History of Christchurch

Recording the history of the village of Christchurch (originally Brimstone Hill) in Cambridgeshire

The Old Post Office (Syringa House)

Special thanks to Hazel Crawford for sharing her reseatch on this building and its previous inhabitants.

The Old Post Office (called Syringa House until recently) was built around 1785 (based on a dated beam in Christchurch Cottage opposite the building), although a conservation officer indicated that it may date back to 1740. The current occupier reports that they found a floor brick dating back earlier to 1550.

The Post Office opened in 1910, but closed temporarily between 1997-1998, and then permanently in 2008 after an armed robbery 3/4. It was then replaced with a mobile service in 2009.

Berry Family

The history of Syringa House is closely tied with that of the Berry family for most of its history. The family tree below illustrates the owners and some individuals associated with this building, and also provides a timeline for much of its history.

Click on image to view full size

Entries in darker blue rounded boxes have an associated note – see below:

Notes from Berry Family Tree

  1. William Berry Jnr (1752-1795) alive until at least 1788 – growing hemp and flax in Upwell.
  2. Eda Berry (1765-1783) buried 21 Aug 1783 in Upwell.
  3. John Berry Snr (1770-1819) was a Publican of the Crown, Christchurch.
  4. Syringa House was built around 1785 as this is the date marked on a beam in Christchurch Cottage (opposite), however according to a Conservation Officer it may be as early as 1740 (although a floor brick dated 1550 was found in the building). This would have made Samuel Berry around 25 years of age and newly married. It may have been his father’s house and added to about this time. The iron supports in the gable end ‘S’ ‘B’ – Samuel Berry.
  5. Samuel Berry (1760-1826) married Elizabeth Tombleson (1767-1793) on 25 Oct 1785
    Samuel Berry, Batchelor & Elizabeth Tombleson, Spinster, both of this Parish were married by Banns in Upwell Church the Twenty-Fifth day of October in the Year of Our Lord 1785 by Wm Robinson. Witnesses – John Berry & John Tyers.

    1801 • Lot VIII, Westmoor North 0 50 Acres Lot VIII, Westmoor North 0 – No.21. 14th piece from Welney. One of the 95,000 acres (King Charles 1st had 12,000) given to the Adventurers for their part in draining the fens.
  6. Thomas Tombleson Berry Snr (1786-1865) a farmer of 530 Acres Employing 2 Labourers. Also recorded as Treasurer of Upwell Level 1850.
  7. Samuel Tombleson Berry Snr (1791-1864) was baptised 21 January 1791. He died 25 March 1864.
  8. Robert Tombleson Berry? – Appears to have a lot of land at Welney Xiii No.21  in 1821 that belonged to Samuel – although no other record can be found of him.
  9. Samuel re-married Lydda Denston (1772–1822) on 17 Dec 1793 – they had 1 daughter Adah (1795-1795) who died in 1795.
  10. Samuel Tombleson Berry Snr (1791-1864) married Sarah Wooll (1795-1895) on 15 July 1814.
  11. Samuel Joseph Berry Jnr (1825-1903) born 14 February 1825 and died 16 Sept 1903.
  12. Samuel Joseph Berry Jnr (1825-1903) Cardiac Failure and Senile Decay – (Refers to the progressive loss of mental capacity that leads to dementia and personal helplessness. The majority of the cases recorded were most likely Alzheimer’s disease.)
  13. Samuel Joseph Berry Jnr (1825-1903) married Mary Bosden(1829-1897 – heart attack) between 1847-1853.
  14. Mary Bosden(1829-1897) emigrated with her family 1830 at around 1 year old.
  15. Samuel emigrated in 1847 as he is shown on the 1855 census as being there for 8 years.
  16. Samuel Hugh Berry (1854-1902) born 20 April 1854, Lockport, Niagra, New York and died 8 May 1902. During his life he’d been a Coal Merchant, Fruit Salesman, and Innkeeper, The Vine, 7 Old Market Place, Wisbech @ 1896. He’d lived in Norwich in 1901. Samuel was on the Board of Governors – Overseer to Upwell.
  17. Alice Mary Berry (1857-1872) died at 15 years old of Tuberculosis Phthisis (consumption) followed by diarrhea.
  18. Ida Frances Berry (1860-1942) Born 20 January 1860, Lockport, Niagra, New York. She was a sewing mistress/Assistant Mistress at a Boarding School) 1891.
  19. Clara Elizabeth Berry (1862-1938) married John Corke (1839-1916) on 4 Dec 1898 in St James with Pockthorpe, Norwich.
  20. Ann Ellen Berry (1866-1871). Ann died at 5 years old from pneumonia leading to meningitis. Her death certificate gives a different date to her gravestone.
  21. Sarah Jane (Jennie) Berry (1868-1933) married Frederick Hyde (1867-1942) in 1891. She lived in Gorleston in 1901 & 1911. She was a drapers assistant – living in-house in 1891. Jenny was originally the diminutive form of Jane.
  22. Florence Lucy Berry (1871-1898) married Francis Lidington Corke on 15 April 1895 (1871-1936). Corke-Berry, on the 15th Inst., at Christ Church, by the Rev. C. F. Townley, Francis Lidington, youngest son of John Corke, of H.M. lnland Revenue, Norwich, Florence Lucy, youngest daughter of Samuel Berry, farmer, Christchurch, Upwell. They had 2 children Stanley Berry Corke (1896-1963) & John Francis Corke (1897-1953). Florence died at the age of 27 during the pregnancy/birth of her third child from kidney failure. Her husband remarried Ella Jeannie Paull in 1902 and went to America in 1906 leaving their two children with his father John Corke who married Florence’s sister Clara in 1898. (The wedding photo outside Syringa House). He died on 13 October 1936 in Colorado Springs, El Paso, Colorado, United States.
  23. Samuel Joseph Berry Jnr (1825-1903) possibly emigrated to Lockport, Niagra, New York in September 1851 on the ‘Cornellius Grinnell’.
  24. I cannot find a marriage date or venue for them but I believe it was in Lockport between 1847-1853. He is shown on the 1860 census as a depot labourer. His wife’s siblings were born and living in Lockport (her parents had emigrated after her birth in 1829 in Pluckley, Kent as they are on an 1830 census for Lockport. The family returned to England during the middle of the Civil War (1861-1865) with their four children born between 1854 and 1862 in Lockport. This was probably around 1864 when his father died but definitely before 1866 as Ann Ellen was born in Christchurch and the children were baptised on 30th August 1868.
  25. Samuel Hugh Berry (1854-1902) married Mary Ann Frost (Widow, Holmes) (1847-1902) in 1890 in Christchurch.
  26. They didn’t have any children (she had one with first husband), so when he died the house went to the three remaining girls (Ida, Clara and Sarah). 1894 Polling Address: Butterman’s Field, Old Market, Wisbech St Mary, Cambridgeshire, England. Terrington St John, North Western Division, Norfolk, England. He was christened as an older child on 30 August 1868 (age 14). Samuel Hugh & Mary Ann Berry (widow – her first husband was the previous landlord) ran the Vine Coaching Inn, 7 Old Market, Wisbech in 1891/1896. In 1901 they were both recorded at separate addresses. Samuel in Norwich with Francis Liddington and Mary at her son’s house in Gorleston, Norfolk.
  27. Ida Frances Berry (1860-1942) married Henry Hutchinson (1850-1926) on 8 March 1905. Henry bought the house on 15th July 1905 from the three girls (Ida, Clara and Sarah). Syringa House was then left to Stanley Berry Corke (Ida’s nephew). Ida was the sub-postmistress in the 1911 census and Henry was a wheelwright and carpenter (1901 census).
  28. Henry Hutchinson (1850-1926) had 12 children with first wife Mary Ann Lavender (b.1855-1896)
  29. Albert Edward Hutchinson (1883-1917) was a carpenter/wheelwright.
  30. Bernard Hutchinson (1890-1917) was an Auxiliary Postman. Bernard died aged 28 in Belgium 9.10.1917 in WWI (listed as PO Christchurch).
  31. Herbert Leonard Hutchinson (1896-1973) was a Telegraph boy in 1911, and a Postman in 1916.
  32. Stanley Berry Corke was born 22 March 1896 and died 23 September 1963. He married married Elsie May Brooks (1898-1983) in September 1921. He was the eldest son of Florence Lucy Berry who died in 1898, nephew of Clara who looked after him, Ida & Sarah. He was living in Syringa House in 1911 (Nephew to head of house). Retired from being Postmaster in 1956.
  33. Mary Corke (1921-1985) married John Everard Watson (1920-1983) in September 1951.
  34. Rachel Watson (1953-2019) owner until her death.


The timeline below should be referenced in conjunction with the previous family tree and provides some supplemental historical context as well as information and source data directly relating to the building and its inhabitants.

1790June 21
Elizabeth Berry creditors notice (Norwich Gazette)
1791June 23
Adah Berry’s marriage to William – witnessed by Samuel & William

Baptism of Samuel Berry
1793June 15
Elizabeth Berry’s death
Newspaper cutting for neighbouring land sale
18411841 Census 6
Samuel Berry (Farmer) Out of county – Sheep Market Cross Keys Inn, St Ives, Huntingdonshire
Sarah (Wool) Berry 45
Hugh Berry 20
Samuel Berry (15)
Lucy Berry 10
Sarah Wool Berry 5
John Knights (15)
Mary Knights (13)
Ann Hall (15)
18511851 Census – 16 Foot River
Samuel Tombleson Berry 60 – Head. Farmer of 40 acres, employing 5 labourers
Sarah (Wool) Berry 56
Elizabeth Berry 31
George Berry 23
Joseph Berry 21
Lucy Berry 19
Sarah Wool Berry 14
John Barns 14 Servant
Sarah Richardson 18 – Servant
1859September 17
Newspaper cutting for farming assets after letting farm
Upwell Tower Mill around 1915 (see below)

My great grandfather Thomas Berry Jr. (1815-1871) initially followed his father Thomas Tombleson Berry into farming in Upwell. Thomas Jr later became a miller and master miller, and moved to Wisbech where he lived on Lynn Road (‘miller employing 3 men’) from at least 1851. His first wife who died in childbirth in 1840 was the daughter of Joseph Smith, a miller living on Lynn road Wisbech, so perhaps that is related in some way to his later career change. Although it is tempting to link him to that wonderful eight sail mill in Lynn road, Wisbech, I came across the attached advertisement in the Cambridge Independent Press (28th July 1860). This clearly attaches him to a mill in Upwell marked on old maps in the location described in the advertisement. Perhaps he worked at both mills. Thomas eventually died of a pre-existing heart condition in 1871. This was almost certainly chronic rheumatic heart disease. Perhaps he gave up farming, and then milling as his health deteriorated. Jem Berry – 7th April 2013 5
18611861 Census – Brimstone Hill
Samuel Tombleson Berry 70 – retired farmer
Sarah (Wool) 66
Samuel Joseph (35) is in Lockport, USA
Lucy 29
Lydia Stevens 16 – Servant – Maid of all work
Thomas Hastings 16 – Servant – Milk boy
1864Sarah Goulding Grocer and Draper
Thomas Tombleson’s Death (owned a cottage in Brimstone Hill)
Joseph Berry Freehold Property
1866May 7
Ann Ellen Berry baptism
1868August 15
Sarah Jane baptism
August 30
Alice Mary & Ida Frances baptism
Samuel Joseph Berry – The Norfolk News article
April 17
Berry’s Bridge tender article – this is the bridge you can see if you stand on Three Holes bridge and look toward Downham Market.
1871April 7
Ann Ellen Berry’s gravestone in Christchurch Church graveyard. She doesn’t show up on any census records as she died between censuses (age 5 from meningitis). Note the death certificate says the death was registered on 2nd April but the grave says 7th April.

Ann Ellen Berry’s Death Certificate
1871 Census – Brimstone Hill
Samuel Joseph Berry Jnr (46)
Mary (Bosden) (42)
Samuel Hugh (16)
Alice (14)
Ida Francis (11)
Clara (8)
Sarah Jane (2)
Mary Ann Brighton 16 – General Servant
18811881 Census – Crown Drove
Samuel Joseph Berry Jnr (56)
Mary (Bosden) (52)
Samuel Hugh (26)
Clara Elizabeth (18)
Sarah Jane (12)
Florence Lucy (9)
1882Christchurch: 1882: WISBECH. Rubber 1887. MO-SB 1-6-1887. T.O.10-7-1900(ZFW). This indicates 1882 as the earliest date or opening date 7
Wisbech was the Postal Town.
1883William White’s History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk 1883
POST, MONEY ORDER, and TELEGRAPH OFFICE at Mr. James Henry Inman’s. There is also a receiving office at Mr. Thomas Newton’s, North Delph. A mail cart leaves Wisbech at 4 a.m., calling at Elm, Emneth, Outwell, Upwell, Three Holes, Christchurch, Tip’s End, and Welney at 6.30 a.m., and leaves Welney again in the evening at 6 p.m., Upwell at 7 p.m., and Wisbech at 8 p.m. There are several Wall Letter-Boxes in this parish.
POST OFFICE-Christchurch, Miss Sarah GOULDING, receiver; delivery begins 6.30; dispatched at 6.6 p.m. (http://apling.freeservers.com/Villages/UpwellCambs.htm).  Originally in Christchurch Cottage, It was relocated to Syringa House in 1910 (Study of a Fenland Village by Susan Scott – 1972).
Berry      Miss Charlotte
Berry      Miss Lucy – Christchurch
Berry      Samuel – farmer, Christchurch
Berry      Walter – surgeon, medical officer and public M.R.C.S., vaccinator for the 11th and 12th L.S.A. districts of Wisbech union, & Nth. Welney district of Downham union
Berry      Wm. – farmer
1887The first rubber date stamp for the PO Money-Order and Savings Bank facilities in place from 1887
18911891 Census – Crown Drove
Samuel Joseph Berry Jnr (66)
Mary (Bosden) (62)
Ida Francis (29)
Sarah Jane (22)
Florence Lucy (19)
Sarah A Gimbert (14) Servant
1892Edward Rowley Nunneley, grocer and draper, Post Office; Christchurch
Florence Lucy Berry’s wedding invite (found in house).

Florence Lucy Berry
1896POST-OFFICE, Christchurch-Samuel Dye, sub-postmaster. Letters arrive from Wisbech at 5.45 a.m.; delivery begins 7; dispatched at 6.50 p.m. The nearest telegraph office is at Welney.
Mary Berry Death Certificate
Clara Elizabeth Berry marriage certificate to John Corke

John Corke
1900The Telegraph Office located in the corridor between the dining room and PO was opened in 1900.
19011901 Census – Main Road
Samuel Joseph Berry Jnr (76) – Widower
Stanley Berry Corke (15) – Grandson
Lucy Berry (69) – Sister
Samuel Hugh Berry’s headstone, Christchurch

John Francis Corke
Francis Liddington Cork around 1905 before he left for America in 1906 to work for his cousin. Did he join Samuel Joseph Berry who emigrated around 1850?
1911April 121911 Census
Ida F Hutchinson (Berry) – Sub Postmistress
Albert Edward Hutchinson (27) – Carpenter & Wheelwright
Bernard Hutchinson (21) – Auxiliary Postman
Herbert Hutchinson (14) – Telegraph Boy
Stanley Berry Corke (15) – Scholar (Nephew)
Herbert Hutchinson’s sign-up papers circa 1916
19211921 Census (Waiting on 2022 release of census)
The Watson Family may have lived at the Old Toll House, Ha Penny Toll Lane, Christchurch.
1925Post, M.O., T.& T. E. D. Office, Christchurch – Mrs Ida F. Hutchinson, sub-postmistress. Letters through Wisbech.
19311931 Census – lost in fire during WWII.
1936SeptemberIda F Hutchinson (Berry) – Sub Postmistress
Stanley Berry Corke – Postman & Small Holder
Mary Watson (Corke) age 18. Post Office Assistant Telephone Operator
1939National Registration Act
19411941 Census – Not taken due to WWII

Irene Corke
1950s –> 1960s
Syringa House also doubled as the Doctor’s surgery for the village. Consultations were held in the front room by Dr Baraclough and Dr Hawes. The surgery moved to the Social Centre around 1969.
1963 & 1983
Stanley Berry and Elsie May Corke’s headstone, Christchurch
1981Extension/refurbishment carried out to the back of the property – current kitchen was used as the PO sorting room.
1983October 31Syringa House listed as Grade II listed building. 8
1997October 15Post Office closed.
1998October 19Post Office re-opened.
2008December 15Post Office closed after an armed robbery. 3
2009JanuaryMobile Post Office service starts.
2018Post Office and village shop collection/museum

Additional Notes

Some additional notes related to the research of the history of Syringa House can be found below:

  • Up until 1865 Christchurch was called Brimstone Hill and in Upwell Parish
  • No records of Berry’s in Upwell Parish registers before 1736
  • Initials on iron supports at gable end are S & B for Samuel Berry! (Possibly Samuel Berry – 1760-1826) as Christchurch Cottage dated to 1785.
  • I think Syringa House, Christchurch Cottage and Pauline’s cottage belonged to the three brothers. The family owned land all the way to the 16 foot river including the Crown Inn at the bottom of Crown Drove (near the river).
  • A Post Office was opened in 1882 in Christchurch Cottage (opposite Syringa House) and was run by Gouldings (Kelly’s directory 1883 Post Office – Christchurch, Miss Sarah Goulding (grocer & draper), receiver; delivery begins 6.30; dispatched at 6.6 p.m. Small village offices of this kind were not directly operated by the Post Office but run as independent private businesses. It was relocated to Syringa House in 1910 (Study of a Fenland Village by Susan Scott – 1972).
  • Samuel Hugh Berry & Mary Ann Berry ran the Vine Inn, 7 Old Market, Wisbech in 1891
  • ? (aged 23) Richard Tolliday (18) and William Rumbelow (19) were indicted for stealing two ducks and drakes from the property of Samuel Berry, a farmer, at Upwell on the 18th of March. The prosecutor missed the ducks on the 18th of March 1824.
  • 29 April 1850 – Downham Petty Sessions: Jeremiah Pollington, John Towson, and Richard Gatherecole, all of Upwell, labourers, were charged bv Mr. John Berry, of the same parish, farmer, with wilfully damaging a quantity of mangold wurzel, and a hat, his proper
  • 15 July 1833 Fatal Occurrence. On Monday last, the following fatal accident occurred at Wisbech —As Anthony Hawkins, (aged 56) many years the trusty and faithful servant of Mr. Thos. T. Berry, of Upwell, was driving his master’s loaded beast waggon through the streets of Wisbech, in turning the corner of Ship-lane suddenly met a horse and earl, and in his endeavour avoid which he was jammed between the waggon wheels and the wall in so horrible manner, that several his limbs were broken, and he was otherwise so dreadfully injured, that he survived but three hours. Mr. Berry and family were at dinner when the melancholy tidings were announced, and the former instantly hastened Wisbech, with the humane intention of rendering the unfortunate man every assistance in his power, but although the best and most prompt medical aid had already been called in, such was the extent of the injuries he had sustained, that the poor sufferer breathed his last in the presence of his master, a few minutes after the arrival of the latter at Wisbech! lt somewhat consoling circumstances to add, that the unfortunate man has left but one child (a married woman) to lament her father’s melancholy fate.


  1. https://www.immigrantships.net/v7/1800v7/corneliusgrinnell18550112.html
  2. www.roll-of-honour.com/Cambridgeshire/WisbechPostOffice.html
  3. https://www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/christchurch-armed-robbers-steal-large-sum-of-cash-from-village-7781500
  4. https://www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/video-christchurch-postmistress-describes-armed-robbery-as-just-one-of-7781584
  5. www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Windmills/upwell-towermill.html
  6. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/census-records/ (Information about the censuses)
  7. Ken Smith’s Post Office lists by County, for England records: https://sites.google.com/site/ukpostofficesbycounty/home/england
  8. https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101125931-syringa-house-christchurch#.Ys3DSXbMLrc