Post Office People

More about the people involved and the parts they played.

 James Flitton

 James Flitton was born in 1817 at Newnham, Herts and was a member of the Flitton family of Bassingbourn, from which the Steeple Morden branch was descended, so James had relations in the village. He trained as a draper in Royston, where he was living in 1841 and married Jane Dyer in Exeter in 1842. After the business failed in 1845 they moved first to Royston and then to Cambridge.

George Barker

George Barker was the eldest child of Nathaniel Barker and Mary Anne nee Dickason. Nathaniel was born at Wimbish, Essex and married Mary Anne Dickason in 1819 at Abington Pigotts. He was a miller and after living at Litlington, Bassingbourn and Henham, Essex settled at Hooks Mill, Guilden Morden in the mid-1830s and eventually recorded his occupation as farmer.

George was baptised at Litlington on 6 August 1820 and married Matilda Maria Shrosbery at Potton on 1 December 1845.  They had three children at Steeple Morden: George Dickason (born 1848), Albert William (born 1850) and Annie Matilda (born 1851). George and Matilda Maria moved with their family to Shefford, Bedfordshire between 1852 and 1856.

He was probably letter receiver from c1845 to 1852/56?

Thomas Swan and Family

 Thomas Swan, son of a bricklayer, came from a family long established at Orwell and succeeded George Barker as letter receiver/sub-postmaster, along with running the grocery and drapery shop. Thomas died 24 November 1875 age 51, leaving about £3000 split equally amongst his children, who are not named in his will made 5 June 1873, which appointed his friend William Law of Orwell, grocer and his son David Swan of St Neots, grocer as executors.

Thomas’ eldest son also called Thomas had a grocery and drapery shop at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire at that time, so it was his second son David Swan, born 12 May 1852 at Orwell, who succeeded his father running the shop until 1882, when for some reason he moved to Duxford to run a similar shop there.

Younger brother William Law Swan, born 1859 at Steeple Morden, succeeded David at Steeple Morden. William appears to have retired around 1922, although he continued to appear as sub-postmaster in the 1922 and 1925 directories. When he made his will 18 July 1927 he is described “of Station Road” and when he died on 4 November 1927 he was described as “of Homeleigh, District Council Cottages [Odsey Way], Ashwell Road, also known as Station Road.” He left £4302 11s 9d and appointed his sons William Gordon Swan and Reginald Arthur Swan as his executors and left his wife Maud Elizabeth a life interest in his entire estate. Upon her death it was to be shared equally between William and Reginald. Additionally, William forgave the debts of £1506 that William and Reginald each owed him and William was to have the right to buy the building and land of the Post Office for £500 if he so wished. Eldest son Frank Norman born in 1883 is not mentioned and seems to have disappeared or died, as the last mention of him is in the 1901 Census and he is lodging in St Pancras, London and described as an ironmonger’s assistant. It is possible he went to Kenya and joined the Police?

William Law’s son William Gordon Swan next ran the shop from 1922 and was sub-postmaster up to 1946, selling the shop in 1948. He died 11 May 1952, having moved to 4 Meadow Way, Letchworth, after his death his widow Alice Swan nee Solomon moved to Huntley Villa in Cheyney Street, where she died 24 August 1966.

Eleanor and Clarice Lee

 In 1948, the Lee family consisting of Eleanor Jane Lee and her daughter Annie Clarice Lee (known as Clarice) and Eleanor’s sister Annie Phillips moved into the cottage that sits endways onto the road in Cheyney Street, next to Hill House. It is today No 22 Cheyney Street and known as The Old Post Office.

Eleanor Jane was born at Wistow, Huntingdonshire on 18 April 1888, daughter of George Phillips, a farm bailiff. She went into domestic service and first came to Steeple Morden as Cook in the household of the Rev. Edward Y Orlebar at the Rectory and is recorded there, age 22, in the 1911 census. Her future husband John Lee was born at Litlington on 13 March 1886, the son of Mary Matilda Lee of Cage Lane.

John and Eleanor married in Litlington on 22 February 1923, he aged 37 of Silver Street, occupation “farming” and she aged  34 of Church Street, age 34 occupation “assistant in a shop”. Annie Clarice was born at Litlington on 10 October 1923 and was to be their only child. At the age of 5 she was left fatherless, as John died aged 40 at the Papworth Institute in 1928 and was buried in Litlington Cemetery and in the burial register is described as of The Post Office, Litlington.

In the 1939 Register Eleanor, her daughter Clarice and spinster sister Annie Phillips are recorded living at the Post Office, Church Street, Litlington and occupation for Eleanor is “Charge PO & General Store”, Clarice is “Needle Work at Home” and Annie “Unpaid Household Duties”.

They moved to 24 Cheyney Street in January 1948 and the cottage became the Post Office with Eleanor Jane as sub-postmistress, until her death on 9 June 1954. She is described in the probate of her will as of The Post Office and “widow” with no occupation given. She left £1119 4s 5d net, to be split equally between Annie and Clarice.

On her mother’s death Clarice became the sub-postmistress, although her aunt Annie was still living with her. When Annie died at The Post Office on 13 May 1966, she left her estate valued at £1524 0s 0d net to Clarice.

Clarice was known as a friendly, although very private person. A great interest was horse riding and she stabled her horse at the rear of the cottage, with access via the passage way on the left as you face the cottage from Cheyney Street

Clarice retired in 1983 and moved to 6 Chestnut Close, Bassingbourn where she died in tragic circumstances on 22 August 1987.

Joyce Hutley

 In 1983 24 Cheyney Street was bought by Alan Robert and Joyce Hutley nee Hayne, as a family home for their four children and to allow Joyce to become the new postmistress, whilst Alan continued his trade as painter & decorator.

The Hutleys originated from Surrey, but moved to Steeple Morden from St Albans(?). Joyce retired from the role of sub-postmistress in 1986. They sold 22 Cheyney Street to the Wilde family and moved to Craft Way..

Patricia Covington

 It was thus in November 1986 that the post office moved to its third location at Prothero’s Garage, 18 Cheyney Street and Patricia J Covington nee Prothero, known as Tricia, took on the role of sub-postmistress. In 2000 post office and shop moved into new purpose-built premises at the side of the Garage.

In 2008 the post office was one of those threatened with closure as a part of a Post Office review but was reprieved. The post office at Guilden Morden had closed in 1998 and in 2015 the Ashwell post office closed, although a very limited hours service was subsequently offered in the Ashwell Parish Rooms. It was not surprising that when Tricia mooted a wish to retire in 2014 there were wide-spread requests for her to continue and as a compromise the hours of business for the post office became 9am to 1pm Monday to Saturday and not full days as previously.

Eventually, in June 2022 Tricia announced her intention to retire in New Year 2023 and the Post Office closed permanently at end of business on 31 January 2023. Having held the position for 36 years & 2 months, Tricia entered the record books as the longest serving sub-postmistress in Steeple Morden. Her post office service and all-round contributions to village life were marked by the award of the British Empire Medal in the King’s Birthday Honours in June 2023.


Patricia Covington, enjoying retirement and celebrating award of BEM in June 2023

Last Updated on May 6, 2024