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Our work at Tintagel Old Post Office

A chimney sweep carrying out a flue camera survey at the hall fire in Tintagel Old Post Office
The hall fire is still lit during the shoulder months of the year | © Rhodri Davies

National Trust specialists work hard to preserve the more than 600-year-old Tintagel Old Post Office. This miniature medieval manor house needs constant care.

Previous uses

Although commonly perceived to be a Victorian building – it was a letter-receiving office in the 1870s – 'The Old Post Office' was first built sometime between 1350-1400 and was the home of a prosperous farmer.

The building was given Grade I listed status in 1952 and remains one of the best examples of Cornish vernacular architecture. It displays many building styles native to North Cornwall that are now in decline.

‘As one of the smaller National Trust houses, we are unable to close-off rooms or change our visitor route for conservation cleaning during the open season. Therefore, we use the quieter winter months to our advantage to carry out the cleaning of the house and collections and undertake crucial building maintenance.’

– Jo McGillivray, Operations Manager

Getting to work

While the doors are closed in the winter, the house and garden team, as well as specialists in historic buildings, work hard to keep the building accessible, safe and in good condition. Outside, work might include masons repointing the traditional lime mortar on the wavy Tudor roof – one of the most important features of the house.

‘Repair work is not a straightforward undertaking for such a complex building, but all the changes over the years only add to the fascination.

‘Instead of rebuilding, the owners chose to modify the house to fit with their needs or the trends of the time. Because of this, Tintagel Old Post Office is unique in that it showcases Cornish domestic life from just after the Black Death through to the Victorian period and beyond.’

– Rhodri Davies, Collections & House Officer

Local support

In 1895, the locals of Tintagel, led by local lady Catherine Johns, managed to safeguard the future of Tintagel Old Post Office by buying it through auction and paying for restoration work on the house by selling artworks of it.

Knowing it would need long-term care, they appealed to the then newly formed National Trust, which agreed to help. The charity has been looking after this piece of Cornish history since it was purchased it in 1903. The National Trust has therefore been repairing the house for more than a century and because of the traditional materials it is made from, this work will need to continue, and we can only do so with your support.

Ongoing work

Work inside the house is also important. The house team continues to carry out collection record work. This involves going through all the records to better understand where the items came from, who gifted them and when. This gives us a better understanding on the significance of the items and informs how best to care for them.

Tintagel Old Post Office is an Accredited Museum, and staff work to strict practices when it comes to managing collections, from their acquisition to record keeping and documentation. Like many museums that have been collecting for more than a hundred years, there are a few historic gaps in understanding where certain items came from. The challenge is to undertake a bit of detective work, delve into the archives and fill in the gaps in the history of all the items in our care.

Continued support

As a not-for-profit organisation, the National Trust relies on funding from memberships, visits, purchases, generous donors and elsewhere. None of this work would be possible if it was not for such continued support.

Thanks to this support, the Tintagel Old Post Office is still standing and the National Trust is able to realise Catherine Johns' dream of preserving the building for future generations.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

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