In our town of Bridgend in South Wales there are a number of buildings which have been saved from demolition but are no longer in use for the purpose for which they were built. One such complex is the large site housing the former General Post Office with pedestrian access from Court Road and vehicular access from Station Hill and Derwen Road. The post office closed in the early 1970s when it moved to its new location in Dunraven Place but the sorting office remained on the site for a while after that date before moving to a new location on Tremains Road.
Recently, with the invaluable assistance of my friend Natalie Murphy, the well-known Bridgend Historian, arrangements were made to visit the site and record photographically as much as we were able. We had learned beforehand that the Post Office building itself was unsafe and access would be denied but the old “Fire Station” would be made available to us. So with eager anticipation our small party consisting of Natalie, myself and Colin Simper, a friend of ours, waited at the gates for our guide to arrive.
We were led straight into the upper floor of the old sorting office which is above what was referred to as the fire station. It was apparent immediately that this was no abandoned building as the walls were freshly painted and neat piles of building materials were tidily stored within. Photographically not very exciting but we were informed the lower levels were more as original.
The climb down the narrow spiral staircase was a bit of a challenge with an extended tripod and large camera bag but once down one could peer into the gloom and realise the vastness of the interior which is not apparent from the insignificant looking exterior doors. Once again, the area is being used for storage of building materials with piles of dressed stone and other items dotted around the interior. I set to work with the tripod and camera and captured a number of images then heard the word cellar being mentioned – yes, we could go down there but it was flooded.
Fortunately I had expected to be working partly in darkness so had taken along my LED lanterns and went down to investigate, water was covering the floor but only a centimetre or two so it was quite easy to step carefully through the water. It was pitch black down there and the lanterns provided the only illumination. There was a large raised concrete base in the centre where it is assumed a generator once stood.
Although the building off Derwen Road is known locally as the “Old Fire Station” I can find no reference to it being built for this purpose. According to the publication “Bridgend 900” it was built for the Post Office and I quote: “1936 – A new garage for the Post Office was erected in Derwen Road. As a Crown Building it bears on its facade the royal cypher E.VIII.R and is unique in England and Wales as one completed during the short reign of the uncrowned King Edward VIII. The only other such building is known in Scotland”.
No mention of a fire station!
Now it is just possible that this publication is incorrect but more likely that this building was indeed constructed specifically for the Post Office. It has been suggested perhaps that it was used briefly during the war years to house a fire engine but can find no evidence to support this apart from a map dated 1940 which shows this building as a fire station. It remains a fact however that this building is still locally known as “The Old Fire Station” and still has a bell on its exterior wall which would seem to suggest it had been used for this purpose. Photographic evidence also exists which shows the fire station in Glanogwr Road was in use at that time in 1936 and that location remained the operational base until the 1960s when a new station was built on Angel Street.
The final photograph shows the spiral chute which is presumably to transfer mail bags from the upper floor to waiting vans below. The illuminated sign in the background ‘Beware of Motors’ used to hang on the wall outside the garage. Some tasteless deep blue bathroom ware in storage here now.
Foolishly I didn’t photograph the exterior when we visited as we had accessed the building from the rear, but you can view on Google streetview by following this link.
Many thanks also to our guide who answered all our questions and patiently waited whilst all the photographs were carefully planned and taken.