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The Old Post Office
Cornwall, England

[Sunday - 05/09/99] Tintagel was a tiny and remote hamlet when this building was first put up in the fourteenth century. It hugs the ground closely, as it would then have been exposed to the full force of Atlantic gales. The floor plan suggests that is was a small scale manor house. No matter what its original function, it is a precious survival of such an early domestic dwelling in the extreme south-west corner of England. Over the centuries, the roof has gradually subsided under the weight of the massive slates and creates the buildings unique, almost fantasy-induced, look. I had little trouble imagining a hobbit walking through it's drooping door!

By 1841, the population of Tintagel had grown up around the building and reached 1,185 in number. It was decided that the town needed its own post office and it was established in this building three years later. To the left of the front door is an 1857 wall pillar-box as a remainder of those days and a Victorian-era post room has been re-created inside.

In 1848, the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson spent a wet June day among the ruins of Tintagel Castle seeking the spirit of King Arthur. At intervals, over the next forty years, he labored over the twelve books that make up his Idylls of the King, completing the work in 1888. His Arthurian poems helped to make Tintagel famous as the birthplace of Arthur, but also threatened to destroy the 14th century manor house-cum-post office. For, so popular were his images in The Idylls of the King, that almost all of the village was torn town in the late 19th century to provide for the influx of new visitors. The Old Post Office might have gone the same way in 1895 if a group of local people had not gathered together to save it.

Thanks, in particular, to Catherine Johns, the Old Post Office was rescued from destruction and handed over to the National Trust in 1903.

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Last modified on Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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