Looking back at Sudbury’s Post Office as it moves again

When Sudbury Post Office was last on Market Hill. The year 1897 when  bearded Postmaster Joseph Hills retired handing over to his daughters Kate and Ellen and his son Benjamin all sitting to the right of their father.
Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140714001
When Sudbury Post Office was last on Market Hill. The year 1897 when bearded Postmaster Joseph Hills retired handing over to his daughters Kate and Ellen and his son Benjamin all sitting to the right of their father. Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140714001

Sudbury Post Office needs a change of address card for the fifth time since the Penny Post arrived.

Today it is setting up shop at the rear of booksellers WH Smith on Market Hill.

1940 and busy days in Station Road with the postman showing a new batch of motorcycle combinations intended for deliveries around the area Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140558001

1940 and busy days in Station Road with the postman showing a new batch of motorcycle combinations intended for deliveries around the area Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140558001

It has been downsized in a cost cutting exercise, along with post offices elsewhere in country including Bury St Edmunds, though with the promise of retaining all the services that were available in the East Street shop plus longer opening hours.

Photographs of earlier Sudbury post offices feature in the Sudbury Museum Trust online archive which can also be viewed at the Heritage Centre at the Town Hall.

The earliest dates back to the 1850s when photography was still in its infancy.

It shows postmaster and watchmaker Benjamin Hills’ shop in Friars Street and the post box in the window of the shop next door which he also owned. This is now a newsagents

Former Sudbury post office. Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140724001

Former Sudbury post office. Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140724001

This was by no means the first post office in Sudbury. A 1839 trade directory records postmaster Alexander Frost daily despatching letters at 8pm to London and the South from No. 66 Friars Street which is opposite the cricket ground.

There is still a working Victorian post box in a wall near Frost’s office but it was not until 1840 that a Penny Black postage stamp would take a letter to anywhere in the British Isles.

In 1855 the next known postmaster Thomas Goldsmith was despatching letters by rail as well as by road from what was then called Borehamgate Street.

Three years later watchmaker and postmaster Hills, was sending out local deliveries at 7am from the Friars Street shop and the family ran Sudbury’s postal services for decades after that.

photograph from the 1850s of the Hills watchmaker shop and adjoining business in Friars Street. The post box is clearly visible at waist height on the left. This is now a newsagents. Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140608001

photograph from the 1850s of the Hills watchmaker shop and adjoining business in Friars Street. The post box is clearly visible at waist height on the left. This is now a newsagents. Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140608001

Benjamin was followed by Joseph who by 1891 had separated the two businesses, moving the stamps and money orders into a purpose-built office on Market Hill. This building now houses part of the Dorothy Perkins fashion chain. Joseph retired before the end of the century handing control to his son Benjamin and two daughters.

In 1911 the post office was on the move again to a newly-built Crown Office in Station Road and post boxes were cleared five times a day.

It was still in business there until 1974 when the move came to the office in East Street. The previous one is now Kingdom Hall, local headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

So for the first time in more than a century Sudbury Post Office is back on the Market Hill but now a victim of the digital age and reduced to sharing a shop with a bookseller.

The present post office in East Street under construction in 1974. Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140703001

The present post office in East Street under construction in 1974. Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive ANL-160711-140703001

Captions - photos all from the Sudbury Museum Trust photo archive