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Historic post office faces bright future with protective listing

Former post office faces bright future with protection

08 November 2022
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A group of men and a dog standing on the wheelchair access ramp in front of the old Post Office in Wokingham

A historic building in Wokingham town centre which recently marked its 90th birthday has been granted extra protection by Wokingham Borough Council.

 

Following a nomination by the Wokingham Society, a civic group set up to protect the town's architectural heritage, the former Post Office at 16 Broad Street has been added to the council's register of buildings of traditional local character.

 

This means it is now recognised as locally significant, which the authority must consider when assessing any planning application that could have an impact on it. In these circumstances, permission would only be given if the scheme would conserve the site's special characteristics.

 

Preserving nine decades of treasured local history

 

The mostly red brick building was completed in 1932 and the society describes it as a "fine example" of the neo-Georgian style popular in the early 20th century. It was designed by architect David Dyke, who worked on similar projects across the South East.

 

Its entrance and surrounds are made of Portland stone and the pediment matches the entrance of an earlier post office at 5 Broad Street. The sorting offices and telephone exchange to the rear were built by Alderman Hughes, the town's Mayor from 1900 to 1902, who also built the Grade II listed former police station at the corner of Broad Street and Rectory Road.

 

The building was opened in September 1932 by dignitaries including the town's Mayor, Alderman Albert Ebenezer Priest, who bought the first stamps from the slot machine and posted the first two letters.

 

It cost £20,000 and took about three years to build, during which trenches were dug across the main road, creating an added challenge for staff collecting and delivering post. The Reading Mercury describes the original interior, built by a local carpenter, as "woodwork... of the choicest English oak and counters of Empire mahogany."

 

It now serves as a Royal Mail delivery office, with the town's Post Office based around the corner in Market Place.

 

Working with the community to protect our past

 

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, executive member for planning and local plan, said: “We were very happy to support the Wokingham Society's nomination and would like to thank them for the many hours they put into preparing and submitting it.

 

“We share their desire to preserve the town's historic heritage, as we do across the borough, and will take every step available to protect our historic landmarks for future generations – whether they are centuries old or a little more recent.”

 

Peter Must, chairman of the Wokingham Society, said: “We're delighted that the council has approved our nomination. Our view is that the building was carefully designed to fit in with surrounding Georgian frontages while retaining its own qualities as a landmark structure.

 

“While Wokingham rejoices in the number of its buildings from the medieval, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian periods, there are few large public buildings which date from the inter-war years and probably none as imposing as this.”

 

'A handsome and well-conceived historic building'


The nomination was also supported by Wokingham Town Council, whose built heritage consultant praised the society's nomination as “well researched” and said it had put forward a strong case.

 

She added: “Overall, the building does add positively to the historic and architectural interest and evolution of Broad Street. It is clearly well regarded locally... it is certainly a handsome and well-conceived historic building.”

 

Royal Mail, the landowner, raised no objections provided that the designation doesn't apply to the service yard and other adjacent buildings which are needed for its day-to-day running, which was agreed.

 

Buildings of traditional local character can be designated when they fall just short of the criteria for national listing. There are no extra requirements for anyone applying for planning permission and the listing doesn't affect changes that don't need the council's consent.


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