A RURAL post office has become home to an art gallery in a bid to make it a focal point for the local community.

Visitors to Downham Post Office can now pick up prints as well as postage stamps after owners Keith and Margaret Loveridge trans-formed one of the rooms into a haven for locally produced artwork.

The diversification comes just months after 24 post offices across East Lancashire shut for good as the Government looked to slash the £200million-a-year it was losing on the network.

To make room for the gallery the existing tea room at Downham Post Office has been moved to another part of the building and Keith said it was a chance to showcase the talents of East Lancashire artists.

He said: “We opened last Saturday and we’ve had a really good reaction to it.

“It started after we had local people coming up to us and asking whether we would show their work at the shop. It allows them to come in and walk round and view the work.

“Each artist shows a different aspect of the area and a different kind of style.

“I like to think we are supporting local artists in what they are doing creating something that will be good for us.”

Local artists such as Clitheroe’s Peter Taylor and Sheila Carter both have their work on display and on sale in the newly formed gallery along with Kate Eveson and Anna Ashworth who work out of Backridge Farm, Waddington.

Margaret added: “We thought that by moving the tea room it would encourage people to explore the post office and what we do here. We want to encourage people to come in here. It’s a beautiful village that people visit and we want to make ourselves an important part of that.”

The Loveridges have been running the post office for approximately 12 months and it is also home to the village store as well as the tea rooms.

A village post office has been in Downham since the early 1900s and was originally in one of two cottages that belonged to the Assheton Arms, then called the George and Dragon until 1955, when it moved to the present site.