Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Sandhurst (Bendigo, 3550 )

It was a chance discovery of a payable quantity of a precious metal that is ductile, malleable & found in quartz, commonly known as GOLD in 1851, that built the modern rural city of Bendigo. A city that is still growing to this very day.

Of course if you are going to have a vibrant growing city, you are going to need a growing vibrant Post Office!

Now prior to 1851, Bendigo was known as Bendigo Creek (named for an employee on a local property who was nicknamed 'Bendigo' after the famous Pommy prizefighter William Bendigo
Thompson), however, when the town was declared the name Sandhurst was chosen (named after a town in England) as much more proper & fitting moniker. The story of how this city changed its name back to Bendigo to reflect its original heritage is, in itself, a story of change that is woven into the rich tapestry of this thriving regional city. The timeline of the Sandhurst/Bendigo Post Office is probably unique, in so much as how it reflects the events & the fortunes that have shaped the destiny of this city from a quiet Victorian sheep grazing property to one of Australia's premier historical districts.

Along with the continually changing cityscape came the changing of the Post Office to reflect not only the needs of the community, but also to reflect the prosperity of the city & the pride felt by the community as it continued to thrive.

With those changes, there have been four major Post Office buildings, each one more grandiose than the previous & reflected the communities confidence. That was up until 1995 however, when Australia Posts property portfolio was reduced by one historically significant building & they then leased one nondescript property that looks as though it was a former cinema.

The first Post Office began operations 1853 & operated basically only for the receipt & distribution

of letters around the goldfields. With the arrival of the telegraph in 1858, a more specific building was required to suit the new age of communication & so a more substantial structure was built. These new premises were once described " .... something like a bad style of bush public house, but not nearly so convenient". This building lasted until 1869, when increasing patronage again required another major improvement. The third Post Office was then constructed in View St & is a two storeyed rendered brick building designed by William Wilkinson Wardell. This wonderful old building is still in use today & is now occupied by Sandhurst Trustees, who bought the building in 1891.

The prosperity & population growth of the Bendigo goldfields once again played a part in the construction of the forth Post Office, at the time, the most extravagant building constructed outside Melbourne. Designed by Government Archetect Major George Watson & costing around £50,000 it was opened on the 30th September 1887.

This was no ordinary Post Office, constructed using the architectural style known as the French Second Empire & had scalloped slate roof tiles, intricate iron work, cast iron lion heads, classic Corinthian columns, beautiful interior timber carvings which gave the Post Office a real feel of the regions wealth. It was also a centre for other government services, such as the Government Surveyor, Water Board & various other instrumentalities. It also had quite palatial accommodation for the Postmaster & his family on the upper floors. The most striking feature of this building is of course the 43 metre clock tower & its 5 bell carillon, making this building a true architectural masterpiece.

When Australia Post vacated the building in 1995, luckily, the building was not lost to the citizens of Bendigo & it was reborn as the the Bendigo Tourist Information Centre. Not only is this the grandest Tourist Information Centre in the country, but it also
houses one the best Postal/Telegraph museums in Australia & is well worth a visit.

So while the current Post Office stands on the cnr Williamson & Hargreaves St, like some hussy trolling for clients, the former Post Office building stands stately in Pall Mall, remaining as dignified as she has done for the last 122 years & will continue to stand for many years to come.

Authors note: Although every effort was used to verify the information, I found historical dates varied from source to source & if further verifiable information becomes available I'll update the blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


In researching my family history, the relative that I have discovered, Spencer Ruding Deverell, worked at the Telegraph office in Sandhurst (est 1861 to 1869). From the internet I have found that Bendigo was connected to Melbourne by telegraph in 1857 and it was from here that the first message reporting the deaths of Burke and Wills was sent in 1861. Hope this information is of interest.
Mandy Mills