Along with pubs, village shops and community halls, post offices have always been part of the fabric of rural life. They were the place to go to send a letter or telegram, collect the pension or child allowance, tax the car or buy a card or newspaper. But as the way people shopped and banked changed, and as electronic communications gradually took over, these face-to-face services became less essential, and across the country post offices began closing. Appledore was no different to many other villages when it lost its post office, but it did get some sort of reprieve.
The Johns family, who owned a delicatessen across the water in Instow, decided to buy the former post office and reopen it, but run a delicatessen alongside.
This was in 2008 and the model was such a success they were able to expand into the site of the next door Co-operative store when it closed.
“It’s listed, so the make up of the building hasn’t changed,” says Anthony Johns, “but we did put double doors either side.”
He continues, “The post office is now a tiny part of the site, but we offer it as a service to the community and people do come in for stamps and pensions.”
In the past a visit to a post office was a weekly, if not more frequent activity for people living in rural communities. Anthony notes that going way back to the Fifties and Sixties Appledore had four grocery stores, two butchers and a baker, as well as its post office. When Ravilious took this photograph in 1975 it would be a recognisable and common sight, but thirty years later and you’d be hard pushed to find a post office in north Devon villages – although there are still some around. When you do come across a small post office like this one, does it have any similarities? Do you find newspapers hanging on a rack outside, or notices in the window? What about the type of goods they sell? Appledore’s post office has been transformed into a very popular delicatessen and café, selling local produce and “all the things you can’t buy in a supermarket,” says Anthony; and you can still collect your pension. Who knows, you may even see a dog tied up outside waiting for its owner.