History

Information copied from Winsham Web Museum

Winsham Shop has been in the same spot for at least 160 years, maybe much longer

The first record we have of this durable enterprise is for 1851, when the Census of that date tells us that Daniel Hitchcock was the proprietor and carried out a business in selling groceries and drapery. He was also the Postmaster, a new task which would have been in response to the massive increase in letters that had arisen from the reforms to the postal service in 1840. These were pioneered by Rowland Hill. and led the way to the universal pre-payment system and the introduction of the postage stamp, the most popular being the Penny Black and the Two pence Blue.

So popular was this innovation, the letter traffic increased in Britain from 76 million in 1839 to 350 million by 1850, an increase 360%. This would have been a response to improving standards of literacy among the general population, more rapid delivery due to the introduction of railways to carry mail and the rapid expansion of the British economy due to the fruits of the Industrial Revolution.

In 1861 the Post Office Savings Bank opened, and this service would have provided a secure place for ordinary Winsham people to deposit any spare money.

In 1871, records tell us that David Andress had taken over the business, but is listed as the Sub Postmaster. This may have meant that the Post Office business had grown to the extent that one person could not manage it. We know that by 1889 Robert Fowler Sylvester had taken over the business, and while continuing to sell groceries and draperies, he is listed as Post Master, a position he held into the 1920s. Sometime in the last quartile of the 1800s a serious fire ravaged the thatch roof of the shop and adjoining premises, including the Old Kings Arms. It was after this event that it is believed that the distinctive dormer windows and a slate roof were added to Post Office House, as it is now known.

By the turn of the century the Post Office was very busy.  In 1900, following deliberations and a financial commitment from Winsham Parish Council, the Electric Telegraph service reached Winsham. As a result the Post Office moved from the shop premises to a building across Church Street, next to the Jubilee Hall and adjacent to The Bell.