(November 2020) Post Offices in the Sibfords – 4. Gower Memories

Mabel and Eric Payne moved into their home, Cedarholme on the corner of Bonds End Lane after their marriage in 1946 and they decided to take over the running of the Gower Post Office from their home in the early 1960’s. The post box was moved from the wall in The Old Post Office to a new site on the corner of Bonds End Lane. Mabel became Post Mistress and ran the post office until she handed over her duties to Eric in 1979. Mabel also gave piano music lessons to many village children. Joan Robinson and their daughter, Ruby, helped at times until Eric retired from farm work and gave up the post office in 1984. They suffered a devastating fire in 1996, spent 18 months living in Shepherds Close and returned to their rebuilt cottage in 1998. Mabel died later that year but Eric remained in their marital home until his death in 2008.

Ruby has many memories from the time her parents ran the post office. She remembers that many of the Spanish kitchen staff at Sibford School used the post office for money transfers to send money back to their Spanish home land. There was always a rush on a Thursday morning to get the pensions paid out in time for villagers to catch Jessie Tanner’s bus to Banbury at 10.30am!

During the school summer holidays, when postman Wilfred Alcock who delivered mail to both villages, wanted to take his holidays, Ruby would take on the deliveries for Burdrop and the Gower. Though young, she didn’t have the stamina to walk the village and the farms with a heavy bag so Eric would take the mail to the outlying farms in his car. The post deliveries would take all day. Just imagine what it was like at Christmas or when it snowed. How times have changed with van deliveries to all the homes in the villages today.

The telephone number for the P.O. was Swalcliffe 16 when we took it on. Then it became 216 and many years later 780216 showing that the number of telephones was few and far between in the village in the 1960’s. In the early days, when making a call you had to go through to the exchange in Swalcliffe. If you knew the operator well then you would probably have a little chat (and exchange the gossip) before the operator would dial the number you required. Many of the older residents in the Gower didn’t like to use the newly installed modern telephone kiosk outside Wyatts Close on Main Street. This involved using coins and a Press Button A/B system so they would ask Mabel to make the call for them e.g the doctor (Swalcliffe 13) or ask at the Post Office if they could use the phone themselves.