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24 September 2014
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A visit to The Old Post Office
The Old Post Office
The Old Post Office in Tintagel

One of the National Trust's first acquired properties was The Old Post Office.

Enjoy a gallery of pictures and find out more about this fascinating building in Tintagel.

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FACTS

The Old Post Office situated in the North Cornwall village of Tintagel was acquired by the National Trust in 1903.

Its life as a post office began in the
19th century, when Sir Rowland Hill’s introduction of the Penny Postage in 1840 led to the improvement of postal services in remote country places like Tintagel.

In 1900 the National Trust agreed to buy the building from Miss Johns for a nominal £200, raised by public appeal.

The purchase was subject to a lease to Miss Johns for her lifetime and the building was finally vested in the Trust in 1903.

The Old Post Office today is also home to a unique collection of historic needlework samplers dating from the mid-17th century.

This small but unique building welcomes over 45,000 visitors each year

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The magic of Tintagel is known throughout the world, due to both the Arthurian Legend, and The Old Post Office.

Tumble-roofed and weathered by the centuries, the small mediaeval manor stands in the heart of modern Tintagel, as a reminder of yesteryear.

Click here
enjoy a gallery of photographs from The Old Post Office.

History

By 1841 the village needed its own post office, which was established at the old manor house of Trevena in the mid 1840s.

The old post box
This Victorian post box is in the front wall at the Old Post Office

Set in the outside wall at the front of the house is a Victorian letter collection box dating back to 1857. It is one of a small handful of such boxes, which still remain in this country.

It is thanks to the dedication of one small group of people in the past that the Old Post Office was saved from demolition.

In 1895, almost 50 years after Tennyson wrote his famous poems about the castle, most of old Tintagel was torn down to provide for the influx of new visitors.

Thanks to a team led by Catherine Johns, the Old Post Office was rescued from destruction. Miss Johns did a lot of improvements to the building, before handing it over for a nominal sum, to the National Trust just over 100 years ago.

Today the Old Post Office is a building full of character. The local brown slate which was used on the roof has turned grey over the years.

The back of The Old Post Office
The rear wall is heavily buttressed

The roof has gradually subsided under the weight of the slates, to make for a wonky but eye catching appearance. This is a major part of the building's outside appeal.

At the back of the building, the wall is heavily buttressed, in order to support the immense weight of the slate roof.

The house itself may be one of the Trust's smaller properties but inside it is suprisingly spacious and full of history.

The Post Room

This room has postal and telegraph equipment located behind the counter.

The Parish of Tintagel was generating more than 120 letters a week by the 1840s which was when the General Post Office (GPO) decided to open a 'Letter Receiving Office' in the area.

The Post Office as it looks today
The Post Office today with the Spagnoletti receiver to the right of the picture

From the 1870s William Cobbledick Balkwill ran the Post Office. He was also the local draper and grocer.

A Spagnoletti receiver and undulator can be seen on the Post Room desk today. It is the type Mr Balkwill would have used all those years ago.

There are several other rooms steeped in history and artefacts, and once there was even a ghost!

Spooky lighting

Kelly Palmer is the Custodian at The Old Post Office. She has spent a lot of time in the old house, and once discovered what she believed to be a ghost, quite literally by the flick of a light switch!

"The first thing I would do in the morning is come in and switch the lights on," explains Kelly. "Then I would take off the covers downstairs and a light would flicker. I did the same upstairs and the light again flashed."

Kelly wondered if her daily routine might be disturbing a spirit in the house. She decided to use the Spagnoletti undulator to help her discover if the light flashing was a spooky happening.

"The Spagnoletti is an early example of what became morse code," explains Kelly. "I monitored the flashes and worked out that the flickering spelt out the name Nora or Noah."

Bedroom
No ghostly old lady in the bed when we visited!

The flickering of the light would stop just before the Old Post Office opened each day to visitors. But that wasn't the end of the spooky tale.

"One day a visitor came running down the stairs saying there was an old lady in the bed," remembers Kelly.

"I decided that it must be the ghost and lots of people have said they sense a presence. I later discovered there was a technical fault with the light switch which was fixed to stop the flickering."

So it wasn't a ghost then...or was it?

"A while after, I came across a book that said there used to be a woman here called Mrs Noah," smiles Kelly.

So maybe there are spooky happenings at The Old Post Office afterall...

Every stone tells a story

At the front of the Old Post Office there is a small garden with a little path. Plenty of colour jumps up at you as you look at the paving.

On certain slabs there are paintings of stories reflecting the history of Tintagel.

Paving slabs
One of the locally made paving slab illustrations

These came about as a National Trust Creative Partnership scheme between The Old Post Office and two local schools.

"Last year was the centenary of the National Trust owning this property," explains Kelly Palmer.

"In order for us to commemorate the centenary we worked with Sir James Smith School in Camelford and Tintagel Primary School."

The senior school children visited some of Tintagel's oldest residents to get local stories, including the legend about the Dragon which saved the town from what could have been a devastating plane crash.

"People believe that the dragon blew the aeroplane away from the nearby petrol station. The plane wedged itself in a building in Arthur's Lane. Nobody was hurt," says Kelly.

Jill Lamede is the author of a book called 'Tales Of The Tintagel Dragon' which is available from The Old Post Office.

"Jill took the children around the village and got the older people to re-tell their tales."

Paving slabs
Another paving illustration

The stories were collected and then the primary school youngsters worked with a poet to turn the tales into poetry.

A special Tea Dance was held to commemorate the Old Post Office anniversary with all the children improvising dances based on the poetry.

Soon after a mosaic artist worked with the youngsters to produce the unique paving slabs which depict the stories told by the villagers.

All in all this was a year-long project involving local children, artists and villagers.

It doesn't stop there. The next stage is for the school youngsters to create a leaflet telling more about the stories and mosaics.

The work carried out by the local schools and the National Trust is all part of the National Curriculum covering history, art, literature and IT skills.

The Old Post Office
Essential Information

The Old Post Office
Fore Street,
Tintagel,
PL34 0DB

Telephone
01840 770024

Opening times 2004:
29 Mar until 30 Sep 11–5:30
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
Throughout October 11-4

Admission prices:
£2.40, child £1.20, family £6 (2 adults & 3 children under 17). Groups (10+) £1.90


Click here for more information

Click here
enjoy a gallery of photographs from The Old Post Office.


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