By Robert A. Priestley

(Sketches and photographs are also by Robert)


The Golden Lion Inn

Todmorden's first post office, or receiving office, as it was then known, was the Golden Lion Inn. The inn was also a coaching inn where ordinary stagecoaches stopped to change horses.

Before 1799, mail arrived from Halifax three times a week, either by foot or horse post depending upon the amount of mail to deliver. Halifax was on an East to West mail route. Mail coaches ran from Manchester and Liverpool to Leeds, Wakefield and York, calling at Rochdale and then Halifax after going over Blackstone Edge. This route connected with the North to South mail routes, London to Glasgow at Manchester and London to Edinburgh at York and later at Leeds.

A post boy in 1670


The Post Mistress at Halifax organised the route to Todmorden at her own expense and made a handsome profit. If your house or place of business was by the Turnpike Road, the mail was delivered to your door; otherwise, you had to collect it from the designated receiving office.


Mail was charged at three old pence a mile, and the receiver not the sender paid! In 1686, a penny post started for delivery of mail sent, sorted and delivered within certain towns. The Post Mistress in Halifax charged two pence for delivery on the route and one penny for Halifax.


In 1799, a six-day delivery started using horse post. Thomas Knowles was in charge of the Golden Lion.


Mail Gig 1828

In 1810, the first of many requests was made for the mail coach to be sent through Todmorden instead of going over Blackstone Edge. Fourteen years later, a trial run was made and exactly one minute was saved. On 27th August 1825 the mail coach ran through Todmorden. In 1829, it reverted to its old route and all mail delivered to the receiving offices by mail gigs.

In 1821, Edmund Blomley was appointed Post Master at the Golden Lion. At 10am, a riding post called every day except Tuesday. The return journey was made at noon. On the 10th January 1840 the nationwide penny post was introduced. Now you paid when you sent a letter, and all houses needed a letterbox. In January 1841, it was discovered that Edmund Blomley had put some mail in an unsealed bag. This was enough for instant dismissal.

The new Post Master was James Newell Walton of Newell Buildings, Pavement, Todmorden. These buildings have since been demolished. The site is roughly where the Birch tree stands in the photo on the right.

During the 1830's there was considerable local agitation for a speedier mail service. John Fielden of Dawson Weir, who was a Member of Parliament at the time, entered the fray on behalf of the inhabitants of Todmorden. He wrote the following letter to the Post Office Secretary:

Dawson Weir


Nov. 25th 1836





By today's post I send you a memorial to you from the inhabitants of Todmorden and the Valley in which it is situate, and earnestly request your attention.


There can be no necessity for the industrious manufacturers and tradesmen in this important valley suffering the inconvenience they do from the want of a more early delivery and dispatch of their letters. There are two mail coaches between Manchester and Halifax daily. One from Manchester about 9 o'clock in the morning, the other about 8 o'clock at night, and both run over Blackstone Edge, a line of road communicating with the road through Todmorden Valley at Littleborough, over Rochdale at one end and at Kings Cross near Halifax at the other. If their mails could be passed through the Valley instead of going over the baron and nearly uninhabited hills of Blackstone Edge, the inconvenience the memorialists complain of would be alleviated.


The road through the Valley is about 4 miles longer but the coaches would be worked in about the same time as over Blackstone Edge.


If this cannot be done, another and better course, in my opinion, would be to give the mail to the Perseverance, a coach that has for many years run between Halifax and Manchester via Todmorden, Littleborough and Rochdale daily, Sundays excepted. This coach leaves Halifax at 7 o'clock in the morning and Manchester at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. If an arrangement was made for it to start from Halifax at about 5 o'clock in the morning and arrive at Manchester by 9 o'clock in time for letters to go South by the Manchester to London mail, and return from Manchester in the afternoon after the arrival of the London and Manchester mail, this Valley would then obtain the accommodation the Memorialists desire, and the two gig mails now in use, one from Halifax to Todmorden in the morning and the other from Manchester to Rochdale in the afternoon, might, it appears to me, be dispensed with, and some saving thereby effected.


I have these suggestions for your consideration and request to be furnished with your answer to the petition of the memorialists as soon as convenient.


I am, Sir, your .

John Fielden


To the Secretary of the Post Office, London.


Received an answer to this dated Nov 28th and forwarded it to J.P. Sutcliffe, which stated that the letter and memorial had been received and that it should be immediately referred to the surveyor of the district for his consideration and report.

the original letter now belongs to Graeme Roberts of Walsden

It is interesting to note the date the letter was sent and the date the reply was issued. Has anything improved? I think not.


Joseph Crossley was the driver of the Todmorden Gig until he died, aged only 28, in July 1845. The coming of the railway in 1841 meant a new form of mail delivery to the town. In 1849, Thomas Tidswell of Jackley Gate was appointed as the first Letter Carrier in Todmorden. His route, or walk, was the town itself. There were no out of town deliveries. Later, he did the Todmorden to Portsmouth route. His wage was seven shillings a week and the Post Master received £40 a year. In 1851, two more Letter Carriers were appointed, Richard Ingham of Gatebottom and Abraham Tidswell of Jackley Gate.


The first house on Square Road, Walsden is the site of the first Post Office in the village

By 1851, a Post Office started at Square in Walsden, run by John Lacy. In this year, the United Kingdom Electric Telegraph Company started to erect telegraph poles through the valley. John Lacy died, James Lord was appointed, and the office moved to St. Peter's Gate.

The Post Office is still at

St. Peter's Gate in 2004


1856 saw the start of two town deliveries, at 7.40am and 1.00pm. The post men had to be back at the head office in time to sort the mail they had collected and have it ready for the 6.47pm train to Manchester.


The first pillar-box came in to use at Stansfield Road on 12th February 1859. In this year, Letter Carrier's wages were fourteen shillings a week and the Post Master's salary was £50.

On 22nd November 1859, the following announcement was made in the Leeds Mercury:

The Ladies of Walsden and Their Postman

A short time ago, a few ladies residing in the village of Walsden, agreed to raise funds for suitably clothing their faithful messenger, Geo. Stell, and in a few days completed their self imposed task, and on Sunday morning the postman appeared clad in his new apparel, which consists of coat, waistcoat, trousers and cape, all of blue cloth, braided with red, together with a pair of suitable shoes and hat.


By 1862, there were three town deliveries at 7am, 11.30am and 5.15pm. The Post Office was open from 7am to 9pm.


In 1864, the Telegraph Office opened for business at 7, Pavement.


John Newell Walton died on 13th June 1865. His daughter Zipporah became acting Postmistress until September 1868 when Thomas Scholfield was appointed.

The following year on 7th April 1870, the Post Office moved to the White Hart Fold. The building, a four storey construction, had to be altered considerably. The top two floors were one house, the bottom two a green grocer's shop and dwelling. The bedroom floor of the lower dwelling was lowered to form the Post Office. The road outside was raised and steps and a door built to make the public entrance. The old ground floor was reduced to cellar status. This building has since seen may uses, most recently as a restaurant.

White Hart Fold




Regulation uniforms were introduced in October 1872. In 1876, Thomas Scholfield resigned and Walter Shackleton was appointed. By 1883, there were sub-post offices at Lydgate, Gauxholme, Eastwood and Walsden.


The 23rd August 1883 saw the opening of a purpose built Post Office in Hall Street. There were three rooms; the public room was at the Old Hall end of the building, with the door facing the Hall and the next rooms were for sorting the mail. Later, the public room moved to the corner of Hall Street and Church Street. The new Post Master was William Bottomley who was succeeded in 1891 by Edwin Taylor.

The old Post Office in Hall Street


Telegraph and Telephone Exchange

By 1892, there were four more sub-post offices at Roomfield, Castle St., Cornholme and Wellington Road.


On 25th February 1895, Thomas Tidswell, known as Old Tom Post, died aged 69. Over the years, his route had been; first, the Town route, secondly Todmorden to Holmes Chapel, and finally Todmorden to Portsmouth.

The National Telephone Exchange opened at 7, Pavement in 1896. The Post Office then employed twenty-three males, three females, with twenty staff in the nine sub-post offices. Portsmouth sub-office opened in 1897.

The 1st July 1904 saw the opening of a new Post Office at Pavement. The public entrance was on the corner and the postmen's entrance down the side of the building. The Royal Mail Crown may still be seen above the old sorting room window facing Rochdale Road. Mr. Taylor remained as Post Master until after the War.

The public entrance



The Post Office later moved to Todmorden Old Hall and then to Bramsche Square. The photo to the right shows Todmorden Old Hall.

The picture on the left shows the sorting office, with the Royal Mail Crown above the window.