchants considered the matter, but did not see their way to press it
under the chilling response received from the Postmaster-General.

The Board did not give up the case, for in the Annual Report 28th
January, 1833, it was stated that the proposition for establishing at
this port a mail packet station by steam vessels to the South of Ireland
was being diligently pursued, and that the House of Commons having
appointed a Committee to enquire into the communications between England
and Ireland, a favourable opportunity was presented of again urging the
advantages Bristol port was calculated to afford.

The numerous appeals, representations, and enquiries did not result in
the manner desired, and to this day the mails from the South of Ireland
for Bristol and its district follow the same route _viâ_ Waterford and
Milford Haven, the only difference being that from the latter port to
Bristol the service is carried on by rail instead of by road.

Bristol became a mail packet station eventually, as steamships carried
the American mails between this port and New York for several years,
commencing in 1837, the year of Her Most Gracious Majesty's accession to
the throne. The _Great Western_, constructed under the direction of
Brunel, the famous engineer of the Great Western Railway, was chiefly
used in the service.

[Illustration: THE "GREAT WESTERN."


On the 31st May, 1838, writing from 19 Trinity Street, Bristol, Mr.
Claxton, managing director to the _Great Western_--which was then,
nearly due,--asked the Bristol postmaster whether a consignee at New
York might charge the foreign postage on letters to parts on the
Continent with which no arrangement, similar to that then existing
between France and England, had been made. The idea was that such
letters might be put into a separate bag, and the foreign postage from
Bristol be handed over to the local Post Office. He wrote that notice
had been given by the Chamber of Commerce of Liverpool that masters of
ships need not send anything but letters to the Post Office on arrival.
Mr. Todd Walton replied on the next day to the effect that the agent
should only direct letters to Mr. Claxton's care to forward from such
persons as he could refer to in case of errors. Then followed a long
communication from Mr. Walton to Colonel Maberly, Secretary to the Post
Office, the gist of which was that a difficulty existed in preventing
illegal conveyance of ship letters; that the commanders of vessels did
not receive money with letters to any great extent; that the public
prints stated that 1,600 letters were received on board the _Great
Western_ besides those sent from the Post Office; that an immense number
of letters was collected at the Great Western office; and that as the
_Great Western_ and _Syrius_ were regularly established, and other
vessels of the same description were preparing, unless some means were
taken to protect the revenue, it could not fail to suffer very

The _Great Western_ brought to England 5,500 post letters and 1,770 post
papers, which, had that conveyance not been offered, would most likely
have been sent by private ships. Mr. Walton conceived it would be very
advantageous to the revenue to contract with those superior vessels to
carry mails, so as to render the latter chargeable with package rates;
and he submitted that ship letter mails should be made up at Bristol,
the same as at London and Liverpool, for all vessels leaving this port.
About 5,500 ship letters were brought to the Bristol Post Office
annually, and he had no doubt that vast numbers were carried from
Bristol in the same manner; but with the exception of those by the
_Great Western_, no mails had ever been made up here for foreign
countries. The Secretary, replying for the Postmaster-General, said it
did not appear to Lord Lichfield that cognizance need be taken of the
suggestion conveyed in Mr. Claxton's letter of the 31st May, for the
transmission through this country of letters from the United States
addressed to those foreign countries upon which the postage must be paid
here before they can be forwarded to their destination. The Post Office
could have no objection to such letters being addressed to the care of
Mr. Claxton or any other agent in this country who would pay the foreign
postage and send them on to their destinations. The letters in question,
would, of course, be subject, so far as the Post Office was concerned,
to the ship letter rate to Bristol, and when re-posted, to the inland
and foreign rates forward.

The postmaster's proposition for making up mails to be forwarded by the
steam vessels charged with packet rates of postage was out of the
question; but with regard to making up ship letter bags for foreign
countries, so strangely neglected at this great port, the postmaster was
to embrace every opportunity in his power of despatching ship letter
bags by sailing as well as by steam vessels. There is no official
record, however, of any such ship letter mails having been forwarded
from Bristol.

In the year 1841 a Royal Commission was appointed to enquire into the
question of the most suitable port for the embarkation and debarkation
of the West Indian Mails. The committee consisted of Mr. Freshfield,
Lord Dalmeny, Lord Viscount Ingestre, Captain Pechell, Captain Duncombe,
Mr. Chas. Wood, Sir Thomas Cochrane, Mr. John O'Connell, Mr. Cresswell,
Lord Worsley, Mr. Gibson Craig, Mr. De Horsey, Mr. Oswold, Mr. Richard
Hodgson, and Mr. Philip Miles, who was prominent as representing
Bristol. Much evidence was given in favour of the ports of Bristol,
Dartmouth, Devonport, Falmouth, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Southampton
respectively. The case of Bristol was strongly supported by Lieut. J.
Hosken, R.N., commander of the _Great Western_ screw steamer from
Bristol to New York, and Lieut. C. Claxton, R.N., the Bristol Harbour

The principal reasons put forward in favour of our old port were: that
the Bristol Channel was navigable at all states of the tide and in all
weathers; that there was good anchorage in the Kingroad; and that
although Bristol was not quite so near to Barbadoes, the first island of
call, as some of her rival ports, yet it admitted of quicker
transmission of mails between London and the northern towns than any
other English port. The arguments in favour of the Bristol port were not
strong enough to induce the committee to report in its favour.

From the "forties," when the American mail service was withdrawn from
Bristol, no foreign or colonial mails left the port until the autumn of
1898, when Mr. Alfred Jones, the enterprising managing director of the
firm of Messrs. Elder, Dempster & Co., made arrangements for carrying
private ship mails from Avonmouth to Montreal by a weekly service of
steamers. The Bristol merchants found it convenient to make use of this
ship mail system for the conveyance of their invoices, bills of lading,
and advices, as, by travelling in the same ship as the goods which they
related to, their delivery in time to be of use in connection with the
ship's load was ensured. The first vessel to carry such a ship mail was
the s.s. _Montcalm_.

When it was in anticipation at the Bristol Post Office that the ship
mail service might be resumed in 1899 on the breaking up of the ice in
the Gulf of St. Lawrence, there came a cablegram from the Canadian
Government intimating that a contract had been entered into with Messrs.
Elder, Dempster and Co.; and, heigh presto! Avonmouth at once became the
port of departure and arrival of the steamers carrying the direct
Canadian mails. The suddenness of the event naturally created quite a
stir after Bristol had been so long waiting, and the mail services
outwards and inwards were watched with close attention by the public.
The first steamer to run under the new contract was the s.s. _Monterey_.
She left Avonmouth on the 23rd July, but time had not admitted of
arrangements being made for her to carry the mails from Avonmouth, which
were therefore picked up at Queenstown. The s.s. _Ikbal_ took the next
trip, leaving Avonmouth on the 30th July. The parcels from the whole of
the kingdom, including Ireland, were circulated on Bristol, and made up
here in direct mails for Montreal, Quebec, Hamilton, Kingston, Toronto,
Winnipeg, Prince Edward Island, Hawaii, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Nova
Scotia, British Columbia, Kobe, Nagasaki, and Yokohama. The notice to
the Bristol Post Office was very short, but the necessary arrangements
were smartly made to meet the emergency. Mr. Kislingbury, the divisional
superintendent of the Great Western Railway, ever ready to heartily
co-operate with the local Post Office, had a special tender placed in
readiness for the reception of the mails at Temple Meads and they were
despatched by the 9.50 a.m. train to Avonmouth. On the part of the Dock
authorities, the general manager, Mr. F. B. Girdlestone, had provided an
engine to take the brake-vans containing the parcel mails direct from
the Docks junction to the pier head. The system was fully tried, for the
mails had to be taken from the train to the steam-tug _Sea Prince_ to be
conveyed to the steamer, which was moored in Kingroad, having arrived
too late to enter the dock. The mails weighed close upon three tons, and
were contained in fifty-five large hampers. In the following week the
s.s. _Arawa_ (a sixteen-knot boat, 440 feet long) carried the mails,
which were taken by train alongside the ship in dock; and which
consequently, although five tons in weight, were put on board under much
more favourable circumstances than in the preceding week, when the
steamer had to lie out in the Kingroad. It is noteworthy that the
_Arawa_ took out 400 emigrants.

[Illustration: R.M.S. "MONTEREY."


_From a photograph by G. M. Roche, Esq., Dublin._]

Subsequent steamers used for carrying on the mail service were the
_Montfort_, _Monteagle_, and _Montrose_.

The arrangements for the new service worked very smoothly from the
outset, thanks in no small measure to Mr. Flinn, the local general
manager for Messrs. Elder, Dempster & Co., who facilitated in every way
the Post Office and Customs operations. The trial so far has proved that
the use of Avonmouth as a port for the Canadian mail traffic is attended
with advantages on this side of the ocean, but greater facilities for
embarking and disembarking the mails at Avonmouth are absolutely



In 1855 the Bristol Post Office staff consisted of a postmaster and
fifteen clerks, with sixty-four letter carriers. Over 1,500 people of
all grades, including sub-postmasters and their assistants, are now
employed; and the annual bill for salaries, wages, and allowances of
men, women, and boys amounts to little short of £100,000. It will thus
be seen that the Post Office ranks as one of the largest employers of
labour in the western city.

The head office is centrally situated both for the receipt and despatch
of the letter correspondence. It is not very far from a point known as
"Tramway Centre," upon which the tram services of the city converge. It
plays an important part with regard to the Bristol postal system, as out
of a total of 833,000 letters posted weekly in the city delivery
area--exclusive of 55,300 Clifton posted letters--221,000 letters are
posted at the head office itself, and the total posted within a radius
of a mile is 652,290, or more than three-fourths of the whole. In
addition to the 888,000 letters posted weekly in Bristol city and
Clifton, there are 108,000 letters posted in the suburban and rural
districts. The posting every Sunday consists of 35,000 letters.

The greater extent to which the well-to-do classes in Bristol use the
post than their less fortunate brethren may be gathered from the fact
that the average yield of letters, newspapers, etc., per day per box in
the Clifton district is 128 per cent. higher than in Redland and Cotham,
and 179 per cent. higher than in Redcliffe; and in the Redland and
Cotham district 22 per cent. higher than in Redcliffe.

The mails are chiefly conveyed between the head office and the principal
railway station by horsed carts.

About 7,000,000 "forward" letters--that is, letters neither posted nor
delivered locally, but passing through the Bristol Post Office--are
dealt with annually.

The parcel post, started in 1883, has done well in Bristol. Nearly
three-quarters of a million of parcels are posted in the district
annually. The greater part of the parcel despatching duties is performed
at a separate parcel office on the Temple Meads Railway Station
premises. People often avail themselves of the parcel post for obtaining
a regular weekly supply of produce. A joint of beef from Scotland,
weighing just under eleven pounds, invariably reaches Bristol at the
week end, and a package of butter from Dublin is observed every Friday
in the Bristol parcel depôt on its way to Weston-super-Mare.

The London mail is, naturally, the most important mail which leaves
Bristol. In the course of the day fifty-five mail bags are forwarded,
containing about 20,000 letters; the trains used being those leaving at
3.10 a.m., 7.50 a.m., 9.35 a.m., 11.40 a.m., 12.13 p.m., 1.54 p.m., 3.0
p.m., 3.43 p.m., 4.45 p.m., 7.22 p.m., and 12.45 a.m. So numerous are
the London and "London forward" letters in the evening, that three
clerks are engaged from 5.0 p.m. to midnight in sorting them. In the
opposite direction fifty mail bags are received from London daily,
containing about 30,000 letters. Birmingham comes next in the
importance of exchange, thus: twelve mail bags go out daily, containing
5,500 letters, and ten bags come in, with 4,500 letters. The
neighbouring city of Bath figures next, with ten outward mail bags
daily, containing 4,200 letters, and ten inward bags, containing 2,700
letters. The same three cities also stand in the forefront in respect of
the import and export of parcels, 870 parcels being received from London
and 550 parcels sent thereto daily. Birmingham sends 190 parcels and
takes a like number; whilst Bath sends 160 and takes in return 250
parcels daily.

The members of the permanent staff have fallen on better days than their
predecessors of old times. They are granted holidays varying in periods
according to rank, from the twelve working days allowed to the telegraph
messengers to the month enjoyed by the superintending officers. Medical
attendance is afforded gratuitously, and full pay is, as a rule, given
during sick absence, and under special circumstances sick leave on full
pay is allowed for six months, and a further six months on half-pay.
After that time, if there appears to be little or no chance of
recovery, a pension or gratuity is given. The appointment of medical
officer to the Post Office was in 1862 conferred upon Mr. F. Poole
Lansdown, who has held the post ever since. For the last four years the
average sick absence per year has been ten days for males and seventeen
days for females per head; and during the last seven years the average
mortality amongst the established officers of the Service has been two
per annum.

Uniform and boots are provided by the Department for the postmen and
telegraph messengers, at an annual cost of about £2,000.

Good-conduct stripes are the reward to all full-time postmen,
established or unestablished, of unblemished conduct. A stripe is
awarded after each five years' meritorious service, and each man is
eligible for six stripes, each of which carry one shilling a week extra
pay. The value of the stripes is taken into account in calculation of

Of the 1,500 persons of all grades alluded to there are in the postal
department a superintendent, 24 superintending officers, and 154 male
and 8 female clerks.

The selection of candidates for situations in the Bristol Post Office as
sorting clerks and telegraphists, both male and female, was for many
years vested entirely in the postmaster, and persons were given
temporary employment without passing any educational test as to their
special fitness for Post Office employment. It so happened that not
infrequently a clerk would be employed in a temporary capacity for some
years, and finally be rejected by the Civil Service Commissioners on
educational or medical grounds. In 1892, however, a special preliminary
educational examination was instituted. All candidates of respectable
parentage, of good health and character, were allowed to sit at this
examination, the successful ones being taken into the office and trained
for appointment to the Establishment. The Civil Service Examination had,
of course, to be undergone before an appointment could be obtained. In
1896 a new system was introduced, whereby a Civil Service certificate
had to be obtained before a person was taken into the office. This
obviated the necessity of holding the preliminary educational
examination, but the postmaster still exercised the privilege of
nominating candidates to the situations. The open competitive system of
examination was commenced last year, and the appointments are now open
to general competition.

There is a term of probation in the Post Office, and details of the
duties devolving on postal clerks may not be without interest to the
Bristol public. The business, with its multitudinous ramifications,
takes a long time to learn thoroughly. To become a perfect all-round
postal clerk a man must possess intelligence, must be cool, fertile in
expedient, have a retentive memory, and withal be quick and active. He
must know how to primarily sort, sub-divide, and despatch letters. He
must have a good knowledge of Post Office circulation and be able to
bear in mind the names of the smallest places--hamlets, etc.--in the
kingdom, the varying circulations for different periods of the day, and
the rates of postage of all articles sent through the post. Be must be
able to detect the short-paid letter, and to deal with the ordinary
letter, the large letter, the unpaid, the registered, the foreign, the
"dead," insufficiently addressed, the official, the fragile, the
insured, the postcard (single and reply), the letter card, the
newspaper, the book-packet, and the circular (the definition of which is
very difficult). He is responsible for the correct sortation of every
letter that he deals with, and he has to be expert in tying letters in
bundles. He has to cast the unpaid postage and enter the correct account
on the letter bill; take charge of registered letter bags and loose
registered letters, and advise them on the letter bill; see to the
correct labelling, tying, and sealing of the mail bags he makes up;
check the despatch of mails on the bag list; dispose of his letters by a
given time, the hours of the despatch of mails being fixed. In
consequence, he often has to work under great pressure in order to
finish in time. The postal clerk has to surcharge unpaid and
insufficiently prepaid correspondence; to see that all postage stamps
are carefully obliterated, that the rules of the different posts are not
infringed; to attend to the regulations relating to official
correspondence. He has to decipher imperfectly and insufficiently
addressed correspondence, search official and other directories to trace
proper addresses. In addition to all this he has in turn to serve at the
public counter, and there attend to money order, savings bank, postal
order, and other items of business of the kind.

As an illustration of the perspicacity of officers of the Post Office in
the Western Division of the Kingdom and of the postmen of Bristol, may
be cited the circulation through the post and prompt and safe delivery
of a letter from Plymouth bearing as its only address the magic letters
"W. G.," with cricket hat, stumps, and ball, so dear to the individual
who bears the initials.

Delay in delivery of articles sent by post, however, not infrequently
takes place in consequence of misdirection. A parcel was addressed to a
reverend gentleman at "Publow Church, near Bristol," and as it could not
be presented at the fine old structure itself, the postman took it to
the adjoining vicarage, where, in the absence of the vicar, it was taken
in by a servant upon the inference that it might be intended for some
future visitor. It turned out, however, that the address was inaccurate,
and that the parcel was actually intended for a village some miles from
Bristol, on the other side, having for its name Pucklechurch.

Occasionally there is very slow transmission in these speedy days. A
rather remarkable case occurred here of a postcard having occupied
nearly eight years in travelling between Horfield Barracks and the
premises of a firm in Stokes Croft,--a distance of less than two miles.
The missive was posted and stamped on the 10th July, 1890, and trace of
it was lost until it turned up at Bournemouth and received the
impression of the stamp of that office in April, 1898, whence it was
sent to Bristol and delivered. There were no other marks to indicate its
long detention.

Not infrequently the Post Office has to contend with difficulties
arising from want of thought on the part of the trading community.
Recently there was a somewhat unusual occurrence at the Bristol Post
Office. A sack containing samples of biscuits in small tin boxes was
received. Around the tins flimsy paper was tied, on which the addresses
were written. The paper had become so frayed in transit that scarcely a
single wrapper was complete, and when the tins were turned out of the
sack there were showers of small pieces of paper like a snowstorm. In
order that the samples might reach their destinations, the addresses
were, as far as practicable, re-copied, and the samples sent out.
Nearly every one of the 500 packets received was then sent out for
delivery without delay, no doubt to the astonishment of those who
received the biscuits in envelopes from the Returned Letter Office.

In the sorting office all through the twenty-four hours there is work
going on. As one batch of officials goes off duty another comes on, and
these relays never cease--not even on Sundays, Christmas Days, or Bank
Holidays. The sorting office is at its busiest from 5.15 to 6.45 in the
evening, and from 8.30 p.m. till midnight. Then postmen enter hastily,
one after another, with bags from the branch offices and pillar-boxes,
which are immediately taken charge of, opened, and the contents shot
out. The postmen rapidly arrange the small letters face upwards, pack
them in "trays" of 400, pass them over to the stamping department; the
stampers obliterate Her Majesty's head, and record the hour, date, and
place of departure, with one and the same stroke of the stamp, at the
rate of a hundred a minute. The stamped letters are placed on sorting
tables, where the first division takes place. Those for Bristol and
neighbourhood are assigned to a compartment for further sortation, and
the outward correspondence is sorted out into the different "roads" by
which it will travel. Letters for small places are sent to the mail
trains, where they are sorted to their respective stations as the
locomotive is whirling them along at the rate of fifty miles an hour.
Many of the larger towns, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool,
Leeds, Exeter, Plymouth, Reading, Bath and Swindon, have their own bags
made up at Bristol. Newspapers, packages, and book packets are sorted
separately, and subsequently put into their respective bags. By-and-by
the country postbags come pouring in, and no sooner are they opened than
the letters they contain are subjected to the same analytical treatment.

In a week 2,600 separate bags (or sacks containing several bags) are
sent away from the Bristol Post Office over the Great Western and
Midland Railway systems. The weight is 21 tons, or an average of over 18
lbs. per bag or sack. Of the total number, 500 of the bags, with an
average weight of nearly 14 lbs. each, are for places within the
Bristol district, and 300 of them are sent to London, with a total
weight of 4 tons 33 lbs., or an average of 30 lbs. per bag or sack. The
bags and sacks received in Bristol from all quarters are about equal in
number and weight to those going outwards. Those from London weigh 6
tons 3 cwt. 44 lbs.--an average of 51 lbs each.

In order to simplify the disposal of the letters in London, they are not
sent up unsorted from Bristol, but are divided into thirty-seven
labelled bundles or separate bags, a bundle or bag being made up for
each London district, for each great railway out of London, for several
foreign divisions, for seventeen large provincial towns, and even in
such detail as for Paternoster Row and Wood Street.

It is not often that ships of war appear in Bristol waters. Indeed, the
old inhabitant saith that it is fifty years since a warship anchored in
the vicinity. The recent visit of a squadron calls therefore for a
passing mention. Such an event took place during the British Association
Meeting in September, 1898. The ironclads composing the squadron were
H.M.S. _Nile_, _Thunderer_, _Trafalgar_, _Sans Pareil_, and the gunboat
_Spanker_. The vessels anchored in Walton Bay, midway between Clevedon
and Portishead. In these pages the interest attaching to them must
necessarily be centred in their mail arrangements. Nearly a thousand
letters a day were received at Clevedon for delivery to the fleet. The
ships' postman from each ship came ashore by launch three times a day to
fetch the letters. Launches were specially employed to fetch telegrams
on signal being given by flag from the end of Clevedon Pier.

A first aid class in connection with the St. John's Ambulance Society
was formed by members of the Bristol Post Office staff in 1894, and
there was an average attendance of twenty members, under the skilled
direction of Dr. Bertram Rogers, of Clifton. Of the members who
presented themselves for examination at the termination of the course of
lectures, eight were successful, and were presented with certificates at
the Society's Annual Meeting, held at the Merchant Venturers' Technical
College; and in the following year they qualified for the Society's
much-prized medallion of efficiency. At the conclusion of the course,
Dr. Bertram Rogers was presented with an ivory-handled and
silver-mounted malacca cane, subscribed for by members of the class. A
writing-case was also presented to Mr. Blake for organising the class.

The want of a gymnasium in or near the Post Office premises is greatly
felt, but the staff do not neglect opportunities of improving their
health in other ways. Cycle Clubs have been in active operation; the
Cricket Clubs come off victorious in many matches; and the Electric
Swimming Club has been attended with great success.



A century ago the Christmas card was unthought of; whether it will be a
thing of the past in the year 2000 cannot be foretold. The preparations
made to meet the annually recurring pressure involve much forethought
and considerable labour, and have to be in progress for a long time
prior to Christmas. The time occupied in getting the instructions ready
for the staff and making all arrangements incidental to the season is
equivalent to more than the entire duty of a clerk for a whole year.
Nothing whatever is left to chance; for unless the arrangements are
organised in full detail, the work could not go on with the clock-like
smoothness which is necessary to ensure a successful issue. At Christmas
many people find a difficulty in deciding what to give their friends.
The difficulty in the Post Office is how to convey Christmas gifts from
friend to friend, from relative to relative, and the solution is found
in the extensive preparations alluded to. They consist of many and
various ways of affording means of rapid circulation and facilitating
the traffic. Thus arrangements are made as regards London for direct
bags to be made up at Bristol for each of the eight principal district
offices, and separate bags for the inclusion of all the London
sub-district letters throughout the day. At normal times such bags are
made up only for the night mail and heaviest despatches. All foreign
letters are sent in separate bags, so as to keep them apart on arrival
in London from the inland Christmas missives. Then, in the reverse
direction, London relieves the Bristol office by making a direct bag for
the tributary office of Clifton by every mail, instead of by two mails
only. To further facilitate matters, the parcels and letters for the
environs of Bristol are kept separate from those for town delivery at
all the large offices sending parcel baskets and mail bags here, and
Bristol reciprocates by adopting the same plan for towns with which it
exchanges mails. Even the expedient of putting specially-lettered
neck-labels on the bags to indicate their contents is adopted. Where,
ordinarily, bundles of letters are made up for particular towns, direct
bags take their places, and where, ordinarily, letters are sent in bulk
from many towns separate bundles are made up for each town: thus,
letters from Bristol for Brighton, which are usually dealt with in
London, are forwarded in a direct bag to pass through the metropolis
unopened. The individual attendances of the ordinary staff are increased
from eight hours to twelve, fourteen, and sixteen hours per day. All
holidays are suspended for the time being, which enables some
telegraphists to undertake postal duty; clerical labour is stopped,
outside help is obtained, and altogether additional labour provided for
to the extent of 50 per cent. over the normal staff. Although there is
such a large augmentation numerically, the value of it cannot be judged
in that way, as it takes a long time to make a really efficient postal
officer, and the novices who are engaged, although willing enough, can
do little more than undertake manual labour. Many army reserve men and
army and navy pensioners are engaged to assist on the occasion. The
weather is always a potent factor. The ordinary types of mail vehicles,
contracted for by the Bristol Tramways Company, and always well turned
out by Mr. G. Matthews, have to be supplemented at the Christmas season
by the employment of large pair-horse trolleys, which, are used not only
for the conveyance of mails between office and railway station, but are
also sent round the town to pick up the heavy parcel collections from
the numerous sub-offices.

The great unpunctuality of the mail trains which invariably sets in
early in the Christmas week causes no little inconvenience, particularly
as regards the mails from the North of England, and the merchants are
therefore not slow to avail themselves of the Post Office new system,
under which, for a small fee, they can get their letters brought by
delayed trains delivered by special messenger promptly on their arrival
at the Head Post Office. The extra posting of letters and parcels for
places abroad, intended for delivery about Christmas Day, begins to
manifest itself early in November.

A great number of people appear to think that Christmas cards and other
printed matter may be sent by book-post in covers which are entirely
closed, except for small slits cut at the sides. These packets are
liable to charge at letter postage rates unless they are made up in such
a manner as will admit of the contents being easily withdrawn for
examination. To educate the public in the matter of full prepayment, it
has become necessary for the Department to be particularly vigilant in
surcharging the Christmas missives which contravene the regulations,
and the Bristol clerks have the unpleasant task of raising an
impost on letters during the Christmas season which infringe the
Postmaster-General's not severe regulations. The custom of sending
Christmas cards in open envelopes is increasing.

With regard to telegrams, the public have recently received at the hands
of His Grace the Duke of Norfolk the great benefit of being allowed to
have their telegraphic messages delivered up to distances of three miles
without payment of any charge whatever for porterage. In this
neighbourhood, the concession has resulted in an increase in the number
of messages for delivery over a mile, especially at Christmas. During
the Christmas season there is always a decrease in the number of
business telegrams, but that is in some measure made up for by a large
number of telegrams being sent by the public who are travelling to keep
holiday, and in this connection more use is made of the telegraph than
the telephone service. The decrease in the volume of work admits of
telegraphists aiding their brother officers on the postal side.

The inflow of Christmas cards is pretty evenly dispersed over the
earlier days of the season, but the great rush comes on the night of the
23rd and the morning of the 24th of the month. Letters up to four ounces
in weight are now conveyed at the small cost to the public of a penny.
So far as this city is concerned, letters and book-packets over two
ounces in weight, which are now blended in one post, are quadrupled in
number at the Christmas season. This increase in the letter packets has
the effect of retarding the postmen in effecting their deliveries,
inasmuch as they have to search in their bags for the packages which
they cannot carry tied up in consecutive order. The trouble arising
therefrom is somewhat mitigated, however, by the circumstance that the
charged letters are less numerous than heretofore, owing to the large
increase in the weight which is now carried for a penny. The Christmas
season is departmentally regarded as consisting of the days from the
20th of the month to Christmas Day, the 25th, inclusive. From the most
reliable calculations that the officials are capable of making, it would
appear that during the Christmas period no fewer than 2,000,000 letters
are dropped by the residents into the 500 receptacles dotted here and
there over Bristol's large postal area. The letters distributed by
Bristol's regular postmen, with their 250 followers, are a million and a
half, in each case about an extra week's work to be got through in three

Some 20,000 letters and parcels find their way to the Bristol Returned
Letter Office as the flotsam and jetsam of the Christmas postings. They
consist of letters without addresses, letters addressed in
undecipherable caligraphy, letters for people dead, gone away, and not
known; parcels of poultry and game without name of sender or addressee.
Certainly handwriting does not improve, hence all these failures and
embarrassments to the Post Office.

The articles for transmission by parcel post handed in at the head Post
Office, branch, offices, sub-offices in town, suburbs, and villages,
reach the total of 40,000, being about four times as numerous as at
ordinary periods. The rural districts alone produce 8,000 parcels. The
parcels delivered number 35,000, being treble ordinary numbers. Ten
thousand of these parcels are delivered in the villages. Nearly a
thousand large hampers of parcels are exchanged between London and
Bristol, and of these some forty contain foreign parcels alone.

Notwithstanding the vastly increased numbers, it becomes noticeable at
Bristol, year by year, that there is a diminution of parcels conveyed by
parcel post containing articles of good cheer: the geese, the fowls, and
the game having decreased, plum pudding's, however, being as much in
evidence as ever. The reduction in the parcel post rates which took
place in 1897 has had a very marked effect upon the parcel post traffic,
and the increase, particularly in the heavy weights, has been very
great. On the other hand, the reduction in the rates of charge for the
conveyance of post parcels has had the effect of bringing about a
decrease in the number of parcels weighing under 2 lb.

As showing that the postal deliveries at the Christmas season are
arranged as well as the extraordinary circumstances will admit, and that
the public on its part can appreciate the difficulties to be contended
with, it may be worthy of mention that complaints of delay are rarely

The Postmaster-General is not unmindful of his duty in providing
sustenance for his legions at the busy season, and refreshments are
supplied for the permanent staff without stint. There are no trams
running on Christmas Day, so that the postmen with their heavy loads are
much worse off than on ordinary days, when, with lighter loads, they can
ride to and fro on the tramcars. There are some pleasing social features
which are worthy of record. For instance, the ladies of the Clifton
Letter Mission have for some years past sent "A Christmas Letter" and
Christmas card to each of the 150 telegraph messengers employed in the
Bristol district. The ladies who manage the society known as the Postal
and Telegraph Christian Association invariably send to every postman in
the Bristol district a sympathetic and seasonable letter, accompanied
by a pretty Christmas card and the best of all good wishes. The staff of
the Bristol Post Office usually pay the compliments of the Christmas
season to their postal friends elsewhere in the form of a
prettily-designed card.

Christmas Day of 1898 is rendered memorable in postal annals from the
circumstance that on that day the postage on letters to and from many of
our colonies and foreign possessions was reduced from the modest sum of
2-1/2d. per half-ounce to the still more modest sum of 1d. per
half-ounce. Bristol has a not inconsiderable colonial and foreign
correspondence. British India takes 550 letters, etc., on the average
weekly; the Dominion of Canada, 450; Newfoundland, 110; and Gibraltar,
100; the other countries to which the reduced rate of postage has been
applied take 500 in the week.

One of the many changes that have taken place in the manners and customs
of the people as affecting the Post Office is very noticeable as regards
the observance of St. Valentine's Day. Thirty years ago the votaries of
the patron saint, in their thousands, vied with each other, year after
year, to honour his memory, and make the Post Office the medium of
sending to every close friend some kind of love token, ranging from the
artistic production at one guinea, down to the humble penny fly-leaf
which contained the simple but expressive pleading, at the bottom of a
neat woodcut, "O come, true love, be mine." Only too often, however, the
day was made the occasion to strike a blow at the fickle lover by means
of some gross caricature. On the eve of St. Valentine the energies of
the staff, which was limited as compared with now, were formerly greatly
taxed to get rid of the enormous piles of packets which flooded the
various receptacles in the city. All this is, however, changed; the
occasion now passes by almost unnoticed in the sorting office and by the




_From a photograph by Mr. Protheroe, Wine Street, Bristol._]

The public office of the Bristol Post Office is very commodious (50 ft.
by 44 ft.), and affords ample counter accommodation to the citizens for
properly conducting their Post Office business. It is markedly superior
as regards size and fitting-up to almost any other provincial office,
and indeed its equal in those respects is scarcely to be found in all
London. In contrast to the spacious public hall of the Bristol Post
Office and the civility of its clerks, the writer's first impressions of
the postal service of his country were by no means of a pleasant
character. When quite a small child, he was entrusted by his mother with
the mission of conveying a small rose-coloured and delicately-perfumed
letter to the Post Office in a world-famed Warwickshire town--an errand
of which he was "no end" proud. Timidly he knocked at a little wicket in
the window of the house to which he was directed. Almost immediately
the wicket was thrown open, and a very red visage appeared. "What do you
want?" "Will you put a stamp on this letter, sir, please?" "No! What the
devil do you mean by bringing letters like this? 'Tisn't big enough.
It'll get lost in some hole or corner." Frightened at this "Giant Grim,"
a hasty retreat was made, and the irascible old postmaster was left to
do as he liked with letter and penny.

The penny combined postage and Inland Revenue stamp was introduced in
1881. A new series of postage stamps was issued in 1884, and the present
series in January, 1887.

In the year 1833 the value of the postage stamps obtained from London
for distribution in the Bristol district was £33,844; in 1862 it had
only grown to £35,720; but in 1898 it had reached the more prodigious
proportions of £171,000, of which sum those stamps of the halfpenny
denomination were of the value of £30,700, and in number 14,735,000; and
the penny stamps in value £85,775 and in number 20,586,000. Stamps of
other denominations were issued thus:--1-1/2d., 207,360; 2d., 205,920;
2-1/2d., 207,000; 3d., 364,320; 4d., 277,680; 4-1/2d., 16,000; 5d.,
147,120; 6d., 534,600; 9d., 51,200; 10d., 27,840; 1s., 82,320; 2s. 6d.,
2,800; 5s., 2,588; 10s., 688; 20s., 550 and £5, 4. Post-cards, embossed
envelopes, newspaper wrappers, telegraph forms and other articles of the
kind were of the value of £14,334. At the earlier period the postmaster
of the day was allowed 1 per cent. on the value of the stamps sold, in
addition to his salary. It is not so now!

Under the system inaugurated in 1880 the postal orders issued and paid
at the Bristol public office counter number nearly half a million in the
year. The money orders paid at the counter preponderate over those
issued--the amounts respectively being £237,000 and £34,000. These sums
include the amounts received in respect of telegraph money orders--the
Department's new departure of 1890. The Government insurance and annuity
business commenced by the Post Office in 1865 is making progress in
Bristol, and the same may be said of the system started in 1880 of
investments in Government stock through Post Office medium.

The first Post Office Savings Bank in the district was established at
the Clifton Branch Post Office on the 16th September, 1861, the year in
which savings bank business was commenced throughout the country
generally. Several accounts were opened on that day, and the amount
deposited was £35 4s. A similar institution was opened in the city in
March, 1862, at the Money Order Office, then located in the corner shop
in Albion Chambers, Small Street, opposite the present Head Post Office.
From such small beginnings a vast savings bank business has grown up.
The sum standing to the credit of depositors in the Post Office Savings
Bank in the Bristol postal area at the end of 1895, when the last
account was published, was nearly £2,000,000, deposited by some 100,000
separate individuals. The deposits made at the head office in Small
Street reached close upon £400,000, and the other part of the amount is
made up thus: Gloucestershire side--Town Post Offices, £659,085; rural
Post Offices, £192,934. Somersetshire side--Town Post Offices, £215,295;
rural Post Offices, £91,944. The estimated amount due to depositors in
the Post Office Savings Banks throughout the whole country on the 21st
December, 1898, was £123,155,000, and the amount due to trustees of
Savings Banks on November 20th, 1898,--the latest date on which the
figures were made up--was £50,634,655. The Bristol Savings Bank was
closed in 1888, and its 12,814 accounts were transferred to the Post
Office Savings Bank. The amount of money involved was a little over half
a million.

During Mr. Fawcett's administration at the Post Office, thrift on the
part of the nation was encouraged in every possible way. Then was
inaugurated the now familiar system for facilitating the placing of
small sums in the Post Office Savings Bank by means of postage stamps
affixed to a Post Office form as penny after penny is saved until an
amount of one shilling is reached, the minimum for a Post Office Savings
Bank deposit.

A case occurred at a Bristol Post Office fifteen years since, in which a
young servant girl, in her desire to be thrifty under the system alluded
to, craftily obtained the key of the letter box from the secret place in
which the sub-postmaster kept it, and abstracted a number of circular
letters on School Board business, and took off the stamps for
attachment to the Savings Bank slips. She was sentenced to a term of
imprisonment, which, on account of her youth, was limited to six months.

Amusing incidents sometimes occur to break the monotony of counter work.
For instance, a woman applied for a postal order, and when it was handed
to her, the clerk, acting upon the official instructions, recommended
the good lady to take the number before sending the order away. A few
days afterwards she appeared at the Post Office with the order and
complained that payment had been refused because the order had been
mutilated. The clerk on examining the order found that the direction to
"take the number of the order" had been acted on literally. The number
had been carefully cut out, and retained in the possession of the
applicant. It was some time before she could be made to realize her
mistake. In another instance early one fine autumn morn a young couple
presented themselves at the public office of the Bristol Post Office and
begged in earnest language that they might be supplied with a marriage
license. The request could not, of course, be complied with, but the
applicants, much to their satisfaction, were informed where they could
obtain the needed document. On another occasion some money was observed
on the counter, and on the very small child near it being asked what was
required, "Two ounces of tea and a pound of sugar" were at once
demanded. This mistake no doubt arose from the fact that the business
carried on in the late Post Office building in Exchange Avenue is that
of a tea dealer. It is a rule of the Service that letters should not be
delivered from the _Poste Restante_ except to the actual addressees or
to other persons bearing authority to receive the letters on behalf of
the addressees. A request was made at the Bristol Head Post Office for
the delivery of letters to a person other than the addressee, which
person could not produce the necessary authority to act as recipient.
The excuse given for non-production of authority was that the addressee
was asleep. The enquirer having been advised to get authority when the
addressee awoke, rather astonished the counter clerk by saying that such
awaking would not take place until Saturday, the day of application
being Tuesday. It transpired that the application was made in respect of
letters for a person who was undergoing a state of hypnotism at a
Bristol music hall. The touching incident occurred at the Bristol Post
Office of a poor woman--pressing want having come upon her at last--who
had to withdraw a shilling which she had thirty years previously
deposited in a trustee savings bank which was taken over by the Post
Office. She had to receive one penny by way of interest for the use of
her mite for thirty years. Some years since a collector of old issues of
crown-pieces presented seventy of such coins, in a good state of
preservation, at the Bristol Post Office counter as a Savings Bank
deposit. The depositor, after taking the trouble to accumulate these old
coins, had come to the conclusion that an annual interest of eight
shillings and sixpence would be more useful to him than an occasional
inspection of the coins. Few people know so little about Post Office
matters as an individual from over the Severn who recently asked for a
postage stamp. "Do you want a penny or a halfpenny stamp?" asked the
clerk. "I want a South Wales stamp," was the reply of Taffy. Then the
surprise of the counter officer must have been great when, on counting
up his money, he found that on one of the shillings the legend "Baby"
boldly appeared impressed where the Queen's head is usually found, the
coin having evidently been used as a brooch.

The Department, in communicating with the public, prescribes that its
officers should subscribe themselves as the public's most obedient
servants, and on some of the printed forms which have to be returned in
answer to queries raised by the Department the same style is adopted for
the public to use. One dignified gentleman returned his form, from which
he had erased "Your obedient servant" and substituted "Yours
respectfully," adding a marginal note to the effect that he was not the
servant of the Department, but that the Department was his servant.

The postmaster of Bristol is addressed by the public in various ways, as
for instance: "Postmaster General," "General Postmaster," "Bristol
Postmaster," "H.M. Chief Postmaster," "To the Postmaster in State, Small
Street, Bristol," "Head Post-Master and Surveyor of the Bristol
District," "Head Master, Post Office," "Post Office Master,"
"Postmaster-in-General," "Master General, Post-Office," "Mr. ----, Esq.,
Post M.G.," "Mr. ----, Esq., Post Office General," "To the Reverend Sir
Postmaster, Bristol, England."

It is astonishing how many Foreigners and Colonists apply to the Bristol
Post Office respecting their relations, or for information as regards
trading matters. The former questions are sometimes answered, but the
latter are handed over to the courteous secretary of the Chamber of
Commerce to deal with.

Very unusual was the circumstance of the receipt at the Bristol Post
Office in 1895, anonymously, of a sum of ten shillings in postage stamps
as conscience money, and, oddly enough, the next day threepence in
stamps was received in the same anonymous manner and for the same
purpose. These two instances were the first and the last.

The difference between romance and fact is exemplified by an article
which appeared in a monthly magazine as follows, viz.:--


"Her Majesty possesses one more faithful public servant than she is
aware of, though its name does not transpire in the list of the
Ministry. Every night at the General Post Office, Bristol, a spirited
mare attached to the red mail-cart is brought, at a quarter before
midnight, to fetch the bags of letters, &c. She stands perfectly still,
waiting while the mails are sealed and tossed one by one into the
vehicle. At the five minutes before twelve, however, should all not be
ready for departure, her driver sings out 'Any more for the down train?'
by way of hurrying the officials. No sooner does the mare hear those
words than she begins to dance and curvet, showing in every possible way
her anxiety to start and her sense of the importance of her duties. But
if by any chance the first stroke of midnight should sound before they
are ready to proceed to the station, she takes matters into her own
hands, and nothing will then hold her in. Those who have to do with this
clever and beautiful creature are very proud of her, on account of the
example she sets of punctuality and attention to the affairs of the

The real facts on which this incident is founded were, that the horse
(not mare) remained in the Post Office yard quietly from 11.10 p.m.
until midnight on one particular night only, and not generally, and
when the loading of the van commenced the horse became restive, the
final slamming of the van doors causing it to start off for the street.
In consequence of a repetition of this restlessness on another night,
and "kicking-in" the front of the van, the horse was taken off the Royal
Mail Service.



The Saxon King, Edmund I., doubtless never conceived, when he held court
(A.D. 940-946) at his palace in the village of Pucklechurch, seven miles
from Bristol, that in generations to come there would exist, as there
does now, a telegraph office within a few yards of the site of his
castle, whence a question could be wired to the ends of the earth, and a
reply obtained in the short space of a few hours. Probably at that
remote period a journey from Pucklechurch to the north of Scotland would
have been considered as great an achievement as that in recent days of
Dr. Nansen in his endeavour to get to the North Pole.

The first actual working telegraph was erected in 1838 between
Paddington and West Drayton on the Great Western Railway, and in the
following year Wheatstone and Cook constructed a telegraph line from
Paddington to Slough. Mr. Brunel then wished to extend the line to this
city, but the shareholders would not support him to that extent. In
1852, however, the Great Western Railway Board had the line constructed
through to Bristol. By means of it messages could, at that later date,
be forwarded to and from most parts of the kingdom from the office at
the Bristol Railway Station. Arrangements were put in progress for
extending the wires into the centre of the city, in order that greater
facilities might be afforded to those parties who might wish to avail
themselves of the means of inter-communication, and before the end of
the year the wires were laid from the railway station to the Commercial
Rooms, and subsequently three telegraph offices were opened in the city,
viz.: the Electric and International, on the Exchange; the Magnetic, in
Exchange Avenue; and the United Kingdom, in Corn Street. A telegraph
line was laid to Shirehampton, and the committee of the Commercial Rooms
subscribed £30 a year towards its maintenance.

It is recorded that in 1859 the firm of Messrs. W. D. and H. O. Wills,
tobacconists and snuff manufacturers of this city, laid down an
electric telegraph wire between their warehouse in Maryport Street and
their manufactory in Redcliff Street, whereby the partners and employés,
although engaged in different parts of the city, were enabled to
converse with each other as readily as if occupying the same
counting-house. The wire was used solely for their own business.

In 1862 a turnpike road telegraph was spoken of as being in course of
construction between Bristol and Birmingham.

Mr. James Robertson, the senior assistant superintendent o£ the Bristol
Telegraph Office, during his forty-two years' service, thirteen of which
were passed in the employment of the Electric and International
Telegraph Company, has had many experiences. He has culled from his
"ancient history" the fact that the amount of telegraph business
transacted by the E. and I. T. Co. at Falmouth, Plymouth, Bristol, and
London (Lothbury, head office) on March 10th, 1858, at the respective
times of day stated, was:--Falmouth, 8 messages, handed in by 10.20
a.m.; Plymouth at 10.36 had managed to transmit 7; Bristol, at noon,
39; and Lothbury had received 116 by 12.17 p.m. Plymouth transmitted for
Falmouth, and Bristol for Plymouth. Bain's chemical recorder was the
system used on the Falmouth wire, the double needle on the Plymouth and
Bristol, and "Bains" and needles on Bristol-London circuits. The average
delay on messages at Plymouth was eighty-three minutes and at Bristol
fourteen minutes. The charge at the time from Falmouth to London was
four shillings for twenty words, addresses free. The present proprietor
of _Lloyd's Newspaper_, Mr. Thomas Catling, records an incident in which
Mr. Robertson was concerned. Mr. Catling was the only London newspaper
reporter who visited Windsor on the eventful night when the deeply
lamented Prince Consort breathed his last on 14th December, 1861. On
reaching Windsor by the last train from London he learned that His Royal
Highness had passed away about twenty minutes previously. Having
obtained at the Castle particulars of the sad event, Mr. Catling hunted
out the residence of the clerk of the Electric and International
Telegraph Company. On ringing him up, the clerk pleaded that before
going to bed he had been taking gruel and hot water to get rid of a bad
cold. He, however, got up and proceeded with Mr. Catling to the
telegraph office in High Street, whence intelligence was wired to
London. Mr. Catling preserved the receipt of that message as a souvenir
of the occasion. Mr. Robertson was the telegraph clerk who arose from
his bed to perform the service in the dead of night.

On the transfer of the telegraph business from the companies to the
State early in 1870, the Post Office, Bristol, engaged sixteen clerks
from the Electric and International Telegraph Company, five from the
United Kingdom Company, and six from the Magnetic Company. Additional
clerks were employed by the Post Office as soon as the volume of work
could be gauged, but in the meantime the transferred clerks had to do
practically double duty. The officials taken over from the companies
were located in the Small Street Post Office, but it was not until
January, 1872, that room could be found there for the entire staff,
which had then grown to be ninety clerks and fifty messengers. The
telegraphic system soon after the Government took to it was extended in
this district to twenty of the principal villages. In the first year of
Post Office working there were 450,000 messages dealt with here, and now
the yearly number is 3,500,000. The sixpenny telegram was introduced in
1885. The local telegraph service now has a staff consisting of a
superintendent, 23 superintending officers, 140 male and 44 female
telegraphists, eight telephonists, and 155 telegraph messengers.
Telegrams are delivered from the head office, two branch offices,
fifteen town sub-offices, forty rural sub-offices, and four railway
stations. The head office has 600,000 messages delivered from it
annually, the branch and town sub-offices 220,000, and the rural
districts 74,000. Of the latter (74,000), about 8,000 are delivered at
distances of from one to three miles, and 350 at distances over three
miles. After 8.0 p.m. all the messages in the town area are delivered
from the head office. The Duke of Norfolk's 1897 concession of free
delivery of telegrams for all distances under three miles has been
appreciated by all those concerned.

The telegraph gallery has direct telegraphic connection with the
undermentioned towns: Bath, Birmingham, Bridgwater, Cardiff,
Cheltenham, Chippenham, Clevedon, Cork, Exeter, Glasgow, Gloucester,
Guernsey, Jersey, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newport (Mon.),
Oxford, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Swansea, Swindon, Taunton, and
Weston-super-Mare, and thirty-two smaller towns.

Bristol plays a not unimportant part in the Post Office telephone trunk
line system, commenced in 1896. It has direct trunk lines to Bath,
Birmingham, Cardiff, Exeter, Gloucester, London, Newport, Sharpness,
Taunton, and Weston-super-Mare. The conversations held by the public
through the medium of these lines number 4,000 weekly.


_From a photograph by Mr. Protheroe, Wine Street, Bristol._]

The well-ventilated and well-lighted telegraph instrument room is on the
upper floor, and extends from end to end of the building. In it there
are 102 telegraph instruments of various kinds in use, viz.: 5 A.B.C.'s,
19 double-plate sounders, 30 sounders, 28 duplexes, 5 quadruplexes, 5
Wheatstone sets, 7 repeaters or relays, 2 concentrators and 1 hexode.
Divested of technicalities, it may be said that telegraphing on the
A.B.C. instruments is effected by alphabetic manipulative keys, which
are depressed by the fingers of the left hand of the sender at the
same time that a handle is turned with the right hand, and a
corresponding effect is produced on the dial plate of the receiver. The
double-plate sounder is read by sound from two small metal hands
striking right and left against two pieces of metal. In sending, the
working is by means of keys manipulated by the hand. The sending upon
the sounder instrument, which is that chiefly used, is done by a small
key with handle being depressed and released according to the dots and
dashes of the Morse alphabet. The signals by which messages are received
and read by the ear are produced by a bar of soft iron striking upon a
steel point placed between two coils of wire. With the A.B.C.,
double-plate sounder, and sounder, only one message can be sent or
received on the wire at one time; but the duplex sounder instruments are
so constructed that two messages can be sent on the wire--one in each
direction--at the same time. Double-current duplex instruments are in
use for telegraphing to busy towns such as Plymouth, Exeter, Cardiff,
Swansea, &c., &c. The quadruplex consists of two duplex sets upon one
wire. Upon these circuits two distinct messages may be sent
simultaneously from each end. The hexode has six instruments at each end
of a single wire, enabling twelve clerks to operate at the same
time--six at each end,--and thus admits of a single wire doing so much
work as six wires worked with the ordinary sounder instrument.

At times of pressure when race meetings are going on, or during the
cricket and football seasons, the ordinary methods of working are
supplemented by extraordinary means, thus: the duplex working between
Bristol and Manchester is augmented by Manchester connecting there a
Bristol wire with a Newcastle wire: Newcastle in like manner further
connecting the line with Glasgow, Glasgow with Edinburgh, Edinburgh with
Dundee, and Dundee with Aberdeen. Then at the Bristol end, instead of
working by means of the ordinary keys, Wheatstone working is resorted
to, viz.: the messages instead of being "keyed" are "punched," the
punching process being performed by means of iron punching sticks upon
an apparatus called the "perforator." The sticks are rapidly worked by
skilful operators upon three steel keys, which, when struck,
mechanically draw a strip of white paper tape, at the same time
perforating holes which indicate signs in accordance with the Morse
alphabet system. These slips thus "punched"--which, by-the-by, very much
resemble the perforated slips used in connection with the organette
instrument--are passed through a Wheatstone "transmitter," and buzzed
through so rapidly that 400 or 500 words can be sent in a minute. The
signals are simultaneously reproduced upon blue slips in the form of
dots and dashes at Manchester, at Newcastle, at Glasgow, at Edinburgh,
at Dundee, and at Aberdeen. The message recorded on the slips is broken
off at about every hundred words to form a "press" page at the receiving
offices for writing up by the telegraphists, a large number of whom can
be employed on the work at the same time. When this process is resorted
to the battery power for the wire has to be greatly increased. The
repeater instruments are worked in like manner, except that the system
is permanent instead of occasional. The concentrator is a recent
invention, and is used for the purpose of economising force and
apparatus, and of minimising delay and table space. By its means the
wires for eighteen to twenty offices, which use the same form of
telegraphic instrument, are led into a special switch-board, and each
wire as it is required is "switched" through to a telegraph instrument,
at which a clerk is ready to send or receive the message. Thus the
telegraphist is "fed" by the operator at the concentrator, and has to
send a message to any one of the thirty towns instead of, under ordinary
working, to only three or four towns.

In place of over 700 batteries with 3,500 cells of the Bichromate,
Daniel and Leclanche type in use at the Bristol telegraph office for
many years, a system of accumulators or storage batteries has been
brought into operation. The power for charging the accumulators is
generated on the spot by a Crossley's gas engine driving a dynamo. The
accumulators number 250, and each has seven divisions. The hexode
instrument between Bristol and London requires a voltage of 400 dry
cells. There are two complete sets of accumulators, each with separate
connecting wires to the instrument room. One set is in use at a time.
The system of accumulators has been introduced for the purposes of
economy and saving of space.

It may be interesting to the uninitiated to learn that in telegraphy the
earth plays the part of a return wire; thus the circuit between Bristol
and Birmingham is rendered complete by earth. The wires connected with
the two towns indicated are brought into the test boxes at the
respective places, and there connected to a single wire at each town
which finds earth by means of a zinc plate buried some twelve feet in
the soil near or under the Post Office buildings.

Occasionally when people have been out for a drive or a cycle ride, and
their eyes have been delighted with the grand scenery to be found around
Bristol, they look, as they journey homewards, to the Government poles
and to the many wires therefrom suspended, and wonder which are
telegraph wires, which are telephone wires, where they all lead to, and
between what points messages are sent and conversations held. Such
travellers returning to Bristol by way of Almondsbury would see the
wires on the one side (telegraphs), which run from Bristol to Falfield,
Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, Gloucester, Liverpool; London to Swansea,
Newport, and Cardiff; Birmingham to Exeter; Plymouth to Liverpool; and
(telephones) Bristol to Birmingham, Gloucester, Cardiff; and on the
other side of the road (telephones) Horfield, Fylton, Almondsbury,
Newport, Cardiff, Gloucester and Birmingham. In some instances there are
two or three wires for the same place. The telegraph, and telephone
wires cross and recross each other at frequent intervals along the road,
and the whole sets of wires cross from side to side of the road between
Fylton and Almondsbury.

Alternative routes for the wires are adopted where practicable, so that
in case of a break-down on one line communication may be kept up on the

By way of illustration of such alternate routes, it may be mentioned
that the two wires from the Head Post Office in Small Street for Swansea
run underground to Stapleton Road, at which point they are brought above
ground and diverge, one running to Wee Lane, thence to Ashley Hill,
Horfield, Almondsbury, Alveston Ship, Falfield and Berkeley, up to the
Severn Bridge; and the other branching off at the end of Stapleton Road,
and carried along the Fishponds and Chipping Sodbury roads nearly to
Yate, and down the Tortworth road to just beyond Falfield, where it
joins the other Swansea and South Wales wires, and passes over the
Severn Bridge into Wales.

The telegraph and telephone wires in this district are chiefly erected
and maintained by soldiers of the Royal Engineers. Sixteen military
telegraphists, members of the Royal Engineers, are attached to the
Bristol Post Office, and kept in training for telegraph service with the
army. Twelve of them are now--November, 1899--in South Africa on active
service, in connection with the troubles in the Transvaal.

In the great hurricane which occurred in January, 1899, the telephone
and telegraph wires radiating from Bristol were blown down in all
directions. In consequence Bristol was entirely cut off from direct
telephonic communication with Birmingham for 21 hours, and had only one
wire instead of two for 9-1/4 hours; from Bath for 18 hours, and had
only one wire instead of two for 5-1/2 hours; from Cardiff for 18 hours,
and had only two wires instead of three for 10-1/2 hours; from
Weston-super-Mare entirely for 24-1/2 hours; from Taunton for 28-1/2
hours; from Exeter for 27 hours; from Sharpness for 26 hours. There was
only one wire instead of two to Gloucester for 26-1/4 hours, to London
for 6 hours, and to Newport for 20-3/4 hours.

The trunk telephone lines were more or less interrupted for a week,
caused by the working parties engaged on repairs.

The telegraph wires for the counties of Gloucester, Somerset, Monmouth,
Warwick, Shropshire, Worcester, Wilts, Devon, Cornwall and Lancashire
were those chiefly deranged.

It is believed that there is only one telegraph cable in the Bristol
district, and that cable does not belong to the Postmaster-General. It
crosses the river Avon at a point adjacent to Pill and Shirehampton, and
was used by the Commercial Rooms in connection with reports of the
arrival of vessels. Up to the time of its introduction, as already
stated, "warners" were employed. The last of the old running "warners"
were Gerrish and Case. These men lived at Pill, and on hearing news from
pilots-men of the arrival of a ship in the Bristol Channel they started
off on foot to Bristol and _warned_ the merchants and wives of sailors
of the vessel's arrival in the Channel, getting, of course, fees for
their trouble,--a guinea from the merchants, and so on, down to the
shillings of the sailors' wives,--and fifty years ago these fees were
willingly paid, and the heavy postages too. The runners were men of some
little mark.

The Post Office at Avonmouth, a Bristol sub-office, is much used for
telegraph purposes by persons on board vessels passing up and down the
Kingroad in the Bristol Channel. The Bristol Corporation placed outside
the port a large white notice board with "TELEGRAPH OFFICE" painted upon
it in black letters, to attract the attention of mariners. The messages
are chiefly received from vessels with cargoes consigned to Sharpness,
which in neap tides have often to lie in the roads for days.

Telegrams for vessels lying in Kingroad are often taken out by boat at
midnight or in the early hours of the morning. This is often in
consequence of the tide not serving, or being too strong for the boatman
to go out at seasonable hours.

Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel, is connected with the mainland by
a submarine cable, which is considered to be one of the most perfect of
its kind. Letters for Lundy, from Bristol and elsewhere, are carried
across by boat from Instow once a week. The nearer small islands of
Flat Holm and Steep Holm have cable telephonic communication with
Weston-super-Mare. The telephone, which is carried into the Weston Post
Office, is rented by the War Office Authorities, who allow the islanders
the use of it. Letters from Bristol for the Flat Holm are conveyed by
way of Cardiff. The island is rented from the Cardiff Corporation by a
farmer who resides upon it. His son, who lives in Cardiff, daily visits
the island in a yacht, and conveys the letters for the Trinity House
officials and residents. For the Steep Holm, Bristol letters are sent
from Weston-super-Mare; the services to the island being
tri-weekly--Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday,--and are performed by a
contractor, who goes across on behalf of the War Office. The Steep Holm
is inhabited by military men only. In a manuscript of 30th March, 1825,
it is described as "Stipe Holme." One of the first serious efforts in
connection with the plan of telegraphing through space without
connecting wires was conducted between the diminutive island of Flat
Holm and the shore, a distance of about five miles; and between Penarth
and Brean Down, a distance of nine miles. An interesting illustration
of the system of wireless telegraphy was given, under the direction of
Mr. W. H. Preece, C.B., F.R.S. (now Sir W. H. Preece, K.C.B., F.R.S.),
at the Clifton College conversazione, held in honour of the learned
British Associates during the meeting of the Association at Bristol in

The telegraph staff have seldom had their skill and smartness more
thoroughly tested than on the memorable Monday evening in February,
1893, when press messages of great length relating to the introduction
of the Home Rule Bill were sent over the wires. Twenty minutes after Mr.
Gladstone rose to speak in the House of Commons the first instalment of
the special summary of his speech reached this city. The conclusion of
the summary was received at two minutes to 7. The verbatim report
commenced to arrive at 4.49, and the last instalment reached the Bristol
Office at 8 o'clock. The total number of words in the messages sent to
Bristol was nearly 40,000.

During the early potato season telegraphing is very brisk with Jersey.
Bristol is the only large office besides London which has direct
communication with the island. Some idea may be gathered of the extra
labour entailed on the telegraph service from the fact that in the month
of June, 1899, no fewer than 20,904 telegrams passed between Bristol and
Jersey, the normal number being only 5,800 monthly. Five or six
telegraph operators are usually sent during the season to Jersey from

In Bristol about 700 firms use abbreviated telegraphic addresses.

The telegraph money order system, started in 1889, is exhibiting
marvellous developments in the local service.

The express letter delivery service, which came into operation in 1891,
is very useful to the public. By means of this agency the Post Office
distributes by express messenger 300,000 letters and parcels annually.
Of that number Bristol contributes 7,000 services. Bicycles and
tricycles are now delivered for the public from any telegraph office in
Bristol and district by special messenger at a fee of 3d. per mile,
without any charge for weight. The messengers are not permitted to ride
upon the cycles, except by the permission of the senders, but will wheel
them up to a distance of three miles.

An express delivery messenger has been used, ere now, for the convoy of
a traveller from point to point in a town unknown to him or her. The
Post Office is often required to assist even more closely in the
domestic relations of life. Recently a gentleman from America wrote to
the Clifton Post Office to enquire whether a certain near relative of
his could be found, as he was very anxious to see her before return to
America. He enclosed a shilling stamp for a reply by telegraph, and
begged for urgency. The relative was found and her address given. The
applicant's ardour to see his relative cooled, or his stay in the
country was abridged, for instead of paying the proposed visit, he
begged the Post Office officials to expend five shillings, which he
sent, in the purchase of cut roses for his relative. Of course, this was
outside the round of Post Office duties, but the clerks obligingly
attended to it, with the aid of a telegraph messenger who was off duty
at the moment.

Occasional mistakes are not to be wondered at when people write
illegibly. Through the improper formation of the capital letter, D, in
the proper name Dyster, has in telegraphing been turned into O, and the
name made Oyster, with the result of misdelivery of the telegram to a
firm of fishmongers having "Oyster" as an abbreviated address. It must
have been extremely painful to an anxious parent to receive a telegram
summoning him to a nursing home far distant, in terms that his "sow was
worse," and begging him to come at once; the telegraphist having made
the slight mistake of transcribing "w" for "n." The gentleman who sent a
telegram to his town house in the West End of London asking that his
covert coat might be forwarded to him was no doubt considerably
astonished when his butler returned the telegram to him by post asking
for an explanation, and he found that the text of it was "Pigs, 9/3,
8/9, and 8/-." The error was occasioned in connection with the use of
multiple addresses for a bacon-trading firm's telegrams. In another
instance a curious complication resulted through imperfect spacing on
the part of the signalling telegraphist, thus:--A telegram written by
the sender as "To ----, Fore St., Northam, Bideford. Be in attendance
Public Offices," was transcribed thus:--"To ---- forest, Northam,
Bideford. Be in at ten dance Public Offices," and, owing to the number
of words counting the same as the number signalled, the inaccuracy was
not discovered until a repetition had been obtained from the office of
origin on application of the addressee. It was printed in a Midland
newspaper that at the presentation of a sword of honour to the Sirdar
the Common Councilmen attended in their "margarine gowns," and, of
course, the error of using "margarine" for "mazarine" was put down to
the carelessness of the telegraph clerk. A telegram was sent indicating
arrival at 8 Mostyn Crescent, in a favourite North Wales town. At one
stage in transmission "Mostyn" became converted into "mostly," and at
the next office of transmission "Crescent" became "pleasant," and the
telegram when delivered read "Arrived 8 mostly pleasant." The Prime
Minister who had informed his audience that "there was no prospect of an
immediate general election, that they had a working majority, and the
Government was of good cheer," would not have been pleased had he seen
that the last word in the telegram posted up in the Bristol Commercial
Rooms had been transcribed as "of good cheek."

A telegram, "Have arranged for Sunday. Dening," with the first two words
struck out, and "arrangement complete" substituted underneath, was
handed in at a telegraph office by a well-known and much respected
Bristol clergyman. At the forwarding office the message was
unfortunately read "For Sunday Dinning arrangement complete," the
erasure and addition not having been properly understood and the proper
name misspelt. At the delivering office the message again suffered
alteration, and became "For Sunday dining arrangements complete." It may
readily be supposed that the addressee was somewhat astonished at the
peculiar text of the message.

The following is from the Bristol _Times and Mirror_ of February, 1893,
and has reference to a little inaccuracy on the part of a telegraph
assistant employed at a Bristol sub-post office. The incident itself is
correctly reported:--"Garraways, 12 o'clock. Dear Mrs. B.--Chops and
tomato sauce. Yours Pickwick," settled the hash of a well-known
character; and a wire, "Going to Bath to meet girl. Not back to dinner,"
had, very nearly, a similar effect on the domestic relations of one of
the smartest solicitors in our city. The telegraph has had, in its time,
much to answer for, "but never aught like this." When Puck said: "I'll
put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes," he little thought
what mischief he might do. It was only the other day we read how a stray
dropped line destroyed a horse, killed a cow, and cut off the head of a
nigger; but these accidents were a trifle compared with what might have
happened if the message first quoted could not have been explained. The
learned gentleman it appears has a brother, by name Gilbert, familiarly
known in the circle as "Gil." The latter, having business in Bath, wrote
asking his relative to dine with him at the "Christopher." The learned
advocate at once accepted; but, being a thoroughly domesticated man,
telegraphed to his better-half: "Going to Bath to meet Gil; not back to
dinner." Then came in the "cussedness" of the wire which substituted
"girl" for "Gil," and hence the temporary ructions when the happy
husband, having succeeded with his latchkey, sought repose.



The telegraph messengers in uniform employed in the Bristol district
number about 160. They have a literary institute, a drum and fife band,
hold swimming classes, etc. That there is need of night classes may be
inferred from the following specimens of telegraph messengers'
orthography and syntax:--

(1) "Supt, Sir, I will try to be more careful in the pass. Yours obed,
H. P----."

(2) "Supt, Sir, I having asked where the message was ment for and they
told me to go up the road where I should see a chemist shop where I
should find it about there and I having could not find it I asked, a
gentleman which he said it was farther up the road and I left it with
cotton the undertaker which he said it was quite right.--G. H----."

(3) "Supt, sir, I will try to be more extint in the future as this is
the truth.--M. T----."

(4) "Supt, Sir, I much regret not returning my report But I left it home
in my other Pocket in my overcoat which is home drying which was wet
through on Saturday last. Yours obed H. E----."

The institute was inaugurated at a public meeting at the Colston Hall on
the 1st December, 1892, which was attended by a large and influential
gathering of citizens. Upon the platform were the Mayor of Bristol (Mr.
W. R. Barker), who presided, the Very Rev. the Dean of Bristol (Dr.
Pigou), Mr. Charles Townsend, M.P., Rev. R. Cornall, Mr. R. C. Tombs
(the postmaster), Mrs. R. C. Tombs, Dr. Lansdown, jun., Miss Synge, Miss
Pollock, Messrs. John Harvey, Arthur Baker, E. G. Clarke, H. Lewis, C.
H. Tucker, R. L. Leighton, W. H. Lindrea, J. R. Bennett, E. Sampson;
also Messrs. A. J. Flewell (superintendent of the telegraph department),
W. H. Gange, J. Robertson, J. S. Gover, J. J. Mackay, H. T. Carter
(superintendent of the postal department).

It was explained that the telegraph messengers were engaged at from
thirteen to fourteen years of age, and the lessons they had learned at
school had chiefly been supplemented by a knowledge acquired in the
streets. The object was to counteract street influences by providing
elementary instruction, recreation, and interesting literature. There
was no desire to educate the boys to such a pitch that Jack would think
himself better than his master, but to take care that they should not
degenerate. It was announced that the hours of labour had just been
reduced from sixty-two to fifty per week, which would be a great boon to
the boys. It was further stated that a private appeal had been made, not
in vain, to a few of Bristol's most generous citizens, and that through
their kindly aid, with subscriptions from the members of the staff and
the grant which it was hoped to earn from the Education Department, the
institute would be carried on without pecuniary embarrassment. The
description of the institute's work was as follows:--

1. The institute would be open to the telegraph messengers and to junior
officers of the postal and telegraph service, the charge to each member
to be one penny per week.

2. The institute would be carried on in a room at the General Post

3. In connection with the institute an evening school would be held, the
educational session to last from October to May. An annual examination
of the members of the classes would be held.

4. In addition to the three elementary subjects,--reading, writing, and
arithmetic,--classes would be arranged for the study of Scripture,
geography, drawing, composition, and shorthand.

5. For the purpose of recreation certain games would be provided.

6. In connection with the institute there would be a library, which had
been formed by means of books generously given by the citizens of

7. The library would be open to any established or unestablished officer
of the postal and telegraph service at a slight subscription per month.

8. A penny savings bank would also be started.

The Chairman said he gladly consented, to preside that evening, because
the object of the meeting was one in which he took deep interest, and
one which he felt sure would commend itself to a very large number of
his fellow-citizens. He thought he might say that everything connected
with the postal service was peculiarly interesting to them all, and
anything they could do to ameliorate the lot of those who daily rendered
them such important service they would be very glad to do. He thought it
would not be well to make the movement too "goody" in its character, or
too educational, so he was glad to see that there was a lighter side to
the scheme.

Mr. Charles Townsend, M.P., Mr. Arthur Baker, Mr. Harold Lewis, Miss
Synge, and members of the postal and telegraph, staff, also spoke.

Then, the Dean of Bristol addressed the telegraph messengers, and said
he really should have been disappointed if he had not been invited to
attend the meeting. It was a pleasant part of his privilege in
ministering in Bristol to be asked to take a share in such an
interesting gathering as they were holding that evening. One of the best
features of this institute was that it would assist them to put their
leisure to the most profitable use.

The educational work has been progressing steadily ever since its
inauguration, and much good has resulted from it to the messengers.

Ever ready to give their countenance to entertainments for the benefit
of the community, their Graces the late lamented Duke, and the Dowager
Duchess, of Beaufort, as their first public act after coming to reside
at Stoke Park, near our city, attended a concert at the Redland Park
Hall, which was held for the purpose of benefiting the funds of the
Telegraph Messengers' Institute. Later on, May 21st, 1898, they were
kind enough to attend an annual meeting and a prize distribution at the
Colston Hall. The late Duke, who presided on the occasion, said it was a
great pleasure to him to be present. He had witnessed a good deal of the
care and discipline with which the Post Office messengers were looked
after. Like everybody who had a great deal of correspondence, he had the
privilege of having the services of the best regulated Post Office in
the world. They also had in this country the privilege of being able to
use the best regulated telegraph service. They might be perfectly sure
that if a man wanted to send a telegram, when once he put it into the
hands of the postal officials, however ill-written or badly addressed it
might be, it was very probable that the telegram would reach its
destination. Those who had a good deal of correspondence were deeply
indebted for the splendid organisation of the Bristol Department. They
were also very much indebted to the telegraph clerks, who deciphered the
scrawls handed them, and who transmitted the messages. They were deeply
indebted also to the boys for the way in which they refrained from
stopping to play marbles, and did their duties with great zeal, and
delivered their messages at the proper places and to the proper persons.
They would understand that they were Government officers, and that they
had to discharge important duties. He could personally say that those
duties were thoroughly well carried out in the city of Bristol and its

The Duchess of Beaufort then distributed the prizes, after which a
telegraph messenger presented Her Grace with a basket of choice flowers.

The Bishop of Bristol addressed the lads, and urged them to do their
duty thoroughly when on duty, and to enter heartily into healthy play
when off duty. In doing their duty they should remember one or two
things. They might be charged with the delivery of a message which was a
matter of life or death; it might be one regarding which thousands of
pounds depended; or it might be one of little importance. But, whatever
it was, it was not for them to enquire, but to deliver the message with
punctuality and promptness. Having spoken of the discipline and training
telegraph boys received, he observed that of all telegraph boys, for
punctuality, steadiness, courtesy, and politeness, the Bristol boys were
about the best. He urged them also to live pure lives and observe
complete honesty, that they might become worthy citizens of whom the
country might be proud. He was glad to hear the name of the lady (Miss
Pollock) who conducted the scriptural class so cordially received, which
showed that the lady and her work had taken hold of the hearts of the
boys. The excellence of their work as boys, and as men, and the
enjoyment of their lives, in the best sense, depended upon their
becoming God-fearing. He should be pleased to give a prize in connection
with the Scripture class.

The letters of the Bishop, written with reference to the occasion,
should not be left unchronicled. They ran as follows, viz.:--

  "Church House,
  Dean's Yard, S.W.,
  _May 10th, 1898_.

"MY DEAR POSTMASTER,--I am speaking at Bath on the afternoon of the
20th, and am engaged to stay the night. But I think your proposal so
important that I am writing to my host, Mr. S., to ask if he has engaged
friends to meet me. If he can excuse me, I will, if all be well, come to
you and say something.

  "Yours very truly,

  "The Athenæum,
  _May 12th, 1898_.

"MY DEAR POSTMASTER,--I have arranged to return to Bristol on the
evening of May 20, and if all be well can be with you. Send me a card of
place and hour.

  "Yours very truly,

The following extract from a letter in which His Grace wrote concerning
the meeting, is indicative of the interest which he took in matters
affecting the postal and telegraph services of Bristol, viz.:--

  "Stoke Park,
  Stapleton, near Bristol,
  _21st May, 1898_.

"DEAR MR. TOMBS,--I must write you a few lines of thanks for the very
pleasant evening you gave us last night. Both the Duchess and I enjoyed
it very much. I was remarkably struck with the appearance of your boys:
such nice, clean, smart-looking youths. What a difference drill makes to
lads! They have already a smart--soldierlike, I should call
it--appearance, and I am sure it tends to sharpen their minds as well as
to straighten their bodies.

  "Believe me to remain,
  Yours truly,

The messengers little thought as they listened to the Duke's encouraging
words, addressed to them on the occasion of the meeting, that they
would before a year had passed away be sending a modest, humble, but
loving tribute, in the form of a wreath, which was thought worthy to be
suspended over the pulpit in Badminton Church at the Duke's obsequies,
in juxtaposition with a wreath of mammoth proportions sent by the
officers of the 7th Dragoons (the Duke's old Regiment).

The Bristol telegraph messengers have cause to remember that bright
Saturday afternoon in 1895 when, preceded by their drum and fife band,
they marched out to Burfield, Westbury-on-Trym, the country residence of
Sir (then Mr.) R. H. Symes, the Mayor of Bristol. They were there
enabled to have a few hours of recreation and pleasure, and to forget
the busy hum of the city with its turmoil and heat. Following the
excellent example, Mr. Arthur Baker, of Henbury, and other country
gentlemen have invited the boys out on Saturday afternoons, to encourage
them to keep banded together for good purposes, and to maintain that
_esprit de corps_ which is so necessary in a body of youths drawn
together after the manner of the Telegraph Messengers' Class.

A most memorable occasion was that in 1897, when the messengers were
inspected by Lieutenant-Colonel MacGregor, of the 24th Middlesex R.V.C.,
London. They mustered at the Post Office, and, under the direction of
Inspectors Mawditt, Appleby (late 29th Regiment and sergeant-major
Scinde Volunteers), and Cook (late Royal Marines), and headed by their
drum and fife band, marched to the Artillery Drill Ground in Whiteladies
Road where, in presence of many visitors, military and civilian, they
were put through manual exercises, physical drill to music, and then
reviewed on the parade ground. In the speeches which followed the boys
were complimented on their efficiency and smart appearance. It was on
this occasion that it was announced the Postmaster-General had obtained
the sanction of the Treasury for a grant of money in order to encourage
telegraph messengers' institutes and drill in the large towns. Under
this scheme, prizes for proficiency in drill and general good conduct
are awarded--a system which has since been found to work admirably.



The extent of the Bristol postal establishment in 1775 may be gleaned
from the reply given by the Postmasters-General to a memorial
complaining that there was only one letter carrier for the delivery of
all the letters received in Liverpool. The answer was that only one
letter carrier was maintained in any provincial town, including the
premier city of Bristol, and that they did not think themselves
justified in incurring for Liverpool the expense of another. An
additional Bristol postman was, however, appointed between then and
January, 1778. In 1792 there were four letter carriers at Bristol, but
only two appear to have been allowed by the Department, the other two
being employed as extras, and provided for, probably, by an extra charge
on the letters delivered. The Bristol letter carriers were not supplied
with uniform clothing until 1858. Then, a hat and coat once yearly, and
a waterproof cape once in two years, were given to them. The uniform
clothing was not supplied to the auxiliary letter carriers. Bags or
pouches for the men to carry for the protection of the letters were at
that time provided.

In 1859 the postmen wore scarlet uniform and issued out from the Post
Office three times daily to traverse the length and breadth of the city
in the distribution of letters. In 1899 the "men in blue" sally forth
six times every day.

In the postmen's department there are now seven inspectors and three
hundred and seventy postmen. The delivery of letters in the town
district is made from the head office. There is a branch delivering
office at Clifton, but those at North Street and Phippen Street were
long since abandoned. In the Bristol postal district, sixty years ago,
there were fewer than 20,000 letters delivered in a week, or about
1,000,000 in a year--a number now nearly reached in a week. The letters
delivered annually from the Central Post Office number 31,000,000; from
the Clifton Post Office, 6,250,000; from the suburban offices and rural
offices, 7,300,000. It is a noteworthy fact that the letters posted in
Bristol for delivery within its own limit form 27 per cent. of the
total number, which percentage is only surpassed at two or three of the
large cities of the Kingdom. Six deliveries of letters and five
deliveries of parcels are made in the city, with ten collections. The
average number of persons to whom letters are delivered by each postman
in Bristol (city) is 1,800. There are 666,536 parcels delivered
annually. To each of two firms are delivered more than one quarter of a
million letters annually, equal to one hundredth part of the total
number of letters delivered.

The distances from the head office to the extreme outward terminal City
and Clifton delivery points are as follows:--Westbury Park, 2-1/2 miles;
Horfield Barracks, 3 miles; Ridgeway, 2-1/2 miles; Barton Hill, 1-3/4
miles; Arno's Vale, 1-3/4 miles; Totterdown, 2 miles; Bedminster Down, 2
miles; Ashton Gate, 2 miles; and Clifton Suspension Bridge, 1-1/2 miles.
The trams are used by the postmen, and the Department pays the Tramways
Company a lump sum in respect thereof. The convenience in this respect
will be enhanced when the electric traction system is fully introduced.

In the sorting office the letters are sorted to the various rounds by
postmen dividers, and the general body of postmen then have to arrange
them at their desks seated on little revolving stools. The process
adopted by the postmen in setting in their letters for delivery may be
explained by the following example relating to what is technically known
as the "Cotham Brow Walk." The letters are first primarily divided
(upright) into streets, roads, squares, courts, etc., taken thus--viz.:
(_a_) Sydenham Road, 1 to 18 (one side only); (_b_) Sydenham Hill, 45 to
11, odd numbers (one side only); (_c_) Tamworth Place 13 to 1 (one side
only); (_d_) Arley Hill, 2 to 34 and 5 to 27 (cross); (_e_) Arley Park
(cross); (_f_) Arley Hill, 36 and 38 and 29 to 41 (cross); (_g_) Cotham
Brow, 124 to 88 and 125 to 27 (cross); (_h_) Southfield Road, 2 to 28
and 1 to 27 (cross); (_i_) Upper Sydenham Road, 38 to 19 (one side
only); (_j_) Springfield Road, 47 to 85, odd numbers (one side only).
Then the letters for one of the above-named ten divisions or streets are
taken one by one and placed in order of actual delivery flat on the
table; then all are gathered together and stood upright, the letters
for each division being treated in like manner. When the letters for
any one street or road, etc., have been set in order, fresh batches of
letters of, say, thirty or so, are fully sub-divided by the same process
before being set in with the accumulated and finished letters. This
course is necessary in order to obviate the postman having to go through
a set of fifty or a hundred letters time after time as he gets a fresh
batch of letters. Two hours are allowed for the morning delivery and one
and a half hours for other deliveries. As those who have the longest
rounds have the lightest burdens, they all contrive to finish at about
the same time.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge, which was erected in 1864 at a cost of
£100,000, plays a very unimportant part in postal affairs, as it serves
for the passage over the Avon of three postmen only, who cross with
letters for the Leigh Woods and Failand districts. Long Ashton, which
has a carriage road approached by the bridge from the Clifton side,
receives its letters by a postman who crosses by a ferry lower down the
river and reaches his destination more expeditiously than by crossing
over the bridge.

A Bristol postman, who was well acquainted with the locality which he
had to serve, met with an ugly accident through colliding with a
lamp-post, recently erected and not supplied with gas for lighting up.
It had been put up during the man's interval of duty, so that he came
upon it for the first time when it was shrouded in darkness. The
postmen, having in the discharge of their duties to be early birds and
to be first out and about in the morning, often pick up articles lost or
deposited overnight. Thus it was that a postman found on one winter's
morn in a Bristol suburb a parcel containing the dead body of a child,
and had to constitute himself a corpse-carrier for the nonce. It was in
this city of Bristol that the following somewhat amusing and certainly
interesting incident took place. Two rats were found in combat over a
letter, which, delivered in due course by the postman, had fallen upon
the floor at the entrance to a warehouse, and had been dragged thence to
the spot where the rodents were engaged in their fierce encounter, the
gum on the flap probably being the attraction. The letter contained a
cheque for £300, and its loss for some days caused no small amount of
consternation and anxiety to the gentleman who should have received it,
and who, it need scarcely be said, at once gave orders for a letter-box
to be attached to his warehouse door.

It was well for the Magistrates' Clerk for the Gloucestershire Division
of Bristol that he was well known to the postman, or assuredly he would
never have received the letter addressed thus: "Mr. Latchem Laforegat
pleace stashun," the proper address being: "Mr. Latcham, Lawford's Gate
Police Station, Stapleton Road, Bristol."

Recently many valuable dogs were poisoned in different parts of the
city, and a suggestion appeared in the newspapers that the postmen might
be urged to constitute themselves amateur detectives for the discovery
of the miscreants, on the ground that they enter every garden and knock
at every door throughout the length and breadth of Bristol, and that at
early morn and late at night as well as by day. The postmen are public
spirited, but it is hardly likely that they would go considerably out of
their way for the purpose, considering the risks which they run from
dogs and the annoyances to which they are subjected to by them. The
postmen have to face the snappish terrier and the ferocious-looking
bulldog. Not infrequently they get bitten, and more frequently get
soundly abused if, for their own protection, they belabour a dog
occasionally, or give it a taste of their belt for want of a better
weapon of defence or offence. Reciprocity would demand that if the
postmen look out for dog poisoners, the owners of dogs on their part
should take the utmost care to keep their dogs properly secured when
known to be dangerous or to have a special dislike to the public
servants in blue. The bold announcement given on the pillar of a gateway
of a residence in a fashionable suburb of Bristol, "Beware of the
bulldog," is not calculated to give confidence to the postmen who have
to deliver the letters. One poor dog, well known in the city, fell dead
in Small Street; and as the dog had just been seen to visit the Post
Office, and even to drink from a Bristol Dogs' Home trough standing in
the portico, it was assumed by the many spectators of the poodle's sad
death that he had come to an untimely end through drinking poisoned
water from the Post Office trough. The vessel was therefore confiscated
by an over-zealous supporter of the Dogs' Home, and the water was
subjected to analysis, but investigation proved that it was innocuous,
although from an examination it transpired that the dog really had died
from poison, which had, however, been taken in meat.

A London firm made indignant enquiry as to why a letter had been
returned to them through the Returned Letter Office, seeing that it was
addressed to a well-known and distinguished baronet living near Bristol.
It turned out that the right hon. gentleman was himself the cause of the
return of the letter, as he read the contracted words "Rt. Honb.," in a
line preceding his own name, as the name of "Robt. Hunt," a person who
lived near his mansion, and he gave the letter back to the postman with
the foregoing result. In 1847 a letter indicative of the times, with the
following superscription, as noticed in the post:--"To the Post Office,
Bristol, Somersetshire, England, 115 miles west of London, this letter
is to be delivered to the Ladey that transported Jobe Smith and 2 others
with him near Bristol." Members of the public complain from time to time
in indignant terms respecting the loss of letters in the post, but in
very many instances they afterwards write in meeker strain to say they
have discovered the missing letters--in most unlikely places in their

At a dinner given by officials of the Bristol Post Office, the Dean of
Bristol bestowed praise on the postmen for success in conveying
ill-addressed letters to their destination. Dr. Pigou cited their
performances in his own case. He had been addressed as Pigue, Picken,
Pigon, Pigour, Pickles, Peggue, Puegon, Ragou, and Pagan. That
"Ragou"--not being a name beginning with "P"--should have reached him,
he thought could only be explained as the result either of a flash of
inspiration or of the recollection of previous "hashes" of his name; but
"Pickles" evidently got home on the mere strength of its initial letter,
and though, as he complained, it is hard lines to be addressed as "Dr.
Pagan" after having been thirty or forty years in orders, the written
word would much more nearly resemble his real name than several of the
other addresses which did find him. "The Head Gamekeeper, the Deanery,
Bristol," was, of course, mysterious. The letter contained a circular
advertising wire netting for pheasants, rabbits, and hares; and when the
Dean replied, pointing out that the only space available on his
premises--an area of 30 ft. by 40 ft.--was too small to rear pheasants
in, he received, a further circular recommending a trial of "our dog
biscuits." Occasionally, also, the local postmen meet with letters so
peculiarly addressed as that for "Mr. ----, Oction her and Countent,
Corn Street, Bristol," and another for "Chowl, near Temple," intended
for "Cholwell, near Temple Cloud." The postmen collect, too, letters
peculiarly addressed to other places.

There are still a few postmen veterans in the Bristol Post Office who
are toiling on long after having exceeded their "three score years."
Doubtless these aged men excite sympathy as they are seen on their daily
rounds, and the thought presents itself to the public mind that the Post
Office is harsh to make them labour when so far advanced in years. Such
is not the case, however, as the men, unfortunately not being entitled
to pensions, have been allowed to continue to perform their duties long
after pensionable established men would have been retired, either
willingly or compulsorily, under the regulations which now call for a
Civil servant's retirement to be considered his reaching the age of
sixty years. These old worthies are not Post Office short-service men;
but, as their good conduct stripes testify, they have for long years
served their Queen and country.

J. S., one of these life-long toilers, who worked as an uncovenanted
postman for many years, commenced his career in the navy. When fifteen
years of age (1844) he joined the gunnery ship _Excellent_ at
Portsmouth, Captain (afterwards Admiral) Chade being then in command.
After serving two years, he was transferred to the old _Conway_, then
engaged in putting down the slave trade in East African waters; and
after three years on board that vessel he went to the brig _Helena_, and
was with her in the West Indies for several years. In about 1854 he was
passed to the _Britannia_ for Mediterranean service. While sailing from
Gibraltar to Malta, S. met with a serious accident. Being considered a
smart young man, he was ordered by the captain to assist another "A.B."
to rig the topgallant yard-arm. While thus at work he fell from the
maintopmast cross-trees into the main rigging, again to the main chains,
and then overboard--a drop in all of 120 feet. A boat was lowered
promptly, and he was soon picked up, but he was in an insensible
condition. It was found on examination by the ship's surgeon that his
skull was fractured. He went into hospital on arrival at Malta, and
there he remained six months. Shortly after the accident, the
_Britannia_, which was the Admiral's flagship, was ordered to the Crimea
(1855), and not only did the seaman who took over S.'s gun meet with his
death by the shells from the fortifications at Sebastopol, but the whole
of the gallant tars fighting on the starboard side of the ship were
killed. S. was taken to London on board the _Growler_ (Sir Charles
Wood), the first steamer he had ever seen, and was incapacitated for two
or three years, but fortunately he obtained a pension on having to leave
the navy. He was engaged in private life till 1878, when, at the age of
49 years, he was given Post Office work, on which he was employed for
twenty years, and, indeed, until he again came to grief through an
accident when on duty at Christmas, 1898. On this occasion he was
knocked over by a cart in Victoria Street, which ran into the parcel
handcart S. was wheeling, and which sent him flying into the mud and his
parcels all about in the road. This put an end to his Post Office
career, and the old man, with disabled body from his first accident and
somewhat impaired faculty from the latter, has now sunk back into
seclusion, and it is hoped that he may end his days in peace. Except for
three weeks' illness caused by influenza, he was never away on sick
leave out of his twenty years of Post Office service. Not once was S.
late at work. He was, he says, always out of bed at 3 a.m., and so
punctual was he known to be that the remark was often made when he
entered the office, that "We know what time it is without looking at the
clock." On leaving the Post Office service this year (1899) a small
gratuity was awarded him.

S. T., although in his 71st year, managed up till quite recently to
perform Post Office work for a few hours daily. From early boyhood up to
his 22nd year, T. was engaged at shoemaking in this city; then he
enlisted and served as gunner and driver in the Royal Horse Artillery
for three years. Having obtained his discharge from the army, he acted
as policeman on the Great Western Railway for a few months. At the time
of the Crimean War, T. again enlisted, this time as a seaman and gunner
in Her Majesty's Navy. He was disabled in action and discharged with a
life pension. For the next twenty-seven years he followed his former
occupation of shoemaking and rounding, working for about twenty years
for one firm in this city. When 53 years of age, he first obtained
employment in the Post Office, working for a few hours daily, and
receiving 10s. per-week. He is a member of the Crimean and Indian
Veterans' Association.

A Bristol Post Office benefit society was established in March, 1861. It
became the Bristol Letter Carriers' Sick Benefit Society in 1862, and
was carried on under that title up to 1890 when it ceased.

Early in the year of 1896, the remains of the late Thomas Rutley, one of
the oldest of Bristol postmen, were interred at Greenbank Cemetery.
About one hundred postmen, headed by the Post Office band, were in
attendance to mark their sympathy, and respect to his memory. The Rev.
Moffat Logan conducted the service. Such a mark of respect is not always
accorded to deceased Post Office servants. The writer recollects on a
bright summer day having attended the funeral at Highgate Cemetery of
one of the oldest and most respected superintendents in the Post Office,
London. The good man was so much liked by those who served under him
that he had gained for himself the name of "Honest John," yet there was
only one other official besides the writer to stand by his graveside.

The postmen have a military band, composed of thirty members of their
own staff. The primary object is to advance the art of music in the Post
Office, and, secondarily, to provide concerts in the open spaces in
Bristol for the benefit of the public. A grand concert is given by the
band every year, which is usually attended by some 3,000 of the
inhabitants, attracted chiefly by the popularity of the Post Office and
by the fame of artistes so eminent as Madame Ella Russell, Madame Fanny
Moody, Mr. Plunkett Greene, and others, who have from time to time been

The "D" Company of the 1st Volunteer Battalion Gloucester Regiment is
composed almost exclusively of members of the Bristol Post Office. For
three years in succession, (1894-5-6), this company won the first prize
in the drill competition and also first prize and challenge vase in the
volley firing competition. The company challenge bowl and first prize,
and the brigadier's cup and third prize in the Western District of
England, were also won by the company during the same period. For many
years the Bristol Post Office has had two out of the nine
representatives of the battalion competing for the Queen's Prize. The
company has also been well represented in all the battalion and county
shooting matches. Of the eight battalion signallers, five are Post
Office men, who have on several occasions held first place in the
Volunteer service annual examinations.

The postmen of Bristol maintain for the winter months two of the old
veterans who are under the auspices of the Crimean and Indian Mutiny
Veterans' Association.

Mr. Goodenough Taylor, one of the proprietors of the _Times and Mirror_
newspaper, has kindly given a Ten Guinea Challenge Cup, to be raced for
by Bristol postmen who use bicycles in connection with their Post Office
business of delivering and collecting letters. The cup has to be won
three years, not necessarily in succession, before it becomes the
postman's sole property. The terms under which the competition for the
cup is held are as follows, viz.:--"Competitors to be postmen of any
age or rank; appointed, unestablished, auxiliary, or sub-postmaster's
assistant, of not less than two years' service, who have never won a
prize in public competition. Competitors to be certified as having in
the course of the preceding twelve months, under official sanction or
direction, ridden 150 miles in the execution of their official duties,
or to and from the office when attending duty. The race to be a handicap
race of two miles, to take place on the Gloucestershire County Ground or
other enclosure during each year. The postmaster, assisted by experts
in the Post Office service, to be the handicapper. The handicap to be
framed on points of age, physical ability, and regard to be had to the
weight or kind of bicycle to be used in competition." Postman Newman,
of Coalpit Heath, was the winner this year (1899).

The postmen have a library, consisting now of some 700 volumes. It was
started in 1892. The writer made an appeal through the local press for
gifts of books to form the nucleus of a library for the postmen and
telegraph messengers attached to the Bristol Post Office. This appeal
was liberally and promptly responded to by the residents of Bristol and
Clifton. Warmest thanks are due to the newspaper proprietors for their
kindness in inserting paragraphs relating to the subject, as, but for
their powerful co-operation in the matter, the movement could not have
been brought to a successful issue. A well-known literary gentleman at
Clifton gave eighty volumes, Mr. Harold Lewis, B.A., showed his interest
in the movement by the donation of 200 copies; and Mr. J. W. Arrowsmith
has frequently given fifty volumes at a time. The postmen themselves
manage the library, and contribute small sums weekly towards its
maintenance and further development.



The three hundred and fifty pillar and wall letter boxes are placed at
convenient points, regard being had to the wants of the immediate
neighbourhood that each has to serve--to approach by paved crossings, to
contiguity to a public lamp, to being out of the way of pedestrians and
as far removed from mud-splashing as possible. At the same time, the
inspectors endeavour to place the boxes so that they may be an
attraction, rather than an eyesore, to the spot where erected.

The sign of "The Pillar Box" has been given to a public-house before
which a Post Office box stands. Occasionally the Post Office letter
boxes are greatly misused. Some little time since a woman in Bristol was
savage enough to drop oil of vitriol, nitric acid, and other dangerous
fluids into the boxes. She even poured paraffin into the letter box at a
post office, and dropped an ignited match in after it. A conflagration
was only averted by the fortunate circumstance of the postman clearing
the box just in time to extinguish the commencing fire. The woman's
determination is evidenced from the fact that her hands were severely
burned by the strong acid she used; but, notwithstanding this, she
continued night after night to carry on her dastardly work. She was
found out after much anxious watching, and having, on trial, been found
guilty, she was sentenced by a lenient judge to six months'
imprisonment. She would assign no reason for her incomprehensible
behaviour even when asked by the judge in court. Not infrequently,
mischievous children place lighted matches, rubbish, etc., in the Post
Office letter boxes, and in the letter boxes of private houses and
warehouses. The Post Office officials are always on the alert to
discover the delinquents. It is desirable also that the public, in their
own interests, should call the attention of postmen and the police at
once to any case in which they may observe letter boxes being tampered
with. It may not be generally known that offences of this kind are
punishable by imprisonment under the Post Office Protection Act.

A remarkable case was that of a servant who was a somnambulist, and who
for some time wrote letters in her sleep, night after night, and took
them to adjacent letter boxes to post. Sometimes she was fully attired,
and at other times only partially so. As a rule, the letters were
properly addressed, but the girl did not always place postage stamps
upon them.

Occasionally the postmen have to encounter the difficulties arising from
a frost-bound letter box. Such a case occurred with a box situated on
the summit of the Mendip Hills. The letter box and the wall in which the
box is built were found by the postman to be covered with ice, caused by
rain and snow having frozen on them. The door resisted all his efforts
to open it, and he had to leave it for the night. On making another
effort when morning came, it taxed his ingenuity and that of other
interested and willing helpers to get the box open. Hot water was tried,
paraffin was poured into the lock, and it was only after a hammer had
been used and a fire in a movable grate had been applied for a time that
the lid could be opened.

A letter box erected in a brick pillar in a secluded spot on the East
Harptree road, about a mile distant from any habitation, was, late one
night, damaged to the extent of having its iron door completely smashed
off, apparently either by means of a large stone which lay at its base
when the violation was discovered, or by means of a hammer and jemmy.
Although the adjacent ground, ditches, and hedges were searched, no
trace of the iron door could be found. As three roysterers were known to
have passed the box on the night in question, it was assumed that the
damage was done by them out of pure mischief and not from any desire to
rob Her Majesty's mails. Whether such were the case or not, they had the
unpleasant experience of being locked up over the Sunday on suspicion.



The Bristol postal area is an extensive one, the distance from point to
point being thirty miles, with width ranging from five to twelve miles.
It is bounded on one side by the river Severn, from a point about five
miles below Sharpness to a point close to Portishead; thence the
boundary stretches across country to the Mendip Hills, up to Cheddar
Cliffs; then from a point four miles north-east of Wells to
Newton-St.-Loe, near Bath; across the river Avon, under Lansdown, thence
in a line by Pucklechurch, Iron Acton, and Thornbury across to the
starting-point on the Severn. The large rural area is for the greater
part agricultural in character, but there are collieries and stone
quarries in some few districts.

At the Bristol town and rural sub-Post Offices there are 554 assistants
of all kinds employed. Many rural sub-postmasters act as postmen; in
the main it is a healthy occupation, and proves a very good antidote to
sedentary employment, although there are hardships to be borne, as the
toil has to be undergone in all weathers--the scorching sun of summer,
the pitiless cold of winter--in rain, hail, and snow. In connection With
the Early Closing Movement, at some of the outer Post Offices business
is suspended at 5.0 on one day in the week--usually Wednesday.

In the suburban and rural districts there are 105 sub-Post Offices, and
78 of them are letter delivery offices, served by an aggregate number of
226 postmen. Of the 78 districts, 42 have two daily deliveries 28 three,
and 6 four, with about a corresponding number of collections.

The sorting clerks and telegraphists at head-quarters gain some sort of
acquaintance with sub-postmasters through daily communication by mail
bag and wire; also in the passage of reports and counter-reports; but
occasionally people performing postal work throughout the extensive
Bristol district are brought into closer harmony and touch with each
other by means of social functions, such as "outings" and Bristol
Channel steamer trips, when town and country officials take their
pastime in company, and the sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses of
the Somersetshire portion of the district get acquainted with those of
the Gloucestershire side, and all with the head office officials. By
these means of friendly intercourse and interchange of kindly feeling,
the service is much benefited. As an indication of this exchange of
courtesy, the felicitations exchanged by telegram when the first annual
trip by steamer to Ilfracombe was taken ran thus:--

"From Postmaster, Bristol.--Pleasant journey to you. Long may
Sub-Postmasterly friendship continue."

"From Sub-Postmasters at Ilfracombe.--Telegram received. Thanks for good
wishes. Have just drank your good health. Pleasant trip. Regret your
absence extremely.--Sub-Postmasters."

The Bristol Post Office has only recently had electric light introduced,
but the squire of East Harptree had long before set the good example of
progress by having the Post Office in his village illuminated by
electricity. In the Bristol area very many villages have their little
counterpart of the huge combination shops in London, where the villager
is enabled to procure everything that his modest income will allow him
to purchase. It is at these village "Whiteleys" that the Post Office is
generally to be found, and a surveying officer may soon become well
versed in the qualities of bacon, cheese, bread, flour, candles, and get
a knowledge of rakes, prongs, and besoms, without much difficulty. In
other instances no business except that of Post Office work is carried

The picture of the sub-Post Office at Cribbs Causeway, five miles from
Bristol, may give our readers who are "in cities pent" an idea of a
delightful place for the sale of postage stamps and postal orders and
the distribution of letters. This unique Post Office has few houses
anywhere near it, but it serves a large, albeit very sparsely populated,
area. Some of its interest rests in the fact that it was formerly the
half-way inn on the once important highway from Bristol to New Passage,
for the ferry over the Severn into South Wales. Some of our elderly
readers may probably recollect it as the stopping stage of the coaches
which ran prior to the introduction of the railway system. The sub-Post
Office, which stands on high ground, is held by two sisters, who went to
it as a health resort from a farm in the low-lying Severn marsh. They
act as postwomen, and brisk exercise and the early morning dew has
brought such roses to their cheeks as would be envied by their Post
Office sisters whose fate it is to reside in smoke-begrimed regions.


Although some of the Bristol district villages are situated at a long
distance from town and remote from main roads, yet only one of the Post
Offices presents the primitive condition of having a thatched roof. None
of the rural postmen now avail themselves on their journeys of the
services of that faithful creature, the donkey; but the last animal so
used was on the road until 1890, when its master, poor Sims, the
Congresbury to Shipham postman, shuffled off this mortal coil. Times
change, and our manners change with them; so also do our tests for gold
coins. At the Wrington Post Office there are brass testing weights, for
sovereigns and half-sovereigns, inscribed "Royal Mint, 1843," such as
have not been observed by the writer at any other Post Office, either in
the Bristol district or in London. A certain sub-postmistress in the
district has for many years been in the habit of keeping her sheets of
reserve postage stamps in a large Family Bible. Not that she is
irreverent--indeed, she is a pious woman,--but, being a lone widow, she
has kept them in that manner for safety, as she imagines that no burglar
would look for them in such a depository.

[Illustration: MR. EDWARD BIDDLE.

(_Sub-Postmaster of Rudgeway._)

_Photographed by Mr. Protheroe, Narrow Wine Street, Bristol, from an oil

A notable man in his day was Edward Biddle, on the Thornbury side of
Bristol. Mr. Biddle was sub-postmaster of Rudgeway for over forty years,
and occupied the post until his death in 1889, at the ripe age of 91
years, when he was succeeded by his daughter, and she, in turn, was
succeeded by his son, William Biddle, who still holds the appointment.
Prior to becoming sub-postmaster, Mr. Edward Biddle was "Pike" keeper at
Stone, and used to pay £752 per annum for his post. There he had to open
his gate to no fewer than twenty mail coaches daily, on their way
between Bristol and Gloucester. At Rudgeway he carried on the joint
occupation of sub-postmaster and innkeeper, at a tavern where the Post
Office business had been conducted for many years before he succeeded to
it; but the innkeeping business had in course of time to be given up,
under Post Office regulations. Mr. Elstone, of Alveston House, wrote
expressing his satisfaction that the Post Office was to be carried on at
a private house, and not as previously at a "roadside pothouse," which
all the district considered a very improper place. At that time John
Blann and other stage carriers drove their unwieldy waggons, drawn by
four strong cart-horses at a walking pace, along the Gloucester turnpike
road. The waggons were indeed the goods trains of olden times. The
present sub-postmaster, the son of Edward Biddle, who has had for many
years to use "Shanks's" pony in the delivery of letters, was engaged in
olden times in going on horseback down to the Passage to take, in
saddlebags, the mails for South Wales and receive them therefrom. As
late as 1850, letters from Rudgeway for Bristol were impressed with a
stamp thus:--

  4 JA 50.

Mr. James Tiley, the village blacksmith of Clutton, now an octogenarian,
calls to mind that sixty years ago the letters for Clutton, Temple
Cloud, Stowey, Bishop Sutton and adjacent districts were delivered from
Old Down, a hamlet on the main coach road from Bath to Wells, distant
from Tyburn Turnpike, London, 121 miles. Mr. Tiley has had the luxury of
paying 10d. for a letter brought from London by the above means; and as
it was dear to him at the time, it is dear to him now in another sense
as a reminiscence of the past. Mr. Tiley recalls the sending of letters
of the district by waggoners to Bristol or Bath to save the postage, and
slyly remarks: "So stupid were the waggoners that as often as not they
brought the letters back again, having forgotten to--what Post Office
people now term--'properly dispose of them.'" Also that Joseph Tippett,
a postman of the olden time, was brutally assaulted on Stowey Hill, and
nearly lost his life and his letters. His assailants were discovered
and were transported for life. The Old Down postman was timed to reach
Temple Cloud Bridge at 12.0, and always blew horn or whistle to let the
village schoolmaster know the time of day. During the Bristol riots the
arrival of the mail every morning was eagerly awaited by persons far and
near, anxious to hear the latest news.

So recently as the year 1867, a postman had to trudge right away from
Bristol to the distant village of Chew Stoke, having to breast the steep
hill of Dundry and pass through Chew Magna on his way. All the letters
and newspapers then delivered at Bishopsworth, Dundry, Chew Magna and
Chew Stoke were carried by this man. Now, with the introduction of the
parcel post and a cheaper letter post, and consequently increased
weight, the morning mail is carried in a mail cart, and that service is
supplemented by two or three other despatches to Chew Magna and Chew
Stoke by train _viâ_ Pensford. The hamlets of Breach Hill, Moreton and
Herons Green were at that time unserved by the postman officially, and
if delivered privately by him he charged for them at the rate of an
extra penny each. The residents in those outlying districts who did not
get their letters delivered in that way, and who did not call for them
at the Chew Stoke Post Office, usually obtained them--two, three, or
four days old--from the postman on Sundays, who stationed himself at the
church door to oblige such worshippers. Some of the older country
postmen say that in by-gone days the poor people, unable to read
themselves, considered it part of a postman's duty to read their letters
for them, and they looked for sympathy from the postmen in case of
receipt of bad news. The Chew Stoke postman had a walk, in and out, of
over twenty miles, and had to carry whatever load there was for the
route. The pay attached to the post was small. This was in the good (?)
days of not so long ago, but the postman who then had to take the
journey is by no means anxious for a return to them, for now he receives
double the amount of pay then allowed. He was out from five o'clock in
the morning till seven or eight o'clock at night; but now he performs
his eight hours' duty straight off, and has, therefore, more time at
home for his private purposes.

When, about eight years since, there was a deep fall of snow in this
district, the West Town postman, who is likewise sub-postmaster, very
considerably added to his labours by carrying tea, sugar, medicine, and
even bread to the people on the Mendips, who were snowed up and deserted
by baker, butcher, grocer, and indeed by everyone except the faithful
Queen's messenger. The floods of November, 1894, which proved very
disastrous in the West of England, interfered in no small degree with
Post Office arrangements in the rural districts around Bristol. In some
villages the roads were submerged from three to four feet, and it was
impossible for the public to get to the letter boxes, the postmen and
postwomen being, perhaps, the greatest sufferers. In order to avoid
flooded roads, it was necessary to change routes and make long detours.
Many postmen were compelled to wade through the water waist deep, whilst
others had to be driven through in horse and cart. The inhabitants and
farmers in many places kindly lent their horses and carts for the
purpose, and but for these kindnesses the letters would have been
delayed for many hours. In spite of all difficulties, the letters were
generally delivered without much delay, and only in a few cases had the
letters to be held over for any length of time until the waters had


A tit made her nest in the bottom of a Post Office letter box at
Winterbourne, near Bristol, laid her eggs, and notwithstanding that
letters were posted in the box and that the box was cleared by the
postman everyday, the bird tenaciously held to her nest and brought up
five young tits, two of which perished in their attempts to get out of
the box by means of the small posting aperture through which their
mother had squeezed so frequently, carrying with her all the materials
for the nest. The three survivors flew off one day when the door of the
box was purposely left open for a time by the obliging postman portrayed
in the picture.

That all is not gold that glitters has been recently brought home to
three or four of the sub-postmasters in the Bristol district, a
"sharper" having presented coins gilded to represent sovereigns and
half-sovereigns, and obtained Postal Orders in exchange for them.
Through the vigilance of the Bristol police the offender was eventually
taken into custody, and, having been sentenced at the Assizes to six
months' imprisonment, he had plenty of time to reflect on his offences.
A bright, shining new farthing was received at the Bristol head office,
sent inadvertently in a remittance from a sub-office as a
half-sovereign, and mixed up with coins of that value, only to be
detected, however, by the vigilant check clerk. The sub-postmaster who
accepted it in error for a coin of more precious metal, and did not
discover the mistake even in preparing the remittance, had to bear the

One sub-postmaster, who has now departed this life, was wont to furnish
his explanations and reports in rhyme, a course which was tolerated on
account of its singularity and of the writer's zeal and known devotion
to his duty. The following is an example:--


    "I willingly answer the question
      Respecting the length of the track
    From Shirehampton P.O. to Kingsweston
      House front door, or lodge at the back;
    But respecting the relative merits
      Of back door, or door at the front,
    As delivery door, I aver it's
      A question I cannot but shunt.
    To return to the question of distance:
      Suppose that the birds of the air,
    Sworn in as Post Office assistants,
      To Kingsweston would messages bear:
    As straight through their skiey dominions
      They flew from front door to front door,
    The length of the track of their pinions
      In yards would be 1224.
    When a featherless biped is bearer,
      And through the lone woods his path picks,
    The feet of this weary wayfarer
      Cover yards quite 1466.
    Should the wight have a key, there's a second
      Way thro' the sunk fence's locked gate,
    And then his poor feet must be reckoned
      To make yards 1388.
    As regards the back door, I pass by it;
      The back lodge itself is much less
    Than a mile, howsomdever you try it,
      By Shirehampton Post Office Express.
    I do not pretend to correctness,
      To one yard or even a dozen;
    No need for extreme circumspectness,
      The margin's too ample to cozen.
    I'm obliged by your flattering reference,
      And when you've another dispute on,
    I shall still be, with all proper deference,
      Your obedient Servant,--G. NEWTON."

The turnpike gates in the neighbourhood of Bristol were abolished in
October, 1867, and the consequence was that the proprietors of the
various omnibuses by which day mail bags were conveyed to and from
several of the districts around Bristol applied for, and obtained, a
money payment in lieu of the tolls, the exemption, from which had formed
the sole remuneration for the services performed.

The Bristol mail carts running to the rural districts, by permission of
the Post Office, carry for the newspaper proprietors bundles of papers,
weighing on an average on ordinary days 40 lbs., and on Saturdays 80
lbs. The enterprise of the Bristol newspaper proprietors in circulating
by private means the many thousands of the newspapers which they daily
print is evidenced, from the circumstance that they find it necessary to
commit to the agency of the Post Office only about 160 copies for
distribution, and that chiefly in remote rural districts.

Sub-postmasters in the rural districts of Bristol attain to great ages.
The sub-postmaster of Mangotsfield, who had long since passed
three-score years and ten, had his cross to bear, having at 60 entirely
lost his eyesight. Although blind, and unable to work in consequence, he
quaintly appeared in his apron to the end, and said that having worn it
for so many years he did not feel happy without it. A daughter acted as
his deputy, and mitigated, as far as possible, his hard lot. At his
funeral some hundreds of people, representing various religious and
other bodies, attended to pay their last tribute of respect to him.

At Bitton, a village midway between Bristol and Bath, there died
Sub-postmaster James Brewer, in the 87th year of his age, and in the
fifty-seventh year of his Post Office service. It was more pleasant to
enter this Post Office and find the old man calmly smoking his
churchwarden pipe before the fire, cheery and chatty, than to have such
a welcome as that afforded at another office by the exhibition on the
Post Office counter of a miniature coffin and artificial wreaths for
graves. Another worthy of local Post Office fame has lately passed away
in the person of Join Warburton, aged 84, who for thirty years was the
sub-postmaster of Henbury, and who for five years was his daughter's
adviser after her succession to the appointment. The sub-postmaster of
the village of High Littleton lost an arm some fifty years ago, but
notwithstanding that affliction he manages with adroitness to sell
postage stamps and issue postal orders to the public. This will not be
considered a very great feat, considering that he has been for years a
crack one-handed shot, and even now, at the age of 70, can bowl over a
pheasant or a rabbit quite as readily as many of our sportsmen who have
the use of both arms.

Sub-postmistresses of great longevity are also to be found. One dame
(Martha Pike), now in her 93rd year, represented the Department until
quite recently in the charming little village of Wraxall. When nearly
90 years old she had a three hour letter round every morning up hill and
down dale, and she even trudged a mile and a half to fetch a letter and
parcel mail from the railway station. The sub-postmistress of Stoke
Bishop died at the age of 84; she and her father had held the Post
Office in the village for over fifty years. An equally remarkable case
was that of Hannah Vowles, the sub-postmistress of Frenchay, who, after
performing the active duties of that position in the village of Frenchay
for forty-seven years, resigned when within five years of 100 years old.
In her youth she lived for some time in the West Indies; but she gave up
her employment there in order to return home to support her mother, who
was 90 years of age when she died. Mrs. Hannah was succeeded in the
office of sub-postmistress by Miss Kate Vowdes, a relation, who had
already been postwoman in the same district forty-two years!

[Illustration: HANNAH BREWER.


Hannah Brewer is one of the Bristol Post Office worthies. Her father was
the sub-postmaster of the village of Bitton alluded to herein. Hannah
commenced to deliver letters in the hamlets and at the farmhouses near
Bitton when a mere child, and continued to do so during all the years
our gracious Sovereign has sat on the throne. Recently, however, she had
to give up the work, as, having attained the advanced age of 72 years
and walked her quarter of a million of miles, she felt that she ought
to take life more easily than hitherto. In distance her round was eleven
miles daily, and the route was a very trying one on account of the steep
hills she had to traverse, and of great exposure to the sun in summer,
and to the wind, frost, and snow in winter. It may be interesting to
record that Hannah Brewer, although she had to serve a district sparsely
populated, was never robbed, stopped, nor molested in any way. She was
the recipient of the first official waterproof clothing issued to
postwomen in England, and in her picture she is represented as wearing
it. She only occasionally made visits even to places so near as Bath or
Bristol, and was, as a rule, a stay at home.

She was not a great reader of the newspapers, but persons on her round
looked to her as an oracle, and derived information from her as to
passing events. Hannah naively says that, as regards Christmas boxes,
she fared very well in olden times, but they were not so plentiful in
her later years. Hannah, through her devotion to her father when he was
alive, and through her assiduous attention to her duties as a humble
servant of the Crown, had gained the respect of all those who knew her,
both in her native village and on the long round she daily had to
traverse. As she served the Post Office throughout her long life (her
memory carrying her back to the days when the letters reached Bitton by
mail coach and a "single" letter from London cost 10d.), it is
gratifying that in her old age, when unable to continue to do her daily
round, the Lords of the Treasury, under her exceptional circumstances,
granted her half-pay pension, a sum which, with her savings, will serve
to maintain her until the end of her days. The writer has had few more
pleasurable duties than that which he undertook of presenting Hannah, in
her neat and trim cottage, with her first pension warrant.

At the celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in the village, the
opportunity was taken, in the midst of the festivities, to make a
presentation of an elegant marble clock and purse to Miss Brewer. The
inscription ran: "Presented during Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee,
together with a purse of money, by the inhabitants of the postal
district of Bitton, Gloucestershire, to Miss Hannah Brewer, postwoman,
upon her retirement, having served this office from the commencement of
Queen Victoria's reign."

Even Post Office surveyors are sometimes the subject of little jokes on
the part of their subordinates. An assistant surveyor, when testing a
rural postman's walk, said that if he had arranged the round originally,
he should have taken a shortcut across the fields to a certain little
hamlet so as to serve it before instead of after a more distant place,
when the postman drily said that he should not have done anything of the
kind, as there was a rhine about 18 ft. wide and very deep, which could
not well be got over or through, and, turning to the surveyor, he
remarked: "Evidently you never were a postman." The humour of this
incident lies in the fact that the surveyors have always been drawn from
the élite of the Service. A certain imperious surveyor visited a
sub-office for the purpose of reprimanding the sub-postmaster for some
delinquency, and after soundly rating the individual he addressed, and
refusing to hear a single word in explanation, he, when his harangue
was over, was coolly informed that he had made a slight mistake, as the
circumstance referred to another sub-office altogether.

On a certain occasion recently, on entering a Post Office the writer
heard proceeding from a back room a voice, recognisable as that of the
sub-postmaster, shouting out a greeting in his (the writer's) Christian
name: "Come in, Robert." Well, the sub-postmaster thought he saw through
the partly-curtained glass in the door a friend of that name, and meant
no disrespect to his surveyor-postmaster.

On calling at another little Post Office on a Saturday, the aged
sub-postmistress was washing her stone floor--down on her knees in
business-like attitude. Without looking up, her greeting to the writer
was: "Halloa! I thought you had been to Jericho. You have not been to
see me for such a long time!" That salutation was rather embarrassing;
but on getting to the perpendicular the old lady was the confused party,
as she had thought her visitor was a local resident who occasionally
looked in to have a cheery word with her.

It would seem that postal improvements in the Bristol district have been
carried almost as far as is needful; indeed, in one district, not seven
miles from the city, contemplated improvements whereby letters would be
delivered an hour earlier in the morning and might be posted two hours
later at night, and a day mail in and out be afforded, were declined by
the parish authorities in council and by memorial from the villagers
generally. In this rural hollow the people are very clannish, and rather
than let their postwoman suffer a loss of two shillings a week, which
the change involved, they were content to forego improved postal
facilities, and were not greatly stirred by the "lasinesse of posts" as,
according to history, was King James of old.

While Bristol is ever expanding and while splendid buildings are being
erected, there are not wanting places within a short distance of the
ancient city where there are signs of decadence, as indicated by houses
unoccupied and cottages in ruins, and by shrinkage in the number of
letters. At Stanton Drew, where some thirty large stones alone remain to
mark a site where there probably stood a splendid Druidical Temple, the
postal arrangements a few years since were not in a satisfactory
condition. Not unlike the story which has recently been going the round
of the newspapers, that a sub-postmaster of an Oxfordshire village fixed
this notice up: "Have gone fishing. Will be back in time to sell
stamps," the sub-postmistress of this Somersetshire hamlet went away for
days without putting up any notice whatever, and left her son to supply
the inhabitants with postage stamps when he got home in the evening from
his work as an agricultural labourer. Still, people did not complain, so
that they may be regarded as accessories to the sub-postmistress's
delinquencies. There was, however, a postal super-session in that

There is still in the rural service a postman who labours under the
disabilities of having only one arm and of being unable to read or
write. He has not a very extensive delivery, and so his pockets are made
to do duty in the place of the faculty of reading. The left breast
pocket indicates that letters placed in it are for Cliff Farm, those in
the right breast pocket for Rush Hill Farm, several other pockets
serving in like manner.

From very old official books sent into store on the change of holders of
sub-offices, it is noticeable that the writing of fifty years ago was
much superior to that of the present day, indicating that
sub-postmasters of olden time either took more interest in caligraphy
than their successors, or possibly had more leisure in which to make the
necessary entries than is afforded in the present period of high

'Tis strange that it was so, as at the time the steel pen had not ousted
the quill. Even so short a time as forty years since a new intrant to
the Post Office, hailing from the Emerald Isle, had, like all other
new-comers, to enter his name and address in the Order Book on his first
introduction to St. Martin's-le-Grand. A steel pen was handed to him,
with which he dallied for a time, and when asked why he did not proceed,
said: "Sure, I was waiting for a feather."

The institution for the care of consumption started in this country, and
known as Nordrach-upon-Mendip, is in the Bristol postal district at one
of its most distant points on the range of the Mendip Hills, at an
altitude of 850 feet above sea level. It has already played an important
part as regards the Bristol Post Office, inasmuch as a consumptive
telegraph clerk has benefited considerably from the new treatment, and
has indeed left the institution as cured. It is not generally known that
until recently there existed a small Convalescent Home on the Mendips,
but "Cosy Corner," founded and maintained by Sir Edward Hill, K.C.B.,
stood there as such, and it served a good part as regards a postal
servant. A postman employed at the Bristol railway station as mail
porter, who had suffered from a serious attack of typhoid fever, and who
had been verily at death's door, passed several weeks at this rural
retreat, and derived such benefit from the kind treatment he received
and from the bracing air of the district that he quite recovered from
his ailment and is now in robust health. "Cosy Corner" has now been
affiliated to Nordrach-upon-Mendip.

The rule of the Service is that coins, postage stamps, and other
articles of value picked up in a sorting office are regarded as treasure
trove and have to be handed over to the authorities for disposal; but a
letter carrier's round can hardly be regarded in the light of a Post
Office, and so a postman of the Thornbury district who at Aust Cliff,
picked up a well-preserved bronze coin with the image and superscription
of Claudius Cæsar (A.D. 41-54) did not consider himself called upon to
give it up to the sub-postmaster, but disposed of it for the sum of 15s.
6d. The purchaser presented it to the Leicester Museum.

Tradition hath it that Miss Hannah More, the celebrated authoress and
philanthropist, when residing (1770) at Wrington, near Bristol, in the
churchyard of which place her remains now repose, made an arrangement
with the postman of the period whereby on passing along the road near
her residence he was to signal to her when any event of importance had
occurred. Her sitting and bedroom windows commanded a view of the walk
near which the postman had to pass, so that she could see him coming,
and she always hurried down to the wicket-gate in readiness to meet him
when he put up his flag. A son of the postman, now alive, remembers well
that his father told him that he had given the signal on the death of
Queen, Caroline. It was outside the postman's function, to wave the red
flag with which Mistress Hannah, had provided him, but Post Office
matters were not carried on so strictly in those days as under the
present regime. The Wrington postman obtained the news about important
passing events from the mail-man who rode through the village on his way
from Bristol to Axbridge. George Vowles, who died twenty-six years ago,
at the ripe age of 88 years, was the mail-man who conveyed to the
villages on his way the news of the battle of Waterloo, brought down
from London by the mail coach, which had been decorated with laurels and
flowers in honour of the great event.



No stone has been left unturned in the endeavour to afford a free
delivery of letters at the door of every house in the district; and at
last all houses and cottages, even in the remotest localities, have been
reached, and the woodman, the gamekeeper, and the lone cottager now
receive a daily visit from the postman. In visiting out of the way
places of the kind with a view to arranging a delivery, the surveyor has
to look out for dogs. A certain warren house in this district affords a
typical case. It is far from the ordinary haunts of man, and was without
an official delivery on account of its extreme inaccessibility. The
approach is through a deep gorge, known as Goblin Combe, and the path to
the house is precipitous. The gamekeeper residing there had to send to a
farmhouse a mile and a quarter distant for his letters, which the
obliging farmer had consented to take in for him. The attempts of the
staff to arrange a method of delivery by postmen had long been baffled.
At the time when the writer went to view the place there was a rumour in
the neighbourhood that, owing to serious depredations by poachers,
fierce dogs roamed the enclosed warren; and on passing out on to the
warren from the wood corner, there was observed standing on a wall near
the house what in the distance and misty morn, appeared to be a large
bloodhound, and so the advance had to be made warily. The attendant
rural postman was armed with a riding whip, on which his grip tightened,
for he had already been four times bitten by dogs, as the scars on his
hand testified, and he desired to guard himself against another attack.
At last, as the place was neared, the object of distrust was found to
be--a large goat! Another out-of-the-way place in the same
neighbourhood, also unserved by the postman, was a woodman's house in a
dense wood, which, with its bowling-green, is said once to have been
used by "Bristol bloods" of old time as a safe retreat where they could
indulge in a little business connected with the prize ring and cock
fighting. That the Duke of Norfolk's liberal policy in Her Majesty's
Diamond Jubilee year has proved a boon and a blessing to many residents
in isolated spots is indicated, for instance, by what a poor woman
living in a wild district stated. She had recently to trudge the whole
way from her house to Bristol, a distance of eight miles out and eight
miles back, while a letter which would have obviated her journey had
been lying undelivered for days at a Post Office only two miles off.

Blaize Castle, which is within four miles of the Head Post Office, was
singularly enough almost the last habitation in the Bristol district
which was granted a free delivery of letters daily, for until 1898 the
postman in his official capacity had never penetrated to that
rock-elevated and remote part of the Blaize Woods where the castle
stands. That reproach to the Bristol district has now been removed, and
the custodians of the castle have obtained their rights as citizens of
the great kingdom in having their letters delivered at the door daily by
the Postmaster-General's representative. It was a difficult matter to
find out all the houses at which the postman did not call, and this
particular castle, which is now only occupied by caretakers, was not
notified by the rural postman, as the occupiers had signified to him
that they did not care for a delivery and were quite satisfied if the
letters were left in the village till called for. The circumstance may
be of interest to Bristolians, from the fact that Blaize Castle is
spoken of by many but is seen by very few. Its flagstaff is visible from
some little distance, but the castle itself can scarcely be discerned
through its wooded surroundings, even from the far-famed Arbutus Walk,
which is separated from it by a deep gorge. The castle is situated on a
lofty plateau in the midst of the large woods. Close to it is a sheer
perpendicular rock, three hundred feet high, known as "The Giant's
leap." The castle is said to have derived its name from St. Blaisius,
the Spanish patron of wool-combers, to whom a chapel was dedicated on a
hill in the grounds where the castle now stands, and where there was
once a Roman encampment. The interest attaching to this castle is
enhanced from a postal point of view by the circumstance that the son of
the lady who owns the property married a daughter of the late
Postmaster-General, the Right Hon. H. C. Raikes.

Mr. Raikes was one of the hardest working of Postmasters-General. So
diligent indeed was he, that almost nightly, when the House of Commons
was sitting, the right hon. gentleman, after all other Members had gone
home, retired to his official room and went through the papers which had
been sent up from the Post Office for his consideration. So absorbed
would he become in the documents, which he read carefully through from
end to end, so that he might judge from his own standpoint and not from
that of his official advisers, that he would sit well into the small
hours of the morning, whilst that patient and most obliging of
officials, the postmaster of the House, Mr. Pike, kept weary vigil,
waiting to take the despatch-bag to the Post Office in the City before
he went home to his well-earned rest. Mr. Raikes's invariably clear and
even writing betokened that, long past the hour for bed as the time
might be, he never had any idea of doing his work in a hurry. He was
probably known to many of the citizens of Bristol, through his frequent
visits to a mansion on the Westbury side of the Downs.



The Bristol Post Office has its returned letter branch, with which
almost all the towns in the West of England, and South Wales are
affiliated for "dead letter" work. Through its agency over a million
letters and postal packets are returned to senders annually. Book
packets and circulars form 50 per cent. of the total number, and of
these only 75 per cent. can be restored to the persons who posted them.
Over 10,000 letters containing property are recorded in the ledgers, and
they represent a total value in cash, bank-notes, bills, cheques,
postage stamps, etc., of about £36,000 per annum, nearly the whole of
which reaches the hands of the senders. About 400 letters containing
money orders, and 1,700 letters containing value, compulsorily
registered, are returned in the course of the year. Amongst the
curiosities of returned letter office experience may be mentioned the
following. A letter was received thus peculiarly addressed:--"Miss ----,
4, Pleasant View, in that beautiful city which charms even eyes familiar
with the masterpieces of Bramanto and Palladio, and which the genius of
Anstey and of Smollett, of Frances Burney and of Jane Austen has made
classic ground." The pundits in the returned letter office who deal with
derelict letters properly divined that the place so glowingly described
was Bath, and issuing the letter accordingly, it was duly delivered in
the fair city.

A packet was received simply addressed "Post Office, Bristol, to be
called for." The contents were an army reserve man's discharge papers
and pension application forms. The application bore evidence that it
referred to Lichfield, and the packet was accordingly sent to that
military depôt. Two or three days afterwards an old soldier called at
the Bristol office for his letter, and could not possibly understand why
it had been opened in the returned letter branch, and the contents sent
to Lichfield. His fury was unbounded, and he consigned all and sundry to
Hades. His papers were soon obtained for him from Lichfield, and his
gratitude at getting them, was as effusively manifested as his
disappointment had been in not finding the papers awaiting him on first
application. His thanks were conveyed in the following terse

"Dear Boss,--A thousand pardons, everything comes right to those who
wait. Patience is a virtue.

  "Obt servt,
  W. H. ----."

"Sir," wrote a Bristol citizen on a postcard, "I have lost a ingine off
3 gine oneing to the delay of a post care wich Mr. ---- send of wine ts
plaa to ingury and abould youre turly I ----, 10, ---- lane rielence
Bristol." It was not at first apparent what the writer of the card
actually required, but by degrees it was made out that what he meant
was:--"I have lost an engagement of 3 guineas owing to the delay of a
postcard which Mr. ---- sent, of Wine Street. Please to enquire and
oblige, yours truly, I. ----, 10, ---- Lane, Residence, Bristol."

Danger lurks in unexpected places, even for Post Office cleaners.
Packages which have remained in the returned letter office for the
prescribed period have to be destroyed from time to time. Sometimes
they contain chemicals. It chanced that at Bristol one of the charwomen,
when pouring out hot water into a large waste bucket, was startled by
the emission from the bucket of a fierce, bright, flame which badly
burned her hand and caused her no small fright. The flame lasted for a
minute. The fumes were overpowering, and unpleasantly pervaded the whole
telegraph gallery above. Upon investigation, it appeared that another
charwoman who had been instructed to "dispose" of a bottle of sodium
amalgam, had carelessly emptied it into the waste bucket with the
startling result narrated.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Post Office is ever progressing, and in course of time there will be
further particulars for a future writer to relate concerning the
"Bristol Royal Mail."


       *       *       *       *       *

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note: Discovered publisher's punctuation errors have been
corrected. In addition, the following spelling errors have been

p. 22: 6th instant intead[instead] of on the first of the month. The

p. 136: in the chair, the Post Office is again roproved[reproved]

p. 163: about 30,000 letters. Birminghan[Birmingham] comes next in

p. 229: spoken of the disclipine[discipline] and training telegraph

p. 283: Office, hailng[hailing] from the Emerald Isle, had, like all

p. 164: pension or gratuity is given. The apppointment[appointment]

p. 112: Post Office now was was[delete second 'was'] the centre of

p. 153: not [been] offered, would most likely have been sent

       *       *       *       *       *

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