Gallery: Downham Market man’s vast collection of postman’s hats

Former postman Thomas Eggett has a nice collection of old Royal Mail hats. Picture: Ian Burt

Former postman Thomas Eggett has a nice collection of old Royal Mail hats. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

As a retired postman and village postmaster, it is perhaps no surprise that Thomas Eggett has developed a keen interest in the Royal Mail. And his vast collection of postman's hat is a tribute to everyone who has ever worked for the service.

Postmen at work in the 19th Century. To go with sstory about Thomas Eggett, of Downham Market, who h

Postmen at work in the 19th Century. To go with sstory about Thomas Eggett, of Downham Market, who has a stunning collection of postmen hats. - Credit: Archant

But his passion for the service has now filled his entire study at his Downham Market home.

While the fascinating work of the Royal Mail has inspired others to collect stamps, Mr Eggett, 69, has opted to amass postmen's hats.

He now has headgear stretching back to the middle of the 19th century which are now displayed in his home.

'The Post Office has been my life,' he said.

Mr Eggett served as a postman in Clenchwarton, near King's Lynn, for 17 years and was also the village postmaster for 30 years. The post office has now closed.

He began his collection while working in the shop, and displayed it for customers to admire.

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'It is upsetting to think that my old branch doesn't exist any more, but the service has changed so much.

'In the 1970s, a postman would wear his cap with pride. Our uniform was so important to us.'

He added: 'It is something a bit unusual and different to collect. I find it interesting to see how this part of the postman's uniform has changed over the years.

'I also see the collection as a tribute to everyone who has ever worked for our postal service.'

The earliest hat dates from 1862, and is a single peak shako – the term for a tall, cylindrical military cap.

Before then, postmen were decked out even more formally, in top hats.

Mr Eggett's collection also includes a double peak shako; the first ever flat cap introduced in 1932; the style adopted when the grey uniforms were introduced; and the more modern baseball caps now worn.

It is understood to be the largest such collection outside the British Postal Museum and Archive.

Mr Eggett, of Alexandra Way, Downham Market, said: 'My favourite would probably be the last cap I wore as a postman in 1986.

'It's a blue cap with a gilt badge, a proper peak and red piping.

'It was a real professional mail cap – it really looked the part.'

'If anyone has an old Royal Mail hat in their loft, I am always interested in adding it to the collection,' Mr Eggett added.

Do you own an unusual collection? Email louise.hepburn@archant.co.uk