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Wickhamford Stores Application, 1946

The Sub-post Office in Wickhamford was situated at 10 Manor Road in the inter-War years, run by Jesse Colley.  He died in 1940 and in 1942 George Frederick Cox set up a Sub-post Office and shop in the ground floor of his house at the present 43 Pitchers Hill, which he had named 'Delia', after the place that he had lived in, in Canada..  He had returned from Canada in about 1933 and, in the 1939 Register, was a market gardener living at that address. He then started using the house as a village shop. 

43 Pitcher Hill
1938 photo of the roadside stall outside 43 Pitchers Hill:  George Cox's wife, Dorothy, and daughters, Dot and Ruth.
43 Pitchers Hill
1939 photo of George Cox with his sons, Charles and William, outside 43 Pitchers Hill.

After the War ended, he decided to apply for permission to build a shop next to his house and the original application was turned down by the County Council.  The details of his Appeal against that decision are presented below, based on a lengthy report in the Evesham Standard of 7th December 1946.

The Restriction of Ribbon Development Act of 1935

George Frederick Cox of The Stores, Wickhamford appealed to the Ministry of Transport under Section 7 (4) of this Act, against a decision of Worcestershire County Council withholding their consent to a proposed erection of a brick building, to be used as a Post Office and Stores on the A44.   The Minister of Transport directed a local Inquiry be held in public into the subject matter of the Appeal.  This was to be held in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall, Evesham on Tuesday 3rd December 1946 at 11.00 a.m.  To lead the Inquiry, Mr W. Tudor-Davies, B.A., Barrister-at-Law, was appointed.  He would receive representations from the parties to the Appeal.

The Appeal on 3rd December 1946

The County Council had withheld consent for the proposed new building.  George Cox was represented by R. Hodgetts and J.H.C. Phellps (Deputy Clerk) appeared for Worcestershire County Council.

The proposed new building, to be used as a sub-post office and general stores was to be erected between George Cox’s garage and his house, where the business was currently being carried out.  There was a slope off of the road to the proposed new building, but Cox planned to fill this in, so as to bring the entrance forecourt of the new premises level with the road and to make it wide enough for vehicles to draw in off of the road.  The general stores had been carried on since 1935 and George Cox had been sub-postmaster at Wickhamford since 1942.  There were no other shops in the village and no other premises suitable for use as a post office.

The majority of the houses in Wickhamford, said Mr Hodgetts, were on the Evesham- Broadway road.  Between the Sandys Arms and the church – the old village – there were 26 houses; yet from the Sandys Arms to the parish boundary there were 68 houses and a plan had been passed for a further 30 council houses on which work would soon start on six.  In due course there would be practically 100 houses on the Broadway side of the Sandys Arms. He said that where the houses were, there was the village and Mr Cox’s shop was in its centre.  He went on to say that the proposal made for better road safety as any vehicle could pull off of the road onto the proposed forecourt in front of the building.

George Cox said that his house was not large and the present business occupied half of the ground floor.  He said that he had four sons and four daughters, aged between five and twenty-six and that seven of the family permanently lived there.  He presented a petition bearing 123 signatures on behalf of his appeal and in answer to questions put to him by Mr Tudor-Davies, said the population of the village was about 400. In cross-examination, Mr Phellps suggested that an enormous amount of construction work was proposed.  George Cox replied that the filling necessary would not exceed five feet.

Evidence in support of the appeal was given by seven Wickhamford residents.  Mr E.W. Sturt, Weathervane Cottage, chairman of Wickhamford Parish council, retired Chief Constable, considered the shop to be centrally situated and that the proposed forecourt would lessen road dangers.  He said Mr Cox’s idea was following the same principle on which the Ministry of Transport had urged their “bays” for buses.  Replying to Mr Phellps, he agreed Wickhamford as a “ribbon developed village” and that the proposed new council housing estate was not the best place for the village shop.

Mr Cecil H. Ward, of Pitchers Hill, declared that Mr Cox’s shop was in the best possible position and there was not a better site in the village.  Similar evidence was given by Mrs P.M. Sutton of 51 Council Houses, Mrs P.M. Collett of 37 Council Houses, Mrs Nancy Fowkes of 2 Pitchers Hill, Mrs C.E. Williams and Mrs Elizabeth Griffin of Sandys Avenue.

Mr Cyril Payne, director of Wheeler & Mansell Ltd, gave evidence as to the proposed construction work.

Presenting the County Council’s case, Mr Phellps contended that the new shop should not extend “the horrible ribbon development at Wickhamford, which is admitted by everyone to be a mistake”.  He thought that, if a new building was desired, it should be build off of the main road.  Evesham R.D.C. was building a housing estate off the main road and, in all probability, there would be a site there for a shop.   The Assistant Deputy County Surveyor, Mr H.J. Morris, thought that the proposed building produced a potential source of danger, as the site was just below the crest of a hill and near to an “S” bend.  He said that the number of vehicles passing along the road daily in 1938 was 1,856.  He added that if consent were granted it would create a dangerous precedent and lead to the growth of more shops.  He suggested it should be away from the through-traffic.  When questioned by Mr Hodgetts, Mr Morris said the official policy was for buildings to be around the centre of the village – in this case, the church.  Pointing out the dictionary definition of a village as “an assembly of houses of less size that a town”, Mr Hodgetts declared that the new shop would be at the centre of the village as it now stood, straggling and ribbon-developed.

Mr Tudor-Davies afterwards left to visit the site, saying that the result of the enquiry would be made known later.

The outcome of the Appeal

The Appeal was turned down, so no new store was built at that time.  George Frederick Cox died in Wickhamford, in August 1962; he was living in a house that he had built next to the shop.  A few years earlier, in late 1956 or early 1957, the stores and Sub-post Office had been taken over by Major Jack and Mrs Maria Berthe Main.  They applied for permission to build an extension next to the house and this time it was granted. They had this built and remained at the premises until 1967.  This couple then moved to Birmingham. The Post Office announced the closure of many Sub-post Offices in 2007, including the one in Wickhamford, and the business was closed down soon afterwards.

43 Pitchers Hill
43 Pitchers Hill in 2020, 13 years after Wickhamford Stores closed.

Tom Locke – October 2020