OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 28, 2020
Webpage updated: May 02, 2020

        

POSTAL SERVICE IN OLD PLYMOUTH, 1840 TO 1969

GENERAL POST OFFICE, WESTWELL STREET

The architect's drawing of the first part of the General Post Office in Westwell Street, Plymouth.
The architect was Mr E G Rivers.
Courtesy of the Plymouth Library Service.

As the Western Daily Mercury reported on December 29th 1881, just when the inhabitants had all but given up on the Government's promise that it would replace the 'cramped and confined' General Post Office in Whimple Street, it was announced that the authorities had, in fact, already paid for the site of a new one in Westwell Street and intended to spend 22,000 on the structure.

The new post office, designed by Mr E G Rivers of Bristol, a surveyor to the HM Commissioner of Works, was built of Portland stone and Cornish granite in the Gothic style.  The cost of the site and building was 16,500 and the contractor was Messrs Lapthorn and Goad of Plymouth.  The foundation stone was laid on November 16th 1882 by Mr P S Macliver, a former Member of Parliament for Plymouth.  There was no opening ceremony: the staff merely quietly moved everything from the old premises in to the new Post Office during the night of Saturday December 6th 1884 and it opened for business on the following Monday.

During 1903 the Post Office was extended by an extra 7,000 square feet.  A tower was added over the public entrance, complete with a parapet and lions on each of the angle piers.  The four lions were carved out of Portland stone and were each over 6 feet in height.  Some 4,000 square feet of the ground floor was added to the sorting office while the remainder of the area formed a covered yard for the mail vans.  The floor of the sorting office was covered with maple wood blocks.  Also provided was a larger waiting-room for the telegraph messenger boys, along with a kitchen for their use.

A stone staircase led up to the first floor, where a new room, measuring 84 feet by 35 feet, was provided for the telegraphists and their instruments.  Their former accommodation in the original part of the building was to be converted into offices for the chief clerk and the surveyor.  On the second floor were the caretaker's rooms and a large kitchen and dining-room for the staff.  The second floor of the old building was converted into retiring rooms for the clerks, a messengers' institute, and store-rooms.

Following the removal of the sorting facilities from the General Post Office, Westwell Street, work was to be undertaken to enlarge that building to include more telephone boxes.

In 1933 the interior was reconstructed, it being reopened on May 17th 1933 by Sir Kingsley Wood, Postmaster General.  It now had an inlaid floor depicting Drake's ships and the "Mayflower".

The tower over the main entrance was the only part
of the General Post Office in Westwell Street that remained after the Blitz.
  Plymouth Library Service.

Westwell Street Post Office was destroyed during the Blitz of March 20th/21st 1941.  The General Post Office, Spear's Corner, was opened in Tavistock Road as a temporary wartime replacement.