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Basingstoke has a complex history of postal service. Our post office has moved locations six times in the past 200 years, sometimes to the benefit of the residents, and sometimes controversially.
Although the Royal Mail was established in 1516 by Henry VIII, and the General Post Office in 1660 under the reign of Charles II, it took another 150 years from then for Basingstoke to get its first post office.
Before that, by the late 1700s, coaching inns were used as a convenient way of dispersing mail across the country which was sorted and distributed from the Post Master’s house. Uniformed postmen came into being in 1793 and the world’s first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was introduced in 1840.
Basingstoke’s first recorded post office was at the corner of May Place and London Street.
But in 1814 Robert Cottle set up a stationery and printing shop in Winchester Street. Within his shop, Mr Cottle established a post office and installed a postal slot in the front wall where customers, standing out in all weathers, posted their items and rang a bell to attract the attention of his assistant. Many years later this section of wall was removed. This is now displayed at the Willis museum.
The building, still in existence today, is nestled between Fever & Boutique and The Dragon Palace Restaurant. It was formally occupied by Victoria Wine and confectioner Lewis.
Mr Cottle, who became Mayor, died in 1859 whereupon the post office was moved to Upper Wote Street. Customers sometimes had to wait for the assistant to finish a row of knitting, or complete a letter before being served. There were up to six deliveries of mail a day, the first by seven, the last at 8pm, and one on Sunday.
In 1925 the Basingstoke post office moved to New Street and the sorting office and telephone exchange were installed behind the building.
On April 4, 2019, the Post Office was controversially moved to its present position in Old Basing Mall in the town centre, as part of the national franchise agreement to share premises with WH Smith.
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