THE FRUIT COLONY SUB-POST OFFICE
An attempt to throw some light on the Fruit Colony Post Mark described in last month's Pump
Following the publication last month of Pat Holton's request for information on the Fruit Colony "date stamp" I have had several people asking for more information. One such enquiry came from Rosalind Stainthorpe, whose family started the post office and whose mother ran it for a staggering 70 years. I have, therefore, conducted some research into the history of the Fruit Colony Post Office with mixed results.
From John Younge's book "Methwold" I was able to establish that Robert Goodrich started the Fruit Colony in 1879, in what is now known as Brookeville, as an experiment. A vegetarian, Mr Goodrich believed it was possible to live comfortably off two or three acres of land provided that you could sell any surplus. Over the start-up period he acquired some 160 acres which he sold to prospective "fruit farmers" for the princely sum of £35 per acre.
One of the earliest families to take up Mr Goodrich's offer was Mr and Mrs William Armstrong Stainthorpe from Northumberland. They bought the plot behind what was recently the Bide-A-Wee cafe and built their house at No 41 Main Street. The Stainthorpe's had two sons, Hugh and George. Hugh started the Post office in 1910, the date shown on the date stamp in Pat Holton's letter. The head Post Office in Norwich did not like the name "Fruit Colony" and insisted that it was changed to Brookeville. Hugh ran the Post Office for only a few years before his brother George took over. In 1915 George married Gladys Coates and they turned the Post Office into a General Store operating from No 7 Main Street, now known as Old Timbers.
When George went off to war, Gladys took on the sole running of the post office until he returned. Shortly after his demob George was offered a job in Weeting Hall and the Post Office was formally transferred to Gladys who continued running it until she was 90 when she handed over the reins to Ann Brown. At some time in Gladys' tenure, she had a bungalow built next to her old home now known as 5A Main Street. For a while she continued providing a service from a small shed which is set between the two properties.
Rosalind, who helped Gladys in her later years, was unable to explain the use of Stoke Ferry in the Fruit Colony date stamp. But a check with Kelly's confirmed that Brookeville was originally part of Northwold until a public meeting voted for its transfer to Methwold. The 1916 Kelly's Gazette shows that Northwold received twice daily post from Brandon and Stoke Ferry. John Younge's book reveals that most of the Fruit Colony produce was exported via Stoke Ferry railway station; so it is not inconceivable that the Fruit Colony post office had date stamps for both Brandon and Stoke Ferry. Perhaps Pump readers can contribute to this debate?