EVERY day thousands of people walk past a town centre post office without noticing a slice of history high above their heads.
The 77-year-old art deco building in Chester-le-Street is one of just a handful in Britain to feature the Royal Emblem of King Edward VIII.
The King abdicated on December 11, 1936, after less than a year on the throne, choosing instead to marry American socialite and twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.
According to the Chester-le-Street Heritage Society, the town’s post office in Front Street is only one of five in Britain to boast his Royal Emblem on the top floor of the building and consequently unnoticed by most passers-by.
Historians are concerned about the future of the plaque after the Post Office announced plans to transfer its services from the building which was opened amidst a fanfare in 1936 by local councillor Gilbert Robson.
Instead, a new post office is likely to open within one of the town centre stores. A six-week consultation is now under way as the organisation looks to find retailers which could house the branches. The move comes as the Post Office says it is losing £40m a year. In recent years other Crown branches have closed and their services transferred to WH Smith and Co-op stores.
A Post Office spokesman said: “To maintain our high street presence we will be looking to find retail partners for 70 of our branches enabling us to stay in these locations.
“Chester-le-Street Crown post office has been identified as a branch that could potentially be partnered with a retailer. We are committed to having a post office branch within the area.
“If no retail partner is found we are still committed to having a Crown post office within the area. This is not a closure programme and there are no compulsory redundancies planned as part of this strategy.”
But Isobel Robson, 70, of Hilda Park, Chester-le-Street, a member of the town’s Heritage Group, said she is concerned about the future of the emblem.
Coun Robson was her late husband’s grandfather, and Isobel explained: “He opened the post office amid a great fanfare. It was a modern building in 1936 and the opening was quite an occasion which was reported extensively. I still have the key he used to officially open it. Only a handful of new post offices were opened during Edward V111’s reign, hence the rarity of the emblem.”
Dorothy Hall, chair of the Heritage Group, said: “The Royal Emblem is one of numerous fascinating features of Chester-le-Street which people will only see if they look upwards. But it is of enormous historical significance and must be preserved and kept here.”