Volunteers have stepped up to turn a rural Dorset chapel into their village’s ‘Other Public House’.
Since February, Uploders Methodist Chapel has been opening once a week for Post Office staff to offer counter services to locals.
But chapel volunteers and co-ordinators are now seeing the venue grow into more than just a part-time Post Office – it’s become a place where villagers regularly gather for a friendly chat over a cup of tea.
Volunteers are even hopeful that over time they could see the space used for art exhibitions and musical performances.
“It’s a little Methodist chapel that was built in 1827 to serve Loders and Uploders,” says steward Lois Gribble. “There were moves to close it in 2005 but myself and others resisted that. We said, ‘No, we’re here for the chapel and for the local community.’
“We managed to persuade people we could restore the chapel, which cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, but we did it.
“We call it the village’s ‘Other Public House’ because we have no shop and just one pub.”
Fellow volunteer Richard Hall said: “When we got the opportunity to host a Post Office we jumped at it. The Post Office at Crewkerne provides the equipment and personnel to run it. The nearest Post Office had been at the shop in Bradpole, but when that went people used to have to go to Bridport instead. But the chapel is also run as somewhere people come for companionship – it’s not just a part-time Post Office.”
Richard said the Post Office/tea shop combination on offer in the chapel draws in dog walkers on a regular basis. But he added: “It’s been really well accepted by the community, but I don’t think word of it is getting out too well to the surrounding villages. Parking here is not incredibly easy but it’s still easier than in Bridport.
“We would love to tell people locally to stop by to do their business then stop for a cup of tea and chat afterwards.”
Summing up the ethos of all the chapel volunteers, Lois added: “We’re all about being useful for the community and to help people who want to use the space.
“The acoustics in there are brilliant – it would be the ideal place for a musical recital and great for an art exhibition.”
After visiting the chapel Post Office recently, West Dorset MP Chris Loder said: “It is evident from my visit how important this service is to the residents of Uploders and the surrounding areas; it is convenient, supports cash and card, and eliminates the need to travel far to access postal and banking services.
“I recently supported the installation of a new BT line into the chapel, which has demonstrably improved connectivity. I’m grateful to Teresa Smith of Beaminster Post Office for enabling the outreach at Uploders, and I’ll work with the Post Office to look at the feasibility of establishing other such services.”
n The Post Office has changed its opening times to Wednesdays 1pm to 2.30pm.