Webpage created: April 28, 2020
Webpage updated: April 04, 2023
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.
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.
The Head Post Office was in 1932 open between 8am and 8pm on weekdays and between 9.am and 10.30am on Sundays for the sale of postage stamps, registration of letters, purchase of Money and Telegraph Orders, Savings Bank, Insurance, Annuity and Inland Revenue Licence, and Parcel Post business and the purchase and cashing of Postal Orders. Callers could collect their letters between the hours of 8am and 8pm on weekdays but not at all on Sundays. The Telegraph Office was open continuously. Inland Revenue Stamps business was only transacted between 10am and 5pm on weekdays only. The four Plymouth Town deliveries commenced at 7am, 11.30am, 2.15pm, and 4.45pm. There were no deliveries on Sundays.
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
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.