From pub to post office | Then & Now


Roger Guttridge digs up the long and varied history of a prominent Shaftesbury building
Philip Short’s coachbuilding works at Angel Square in the early 1900s

Few sites in Shaftesbury have seen a greater variety of uses over the centuries than the present-day Post Office at Angel Square.
As a blue plaque erected by Shaftesbury and District Historical Society reminds us, the location at the corner of Angel Lane and Coppice Street takes its name from an early role as the site of the Angel Inn. It was also the home of the hilltop town’s first postmaster in about 1667.

A later building hosted a coachbuilder’s, after that it became a car repair workshop, and the present Post Office opened in 1946.
My early 20th century picture (above) shows the site during its incarnation as Philip Short’s coachworks. Signs on the wall advertise Shell, Pratt’s petrol and Vacuum Oils.
This suggests that, as well as making horse-drawn carriages and gigs like the one pictured, Shorts were also catering for Shaftesbury’s first motorists.
The coachworks included workshops, stables, showrooms and a residence, which may explain the young children and terrier dog on the far left of the picture. Perhaps they were the owner’s family.
The employees alongside them would have included smiths, body-makers, wheel-makers and painters.
A sundial high on the Post Office wall is the only survivor of the pre-war complex. It was originally erected in memory of Dr Evans, who was fatally injured in a tragic accident at this spot in 1897.

Shaftesbury Post Office stands on the same site today

The 36-year-old Shaftesbury GP was driving his four-wheeled carriage when his horse bolted, overturning the vehicle and throwing him against a wall. He suffered a fractured skull and broken thigh, and died 12 hours later.
Dr Evans’s seven-year-old son was also thrown from the carriage but landed on his father and escaped with bruising.

by Roger Guttridge


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