Canon Diggens Archive

The Postal Service 1832-1836

A descriptive account of the isolation of St. Keverne before proper postal arrangements were established is given by an old inhabitant.

"Before the Post Office was set up it was a very difficult thing to send a letter to anyone. The nearest Post Office was at Helston. You had to wait for a chance to send it, or take it there yourself. Sometimes letters have been missed and others have been given to someone to carry. They have forgot to post it or deliver it. There was a case I knew of once. A man was in Falmouth. He was asked to take a letter to St. Keverne, and be sure to deliver it at once as it was of great importance. He put it in his pocket and forgot all about it. Some time after he found the letter in his pocket. He carried it to the man who opened it and found out that he was to be at Falmouth some days before. He went at once but through the neglect he lost 50 pounds.

When the Post Office was first established there were two men for to carry the Post from here to Helston. One would leave here the middle of the day, and stop at Helston all night and leave the next morning for St. Keverne and arrive here about the middle of the day, then he would be free till the middle of the next day.

Later on one man came from Mawgan Cross and back again. The letters were brought from Helston.

The next alteration was the mail cart as now. In past times it was a difficult thing to get to Helston, there was no conveyance. They had to walk if they had not any means of their own or trust to others' generosity. There were no vans running in the early part of the thirties.

First that started was a man from Porthallow called Peter Sunders - a miller. The old mill that he used to work stood where the present mill stands. He used to run twice a week with a two wheeled covered cart, no springs. The little horse was called Peacock. It would carry 7 or 8 passengers. The - fare 1/-. After some time he gave up to James Tripconey, the father of the (then) present Tripconys

He started with a four wheeled stage van drawn by two horses - one before the other - as they are worked now in carts. The van had a rack fixed to the hind part to carry luggage. They could not take anything on the top. They were boarded part way up the sides just for to lean their back against. That boarding had on it "Stage Van From St. Kevern to Helston". The top and the remainder of sides was covered over and painted. The fore and hind parts were open. If it was windy they would draw a curtain to cut off a little of the wind.

Later on a man came from Penzance and opened a shop in the place where Mr. Joyce's house stand.. He started with a two horse Bus. He did not stay long but left again for Penzance. Then another man started on the same plan but soon got tired of it. One more had a try, then he sold off and it went out of the Parish altogether.

Then Mr. Wills began with a two wheeled spring conveyance called "The Times", and after he had a new Bus, the one that Mr, B. Pentecost has now, and the Tripconys got the one they have now,

In the thirties there were only four Spring Traps in the Parish, leaving out Mrs. Sandys, Mr. Williams, Esq., Mr. John Rogers of Trethance, Mr. T. Pearce, Mr. Roskilly and Mr. R. Trerise. They had gigs to carry two.

The Farmers used to carry their corn to Helston Market in carts they did the Farm work with. They would take a broom and brush it out, and put straw in it, then they would put the sacks of corn in Bushels, and carry in a basket their butter and eggs to the Market House where a man would take toll of all they had. The under part of the Market House was for Oats, the upper part for wheat and barley,

I did not say anything about the first man James Tripp that started from here with the letters for Helston for the first time,

The next day he came back without the bag or letters. Mr. Pearce asked him "Where is the bag and letters?" He said, "I left them in Helston for they are calling me Jacky Pickins and I won't carry it any nore".

Jacky Pickins was an old man that used to come out here posting bills.

Postage 1832 - 1836.

The rates of Postage were as follows:

To: Falmouth 4d
  "   Exeter 6d
  "   Helston 2d
  "   Launceston 7d.

A letter from Gorran 1808 cost 6d

Copy of a letter by William Lory of Treleague. St. Keverne
To Colonel Maberley, Secretary, Post Office.

18th July 1842.


I beg leave to make a statement for the consideration of His Lordship the Postmaster General respecting the conveyance of letters and newspapers in the District of Meneage,

Meneage is the first Agricultural district in the County comprising twelve Parishes producing by estimation a rental of forty thousand pounds per annum, containing nearly nine thousand inhabitants, thirty five shops, thirty public houses, an extensive Pilchard, fishery - carried on in nine coves, and a considerable trade in timber, coal etc. etc. There are also four coastguard stations and a customs house where I believe an additional man is employed to attend to the post office, or a sum allowed for the purpose. The inhabitants of this important district experience the greatest inconvenience, injury and loss in consequence of their being no established mode for the conveyance of their correspondence, either through the district, or to the Post Town which is more than ten miles from some of the Parishes. Letters are lost and delayed or returned to the Dead Letter office. We have not the advantage of reading the Daily Newspapers and suffer delay and loss in the receipt of the Weekly ones. The only way we have of receiving or forwarding our letters etc., unless we send on purpose is by the kindness of our neighbours happening to go to Helston or Falmouth on business.

The most important parish is St. Keverne which is equal to any in the county and if its inhabitants of 2620 were concentrated near its centre the town would be more than ten miles from a Post Office.

In order to prevent trouble I take the liberty to propose a plan. I must now beg to refer you to the large ordance map.

There should be six stations to receive and deliver letters and papers, Viz. 1. Mawgan. 2. St. Martin. 3. Manaccan. 4. St. Keverne. 5. Ruan Major. 6. Cury Cross Lanes.

The persons in charge should be approved of by the Post Office Magistrates or Clergy of the district. Two horses would be necessary to keep up a daily communication. This plan would require the sum of 12 pounds per annum but to communicate three times a week i.e. Mondays. Wednesdays and Fridays the sum of 65 pounds would do. The Postman should leave Helston twenty minutes after the arrival of the Eastern Mail, and travel at the rate of six miles an hour, calling at No. 1. 2. 5. (and deliver and receive St. Anthony's letters) No. 4 stop half an hour. No. 5 (here receive and deliver Grade, Ruan Minor, and Landewednack (No. 6) (here deliver and receive Mullion, Cury and Gunwallo letters) and back to Helston, the whole district being thirty miles, or indeed starting from and returning to St. Keverne church village, the most important place in the district, containing 510 inhabitants, calling at the different stations and being at Helston before the arrival of the mail.

A third plan might answer as well and require less expense say 10 pounds on the first and 5 pounds on the last sum. I beg to add that I am ready to guarantee that the above estimate shall not be exceeded.

Distance of each church from Helston and number of inhabitants in each parish,
Names Distance in Miles No. of Inhabitants
Mawgan   4 1,150
St. Martin   6 615
Manaccan   9 640
St. Anthony 11 570
St. Keverne 11 2, 620
Ruan Major      8½ 200
Ruan Minor 10 355
Grade 10 400
Landewednack    10½ 490
Mullion     7½ 1010
Cury  6 580
Gunwallow  4 510

I have the honour to be etc,
W. L.