Journey of the postal workers: the British who delivered the mail on foot were looking for a new book | Postal service


The last surviving rural postmen who delivered the mail on foot are wanted for an upcoming book celebrating their lives and mapping their often arduous daily journeys.

Foot mail delivery ended in the countryside in 1970 with the adoption of mail vans, and it is now feared that the postal routes and the history of those who walked them are fading from the memory of the living. .

Author Alan Cleaver brings together a selection of the best postal routes across the UK, with stories about the postal workers who created them.

He said: “They created these paths, or used existing paths, as shortcuts between farms. They would have saved themselves a few hours on what was often already a long day. And I was struck by the fact that some of them are very beautiful walks.

In addition to charting their routes, Cleaver is keen to recognize the crucial role postal workers play in rural communities. “What stands out is the tremendous richness of the history of these postmen and their incredible rides in all weathers.

Elsie Rowson on her post route in South Shropshire. Photography: handout

“It was these people who not only brought the post and the news, but they also brought medicine and made sure people were well. There was more of a sense of connection with the postmen then because they walked.

The routes include an 11-mile postal ride through the hills of South Shropshire, by the late Elsie Rowson. Her family remembers that she not only delivered the mail, but also read aloud to those who had difficulty reading.

Her daughter Susan Sproson told the Guardian: ‘She used to bake cakes and take them with her and check on everyone. A social service sounds wrong, but that was part of what she did. Rowson’s duties also involved delivering heavy lead acid batteries to isolated farms off the grid.

Sproson said her mum usually didn’t drink but got ‘clean’ on Christmas Day when she still had to deliver the mail and was invited for drinks at many of the farmhouses and remote cabins she served .

Matt Bendelow finished his daily post tour at Bowes, Durham on one leg
Matt Bendelow finished his daily post tour at Bowes, Durham on one leg. Photography: handout

Other post routes include Kenny MacKay’s rugged Harris Coast route, which is now a popular mountain bike route. And Cleaver is currently documenting the nine-mile route to Bowes, County Durham, from Matt Bendelow, a postman who managed the trip on one leg.

It also tries to trace the tour of Hannah Knowles, who began delivering the post at Eskdale Green, Cumbria in 1912, and continued to do so for the next 62 years. She only took three days off due to illness, Cleaver found.

Hannah Knowles on her tour Eskdale, Cumbria
Hannah Knowles on her tour in Eskdale, Cumbria. Photograph: Ravenglass Railroad Museum

He has so far plotted a nearby tour to Boot from the late Ben Vicars, with the help of Patricia Nolan, whose mother ran the local post office. Nolan made the rounds herself in the summer of 1961 as a 19-year-old student teacher. She recalls: “After three weeks I was on my knees. But coming back after delivering all the letters and looking at the Scafell range, it was just lovely.

She also remembers passing news and “valley gossip” to the farms in the hills. “Postmen played an important role because there was not much transport. It was vital that someone came by every day to say hello and have a cup of tea. It was contact with the outside world.

Cleaver, a former editor of a local newspaper, hopes to find the surviving rural postal workers. He said: ‘I appeal to postal workers and retired women, and anyone who may have known them and their routes, to pass on the details. Postman careers must be saved, preserved and celebrated.


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