With Christmas fresh in the mind, and various articles appearing in this newspaper and online about the strain and the pressure the Royal Mail is feeling due to the season, I thought it relevant to tell the tale of two Wantage Postmen in the past.

The first of these was John Alfred Gauntlett (1844-1924) known as Alfred who first came to Wantage around 1860 as a servant to the Postmaster Joseph Lewis when the Post Office was part of what is now the Post Office Vaults.

Born in Southall Middlesex, Alfred married a local girl Ellen Holloway and the couple eventually had three children Arthur, Selina and Alice. Alfred was appointed a town postman in Wantage on the 12th August 1864.

Alfred was to be the main town postman in Wantage for the next 38½ years retiring in 1902 by which time the Post Office had moved to what is now ‘The Bay Tree Cafe’ in Newbury Street..

The newspaper report of his retirement noted that Alfred had earned ‘six good conduct stripes’ and ‘by his attention to detail, his urbanity, and care in the execution of his work he has enjoyed the respect and esteem of the inhabitants.’

As a result of of his reputation, the following year Alfred Gauntlett was elected as a member of the Wantage Board of Guardians and served on this body for the next twenty years till his death in 1924. The second postman I wish to write about is Frank Waight who succeeded Alfred Gauntlett as the main postie in Wantage in 1902, at which time there were only two town postmen in Wantage.

Before this he had been a rural postman “footing it” around East Challow, Childrey, Westcot Sparsholt and Kingston Lisle; whilst a round he covered at another time was over the Downs to Brightwalton, Lilley Catmore etc.

All his deliveries here and later around Wantage were done on foot. In fact he could not ride a bicycle.

In an interview in 1933 Frank said “I did start to ride one once – that was at the top of Chain Hill, but I got thrown off so I gave it up and never took to it again.'

Frank Waight was from Dublin and had been a boy messenger before joining the army aged 14 in 1889, serving in the Scots Guards for the next 12 years including during the South African War of 1899-1902.

He was also a keen musician having served as a bandsman in the army so when living in Wantage Frank was the drummer for the Wantage Orchestra Band.

On Frank’s retirement in 1933, the then postmaster Mr McInnes referred to Frank's first duties on the rural routes saying he ‘was happy over the hills walking and whistling and has done more footslogging than any other member of staff.

Records showed that Frank Waight had had only 6½ days on the sick list and had never been late for work.

During this time Frank had: Delivered 5,500,000 letters Delivered 200 tons of parcels Walked 100,00 miles Never been late on duty.