Secret Letters in Bury St Edmunds

V R Letters

This wall post box down by the Deanery (Clopton’s Asylum) in the Great Churchyard is one of only two Victorian post boxes left in the town; the other, a more familiar pillar box is opposite St Marys in Crown Street.  A third disappeared after a wall in which the box was situated in Cannon Street was found to be unstable and was taken down! 

Post boxes were once painted green but in 1884 the colour red was adopted for general use.  In 2012 Royal Mail painted over 100 post boxes throughout the country a gold colour, to celebrate the achievements of the Olympic and Paralympic medal winners.

Before post boxes, letters were handed to a post boy who sounded a bell on his collecting round or handed in at a branch of the Postal service.  Then in 1840, three years after Victoria ascended the throne, Roland Hill introduced to the world the first pre-paid adhesive stamp.  In Bury there were two small post offices in the town before a larger one opened in 51, Abbeygate Street in 1881.

When this was deemed to be too small, the “until recently” post office affectionately known by many at one time as “the General,” was built on the site of the Bell Hotel in 1895.  The adjacent narrow Bell Arcade was a reminder of its previous life, it becoming in recent years, Market Thoroughfare. This was where the “link” to the Arc shopping complex was supposed to be but never happened! The Post Office with its royal coat of arms is a fine example of a Victorian public building.

Chimney Letters

Opposite the St Edmunds Church in Westgate Street is a terrace of eight houses.  Once all of Suffolk white brick construction they are now a mixture of rendering and different colours.  The properties were built in 1835, the topping out, obviously on the chimneys.  This is where a clue to the builder of the terrace is, for on these chimneys are the letters RH and the date of 1835 actually etched into the brickwork!  Evidently, according to one former resident, the inscriptions are inside the loft space as well.  RH or to be precise Robert Harvey ran a bakery business, trading as Robert Harvey & Son from 45, Guildhall Street literally round the corner from the terrace, the shop front is still there.  The Harveys were living at 24, Westgate Street so were well placed to keep an eye on the progress of their building project.

Number 24, has an interesting history, it was at once owned by John Corsbie an 18thC wool merchant.  He rented it out to a friend, yarn maker William Buck.  After Corsbie sold it to Philip Bowes Broke, Buck continued renting it eventually buying the freehold around 1789.  Leaving the wool trade Buck went into partnership with Benjamin Greene in the business of brewing!  Buck died in 1819; a Thomas Smith then owned it for a while, before the Harveys rented it.  By now it was known as Turret Close.  Robert Harvey styling himself as Gent eventually moved to number 7, Westgate Street near the Theatre Royal.

Turret Close opened as St Nicholas Hospice in 1986 but after a successful appeal, £2.5 million was raised for a new unit at Hardwick in 1993. The name Corsbie is still remembered today with Corsbie Close part of Cathedral Meadows off Cullum Road.