Longshaw Post Office, Wigan, England

At the top of this cabinet card photograph is a painted sign: John Rigby, Boot & Clog Maker.  Under that is another sign: Longshaw Post Office.

Longshaw Post Office 2

Wikipedia describes Longshaw as “a small residential and agricultural area within Billinge Higher End at the western boundary of the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, in Greater Manchester, England.”  Historically, the area was part of Lancashire.

I didn’t find any information about John Rigby.  Is he the man striking a pose in the background?  Unfortunately, the fellow is out of focus.  I wonder if his wife and daughters ran the post office while he was making boots and clogs.

Longshaw Post Office 3

 

When I Googled the Longshaw Post Office, I was disappointed to read that it closed in October 2018.  The last postmistress, Pauline Hartley, talked about it in Wigan Today in August 2016 in an article titled “Plea to save village post office.”  At the beginning of the article, you can see a picture of her standing in front of the building.  I’d like to quote some of what she said because it was probably just as true more than a century ago:

People were very sad when they saw the ‘for sale’ sign. There’s only us, the pub and another post office further down left in Billinge and a lot of people don’t want to go into Orrell, they like going where they know.  An entrepreneur could run a cafe with a post office, it could be a solicitors or accountants and even hairdressers have had post offices.  It’s just about keeping a small area for it.  You really become part of the community.  If someone doesn’t come in at their usual time we speak to the neighbours and they check if they are alright.  That’s the sort of place it is, we all help each other.  It’s a great lifestyle.  We’ve brought up our daughter while we’ve been here and we’ve spent far more time with her than we would have done in a nine-to-five job.  This part of Billinge is a lovely area too, it looks out over open fields.

The Longshaw Post Office closed on October 27, 2018.  Just after the closure, in November, another article in Wigan Today noted that the building would no longer be used as a post office.

Update: a reader in Manchester used her amazing sleuthing skills to figure out where the post office was when the cabinet card was made.  In her comment under the post, Emma [EMS] said that the old post office was actually two doors away from the more recent one.  Let’s forget about the recent one and concentrate on the older one.  The old post office wasn’t in the house on the end of the building, as you would expect from the cabinet card, but in the house next to it with a white door, second from right (#87):

Emma explains:

The most recent post office … isn’t the one on the cabinet card. The cabinet card post office was to the left, being one of a row of five houses. It’s most likely the second building in for the following reasons.

On the 1907 Ordnance Survey map there are four houses, but five houses on 1926 map. It would seem that the end house is actually newer. The end house was built in the same style but bigger and with a bay window. The ridge tiles of the first four houses match in colour but differ from the last. The air bricks near the roof line are also one row higher on the last house.

There are matches between the building on the cabinet card and the second house in. The second house in has the correct ground floor window (it’s even wider than the other three), odd markings to the lower right (as though something has been changed here where the postbox was), and a gate threshold stone with more wear than its neighbours (years of customers wearing clogs).

I highlighted the part about the threshold stone because it’s such an interesting detail.  You can see what she means below:

 

I asked Emma if she had an idea about when the photo was taken, and she responded:

The post box has the letters “ER” on the front. This stands for Edward(us) Rex, so must have been after the start of Edward VII’s reign in 1901.
(You can see the same kind of post box in the right hand photograph here: http://www.cvphm.org.uk/EdwardVII2.html)

Edward VII reigned from 22 January 1901 until 6 May 1910.

Finally, in the course of her sleuthing, Emma came across a reference to a photocopy of the cabinet card at the Greater Manchester County Record Office.  The photocopy isn’t displayed online, but the description of it matches perfectly.

 

Longshaw Post Office 4

 

Post updated February 28, 2020.

 

35 thoughts on “Longshaw Post Office, Wigan, England

Add yours

    1. Thanks, Robyn! This may be a case of, “I want it to be the same building, so I see similarities that aren’t there” (LOL). It could only be the same building if it underwent significant renovation, which is certainly possible. After posting this I used Street View to look at some of the other buildings nearby. There’s one across the street that looks almost exactly like the one in the old photo. So, I have more doubts now.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What date do you think the photos was taken, Brad? I located a “John Rigby” on the 1911 England Census living in Wigan, Lancashire. He was a bootmaker and was born about 1873. His wife is listed as Elizabeth, 22, and children were William, age 3, and Gerald, age 1. The couple had been married for 7 years. Ann Harrison, age 40 and listed as a “sister” (not sure of whom) lived with them. They lived in “Wigan Lane.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very interesting, Shayne! I didn’t find those records. I found a John Rigby, born about 1871, married to Elizabeth Whittle in 1893, but he was a Coal Miner Hewer. They did have two daughters. I’ll look again and see if I can find a family tree for the family you mentioned. The cabinet card mount looks like a late one, but that would be quite late.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It would take some time to sort through the Rigbys who lived in the area around that time. Rigby seems to have been a common surname and many of the Rigby men worked as coal miners.

        I think the photo is quite intriguing and now I really want to know more! Good luck and let us know what you find out!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So far I’m striking out. 😕 There are so many men named John Rigby in that area, and women with names like Elizabeth or Margaret. And the family trees don’t have photos or many other details. Also, Longshaw doesn’t come up. Thanks for the encouragement, Shayne!

        Like

  2. A few more details: John Rigby, age 8, is listed on the 1881 census as living with his parents, William and Margaret, and his siblings at 79 Wigan Lane in Wigan. There are several John Rigbys that show up in various documents who lived in that area and were born around the same time, but I think the bootmaker trade and the Wigan Lane location are important clues. They were probably all related to each other (and maybe to Eleanor of the Beatles fame!).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful reading, Isabelle! It could only be the same building if it underwent significant renovation, which I assume is possible, but perhaps not very likely. After posting this, I used Street View to look at some of the other buildings nearby. There’s one across the street that looks almost exactly like the one in the old photo. So, I have more doubts now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting, isn’t it. The one across the street that resembles the one in the photo. I wish I could physically go from one building to another, study the structures and make comparisons. It’s great you’re detail-oriented and share such good insights with your readers, Brad 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re very generous, Isabelle. A reader in Manchester, England, figured out which building was the original post office, and it isn’t the one that I looked at across the street. I’ll update the post soon with the new information (or you can read about it in the comments below). Thank you for such kind encouragement!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Such an odd photograph! What immediately struck me (in addition to the odd expressions magickmermaid noted) was the position of their hands, as if the three people in the foreground didn’t know quite what to do with them. “John,” on the other hand, knew just what to do with his to strike a typical manly pose.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. What a striking photo. The three females so prim and proper at the front, although the youngest obviously missed the memo about the hands, and ‘John’ in the background – so casual, and looking as pleased as punch. Maybe he’s looking at his womenfolk and thinking proudly, ‘not a bad bunch’.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a charming photo of a bygone era, a clock, a pair of shoes and long awaited mail all in one welcoming place. “John” in the background gave me a giggle. I even like the iron work in the fence. Thank you for sharing the quote 🌷

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The most recent post office (in your street view photo) isn’t the one on the cabinet card. The cabinet card post office was to the left, being one of a row of five houses. It’s most likely the second building in for the following reasons.

    On the 1907 Ordnance Survey map there are four houses, but five houses on 1926 map. It would seem that the end house is actually newer. The end house was built in the same style but bigger and with a bay window. The ridge tiles of the first four houses match in colour but differ from the last. The air bricks near the roof line are also one row higher on the last house.

    There are matches between the building on the cabinet card and the second house in. The second house in has the correct ground floor window (it’s even wider than the other three), odd markings to the lower right (as though something has been changed here where the postbox was), and a gate threshold stone with more wear than its neighbours (years of customers wearing clogs).

    I could be wrong, but it makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fantastic detective work!! I never would have considered that house, because it isn’t on the end. But as you point out, the one on the end is quite different from the others. Your Ordnance Survey map tells us it was added later. Interestingly, the cabinet card post office (house #87 today) seems to have occupied half the original building. My favorite detail is the worn gate threshold stone! That says so much.

      I’m going to update the post with the new information. Do you have an idea when the photo might have been taken? Thank you so much, Emma!

      Like

      1. The post box has the letters “ER” on the front. This stands for Edward(us) Rex, so must have been after the start of Edward VII’s reign in 1901.
        (You can see the same kind of post box in the right hand photograph here: http://www.cvphm.org.uk/EdwardVII2.html)

        By the way, I don’t think you’re the only one with this photograph: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/96b50f3e-e42d-49fb-b9b3-fda4240a3faa

        (I’m in Manchester and can request to view that photo if you would like. Though I guess you know what it looks like…though the archivist might make you a copy for a charge.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m learning a lot! 🙂

        That’s so interesting that you found a photocopy of the photo at the Record Office. I’ll add the curator’s comments to the post. I couldn’t tell when the photocopy had been donated. As you say, it’s likely to be from another print of the cabinet card. The other possibility is that the card I bought was photocopied before I bought it (in June 2019, from a dealer in Chesterfield).

        Like

  7. Who knew a found photograph could elicit so much history! I also enjoyed the photo bomb, and it looks like the older daughter was the only one with the knack of how to remain motionless and still look ‘normal.’ Pauline Hartley’s comments in the local newspaper are a poignant touch to this story, and contributor EMS’s research is richly enhancing. Although they slightly predate the era of this photograph, Flora Thompson’s novel series Lark Rise to Candleford revolve around a local post office and its postmistress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you mentioned “Lark Rise,” because I thought of that series while working on this post! I haven’t read the books, but the show was wonderful. Dorcas Lane, played perfectly by Julia Sawalha, is one of the all-time great female characters in period television. I often recall her pet phrase, “___ is my one weakness” (fill in the blank as needed). And of course, her post office was the hub of the town, just as post offices still are in small communities fortunate enough to have one.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, comfortable and practical. I shared a video in an earlier comment, which you may not have seen, which talked about them. (The video was made by the Oshawa Museum in Ontario.) I had no idea that tap dancing grew out of clog dancing! Or that Charlie Chaplin began his showbiz career as a clog dancer.

      Liked by 1 person

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