By SIMON TOMLINSON
First-class makeover: Steve Knight outside his fully functioning 1950s post office which he created by transforming his garden shed at his home in Halstead, Essex
At a time when post offices appear to be in terminal decline, one keen collector has turned back the clock by opening up one of his own - in his garden shed.
Steve Knight's hoard of all things postal became so extensive he had enough to create a fully functioning 1950s post office complete with original signs, scales, stamps and uniforms.
It is also wired for electricity and includes its own telephone line which is connected to the national network through a vintage 1937 telephone exchange.
His passion couldn’t be further from his day job as director of sales and marketing at scientific instruments company Porvair.
Steve said: 'I’ve always been a keen stamp collector since I was a young boy, but I started collecting letter boxes around 14 years ago and it just grew from there - I now have 115 of them dotted around the garden.
Right Royal collection: The 50-year-old's garden hideaway is packed full of traditional paraphernalia, including signs, uniforms and scales
'After years of collecting - and thanks to donations from people whose family worked in the postal service - I realised I had everything needed to create a replica of a 1950s post office.
'That’s when I began restoring the items and opened my post office shed to the public.'
The 50-year-old, from Halstead, Essex, has already spent more than £15,000 on his hobby despite hundreds of donations from local enthusiasts.
He added: 'I am a very hands-on collector and don’t try to preserve the items as I believe it’s more important to restore them and to give people a real post office experience.
A whole letter history: A set of scales from the 1930s to 1950s. Mr Knight believes it is important to restore his items to give visitors a 'real post office experience'
'That’s what the items were designed to do and most would only have been thrown away anyway.
'We have open days throughout the year where children can dress up in the uniforms, try out the ink stamps and experience what it was like to be a telegram messenger.
'In the 1950s, telegram messengers would start as young as 14 years old so it’s a real eye opener for the younger kids.'
Steve’s quirky cabin has now earned him a nomination for the 'Shed of the Year' at the annual ‘Sheddies’ awards.
The father-of-two said: 'I’m hoping the shed will do well as it’s something a little different - plus the £1,000 spending money would be great to help fund plans for my new shed.'
Popular with the public: A vintage stamp dispenser. The father-of-two holds open days where children can dress up in the uniforms, try out the ink stamps and experience what it was like to be a telegram messenger
The new over-flow shed is set to be five times bigger than his current 56 square foot creation, allowing room for his growing collection.
Steve - who lives with his wife Claire Cannon and teenage sons Matthew, 16, and Peter, 14, - added: 'I am very lucky to have such an understanding wife and neighbours who have helped me create such a unique space.
'Everyone enjoys soaking up the atmosphere when we open up the shed to visitors and I have a band of volunteers who help out on the day.
'Hands-on': Mr Knight started collecting stamps as a young boy and now has 115 letter boxes in his garden. He says he's lucky to have such an understanding wife
'It’s great that people can come and share my passion in life - especially when it’s just a couple of yards from my back door.'
People can vote for Steve’s shed online at www.readersheds.co.uk from May 21 with the Shed of the Year due to be announced in early July.