Harpenden's sub-post offices

Serving new communities, north, south and east from the 1870s

Information supplied by Geoff Woodward and Graham Norman

Bowling Alley – Southdown

The first post office, at 45 Cravells Road, late 1890s. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 2935


It appears that the first ‘sub’ post office served the Bowling Alley from around 1900 from 45 Cravells Road, run by Harriet Humphries until about 1926.


However, Kelly’s Directory for 1901 also lists Albert J Carter as postmaster and grocer at 102 Wheathampstead (later Southdown) Road – though his family home was at 97 Wheathampstead Road – nearer to the railway bridge, and now the site of Walkers Court. Maybe this was just a short-term venture.


The Bates family

In 1927 Stanley and Eva Bates started the Southdown Post Office and Newsagency business at 126 Southdown Road (TaxAssist accountants in 2017). When the parade of shops at the corner of Southdown Road and Piggotshill Lane was built by the local builder Josiah Thomas Fowler, Stan and Eva purchased 135 Southdown Road and transferred their business to that address where they continued to flourish, with their daughter Eileen taking it over, probably in the early 1960s.

On 18 January 1982 Eileen Bates sold the business to Johnson Central Retail Ltd of Bath (JCR), a chain of newsagents. But in mid 1983 JCR sold the business to Kenneth Balfour Ltd of Hayes (trading as Balfour News).

Eileen Bates outside 135 Southdown Road, 1960s. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 13360 – photo donated by G. Norman

Eileen Bates at the counter, 1962. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 13360 – photo donated by G. Norman

Balfour News were taken over by the Co-operative Group in 2004, but when the lease expired, the Co-operative Group, who were then negotiating the takeover of the Somerfield supermarket, sold the Balfour shop. The Post Office were reluctant to maintain a sub post-office in Southdown, but the Co-op was able to negotiate for it to be moved into the new store on 18 November 2010 – where it is much appreciated.

The former post office changed hands in 2009. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 11314, L. Casey, 2010

Doris Gibbard, on her retirement in the 1980s (?). Credit: LHS archives – LAF-NC 1.60

Move to the Co-op – Post Office in the store. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 15616, L. Casey, 2016

Post office counter within the Co-op. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 15617, L. Casey, 2016

Batford Post Office – at 107 Station Road – Station Road North

The post-office at the corner of Station Road and Marquis Lane opened in the mid 1880s, and survived on the same site until it was forced to close on 14 October 2008 – one of a series of closures. The row of shops and houses, with dormer windows, opposite the Great Northern/Railway Inn built in the 1880s appears to have been rebuilt in the 1930s.

Station Road North Post Office, opposite the Railway Inn. Credit: LHS archives – LAF-NC 1.22 – scan from photocopy of news cutting

Station Road North franking stamp. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 2559


Station Road North, 1920s. Credit: LHS archives – LAF-NC 1.21

The post office in the 1980s, removal of old street sign. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 15397. Rodney Marshall

Station Road North post office, shortly before it closed in 2008. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 10329, L. Casey, 2006

Unlike the closure of Luton Road North, the campaign to protest at the closure attracted local press attention – though without affecting the outcome.

Herts Advertiser report, 10 July 2008. Credit: LHS archives – RB-NC 1.4d

Luton Road North

The post office serving Harpenden north of the railway (now the Nickey Line trail) was opened between 1900 and 1908. ┬áit closed, despite protests, in 2004 – the first of the Harpenden sub-post-offices to be targetted for closure.

105 Luton Road. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 5956, L. Casey, 1997

Kinsbourne Green

The sub-post office serving Kinsbourne Green opened in 1937, and remains busy and open.

3 The Pavement, Kinsbourne Green. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 5962, L. Casey, 1997

The Old Sorting Office, Luton Road

The former Sorting office, shortly before demolition in March 2016. Credit: Lindi Frith, from a Google image posted on “Old Harpenden Years Gone By” Facebook page


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