The Tintagel Old Post Office is one of those awkward NT properties that is both fairly small and a long way from any of the others! So, while its size makes it a perfect add-on to a longer visit at another property, its location doesn’t. It had to be done, though, so we decided to get there as soon as it opened and then head on to Trerice, which is a medium-sized property about an hour away.
Tintagel itself has long been something of a tourist trap so I was glad that we were there on a Sunday morning before it got really busy and crowded. The Old Post Office itself is very central to the village car parks and stands out as an antiquity amidst far more modern buildings. It was interesting to read in the guidebook that it was saved from the steady modernisation of the village by a local artist Catherine Johns, who bought the property at auction in 1895, paying a total of £350, and then employing the Arts & Crafts architect Detmar Blow to repair the building (he’s going on my list of odd names!). Just eight years later, the Old Post Office was acquired by the National Trust for £200 so poor Miss Johns lost out financially. She did, however, retain a lease on the property for the rest of her life, before a series of caretakers took over control of the building.
There’s not a huge amount to see at the Old Post Office so unless you are a fan of old samplers (of which there are many, dated from between 1768 and 1837) or are interested in architecture across the ages, this is perhaps not the property for you. Personally, I was looking forward to finding out a little more about the postal service but the name of the property is actually a little misleading as it was only used as a letter-receiving office for a short time in the 1870s (having also served as a farm cottage and the place of business for a shoemaker, a draper, a grocer and a dressmaker). It appears that the end room was once laid out with postal and telegraph equipment but this is now the shop and there are only a few old items left on the counter. There is an old Victorian wall letterbox on the front of the house, though, so at least we could make use of that to post some cards and letters.
As I said, if you are interested in architecture, you will perhaps find something to pique your interest at this property as it is a higgledy-piggledy building made up of some parts that are medieval and others that are late 20th century, with almost every era in between represented somewhere in its construction. It is still largely medieval in layout, however, with a central single-storey Hall and smaller service rooms and bedrooms to either side. The undulations of the roof add a certain quaintness to the property and these were retained when the Trust last repaired the roof in 1992. One of the information sheets inside the house suggests that the undulations were caused by the Tintagel dragon roosting there! I didn’t see a dragon, but a crow appears to have settled on one of the chimneys while I was taking my photo.
There are only seven rooms to explore at the Old Post Office (including the shop), or six if you don’t bother to climb the odd slate-topped steps built into the wall to get up to the sleeping platform. From here, there is a good view over the parapet to the Hall below but not everyone will be able to get up there. In addition, there is a very pleasant cottage garden behind the house which was presented to great effect in today’s autumn sunshine.
I have to admit that I struggled to find any ‘highlights’ to note down from the Old Post Office; after all, I live in a house with low doorways and exposed beams so I couldn’t really get excited about those quaint features. And the history of the postal service that I was expecting to find was notably absent. I am certainly glad that it is still standing, though, and is open to visitors. After all, it is a pretty reminder of the character that a village of this kind probably once had before it succumbed to modernisation and the need to cater to the many tourists flocking to visit the castle up the road.
Highlights: Sleeping platform and view down into hall