Old Post Office

Changing scenes (a history of the village Post Office)

A huge blue tarpaulin currently surrounds the premises of the junk shop which for many years accommodated the village post office. The building is now being converted into cottages whilst opposite, the Shoulder of Mutton PH is being renovated with alterations to allow parking at the rear. The tiny shop next to Victoria House along the road has been demolished - all adding to the changing scenes within the village.

The first Post Office opened in Yapton in 1862 in premises now occupied by Fontwell Flooring along the Barnham Road. This original grocery and drapers shop incorporated the post office and was run by the Bateman family and staff.

ln 1891, George Fuller took over as grocer working with his wife and her sisters Eliza and Sarah Wellstead. lnterestingly Eliza is listed in the 1895 Trade Directory as a “fly cab proprietor” (a horse drawn taxi) and Sarah as “postmistress and fancy draper”. The post office was now operating opposite the Shoulder of Mutton in a new house named Willow Cottage. Next door were a row of three thatch cottages on the Main Road which in those days was known as The Street.

In 1901 the Diggance family took over. James Diggance, a credit draper and footware salesman, first rented the premises as postmaster from a Miss Randel, later buying the Willow Cottage and the three thatched properties in an auction held at The Anchor Hotel, Chichester, in 1911. James’s daughter, Clara, was married in 1912 to the son ofWilliam McCoombe, a shoemaker at Arundel Castle. Clara was registered to work at the post office counter in 1915 and l can still remember Clara working behind the drapery counter in the 1950s.



Clara Diggance behind the counter

The telephone came to Yapton in 1924 and in those early days a member of the Diggance family would often connect emergency calls in the middle of the night. The manual exchange had listed 58 lines before the automatic exchange was built at Ford corner in 1931.

ln 1922 the former post office and thatch cottages were demolished and the new shop built with accommodation, extended in 1960, to cope with the space needed to stock all the extra stock (including made-to-measure suits - even Tesco’s can’t match that these daysl). There was a vast range of wool to satisfy the knitting hobby so popular in those days, and several local ladies served behind the counter. Jimmy Diggance would load his car with goods to deliver to customer’s homes, letting people pay by credit when required. Gordon Diggance (Clara’s son) ran the post office counter, produced postcards of local views and sold coloured slide film that had to be sent off by post for processing. Gordon always had time for a friendly chat as most shopkeepers did in the days when life ran at a much slower place!

Jimmy later moved away and ran a pub. Gordon and his wife Gladys continued to run the business until they sold up and moved in 1984 to a bungalow in Bilsham Road where they still live. The Post Office continued for a few more years in the same premises until it moved into what was the old village hall, converted to a convenience store and now operated by the Co-Op.

Changing face of the old post office


c.1900 (Willow Cottage)

c.1950 (rebuilt premises)



2004 (the junk shop)

2010 (block of maisonettes)


David Ruffle
August 2007

(Originally published in Yapton News & Views, September 2007. Additional photos 2017.)

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