Not all that long ago, Chaddesden had no fewer than six post offices … Chaddesden Village (43 Wood Road, just at the corner with Max Road); Chaddesden (478 Nottingham Road); Mayfield Road (near the junction with Chaddesden Park Road); Sussex Circus; Roosevelt Avenue; and Cherry Tree Hill (635 Nottingham Road). Today all we are left with are post offices at Sussex Circus, Cherry Tree Hill and Oakwood, which are used by their customers for a variety of purposes such as receiving pensions, paying bills, buying postage stamps, etc., whilst letter and parcel deliveries are undertaken by staff based in Derby. Yet it is to the letter delivery aspect that we need to turn in order to examine the very origins of the post office network in Chaddesden.
If we turn the clock back to, say, the closing years of the eighteenth century, and long before the time when each village had its own post office, a knock on the door by the letter carrier could land the householder with an expensive surprise, for letters were then paid for by the recipient and charged according to both weight and distance travelled. Thus a letter from a relative in a distant part of the country might leave you having to pay a precious sixpence or maybe even more … for some people this could be as much as the money they had set aside for a day’s housekeeping! In those days mail was carried between staging posts (hence the name post office) by men (usually called “postboys”) on horseback. With the advent of improved road surfaces on the new turnpike roads, mail coaches were gradually brought into use, and in August 1784 the first of these services was trialled between Bristol & London. By 1800 there were more than 200 mail coaches displaying the words “Royal Mail” on their sides. In 1837 Rowland Hill, a former Worcestershire schoolteacher, began to lobby for the reform of the postal service and on 10 January 1840 Parliament eventually introduced the standard Penny Post. Now the cost of postage was simplified at 1d per half ounce letter (paid when posted) to anywhere in the kingdom, irrespective of distance, and soon the volume of mail carried increased greatly as communication became easier than ever before. The famous Penny Black stamps (or “adhesive labels” as they were initially called) were brought into use on 6 May 1840 and proved to be extremely popular (Fig. 1). In order to stop them being used over and over again a red-ink Maltese Cross cancellation mark was introduced. However, it proved possible to remove the red ink without damaging the stamp, so the next year the Penny Red was ushered in and the cancellation ink changed to black.
The first known reference to Chaddesden after the introduction of the penny post seems to have been on 21 October 1843 when the Postmaster General recommended the appointment of a foot-messenger to Ockbrook, via Chaddesden, Spondon and Borrowash. The messenger was to deliver letters en route at a salary of 12s per week. I doubt whether this hard-worked individual would have had the time to deliver letters to every single outlying cottage and farm in these areas, so perhaps the occupants of the more remote properties had to ensure that any mail for them was addressed care of some more accessible premises, e.g. the village inn, etc. Thomas Hardy, the well-known author, in chapter 17 of his book “Desperate Remedies” describes a day’s work for a typical Victorian country postman. Setting out at 5:00am, the postman began his walk of between 16 and 22 miles, burdened on both sides of his body with leather bags of various sizes holding his letters. With no street lights to guide his way, he relied on a small lantern strapped to his chest, barely sufficient to cast a tiny glow on the road ahead. Mail for the local gentry was secured in small, locked bags to be deposited in special letter-boxes they had installed at the entrances to their properties, whereas the general correspondence for other residents would all be pushed through a simple letter-hole cut in the door of the receiver’s cottage in each of the villages the postman visited, since these local post offices were mostly kept by elderly folk who had not yet risen.
Seemingly it was not long before all residents of Chaddesden were benefitting from a daily letter delivery irrespective of where they lived in the village, the Derby Mercury newspaper of 26 February 1851 noting that “We are informed that a free delivery of letters has lately been granted at Chaddesden.” This momentous event was probably linked to the opening of a postal receiving office in Chaddesden only a couple of months previously at the end of 1850. Villagers who wanted to post their letters could now visit John Smith’s house and hand them over to him in person … Smith was paid a salary of £3 a year for providing this service. Unfortunately the 1851 Chaddesden census shows two individuals called John Smith (both framework-knitters), one a widower aged 76, and the other a married man aged 36, so which acted as the receiver is unclear.
Nationally, the decade of the 1850s also witnessed the introduction of postboxes. Anthony Trollope, the novelist, then a Surveyor’s Clerk for the Post Office, first proposed their use, setting them up initially in Jersey in 1852 and then in mainland Britain from 1853 onwards. In Chaddesden, John Smith resigned his position at the end of 1852 and Mrs. Mary Borrey took over as postmistress and receiver at an increased salary of £5 a year; Kelly’s 1855 Directory advising its readers that “Letters arrive from Derby at 8 a.m. & are dispatched at 1/2 past 6 p.m. The nearest money order office is at Derby.” Mrs. Borrey’s tenure as postmistress was evidently fairly brief, for she is not recorded in the 1861 census, however, the post office connection seems to have been maintained by her daughter, for at Chaddesden on 8 November 1852 the 19-year-old Martha Borrey married John Oldershaw, a 21-year-old bricklayer, and from 1857 until 1860 he is listed as the postmaster [Note 1].
By the time of the 1861 census things had changed yet again, and now William Smith, a 44-year-old grocer was listed as postmaster. Although the location of his residence is not specified, the next (1871) census provides an invaluable clue, for it lists him as postmaster, shopkeeper and baker. The village bakehouse was housed in an extension built up against the south-western wall of number 26 Morley Road (Fig. 2) and since the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1883 (Fig. 3) clearly shows the post office at the adjoining property (number 28), I think it is probably safe to assume that William Smith had started to operate his post office business from 28 Morley Road some years previously. Smith’s initial salary in 1861 is listed as £11 a year and, wanting to maximise his income, he would no doubt have welcomed the additional revenue brought in by people wishing to use his post office as a reply address for their adverts, as demonstrated by this example from the Derby Mercury of 1 February 1865 (Fig. 4).
Harrod’s 1870 trade directory notes that letters were now arriving at Chaddesden Post Office at 6am and despatched (to Derby) at 7:45pm, and the same year also marked the introduction of a brand-new postal innovation, the postcard …soon a significant proportion of the day’s mail at the little village post office would have been taken up by these simple, yet effective means of communication. In an age without the benefit of telephones and the internet, the postcard was used to send short messages quickly, cheaply and reliably from one place to another. William Smith, no doubt assisted by his wife Mary Ann, continued as postmaster for some years, being listed as such in the 1871 and 1881 censuses, and Post Office records note that in the latter year he was granted an additional allowance for delivering local letters. He died in November 1888, aged 71, and was buried in Chaddesden churchyard (Grave number 111). Mrs. Smith briefly ran the post office by herself for a few months until the spring of 1889.
A new postmaster, John Davison, formerly a sergeant in the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, took over the business on 1 May 1889, now operating out of different premises right at the corner of Wood Road and Morley Road (Fig. 5). A photograph of c.1910 (Fig. 6) taken from Chaddesden Lane and looking eastwards shows the post office (on the left of the picture) just across the road from the ivy-covered Wilmot Arms. Once more the times of the mails were changed with Kelly’s 1891 Directory advising its readers that letters arrived from Derby at 5:20am and were dispatched at 8:30pm. John Davison evidently did not own the building from which he operated his post office, for the Derby Mercury of 9 June 1897 advertising J. & W. Heathcote’s forthcoming auction on 25 June described Lot 1 as follows: “All that Cottage, containing six rooms, with garden, piggeries, &c., situate at the corner of the road leading to Stanley and Stony Flat Lane, in the village of Chaddesden, and known as the Post Office, now in the occupation of Mr. John Davison, at a gross annual rental of £11 14s.”, so clearly Davison was the tenant of the property. The actual form of address used by the auctioneers is worth commenting on as they state the post office is “at the corner of the road leading to Stanley and Stony Flat Lane” … the road to Stanley was of course Morley Road, and “Stony Flat Lane” (or Wood Road as we know it) the road to Stoney Flatts Farm (approximately where Oakwood District Centre would be built many years later). The little post office seems to have been acquired by the Wilmot family at the auction and was certainly in their possession some 16 years later [Note 2]. Mr. Davison’s time as postmaster witnessed the introduction of a parcel service at Chaddesden in 1894 and an additional letter delivery in 1898, when the village postman’s wages were also increased. When John Davison died, aged 59, in October 1899, he too was laid to rest in Chaddesden churchyard (Grave number 118), leaving his widow to continue running the post office for just one more year before relinquishing her position.
On 29 October 1900 Mrs. Emma Hooper took over from Mrs. Davison as postmistress. The 1901 Chaddesden census supplies the additional information that both she and her husband, George, were 34 years old and they had an 8 year old son, George Ernest. She continued to operate from the same building at the corner of Wood Road and Morley Road at a salary of £13-6-00 p.a., which had risen to £13-16-00 by the time she left the post office.
Many years ago I was fortunate enough to examine an old ledger that had come to light amongst the archives of the Derby Head Post Office, and which gave brief details of local sub-offices in the Derby area at the very time Mrs. Hooper was in charge. As well as listing her salary as Chaddesden postmistress, the ledger also recorded the names of the auxiliary postmen and women who were called upon to assist the regular postman; presumably it was their duty to perform the second, smaller, delivery each day. Five names spanned the period 1903 to 1907 as follows: James Doncaster (appointed 11 May 1903 at 6s 0d a week); William Green (2 April 1905 at 6s 0d a week); Rose Day (3 April 1907 at 6s 0d a week); Alice Cholerton (my great-aunt, 18 July 1904 at 7s 6d a week); Mary Mountney (another great-aunt, at 7s 6d a week on 16 Jan 1905, rising to 8s 0d on 1 April 1905). Four of the five people (Rose Day being the exception) were Chaddesden residents and William Green was notable for being the oldest … he was 57 years old when appointed in 1905. The “walk” (postman’s round) they are shown as undertaking is listed as “From Chaddesden to Keeper’s Cottage”, this was the westernmost of the two cottages to be found near the Spondon end of the bridle path that branches off Morley Road. I imagine the Post Ofiice management of the day thought that this was as far as the second delivery needed to go … visiting any of the outlying farms and cottages situated further up Morley Road for a second time in the day being judged an unwarranted expense!
Mrs. Hooper resigned as postmistress on 26 March 1908 and she and her family vacated the premises to live elsewhere in the village [Note 3]. The next day, 27 March 1908, my own great-grandmother Louisa Mountney was duly appointed postmistress in her stead and moved into the post office along with her husband George and their family of four girls [Note 4]. The Mountneys had been living in Chaddesden since 1893 or thereabouts and by the time of the 1911 census their small household comprised George (aged 47), a highways labourer for the District Council, his wife Louisa (aged 44), and their two daughters, Sarah Ann (my grandmother, then aged 18), an auxiliary letter deliverer, and Louisa (aged 14), a domestic servant [Note 5]. Mrs. Mountney’s starting salary was £18-10-00 p.a., quite an increase on her predecessor’s. For some 23 years until 1931, my great-grandmother ran Chaddesden Post Office (Fig. 7) from the front room of her small house situated at the junction of Wood Road and Morley Road [Note 6]. Kelly’s 1912 Directory gives the following brief summary about the post office: “Mrs. Louisa Mountney, sub-postmistress. Letters arrive from Derby & delivered 7 a.m. & 3:25 p.m., dispatched at 1:45 & 8:25 p.m. No Sunday delivery or dispatch. Spondon, 2 miles distant, is the nearest money-order & telegraph office”. The Chaddesden postman would wait for the bundles of mail to arrive from the sorting-office at Derby and then prepare the letters by arranging them in the correct order for delivery. Once this had been done, he could then set off on his daily tour of the village, where of course he would know most of the inhabitants by name.
Mrs Mountney retired in 1931, whereupon the post office was coincidentally moved back to its earlier site at 28 Morley Road, this time run by more relatives of mine, Miss Harriet Annie Cholerton assisted by her mother, also called Harriet. However, their post office was given the name, “Chaddesden Village”, because the title “Chaddesden Post Office” was now reserved for the new, bigger post office on Nottingham Road, which along with Cherry Tree Hill Post Office (opened October 1929) had been provided to serve Chaddesden’s expanding population. In October 1933 the County Council confirmed they would soon be demolishing the Mountney’s former post office at the Wood Road / Morley Road corner as part of a road-widening scheme. Later the next year a new post office was established in Mayfield Road to cater for yet another phase of housing development.
A Derby Evening Telegraph article of 26 May 1938 refers to the four Chaddesden post offices then in existence, namely Chaddesden and Cherry Tree Hill (both on Nottingham Road), Mayfield Road (newly given money order facilities) and Chaddesden Village. Miss Harriet Cholerton’s death on 19 Jan 1941 marked the end of 28 Morley Road’s time as a post office and soon afterwards Chaddesden Village Post Office duly re-opened in new shop premises at 43 Wood Road. When it eventually closed for the last time in August 1991 the Chaddesden Village name was abandoned. In its place the brand-new Oakwood Post Office opened at Unit 12, Oakwood District Centre.
The members of Chaddesden Parish Council quite often lobbied the Post Office hierarchy for more and better postal facilities and in 1941 turned their attention to a perceived lack of post boxes. The Derby Evening Telegraph of 8 August that year reported that Mr. Llewellyn, the clerk of the council, had requested an additional pillar box in Morley Road, near the bridle path, but had only received “a stereotyped card of refusal from the Post Office.” Mr. W. H. Guy, chairman of the council, said that some Chaddesden residents had a walk of two miles to their nearest box, “which was the one at the church.” Mr. Llewellyn was asked to send another letter to the Post Office; ultimately the Parish Council were successful, for a pillar box stands there still.
Changes to the local network of post offices were highlighted by the publication of Royal Mail’s “The Postal Address Book” (Midlands Edition) in 1995. By now both Chaddesden Village and Mayfield Road Post Offices had been deleted (the latter having closed in 1984), but the new office at Oakwood had been added. The four remaining Chaddesden offices were listed as: Chaddesden, Roosevelt Avenue, Cherry Tree Hill, and Sussex Circus [Note 7], but although the public did not then know it, the days of the first two offices mentioned were numbered and a few years into the twenty-first century Roosevelt Avenue Post Office was permanently closed.
A couple of years later, in December 2007, customers at Chaddesden Post Office, 478 Nottingham Road, were given leaflets telling them about the proposed closure of the branch which, it was envisaged, would take place in March 2008 at the earliest. The Derby Evening Telegraph noted that local people intended to support a campaign to keep it open, and stated that Chaddesden was one of two offices “which could be axed on top of the 35 in Derbyshire which are already guaranteed to shut”, the other being Park Road, Ilkeston. Apparently a total of 77 branches had been marked for closure across the East Midlands, but since two offices (Stamford, Lincs and West Bridgford, Notts) had been reprieved, it would be necessary to close the Chaddesden and Park Road, Ilkeston, offices in their stead! Any protests went unheeded and Chaddesden Post Office closed its doors for the last time on 8 May 2008. My photograph (Fig. 8) shows it just three days later, already looking rather forlorn!
One of the surviving Chaddesden offices made the news early last year when the popular postmaster at Cherry Tree Hill, Don Olivant, and his wife Joyce retired on 19 January 2016. Don and Joyce had been working at their post office for some 56 years and 38 years respectively and understandably their customers were very sorry to see them leave. Nowadays our post offices are spread much more thinly across the map, and with only Cherry Tree Hill, Sussex Circus, and Oakwood Post Offices remaining to serve the public, our look at Chaddesden’s postal history comes to an end!
Â© Peter Cholerton, 2017
Note 1. Mary Borrey was apparently baptised at Chaddesden on 28 October 1801 as one of the twin daughters of William and Martha Hill. She seems to have married Samuel Borrey at All Saints’, Derby, on 18 September 1828, and on 10 January 1836 the Chaddesden parish register notes the baptism of Martha Borrey, daughter of Samuel, a Derby framesmith, and Mary. Mary Borrey’s Chaddesden connection continued to the end of her life, for after her death in January 1873 she was interred in St. Mary’s churchyard (Grave number 11) only a few yards away from the final resting place of her parents (Grave number 15).
Note 2. The Valuation Office Field Book for Chaddesden which was prepared by the Board of Inland Revenue c.1913 in order to assess land for the purposes of increment value duty under the Finance Act 1910 lists the tenant of property number 64 (i.e. the Post Office) as G. Mountney and the owner as Miss Wilmot (TNA IR 58/26032).
Note 3. The date is another indication that successive postmasters did not actually own this particular building. Most of the Wilmots’ tenanted properties operated on a tenancy agreement beginning on Lady Day (25 March) each year. Evidently Mrs. Hooper had signified her desire to leave the property and would have vacated it on the 24th March.
Note 4. Louisa Mountney was the daughter of John and Mary Ann Lomas, who kept Windley Post Office, so she would have been quite familiar with Post Office procedure.
Note 5. George and Louisa Mountney had two other (older) daughters not featured in the 1911 Chaddesden census: Jane Elizabeth Mountney (bn. c.1888) who had died the previous year aged 22, and Mary (bn. c.1890), who had married John Charles Hudson in 1909.
Note 6. George Mountney died in 1924, but his wife, Louisa, managed to continue as postmistress for a further seven years.
Note 7. It is fitting that a tribute should be given here to Mr. E. J. Wheatley (died 2006), who for many years from the 1960s onwards ran Chaddesden Post Office on Nottingham Road. One of Mr. Wheatley’s interests was local history, and in addition to his busy job as postmaster he also found time to transcribe the oldest Chaddesden parish registers as well as undertaking pioneering research into the wills of early Chaddesden residents.
Many of the dates in this article were taken from H. S. Wilson’s book “History of the Post in Derby, 1635 – 1941” (published in London, 1990), which is an indispensable aid for anyone working on local postal history.