1977 - 2013 The Post Office in three locationsFrom: Post Office
In 1977, Jean Emptage took over the Post Office; her husband John was working as chief engineer on large oil tankers. Jean retired in 1992, and died soon afterwards. John compiled this history of the Post Office as a tribute to Jean.
Local Mail Deliveries
The mail for East Meon was delivered to East Meon Post Office twice daily Monday to Friday at 06.00 hrs. (6.0 a.m.) and then at 14.00 hrs. (2.0 p.m.). On Saturday there was only one delivery of mail and that was again early in the morning.
The mail was delivered into the ’Sorting Office’ at the rear of the property where Mrs. Phillips and Mrs. Blackman sorted the mail into their respective ’rounds’. The postal items were then delivered within the central perimeter of the village by Mrs. Phillips and Mrs. Blackman, using Post Office ’Carrier bicycles’. Items of mail for properties outside the central perimeter of the village to the outer boundary of East Meon, Parish was delivered by the Post Office van.
Other items of value were also delivered to the sorting office, these were taken into the Post Office by Mrs Emptage. All of these items had to be thoroughly checked before opening the Post Office that morning and any errors reported immediately to the main office.
When Jean Emptage moved into this property (13/01/1977) as Post Mistress with two young Daughters, one teenage Daughter and a Husband at sea; it was quite a stressful time for her. The post office put a retired Post Master in with her to ’show her the ropes’. He left after a couple of days saying ”I think you’ve got the hang of it!” ”Call Portsmouth or Petersfield if you need any advice.”
Opening and closing times for the Sub Post Office were strictly controlled by the ’Crown’ Post Office for the Portsmouth area.
Friday night all post office transactions (and those for other parties) carried out during the previous week had to be checked and accounted for and the appropriate balance sheet submitted when the mail was collected Saturday morning. This was all done without the aid of a computer.
On a good week starting immediately after closing on Friday the accounts may be finished around 9.00 p.m. Errors in the paperwork and it would be any time up to around 11.00 p.m. Hence the end of the work day week was christened by the family as ’Black Friday’.
The only transactions East Meon Post Office was not allowed to carry out being ’vehicle licensing’ and ’passports’. Mrs. Emptage tried numerous times to be allowed to carry out vehicle licensing, to be able to provide this service to the many vehicle users of all categories in this a rural and farming area. It was always refused on the grounds it would: ”take work away from the District Post Office”, i.e Petersfield.
In the early days this office did issue ’dog licenses’ as required by dog owners. And yes; Toby the guard dog’ did have a license.
There was a very small Sub Post Office just inside the perimeter of ’HMS Mercury’, the Navy’s Navigation and Communications Training Establishment. This office was very limited in respect to the postal transactions it was allowed to handle also its opening hours.
As a result of this, all telegrams were taken and delivered by East Meon Post Office i.e. Jean Emptage (or myself if on leave). If we were snowed in or for any reason unable to deliver directly the message would be phoned through from this office to the ’Gate House’ at HMS Mercury and the telegram delivered as soon as possible. Similarly with other telegrams.
Shortly after taking over the Post office Mrs. Judy Barber joined the staff part time to add back-up to both Mrs. Emptage and Mrs Porter (also part time) as both postal and shop trade had increased. Later still Mrs. Sally Nash (Judy’s Sister) joined part time and Beryl Bradley.
The relocation of the postal area and the additional speech/serving unit was proving most useful during busy periods, along with the extra part time staff cover to help during busy periods. Especially during the run-up to Christmas.
There were two other shops operating in the village at this time that run by Mr. & Mrs. Simms located opposite the ’Isaac Walton’ Public House, in the High Street and the Spar run by Mr. Gambol also In the High Street at the junction Chapel Street & Workhouse Lane, next to ’Cross House’. Both of these shops were (in the main) grocers and in Mr. Gambol’s shop also sold fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and general household items. Later The Dairy’ Opened (Una & Dennis) in the then unused part of Mr. & Mrs. Wyatt’s property known as ’Riverside’.
Taking the fact that two other businesses were already established in retail food sales, it was not thought a sensible or practical option for the shop area alongside the Post Office to be used for similar retail food sales. Available floor area being another consideration.
The day to day sales were sweets weighed & sold loosely, chocolate bars and other wrapped bars, cigarettes, tobacco, small gifts and children’s toys and a small amount of essential day to day clothing items. A range of coloured post cards showing aspects of the village, greetings cards, writing material and wrapping paper. The shop also sold knitting wool, knitting patterns and a full range of haberdashery. Local customer’s would keep their wool for a pattern in the shop then take and pay for it as they required to use it. This system worked very well and was of benefit to both parties.
Knitting did suffer something of a set back as some of the older generation passed away and we experienced some very hot summers. However it didn’t cease altogether.
Events leading to the closure of East Meon Post Office and Shop in Church Street.
In 1983 Mrs. Emptage developed a life threatening medical condition leading to her having to undergo a complex and serious operation at Southampton General Hospital. The operation was a success, though not without some medical impairment and what was supposed to be a lengthy recovery. However as soon as possible Jean Emptage was back behind the Post Office counter.
Around this time a number of events were happening that in their way shaped the history of the village Post Office as it was then The exact dates and sequence of these events eludes me due my absence in connection with my work at that period, and now my own age! Malcolm and Judy Barber bought the piece of land next to ’Riverside’, opposite their existing house. Malcolm built a detached house on this land for their family. Prior to their house being built Judy had for some time become very keen on horses and all things equestrian, this was to have a significant bearing on forthcoming events.
Judy left East Meon Post office for a full time post in the Sub Post Office located in a small Super Market in Four Marks. The next event affecting the history of the Post Office was when Mr. & Mrs. Barber put their new house on the market for sale. They eventually sold it and bought ’Germans Barn’ along with a parcel of land suitable for keeping horses, just off the East Meon Road. Malcolm now had to convert the barn for human habitation.
In late 1991 Mrs. Emptage suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised in Winchester for a short period and then returned to work. Early in 1992 Mrs. Emptage suffered another heart attack at which time the Consultant Physician in Winchester Hospital told us both that she had to stop work.
The former shop area at ’Riverside’ was still vacant; a planning application was submitted to the Council to reinstate the Post Office and Shop in this area. Mrs Barber was accepted as Post Mistress, and the Post Office was moved to the new location in Riverside.
Later Mr. And Mrs. Barber along with their family moved to Devon at which time Mr. & Mrs. Wheeler took over the Post Office and shop in ’Riverside’ with Frank Wheeler as Post Master and Jenny running the shop. Click here for the page in the Wheeler Collection which describes their period at the Post Office.
In 2002, the Wheelers retired. At this time the Post Office moved down to ’East Meon Store’, (formerly the ’Spar’) which is now owned by Mr. And Mrs. Khambata, where it remains today.
Date of creation2009
Date of coverage1977 - 2013
PlaceEast Meon, Post Office
Storage locationLarger resolution scans in Dropbox/Resources/Places/Shops and Trades/Post Office. Photo and Papers in Library Q1, Q2.
FormatPhotographs and newspaper clippings
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