Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Postmen's Huts

Today's guest post is by Alan Cleaver. Our paths crossed professionally before he retired from journalism and Alan now writes books on British footpaths and the stories behind them. He is the author of Corpse Roads of Cumbria (he lives in Whitehaven) and his next book will be Postman's Paths.

Shedworking is nothing new. Back in the 19th Century (and until the mid-20th Century) rural postmen had their own sheds, or Postmen's Huts as they are generally known. These basic structures made from corrugated iron and with a pot-bellied stove inside were once common place throughout Britain but today only a few survive. 

Rural postmen often had a tough walk of up to 20 miles each day, six days a week and the hut was a halfway stopping place where they could have their lunch and rest. But many also used it as an 'office' for their second job. The poor pay of the postman or postwoman meant many had to subsidise their income by offering services as a cobbler. Boots and shoes could be left at the shed for the postman to repair.  

Postmen had to fight hard to be given even this basic facility. The post office came up with the design but it was frequently the postman who had to pay for it to be built - and he or she also had to pay for fuel for the fire. Other rural postmen were offered food and a bed at a farmhouse - again paid for by the kindness of the farmer rather than by the post office.

These huts could at one time be seen in most villages but today only a handful survive. Most have simply worn away to nothing or have been recycled as garden sheds or even dog kennels. Only at Nesfield in Yorkshire has the community remembered the valuable role of the rural postman and his meagre shelter, converting it into a village seat. A plaque bears the legend:

 "Postman's Shelter: Built in 1926 to replace an earlier one for his use when delivering mail on foot to Nesfield and Langar twice daily. Restored in 2008 by Nesfield residents for your enjoyment." 

Let's hope the remaining postmen's huts are preserved in a similar way to record this valuable piece of social history.

Photo by Michael Dibb courtesy Geograph


Malvern Garden Buildings offer a premium collection of garden buildings, displayed at 11 UK showsites.


1 comment:

  1. Jamie Ayres1:19 PM

    I'm very interested in the historical aspect of the postmen's huts but there doesn't seem to be a reliable way to find out where they are / were. Are you aware of a map that would have them marked on?
    I believe that many local communities would be interested to hear of huts in their area and hopefully look at saving them. Unfortunately, as the people who would have remembered them in use may no longer be with us there is a good chance that we will lose the little buildings forever.
    Many thanks! :)