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Eileen English

Eileen was postmistress in Yoxford from 1947 until 1981.

Born in Hackney in 1916, she was the daughter of Henry William Outhwaite and Lillian Muir who married in Hackney in 1913.  She had an older brother John who was killed in France in 1940 during WWII, younger sisters Rita Lilian and Christine, and a younger brother Colin Charles, born in Rochford in Essex. He lived most of his life in Southwark and Hertfordshire but retired to Curlew Green, and Eileen sold flowers cut from his garden 

Henry William was in 1911 living in Cromer Road, Holt in Norfolk aged 26 and employed as a telegraphist for the Post Office. He was born a British citizen in Kokstad in Cape Colony (British colony Cape of Good Hope, in present-day South Africa), c1885.

Eileen was at boarding school from the age of five, winning a scholarship to a girls’ school in Clapton, Hackney before the family moved to Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex. At 14 she won a scholarship to a teaching college there. At the age of 16 she started working for radio manufacturer E K Cole in Prittlewell. There she met Maurice Jack English, known as Jack and they became engaged when she was 17. They married two years later in 1935 in St Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, Essex. He was the son of Maurice George English and Mabel Wright, who was born in Peasenhall.  Eileen and Jack lived in Ilford then Westcliff-on-Sea when they were first married, where Jack worked for Radio Rentals and Eileen was secretary to the manager of a large store.

Radio Rentals was evacuated to Leicester and during that time Eileen would come and spend holidays in Yoxford with her mother-in-law, Mabel. Mabel lived in the second cottage in Church Cottages, Church Lane, and then in a flat in Sunnyside during the war while Jack was away serving in the RAF on radar work. Mabel along with her daughters Betty (Bet) and Barbara (Girlie), took care of John, Eileen and Jack’s young son, born in 1939, keeping him safe from air-raids over London.  Maurice Sr had died in 1929 at the young age of 39. Eileen enjoyed village life while she was here, especially the dances on a Saturday night in the village hall. People came from all over the area, including soldiers stationed nearby.

It was during one of these summer holidays that Eileen saw the post of sub-postmistress advertised, as Mrs Shepherd had decided to retire. Mabel encouraged Eileen to apply for the post, so she was interviewed and offered the job. She was interested in post office work “owing to connections in my family” There were no premises available so Mabel offered Eileen space at the front of her then home, in Sunnyside. Eileen and Jack moved to Yoxford in 1947 and Eileen ran the Post Office from 1st November. 

Jack worked for a builders at Eliza Acton House opposite the church and had a workshop at his mother’s house for radio and TV work as well as a photographic studio.  On 5th July1951 Eileen and Jack were able to move to Minsmere House and Mabel went with them and occupied the attached cottage. The house was badly neglected, had no mains water or electricity (this came ten years later) and took the couple two years to renovate. Initially renting the house for the Post Office premises, they were later able to purchase it with a private mortgage arrangement with the owner, for the same amount as the rent. At that time, 1953, the sale price was £1500.

Jack then worked for British Relay Wireless at Lonely Farm but lost his job there when the BBC took over broadcast of what BRW had been offering. Jack went to work for PYE who had a site in Leiston at the Garrett works.  

Interviewed on her retirement in 1981 she said “This was the red letter day my long and very happy association began and I look back with great affection to the start of what I now realise was a very rewarding and satisfying career”.

Doreen Smith was sent out from Saxmundham Post Office to give Eileen two weeks’ tuition. George Horner donated two mahogany draper’s counters which Eileen used until she retired. She always displayed a vase of flowers on the counter, which customers appreciated so much they often brought in flowers from their gardens and greenhouses. Villagers also often delighted in finding her the first snowdrops, violets and primroses. In the summer they would bring home-grown strawberries and vegetables and exchange plant cuttings.

Hours at the Post Office were very long and the services provided were extensively used.  Eileen later remembered the Christmas of 1955 being very busy, with 22 mail bags of parcels all over the ground floor rooms as well as many letter bags full of cards. As a telegraph office they dealt with many telegrams and cables including wedding telegrams on Saturdays. She recalled 40 cables in Spanish which had to be transcribed, copied on to wedding forms and then delivered. This was on the occasion of the marriage of Busick Pemberton of Grove Park to his Argentinian fiancée. Another busy occasion was that of Sir Guy and Lady Hambling’s Golden Wedding anniversary. A party was held at their home at Rookery Park to which many of the villagers were invited. Eileen and Jack could not attend because of the telegram service but were thrilled later when a hamper was delivered to them by Sir Hugh, son of the celebrating couple, including a bottle of champagne.

Eileen introduced items to sell including stationery, film, cigarettes, sweets and toys, the shop being open all day from 9 until 6. Eileen also operated the premises as an unofficial Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Eileen retired 31st March 1981 at the age of 65.

There was no Post Office pension but a large party was held in the village hall, attended by around 300 people where a portable television and a cheque were presented by the Chairman of the Parish Council. Money was raised by public subscription.

Eileen was always a very busy person and even when still postmistress she was heavily involved in village life. She was a representative for the WRVS, Tennis Club Secretary and a major force in the Drama Group. In 1972 she organised a flower festival in St Peter’s church. She also taught drama and flower arranging at both the school and in the village hall and in surrounding villages. In addition she was parish clerk for a while. After retirement she worked at Milestone House, which then had a pottery and craft shop, for four days each week. Eileen and Jack also opened their garden at Minsmere House each year for St Johns Ambulance, Jack’s brother-in-law Jack Baughan being a volunteer for them.

Jack died in 1983 at the age of 71, Eileen in 2009 aged 93.

She was recognised as Yoxford’s local historian and started a collection of photos etc which the Yoxford History Group now manages and to which it will continue to add and properly store.

Memoirs from NUNN, Marie. Yoxford: A Suffolk Village Remembered.  2007 (out of print)