Local History

Who was Bryony Randall?

On the 25th March 2024 I was sent a photo from my 4th cousin 1x removed Sarah, on the back it said “Bryony Randall, Postman”. But who was he? Bryony seemed an unusual name, today I only know of females by that name and I’ve never come across it in my research.

Checking first on Ancestry for a Bryony Randall in the Civil Registration indexes as expected came up nothing. So I turned to the “UK, Postal Service Appointment Books, 1737-1969” also on Ancestry. Searching for the surname Randall in Andover the local postal delivery office for St. Mary Bourne, only gave me one man by the name of RANDALL.

Appointed: Apr 1912
Registered No. 122902
Name: RANDALL, Jonathan B
Situation: Pman(R)
Place: Andover
Minute: E16378

The information above was my first clue as to who Bryony Randall may be. It certainly gave me a possible name and and the situation was correct as Pman(R) stands for Rural Postman but was the dating correct. So my next step was to look at what he was wearing in the photograph, and the big clue was his hat!

The photo shows a Shako hat (most likely double peaked as these were issued from 1896) these hats were in use until the late 1920s when they were phased out1 so this was another clue as it narrowed down when this photo was likely to have been taken and from the information already found Jonathan B Randall certainly fit. Which meant my next step was to look further into Jonathan B Randall.

He was born Jonathan Burton Randall on the 14th February 1876 in St. Mary Bourne, the son of Susannah Randall a domestic servant. No father was stated on his birth certificate2. No baptism was found so he was next found in 1881 on the census3 living in St. Mary Bourne with his grandparents William & Hannah Randall, his mother Susannah and 1 month old Ada A Randall (possibly a sister or cousin). By the time of the 1891 census4 he was lodging in the household of Henry Cox and working as a Farm Servant. By 1901 he had moved back in with his Grandmother Hannah who was now a widow and the census5 tell us that he was then working as a Blacksmith Journeyman.

During the next decade Jonathan’s circumstances change as on the 23rd November 19076 he marries widow Alice Martha Page (nee Baverstock) at the parish church. When he married his occupation is given as Postman, there is an anomaly here as according to the appointment books he didn’t join until Apr 1912!

Longhouse, St Mary Bourne, Hampshire (colourised version of a post card from the collection of Clive Wedge)

By the time of the 1911 census7 Jonathan and his wife Alice are living in the Longhouse, St Mary Bourne shown in the photo above, again he is stated as being a Postman. The 1921 census8 again tells us that Jonathan and Alice are living in St. Mary Bourne but now at Belle View Cottages, and his occupation is once again Postman but this time as it includes place of work we get “Post Office, St Mary Bourne”.

Our next mention of Jonathan is in the “UK, Royal Mail Pension and Gratuity Records, 1860-1970” records a new collection on Ancestry.co.uk. These records tell me that Jonathan retired from the Post Office in 1936 and was paid up until the 16th Febrary 1936, the reason being he was over 60 years old. We get a start date of 24th March 1912 when he was stated as being a ‘temporary postman” which brings me back to the earlier mentions of him being a postman prior to 1912. Was he a temporary postman then for a shorter period, is he in earlier appointment books but has been incorrectly recorded/indexed all possibilities that maybe I’ll find out another day but for now I am confident I have my man!

Pension section from Jonathan’s record9

Going back to the pension records I will say they are confusing, I can’t for the life of me work out what exactly his pension was (see image above) but I can say that he was earning 58 shillings per week, had been poorly in 1933 when he had taken 37 sick days and again in 1935 when he took 65 sick days but in 1932, 1934 and 1936 had clearly been fit and well as no sick days. Plus it tells is that his impressive uniform was worth £2, so no doubt something he took great care of.

Jonathan died at his home in Belle View Terrace on the 22nd October 1938 of Carcinoma of the Lymphatic Glands in the neck and Carcinoma of the Tongue which no doubt gives some insight into why he had been poorly in the years leading up to his retirement. I’m sure he was quite a character in the village as I know of at least two photographs of him.

Coronation Arms, St Mary Bourne (photo curtesy of Clive Wedge)

We can see Jonathan with his bicycle outside of the Coronation Arms, his home Belle Vue Cottages were just across the road from the Coronation Arms so this would have been his local pub. The landlord Charles Barton (1882-1938) who was once Postmaster and is Sarah’s Great Grandfather is in the doorway and may have been the person who took Jonathan’s photo and wrote on the back Bryony Randall, Postman.

Jonathan Burton Randall (1876-1938) outside Butler’s Farm, St Mary Bourne. Photo courtesy of Sarah Barton

Above is a colourised version of the photograph Sarah sent me back in March, he’s stood there with a bundle of letters in his hand and his bicycle leaning against the wall of Butler’s Farm, Gangbridge Lane, St Mary Bourne. I think he looks very dapper in his uniform stood there posing for the camera.

So now we know who Bryony Randall is, and if any reader knows why he got the nickname ‘Bryony’ I’d love to hear from you.

  1. https://www.postalmuseum.org/blog/dressed-to-deliver-how-postal-workwear-has-changed-over-time/ ↩︎
  2. GRO Ref: Jonathan Burton Randall, Q1 1876 Whitchurch, 2C/215 ↩︎
  3. The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1881; Class: RG11; Piece: 1258; Folio: 7; Page: 23; ↩︎
  4. The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891; Class: RG12; Piece: 961; Folio: 10; Page: 13; ↩︎
  5. The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901; Class: RG13; Piece: 1112; Folio: 6; Page: 3 ↩︎
  6. Hampshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921, Reference: 82096/1/7 ↩︎
  7. The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911; Class: RG14; Piece: 6308; Schedule: 50; ↩︎
  8. The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1921; Class: RG15; Piece: 5836; Schedule: 72; ↩︎
  9. The Postal Museum; London, England; Pension and Gratuity Records 1860-1970; Reference: POST 1/1065 ↩︎

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