The Last Village Post Office and Shop

By Jeannine James

Tony had lived at Brockwood Dean since the age of nine and I joined him to live there on our marriage in 1971. Tony worked for C & F Freeman in Cheriton since leaving school at sixteen. It was the recession of the early 1980’s and the possibility of redundancy that made us think about alternative employment. Having decided that ‘Any Idiot’ could run a village shop we set about finding one.

Jill Saunders had resigned as Sub-postmistress of Bramdean and Tony saw the job advertised at Cheriton Post Office. Some days later, (whilst mowing the lawn) he remembered reading in the Hampshire Chronicle that ‘Sunnydean’ a bungalow next door to Bramdean Village Hall was for sale. I applied for the job of Sub-postmistress and in July 1981, Tony and I together with our seven-year-old daughter Melanie, moved into the bungalow and set up shop.

The original idea was to stock a few items of stationery alongside the Post Office but one day before we opened Mrs Berry knocked on the door and asked us if we would stock tights. We decided to stock a few basic items, but in no time at all had requests for all kinds of things. Some time later we apphed for an Off Licence (which proved very popular) and in no time at all we had a proper, if tiny, village shop.

We were ably assisted for some years by Joan Sankey. She was ideal, very efficient, friendly and patient with the customers. Like all villages Bramdean had a variety of characters, most of them lovely, a few not so good, some just plain eccentric – we had nicknames for most of them. It was obvious that Bramdean wanted a village shop and they supported us well. We tried to stock whatever was asked for and the shop went from strength to strength. We also had some strange requests – Golden Virgin tobacco, glooting orange (orange squash you gloot with water) and Anthrax toilet rolls to name but a few. Of course there were times when we got it wrong. The first Easter we were there, we ordered 3 dozen Hot Cross Buns. When they arrived there were 36 packets of four (144). We had Hot Cross Buns coming out of our ears. The word went round the village like wildfire and everyone came in and bought some and by the end of the day we were sold out.

Dolly Baker, an elderly resident, borrowed our dog Lizzi every day and took her for a walk. Dolly and Lizzi became quite a familiar sight walking around the village and beyond.

The opportunity arose for us to buy Selborne Post Office, so with mixed feelings (excitement at the prospect of a new challenge, but sadness at leaving so many friends) we left Bramdean in November 1986 after five and a half years.