Post office saved by bequest

SUFFOLK'S oldest post office has been saved from closure, thanks to a £500,000 bequest from a wealthy solicitor.

SUFFOLK'S oldest post office has been saved from closure, thanks to a £500,000 bequest from a wealthy solicitor.

Maxwell Charnley has left the astonishing amount to the parochial church council at Haughley, which will use the money to safeguard its 160-year-old village post office for future generations.

Details of the bequest have only just been revealed, even though Mr Charnley, who never married, died at the age 63 around 18 months ago.

It is believed he grew up in the picturesque village before moving to Hertfordshire, but he still had a home and family in the area at the time of his death.

Howard Stephens, treasurer for the parochial church council at St Mary's in Haughley, said: “We have had some good fortune and we do not want to waste that money, we want to put it back into the community. This is really fantastic.”

Until sub-postmistress Maureen Edwards retired last September, the Haughley branch had continuously served the community since 1848 - making it what is believed to be the oldest in the UK.

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Since then it has been closed, and the Post Office has been looking for suitable new premises to relocate to.

But the parochial church council has stepped in and is set to buy the former premises from Mrs Edwards.

This would then be rented to the Post Office, allowing it to find a replacement sub-postmaster or postmistress.

Mr Stephens said: “Mr Charnley left us at least £500,000, although the exact amount will not be known until his properties are sold, as well as a further £1 million split between his local church, and Papworth Hospital, and some other specific bequests.”

He said they had now exchanged contracts and should complete the purchase of the post office branch in three weeks.

Kieron Palmer, whose family runs Palmers Baker in the village, was one of those serving on a committee fighting to save the post office.

Mr Palmer, whose great great grandfather Alfred Woods ran the post office for 40 years from 1896, said: “This is a vital service for the community, it's a lifeline, especially for the elderly.

A spokesman for the Post Office said the Haughley branch is only temporarily closed and there are no current plans to shut it.