Thursby Post Office these days is sited within the Parish Hall, in Matty Lonning (possibly my favourite-ever street name, as it sounds like the name of the hero in a folk song!
The original Thursby Post Office opened in 1843, when postage stamps were still a novelty, and pillar boxes hadn’t been invented! see here:
And it was big news in February 1924, when Thursby Post Office (along with those at Bothel, Ireby and Mealsgate) got a ‘new telephone call office’.
For the cost of 2d (two pennies),
‘it will be possible to communicate with any exchange or call office in the United Kingdom which has full trunk facilities’.
You could make similar calls from Bothel Post Office, but ‘communications with Ireby and Mealsgate is limited to a radius of 100 miles’.
But let’s go back to the first post office – and the family who ran it for 57 years.
The Cartner family
In the churchyard at Thursby stands a grave:
To the memory of John Cartner, postmaster of Thursby, who died 27th of January 1855, aged 62 years
Robert his son who died in infancy.
Margaret his wife, who died in 1882, aged 87 years
Also of Mary, their daughter, postmistress of Thursby for 45 years, who died Jun 28, 1900, aged 70 years.
John Cartner died on January 27, 1855, ‘after a long and painful illness. Much-respected’.
The 1851 census shows John was born at Rockcliffe, his wife Margaret at Hesket (sic) and daughter Mary at Dalston. John is listed as a postmaster
Ten years earlier, there’s a John Margaret and Mary in Thursby with ages that fit, but John is listed as an agricultural labourer.
Thursby Post Office opens
The Postmaster-General, with that spirit of accommodation characteristic of all his acts, has consented to the establishment of a post-office at Thursby, which was opened on Friday last for the first time, and which, like the Beckermont post-office, cannot fail to be of the greatest convenience to the village and neighbourhood.
Mr. John Cartner has been appointed postmaster, and from his known integrity and obliging manners, there can be no doubt but he will give general satisfaction in the discharge of his duties.,Cumberland Pacquet, January 10 1843
An 1848 trade directory lists him, at Thursby, under ‘shopkeepers and dealers in groceries and sundries’, without specific detail.
Go back a year, and the Postal Service Appointment Books record:
No 472. John Cartner, messenger from Carlisle to Thursby. Appoint John Cartner a messenger from Carlisle to Thursby if qualified, on the recommendation of Philip Howard esq MP, and William James esq MP. 19th May 1847.
However, over this hand-written entry (and the majority of the other entries in the book) is a stamp: ‘Minute cancelled. See decision in Fifth Schedule’.
What that meant isn’t explained. But three months later, on August 28, 1847, he was appointed messenger from Thursby to Kirkbampton. And that (only one on the page not to be) doesn’t have the ‘minute cancelled’ stamp.
Carrying on the family business
After John died in 1855, his widow and daughter stayed in Thursby. In 1871, Margaret is shown as a grocer, while Mary is ‘-ling post’
This fits the gravestone ‘postmistress for 45 years’. Which also means she took over the role when her father died. 1881 lists her as post mistress (and Margaret, no 86, still as a grocer).
Joys of transcriptions
Deciphering handwriting on old records is often extremely difficult. And transcribers, wading through pages and pages of census returns can be ‘forgiven’ for errors, especially when they may not recogise a surname.
I half-expected to find ‘Cartner’ transcribed as ‘Carter’. But in fact it shows up as ‘Partner’ in 1861.
When Mary the postmistress and her grocer mother are shown to be living at Thursby Post Office and Grocery Shop.
Margaret’s birthplace is now down as Burthwaite, and Mary’s as Chalkfoot (I think!).
And in 1901, Mary, now living on her own, is transcribed in the index as Carter!
Other than death notices, the Cartners don’t seem to have troubled the Cumbrian newspapers. Except in November 1859, when Margaret Cartner, was one of five traders charged the inspector of weights and measures, Superintendent Little. They each had in their possessions a number of weights which had not been stamped by him (as being legitimate). Many of these weights did require adjusting. Mr Little didn’t wish the defendants to be penalised beyond a caution. They also had to pay the costs of the case.
Time for tea
In February 1893, Mary Cartner marked half a century of service in the Thursby Post Office (12 years as assistant to her late father, and 38 as postmistress).
A movement was set on foot to mark the event and to give expression to the universal respect and esteem in which she is held in the district.
A meeting was held for this purpose in the Schoolroom on Saturday evening last, when the Rev. W. Golling, in the name of the numerous subscribers, presented Miss Cartner with a very handsome marble timepiece, a silver tea pot, and a purse containing £3 10s.
The timepiece, which bears the following inscription, was supplied by Mr. Dowell, English street, Carlisle :—
” Presented to Miss Cartner, Postmistress at Thursby, by her many friends in the district, a mark of esteem on her completing 50 years in the office. January, 1893.”Wigton Advertiser
Mary Cartner died, suddenly in June 1900. The Wigton Advertiser said was was ‘of a very cheerful disposition and was in her usual health and spirits’ until being ‘suddenly seized with paralysis’ from which she died the same evening.
The newspaper recorded that Thursby Church was ‘filled with friends who wished to show this token of their regard’.
Meanwhile, the West Cumberland Times recorded that Mary Cartner had (only) relinquished her post a year earlier:
‘when Thursby got the telegraph’.