THE shock closure of a village Post Office - thought to be one of the oldest in the country - will come sooner than expected.

Charmouth's Post Office, which has been running for 224 years, announced earlier this month it is to close after serving its community for more than two centuries.

It had been due to close on May 22, but its final day has been brought forward to May 15.

Postmaster Steve Piles and his wife Gillian said the decision to close its doors was made with 'with sadness and regret' after 'doing all we could' to keep it going.

Mr Piles said: 'The Post Office doesn't want traditional little Post Offices like us anymore, they want convenience stores.'

The couple said in a statement: 'In 2013, PO Ltd announced that it was to be part of their 'network transformation' – a somewhat illogical process which basically meant that if your Post Office was in a community with other suitable shops available then it would be moved to another location and transformed into a 'Local' – leading to some downgrading of services and a major reduction in salary for the Postmaster. Those Post Offices that were the 'only shops in the village' were to be made into community branches and largely left untouched. The illogicality of reducing services in sizeable communities like ours more likely to be able to support a full Post Office was not be to argued – and believe me, we tried.

'Therefore, since 2013, Steve has been on 'conditional resignation'. Six years is a long time to have your future and your retirement totally out of your hands with no end in sight. PO Ltd's decision about us rendered our business unsaleable, and as no agreement could be reached with either of PO Ltd's approved alternative shops in the village we have been in limbo since that time.'

Mr and Mrs Piles, who live in Bridport, took on Charmouth Post Office 20 years ago and say they have been made to feel part of the village, which has 'great community spirit.'

Mr Piles said he will miss his customers, but feels he has given all he can to the business.

Bridport and District Citizens Advice has expressed 'serious concern' about the closure of yet another local post office, following last year's closures in Marshwood and Morcombelake.

Manager Rovarn Wickremasinghe said: “We have been pressing for some time for continued funding of local post offices. We have found that people in rural areas are more likely than those living in towns and cities to depend on their local post office.

"For many people they are also important for other key services, such as banking facilities, collecting their pensions and other state benefits. Rural post offices are increasingly being used, particularly among the elderly, as a collection point for prescriptions as people often live some distance from their nearest chemist or medical centre.

“Citizens Advice have also found that small businesses in rural areas often rely heavily on their local post office with 70 per cent of them saying that without one they would have higher costs as a result.”

A spokesman for the Post Office said: "We can confirm that Charmouth Post Office is due to close temporarily, following the resignation of the postmaster. We’re sorry to hear about his decision to resign, and we are of course disappointed that we have not as yet been able to find a suitable new operator for the branch.

“We are currently exploring the various options available to us which will enable us to maintain a Post Office service. We would like to reassure customers that we are committed to maintaining vital Post Office services for the local community – including banking services like cash withdrawals from their usual high street bank account, bill payments, and of course a wide range of postal services.”