Post, printing, and public service in Hampton, Middlesex

Shown: Victorian postbox in Station Road, Hampton. (Historic England): “Boxes from the reign of George V account for about 15% of the total. There are smaller numbers, in descending order, of boxes from the reigns of George VI, Victoria, and Edward VII. From 1879 onwards this box continues to be one of Britain’s most recognisable symbols.”

From: St James’s Church – New Hampton and Hampton Hill in Victorian and Edwardian Times:

“The original Post Office was located at 40 High Street (now Billy Basin). In 1835, the Post Office building went into the possession of the printing firm Edwin Makepeace and the Post Office took over half the building. The printing works continued in the remaining part of the building and later became The Hampton Press. The building is now part of Attic.

In 1882 postal services were improved by the placing of a letter box in the wall close to the new entrance to Bushy Park opposite the Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church). There were frequent complaints about the slow delivery of letters and this was improved in 1892 by making the Hampton Hill branch its own sorting office.

By the 1890s there was also a sub-office in the High Street at the newsagent’s shop near the junction with Park Road and known as the Fulwell Post Office. A lending library was opened at the Post Office in 1892. By 1899 Makepeace’s at the main post office were advertising “Postal Telegraph on the Premises”.

A few other lines were connected in the late 1890s, one of them to the fire station. The Surrey Comet of January 15th, 1908, reported that one or two Hampton telephone subscribers were joined to the Kingston Exchange and that there were plans for an exchange at Hampton which was eventually built in High Street Hampton in 1926. In 1911, Molesey 9 was the number of an old established Hampton family. Molesey 546 was the telephone number of the butcher’s F.W.Paines, 133 High Street. The Post Office moved to new premises at 58 High Street in 1995.”

From the website of St James, Hampton Hill:

“Chapter 7 – Personalities 2 – The Leading Laity:

In November, 1890, we read of the death of Mrs. Austin, at Oxford Cottage, where she lived with her husband since “relinquishing the Post Office and printing business to Mr. Makepeace. (“printer, stationer, & fancy goods”). Her husband, William Austin (“house agent”), was one of the most outstanding of the public servants. He is described as “looking like a typical Dickens character,” and we first hear of him in 1855, a year of heavy frost when the Thames froze over. He printed a pamphlet, “Glorious News! A Sheep to be roasted on the Thames, near the Angler’s Retreat, between Hampton and Hampton Court (ie on Hampton Court Road), on Friday, February 23rd, 1855, between two and three o’clock, and the public are invited to partake of the same. Two barrels of superior ale will be supplied at the same time.” We are told that Mr. Austin set up a small printing press on the banks but the thaw set in and the whole affair became bogged down in mud.

He became a most active member of the Hampton Board of Guardians, the Local Board and the Urban District Council. As Lighting Inspector of the district he guaranteed that “the lamp posts will be put in their selected spots as soon as possible, thus supplying a. long felt need.” As early as 1869 he was paid assistant overseer for the parish and was given a rise from £40 to £60 per year in spite of the fact that “Mr. Broome thought there were plenty as able to do the work for his present salary; if not he would do it himself !“ This offer was not taken up and Mr. Austin received his increase in salary “as it was impossible to speak too highly of his merits.” In 1870 he was elected as Surveyor of Roads—unpaid—and he undertook to do his utmost to get them into a good condition and not to let them revert into the state they were in at the time of his election when “What was everybody’s business appeared to be nobody’s business and nothing has been done.” He also promised to lay open for inspection a weekly statement of expenditure and proceedings “thus establishing a precedent long wanted!” Ironically, it was criticism of his muddled account keeping which, as an old man, led to his resignation in 1882. He was a campaigner for better workhouse conditions and along with T. Bailey was responsible for having the “tramp cages” pulled down.

Chapter 5 – Social Life – Charitable Organisations:

Much of the quite elaborate printing for the area was done by Edwin Makepeace, of High Street, who advertised “Superior work and materials only, established 1835.” He sold church psalters and in 1888 “Makepeace’s Bazaar” is advertised as selling stove ornaments and having a show of Foreign Art Pottery.
In the 1890’s St. James’s Church “witnessed the nuptials of Miss Mary Makepeace, second daughter of the respected postmaster of the village.” All five bridesmaids, in their heliotrope dresses “with wreaths of narcissus and maidenhair fern” were younger sisters of the bride. Many of the numerous presents, we read, “were accompanied with expressions of high appreciation of the bride’s discharge of duties connected with the Postal Branch of Mr. Makepeace’s business,” and we are told that “advantage was taken of the brightness of the day to obtain a photograph of the happy event.”
One of Makepeace’s most notable contributions to the community were the various Directories containing details of the village and its institutions, and the gift—already mentioned elsewhere —of the Post Office clock.

The Parish Magazine of 1891 provided that “in consequence of the unusual severity of the weather which has thrown so many out of work and has caused much distress amongst the working classes, a soup kitchen has been opened with a view to mitigating, as much as possible, the suffering which prevails.” The kitchen opened on December 20th, 1890, in the Fitz Wygram Working Men’s Coffee Room and a subscription list was started in the village to enable the managers to sell soup at half price. By the end of January the secretary, Miss Barnard – an indefatigable church worker – reported that 1,197 pints of soup had been served. During this outbreak of bad weather the Rev. H. Bligh gave money to needy workmen out of his own pocket and arranged for work to be found for them laying down the path which runs from the “kissing gates” by Burton’s Road railway bridge, skirting the railway line and emerging opposite Fulwell Station.

We understand that the expenses involved were also met out of the reverend gentleman’s own pocket. Fortunately there was a lighter side to the spell of bad weather. Arrangements were made to hold an old-fashioned frost fair on the river adjacent to the ferry at Hampton, but the thaw set in rapidly and the festivities were shorn of their anticipated gaiety. A twelve-stone sheep was to have been roasted on the ice but it had to be partly cooked and then roasted in front of a large “devil” under the lee of the Bell Hill wall. Mr. Makepeace, of Hampton Hill, erected a portable printing press and ran off copies of a handbill to commemorate the event. There were about two thousand spectators and the ground being a “mass of sloppy mud,” spectators, sketchers, reporters, amateur photographers, itinerant musicians – all presented an exceedingly bespattered appearance. The carving was done in a “commodious” tent and two hundred quarten loaves were distributed.”.”

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