Another Winchelsea secret

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Winchelsea's secret post office

Winchelsea likes secrets. Residents talk of secret tunnels. There is a mayor who is ‘elected’ in secret. The Winchelsea Cricket Club keeps the date and location of its AGM secret. Even Winchelsea’s Open Garden Days are called the ‘Secret Gardens’. Well, now the Ancient Town has a new secret: the sub post office.

Last month, this service re-opened in the Court Hall in Winchelsea for two hours on Monday and two hours on Thursday. But it is not clear how many residents know this yet. And, if they don’t, it’s not obvious how they (and non-residents) will ever find out. There is no sign outside and, very often, the door is closed, even when the sub post office is open.

The sub post office has been through difficult times since it was bought from the community in 2007 by Winchelsea Farm Foods, the troubled trading subsidiary of the Wetland Trust, a charity run from Icklesham by retired hedge fund manager Steve Rumsey and his wife Anne. First, the sub post office was moved out of the same building as the village shop into the house next door and its opening times increased from five half-days to five and a half days. But then, as Winchelsea Farm Foods sunk ever deeper into the red, its hours were cut back.

Last year, the popular postmistress was dismissed and the sub post office closed. Later, it was re-opened but only twice a week for two hours a time, staffed by a visiting postmaster from Hastings. Last year, the sub post office was expelled from its premises by Winchelsea Farm Foods. An announcement that it was to move into Winchelsea Farm Kitchens proved untrue, and the sub post office closed again until last month, when it popped up in the Court Hall.

In the meantime, Post Office Limited seem to have been struggling to cope with the ups and downs of Winchelsea sub post office. They rejected an offer to house the sub post office in the local pub, apparently due to some crossed wires. Post Office Limited thought the pub wanted rent, but the pub says this had only been raised in the context of housing a full five days a week service.

Photo: Richard Comotto