The post office in Charnwood Street was an important part of the local community, paying out old age pensions and child allowances as well as providing postal services themselves. Paul Dorrell’s father Thomas was sub-postmaster there from 1948, when it was located at 113a Charnwood Street. Paul recalls that the address of the residential part of the premises was 51 Farnham Street, and he lived there with his parents until the post office was relocated to the corner of Farnham Street and Sherrard Road around 1965.
Thomas Dorrell took over the business from Frank Alexander Grant, whose own father Alexander was the original sub-postmaster. In the 1891 Census he is listed at 51 Farnham Street as a Post Office Clerk with his wife and six children, two of whom were also employed by the Post Office. Frank was ten at that time and still at school, but in 1901, when the address of the post office is given as 115 Charnwood Street, he appears in the Census as a Postal Telegraph Assistant – as does his sister Alice. Alexander Grant had retired by then and his wife Caroline, who had no doubt helped in the business for some years, had become the sub-postmistress. She was still listed as such in Kelly’s Directory in 1908, but it is Frank who appears in the 1911 Census as sub-postmaster, still living at home with his parents and two of his sisters.
The agreement of the Borough Council had to be given before any Sub-Post Offices could close for half a day, as a petition from ‘Officers in charge of the Sub-Post Offices in Leicester’ in 1902 shows. There were around 40 or 50 of them in the town at that time, each open to the public from 8 am – 8 pm, ‘there being no break whatever allowed to close such Offices during the day for meals etc’. They were also open Monday to Saturday, ‘without any cessation from duty’, and no possibility of ‘change or recreation’ during the week until after 8 pm. Thus, they said:
We feel that the long and protracted hours of duty are sufficiently arduous to entitle us to a break during the week of one half-day, and that it is necessary in the interests of our health we should be allowed the opportunity of a weekly change. It has become a universal custom in nearly all businesses and professions to observe one half-day a week as a cessation from duty, and the benefit resulting from such a custom would be a boon that would be greatly appreciated by the Sub-Postmasters of this town. We trust the Council will see the reasonableness of our request…’.
This was followed by 37 signatures. The Council did agree – its consent was needed before the Postmaster could consider the petition – and they closed at 1 pm on a Thursday (Leicester Borough Council Minutes, 25 March 1902). Paul also recalls that the Post Office would not allow offices to be less than a quarter of a mile apart. As this notice shows, Wednesday was half day closing for the Charnwood Street office, but others in the area would close on different days of the week to ensure that at least one would be open.
Many thanks to Paul for this information and the images. If you’re interested in the history of the Post Office more generally, or have ancestors who worked for it, there is a useful website at http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/page/3091/British-Postal-History.