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The Old Post Office Aspley Guise

 The Old Post Office around 1920
The Old Post Office about 1920 [Z818/4]

Aspley Guise had four post offices during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. The first of these was Tilcocks in West Hill. The second was a three storied building in Church Street, opposite the Anchor public house. Directories first record a postmaster, John Shemeld, in Aspley Guise in 1869. Neither the man nor the occupation are listed in the 1861 census but he is listed in 1871, as postmaster. The census return indicates that he was 70 years old and had been born in Woburn, his wife Sarah, aged 66, was from Cranfield.

Given Shemeld's age it is unsurprising to find that in a directory of 1877 Harry Clarke is listed as postmaster; interestingly he was also a photographer and may be responsible for some of the earliest photographs of The Square and surrounding area. He is listed as postmaster in the 1881 census, but here his other occupation is listed as painter. He was just 30 years old at the time and came from Woburn, his wife, Maria, aged 31, being an Aspley girl. A directory of 1885 lists the postmaster as Sydney James Chisnall; interestingly he was listed by the 1881 census as living next to Harry Clarke. He was a saddler, a business he continued in after becoming postmaster. He was 35 in 1881 and came from Potsgrove, his 35 year old wife, Mary, being from Lidlington. Interestingly they had two lodgers from Worcestershire staying with them at the time, aged 20 and 21 respectively and both printers and compositors and no doubt both working at John Kemp & Company or, as it later became, Powage Press, in Church Street. Chisnall remained the postmaster until 1916. At the start of May that year he was replaced by Alice Annie Holmes and the post office moved from Tilcocks to the three storeyed building in Church Street. Alice Holmes was still postmistress in 1940. She is also listed as a stationer and she commissioned a large number of postcards of various parts of the village, notable for the fact that she appears in virtually each one in the same hat, white blouse and black pencil skirt!

The Old Post Office January 2008
The Old Post Office January 2008

In 1927 this part of Bedfordshire was valued under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; each property and piece of land was inspected to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting the Post Office noted [DV1/C/239] that the building was owned by Mrs.M.R.Whitman. He described the building as a brick and slate end of terrace (whereas it is semi-detached), comprising, downstairs: the shops (11 feet by 15 feet and 11 feet by ten feet one of these is presumably the post office, the other the stationer's), a larder, a kitchen ( 9½ feet by 15 feet) and reception room (13½  feet by 10 feet). Upstairs were a bedroom (12 feet by 9 feet), a bathroom and wc, a second bedroom (13½ feet by 13 feet) and two attics above ("really a 2nd floor"). Outside were a brick and slate barn, wc, store and cycle shed. Mains water, drainage and gas were laid on.

The third former Aspley Post Office January 2008
The third former Aspley Post Office - January 2008

After Alice Holmes' time the post office moved just across the road into The Square, into a building next door but one to the Anchor, and remained here into the 1990s when it moved into a shop on the other side of The Square. Sadly, early in the 21st century Aspley Guise, like many other rural communities, lost its post office, residents now having to go into Woburn or Woburn Sands. All three former post offices are now private houses - the original one now a single detached property, painted in a rather bright yellow, as may be seen in the photograph above.

The fourth former Aspley Post Office January 2008
The building in the centre is the fourth former Aspley Post Office - January 2008