History of the Post Office

On the 12th of July 1844, James Thomas, a carpenter born c. 1804 in Timberscombe, was appointed the first Post Master of the village. He “solemnly and sincerely” declared to abide by the provisions of the Act for the Management and Regulation of the Post Office- which included promising not to open other people’s mail and not to embezzle. His declaration was made to Thomas Luttrell, acting as Magistrate for the County of Somerset (1).

The first post office was located at the cottage known as Berrowcote, renamed Burrow Cottage in the 1970’s (2) and which today faces the Village Green. On the Timberscombe Tithe Map of 1843, the property was owned by Robert Blackmore, with the head of the household listed as Isaac Thomas, father of James Thomas. By the 1851 Census, James was head of the household, with his father named as “lodger”. James continued to identify himself as ” carpenter”, with his wife listed variously as caring for the Post Office or as Post Mistress. James was identified as Timberscombe’s sub-postmaster in Morris’s Directory of Somerset & Bristol (1872) and Berrowcote was labeled “P.O.” on the 1844-88 Ordnance Survey Map. James Thomas died in 1878 and is buried at St. Petrock’s (3).

By the 1881 Census, Thomas and Mary Lyddon were at The Post Office (as it is now usually called), listed as sub-postmaster (and “Tailor”) and sub-postmistress, along with their four children –and with Elizabeth Thomas still there as well, identified as “Formerly sub-postmistress”. The Lyddons came here after living at The Turnpike Gate, the former toll house across from Cowbridge Mill. In the 1871 Census, Mary had been listed as “Toll Collector”.

By 1899, living in the cottage between The Post Office and The Rose & Crown Inn (where Ivy Cottage is now), was Alice Floyde, recently widowed and her 22 year old son, William, a stone mason and builder. On the 30th of December 1899, William bought The Post Office, naming himself, his mother, and his older (by two years) sister, Eva Jane Floyde, as the owners (4). None of them actually lived at The Post Office. Until her death in 1917, Alice mostly lived at Rose Cottage, directly behind The Post Office (5). Eva Jane worked as a domestic at Knowle Manor (6), and in 1911 was doing the same at Oxfordshire. By the 1939 England and Wales Register, Eva Jane had returned to Timberscombe, was living at Rose Cottage and working as “Post Office Deliverer”. In 2019, Maurice Huxtable of Timberscombe, remembers going around to her cottage as a small boy, because she also made and sold ice-cream.

Timbercombe’s first Post Office, from 1844 to the early 1930’s, situated at Berrowcote (later Burrow Cottage). Note that the right window was enclosed with a post office box inserted. Post Office signs are over the window. Seen in the left background is the Old Vicarage. This photograph is dated c. 1915. It is provided by the West Somerset Rural Life Museum and the West Somerset Photographic Archive.

Mary Lyddon continued as sub-postmistress after the death of her husband and was aided by her grandaughter , Gertrude Mary Lyddon (7). By 1910, John Coles, jun., was living next door at the future Ivy Cottage, possibly known as The Retreat at that time (8), and had become “Assistant-Overseer” at The Post Office (9). Mary Lyddon died in 1913 and is also buried at St. Petrock’s (10). After her death, John’s wife, Elizabeth Mary Coles, became the sub-postmistress, at least until 1931 (11).

Constance Olive Lyddon was another grandaughter of Mary Lyddon. Her father, Thomas, Mary’s eldest son, had become “Rural Postman”, living in Roadwater (12). In 1922 , Constance married Fred Bond of Timberscombe (13). Between 1931 and 1935, The Post Office closed after almost 90 years and reverted to being Berrowcote. Fred and Constance Bond open the new post office at Little Farthings, just up the road from the first post office (14).

By 1969, it was decided that the Timberscombe post office would be moved to Jubilee Terrace, to be located either at Jubilee Store at No. 3 or at The Stores at No. 4, Combe House. Mary and Reg Holcombe owned Jubilee Store and in 2019, Mary remembers that she was pregnant with their son, Andrew, and was disappointed when Combe House was chosen, thinking that the extra income from running the post office would have come in handy.

At that time, Combe House and it’s shop was owned by Lilian May Coles. She sold the property in 1972 to Mr. and Mrs. A.G. Fuller and the conveyance was witnessed by “J. Hughes, Post Master”. James Woodruff and Kathleen Elsie Hughes were running the new post office at it’s current location and continued working for a time with the new owners. Mrs. Fuller passed away in 1973, and on her death certificate, Mr. Fuller is listed as Post Master.

On the 26th of April 1976, Mr. Fuller sold the shop to Brian Edward and Naomi Kennish, who ran the post office until 2 December 1983, when it was sold to Dennis Charles and Vivien Hammond, who moved to Timberscombe from Wiltshire. In 1987, the Hammonds ran a small teashop in the front of the post office and for a time also managed a Bed & Breakfast in Combe House. Dennis Hammond was Post Master until 19 December 2017

The late 20th century and the beginning of the 21st were difficult times for village post offices, with many closing. In 2015, Sarah Campbell and Charles Farmer moved to Timberscombe from Dulverton. They and their children made the decision to take on the Timberscombe Post Office and after a time were able to take possession of the shop and Combe House. On the 4th of April 2018 (15), Sarah and Carl, along with Rhiannan, Jack, Kayleigh, Alyssia and Myles moved in, refurbishing the post office area and bringing more store items and services into the shop–to the gratitude (and the relief) of the people of Timberscombe.

written by by Tom Sperling , 29 August 2019

(1) The 1844 Document was discovered among other papers donated to the St. Petrock’s History Group by the Timberscombe School

(2) 17th October 1977, Bridgwater Building Society , Legal Charge of Burrow Cottage

(3) Ancestry.com

(4) 30 December 1899 Conveyance of Deed of Berrowcote

(5) 1911 Census

(6) 19o1 Census

(7) 1911 Census

(8) the cottage is called “The Retreat” on the 1939 Register of England and Wales

(9) TIMBERSCOMBE 1910 LIST OF RESIDENTS, http://www.minehead-online.co.uk

(10) Ancestry.com

(11) Kelly’s Directory 1931

(12) Ancestry.com

(13) Family History Resources/Marriages

(14) Kelly’s Directory 1935

(15) details after the 1969 move to Jubilee Terrace from Deeds provided courtesy of Sarah Campbell and Ancestry.com