A village post office and store has been saved from closure thanks to the generosity of its customers.

Local residents of Henham in Essex are paying a small sum every month to help cover the store’s £12,000 annual running costs and keep it open.

The post office had closed in 2008 as part of the government closure programme, but reopened under a temporary deal brokered between the Post Office Ltd and Essex County Council. However, with the deal due to end in December, the post office would have had to shut permanently without the support of its customers.

Sub postmistress Bessie Hayden described the villagers’ donations, some as small as £1 a month, as “the big society in action”.

“It would have been a disaster if the post office had been forced to close. The older citizens around here don’t have cars and they would have had to catch buses to get their pension and then wait in the cold for an hour to return back,” she said.

Bessie is also helped out in the store by volunteers from the area. “We have 50 volunteers who give their time to work in the shop, that’s the kind of community spirit we have here,” she added.