Before you go out to buy a stamp I must warn you that this picture was taken some thirty years ago, and Bawburgh no longer has a post office. The building remains (minus its letter box) but now you would never know that it used to be a shop. The post office went part time in 1990 and finally closed its doors for the last time in 1993. The building appears to date from the early 17th century, but the post office only moved there in 1937. It had been a grocer’s shop called Bridge Stores for much longer. During the war it had been popular with evacuees.
In the days before the southern by-pass was built Bawburgh was less cut off from the rest of Norwich. A short way down the road opposite Longwater Lane in Costessey and you were in the village. Now it is much longer journey from Easton. New Road from Bawburgh to Bowthorpe is once again open, although the bridge under the by-pass is extremely narrow and rather low; for some years after this bridge was constructed it was closed to all but farm tractors.
My wife was quite a regular supply teacher at Bawburgh school when she went back to part-time work once our children were old enough to go to school themselves. That was quite a number of years after the most famous pupil of Bawburgh school had left however. His name is Ed Balls and he is none other than the former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. He lost his seat at the 2015 election. His niece was a friend of my son Peter when the were both pupils at Norwich School. Ed Balls still supports Norwich City FC. He would have known the post office in its heyday; perhaps he used to buy gobstoppers there.
I have already done a blog on St Walstan’s well in Bawburgh in March 2012, but there are plenty more reminders of this Anglo-Saxon saint in the village that once held his shrine and was his final resting place. Just down the road from the old post office the ‘slipper chapel’ is said to be the place where pilgrims started their final journey to his shrine. More credible is the theory that it was built as a garden folly in the 17th century, though such follies were not widely built until the 18th century and the style is definitely earlier than that. Most probably we should call one of the two buildings a dove cote, but that still leaves the other one as a mystery. Any doves would have been quite content with one cote, and they do not usually require large windows. They do however need some means of access, which neither building possesses today. The more elaborate of the two buildings uses old ecclesiastical materials that must have come from St Walstan’s chapel. When all is said they are still a bit of a mystery.
From the mid 1880s until 1899 the mill at Bawburgh was used to produce the pulp that was converted into paper forthe Times at Taverham, a few miles away. The river Yare was unusable for transport from its confluence with the Wensum where the river was blocked by Trowse mill. There was no railway closer than Hellesdon, so the rags and esparto grass that formed the raw materials had to be brought by horse drawn wagon from Norwich. The owner of that mill and the associated business at Taverham was J. H. F. Walter, the cousin of the owner of the Times newspaper. A trip that he organised for his workers to see a coal mine in Nottinghamshire might seem a rather extraordinary one, but his father owned the mine! Needless to say the post office was well used when Walter owned the mill, with letters delivered from Norwich just after seven in the morning and despatched at 5.15 in the afternoon.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES of EAST ANGLIA