Wales's smallest post office at St Fagans National History Museum
In 1992 Wales's smallest post office was delivered to Amgueddfa Cymru. Thanks to the generosity of Post Office Counters Ltd, who financed the project, the small brick building was dismantled, transported and then re-built at St Fagans National History Museum by the Museum's specialist re-erected buildings team.
Village post offices have played an important role in community life throughout Wales for the past 90 years. By the 1950s, virtually every village had its own branch, from which mail was distributed, parcels were collected and people gathered to catch up on all the local news. The country postman/postwoman on their bicycle, and later, in the red-painted Morris Minor or Fordson van, helped to keep people in rural communities in touch with one another by maintaining links and regular contact.
The Country Post Office
Of course, country post offices were very rarely housed in the impressive buildings of those found in towns. They usually occupied a corner of the village store or the front room of a house. Sometimes these post offices sold a range of items, but some relied on the sale of stamps, postal orders, licences and savings certificates as their only means of income.
Blaenwaun Post Office, located about eight miles north of Whitland in Dyfed, was one such business. It was built in 1936 by Evan Isaac, a stonemason and his cousin David Williams, a carpenter. The Post Office was run by Mrs Hannah Beatrice Griffiths (nee Isaac), Evan Isaac's daughter, who also ran the pub across the road, the Lamb Inn, with her husband.
Mail was brought daily from Whitland and was sorted at the Post Office on a low bench in the back room. It was delivered to the local community by Mrs Griffiths, who completed the eight-mile round journey on her bicycle before going across the road to work in the Inn. Any customers who arrived at the Post Office when the Griffithses were working in the public house could press a button which rang a bell behind the bar.
The Post Office, which measured just 5m long by 2.9m wide, comprised of two rooms: an outer serving room with a counter and an inner office or sorting room with a small fireplace and a bench under the window. A timber partition wall separated the two rooms. The internal walls were painted chocolate brown to a height of about a metre above the floor then cream to the ceiling, with a broad black band between the two.
A painted sign made of heavy tin sheet on a wooden board was fixed outside above the serving room window. It read BLAENWAUN POST OFFICE. A small post box was mounted against the wall between this window and the entrance door.
In the early days, there was a telephone on the counter for the use of the Post Office and, one assumes, the villagers. Later, a public kiosk was erected outside the small building. In the office was a War Department Receiver for receiving urgent messages in times of emergency.
Following Mr Griffiths' death in the early 1960s, the business was relocated to a new bungalow built by his daughter, Mrs Evanna James. The old Post Office stood empty from that time until it was offered to Amgueddfa Cymru in 1991.
It can be visited today at St Fagans National History Museum in the 'village' section of the open-air museum, near the bakery and the tailor's shop. It has been refurbished to its war-time appearance, and represents a period of Welsh history not covered in any of the Museum's other buildings.
Article Date: 1 January 2008