The Great Sherfield Hatchett Dispute

Sherfield English straddles what had been the mid 19th century turnpike road, and consists of scattered dwellings with two clusters on the main road, one at the Mill Lane junction, and the other around the Hatchett Inn. The name Sherfield English is commonly applied to both now, but that was not always so.

This dispute arose when in March 1848, the Post Office announced the establishment of a Receiving House in the village. These were usually a business premises where letters could be handed in for collection by a messenger sent from the nearest post office. The receiving house would have a handstamp bearing its name which would be applied to each letter handed in.

The Receiver of Letters was to be Joseph Reeves, a blacksmith whose forge was situated close to the Hatchett Inn, however, his appointment was cancelled by the Post Office on finding, erroneously, that he lived at Sherfield English and not Sherfield Hatchett, and so Melinda Mills, Innkeeper of the Hatchett Inn was appointed in his stead. The Post Office had conflated Sherfield English with the Hatchett Inn, and named the new receiving house ‘Sherfield Hatchett’.

William Tomlinson, the Rector of Sherfield English was incensed and complained to the General Post Office but without satisfaction, and so in the January 27th 1849 edition of the Hampshire Advertiser, he had his letters published. He objected to a Receiving House being established at a public house which was not a desirable place, and that a ‘respectable’ blacksmith, whose wife was also ‘a respectable person of superior education’, living ‘not a hundred yards from the same high road, equally centrical with the public house called the Sherfield Hatchett’ should be deprived of the position of Receiver.

The newspaper revealed that a memorial document of complaint, supporting Rev. Tomlinson, signed by two thirds of the householders in the parish apparently brought no response and so he fired his final salvo to the General Post Office. ‘There is no village called Sherfield Hatchett’, he stated, and ‘I defy all archaeologists, or even Post Office Officials in this country to find precedent or grounds for that new name which it has pleased the Post Office to bestow upon this our village of Sherfield English, except it be their own memorable act of clumsy use.’

The receiving house was later upgraded to post office status and was re-named Sherfield English P.O. in 1883, it is now located at the Mill Lane junction end of the village.

* Access to the ‘19th Century Newspaper Archive’ is available through your local library, ask for details. Contributed by Roger Harris, Romsey Local History Group.