Webpage created: January 23, 2018.
Webpage updated: February 01, 2018
ROYAL MAIL IN OLD PLYMOUTH, 1918-2005
During the Great War it once again cost a penny to post a letter up to one ounce in weight. The four ounce letter of 1897 cost 2½d. However, the cost fell again by 1918, when it cost 1½d to send a package of up to four ounces in weight.
When the Great War ended in 1918 there were a large number of motor vehicles up for disposal by the military authorities and it may have been this that spurred the Post Office to purchase its first motor vans in 1919. There were 48 of them at first so they were probably confined to the London area. The introduction of motor vehicles throughout the provinces seems to have been a subject of tremendous argument as it was not felt that it was saving any expense, except on the rural services.
In 1920 postage cost 2d but that covered a letter of anything up to three ounces in weight. In 1922 an intermediate 1½d rate was introduced for letters up to one ounce and in 1923 that was increased to two ounces.
A major event took place in Plymouth in 1928, although without any ceremony. On Sunday March 25th the sorting office was transferred from the General Post Offices in both Plymouth and Devonport to a new sorting office at Pennycomequick. It opened the following day.
Motor-cycles were introduced nationally in 1932 for the use of the telegram boys or messengers, who had to be aged 17 years at minimum.
Following the transfer of sorting facilities to Pennycomequick, the opportunity was taken to reconstruct the interior of the main Post Office in Westwell Street. When this was finished, the building had an inlaid floor depicting Drake's ships and the "Mayflower". The building was re-opened for business by Sir Kingsley Wood, Postmaster-General, on May 17th 1933.
Unfortunately all that expense was wasted for on the night of March 20th/21st 1941 Westwell Street Post Office was destroyed by bombing. The Post Office moved to temporary premises at 10 Tavistock Road, known as Spear's Corner Post Office.
It was announced on Saturday August 9th 1941 that the General Post Office had made ready a fleet of motor vans fitted out as mobile post offices to be rushed to any location in the South West where the post office had been put out of action by enemy raids. Also ready for use was a prefabricated building with more facilities and even spare sets of post office furniture that could be rushed anywhere it was needed.
Plymouth's main post office remained at Spear's Corner until close of business on September 10th 1957, when Mr Ken Thompson, Assistant Postmaster-General, officially opened the post-war Saint Andrew's Cross Post Office. The new premises opened for business the following day.
In 1969 the General Post Office ceased to be a government department run by the Postmaster General and staffed by civil servants and instead became a public corporation.
The Royal Mail's sole right to carry letter post in the United Kingdom ceased after 350 years at midnight on December 31st 2005.