I have had the honour of spending an hour today with a woman who can certainly lay claim to being one of the ‘grandes dames’ of Bath – she is accomplished, respected, honoured in 2010 with a MBE and currently 93 years of age.
Audrey Swindells – wife and mother of six and owner – with her late husband Harold – of the Bath Stamp and Coin Shop on Pulteney Bridge, which two of her sons now look after.
It was here – back in the mid 1970’s – that friends suggested the couple might like to set up a museum to mark the city’s important role as the birthplace of the modern postal system.
Would you believe, they eventually bought a whole house in Great Pulteney Street basically to set up Bath Postal Museum in the basement!
Years later the collection finds a home – under what was the General Post Office – on the corner of Green and North Gate Streets.
Audrey is made a Member of the British Empire as a result of 32 years voluntary work at the museum and – with her husband’s help – in maintaining its survival.
Harold died in 2014 – at the age of 94 – but Audrey is still very much involved in administration and two of their five sons are now trustees.
The pandemic brought a complete shut down – as it did to all other places of heritage and culture – and the museum has only partially re-opened.
It is also currently looking for a new home which will bring it up from the basement to street level and – while the search continues – is desperate to recruit more volunteers to welcome its visitors.
Let Audrey take us back to the search they were making for premises to set up the museum. They looked at a property in Broad Street – once the home of John Palmer – the local man who established the mail coach system.
If you want to know more about the museum check out http://www.bathpostalmuseum.org