Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Morpeth (2321)

"Passing by the race-course last Sunday evening we were sorry to see a number of young men engaged playing at cricket, in the vicinity of the church; and, knowing how strongly a due observance of the Sabbath, and public feeling in general, was against such a mode of spending the Sabbath ....."  - .Letters to the Editor, Maitland Mercury, Saturday 12th April 1845

circa 1940's
One of the pleasures of researching our postal history is that it gives you an opportunity to go back and look at how the local newspapers recorded the issues of the day. Although the above letter didn't deal with postal issues, it does give us a glimpse into Morpeth life during the first half of the 19th century. 

Morpeth itself was an important inland transport hub in the early settlement of New South Wales with it's access to the Hunter River system made it vital link in sending fresh produce to Sydney. Although the area was known since 1797 when Lt Shortland navigated the river, it wasn't until the convict gangs (under military rule) and then the cedar getters plying the river that really opened up the opportunities for further development. In 1821 Lt. Edward Close chose to take up his land grant in the area known as Green Hills and began farming on the rich alluvial river flats. The high ground near the family home became known as Morpeth and due to the erection of wharves at Morpeth to send produce back to Sydney a town quickly established itself. So quickly did the town grow that agitation for postal facilities began as early as 1836, as inhabitants were very much inconvenienced to have to pick their mail up from either Hinton or Maitland. Then in August 1838, as reported in the Sydney Gazette, came the following good news -

"MORPETH - Mr Raymond, the (NSW) Postmaster (- General), has recommended to the Government a Post Office should be established at the thriving village of Morpeth at the head of the navigation of Hunter's  [sic] River"

original letter receivers are still in place 
The first Postmaster, according to the Official History of NSW Post Offices, was Mr J.Chastel, a storekeeper who operated the post office from his premises close to the current Morpeth bridge. The big problem for most of the early Morpeth Postmasters was usually the rate of of pay/commission, which was low and was paid six months in arrears, which meant that meeting the day to day costs were a constant struggle, according to Mr A Larrymore (Postmaster in 1842). Several residents held the position until1860 when it appears that the Post Office finally achieved official status with Mr John Broker appointed the first 'official' letter carrier on the princely sum of  £120 ($13,000) per annum (plus £0/2/0 ($11.00) per day for his horse). 

The Post Office and Telegraph Offices  found themselves combined in the Court House in 1862, however run separately, as was the norm in those early days. It appears that the Post Office and Telegraph Office didn't amalgamate until the appointment of Mr D.Bell in January 1870, when both offices were located in the 'new' Court House ( built in 1866). This arrangement lasted a year and the offices were once again split with the Post Office moving to a new site in Swan Street with Miss Anne Larrymore in charge.

circa 1907
In 1872 the farce continued when Mr Charles Wakely became both the Telegraph Master and the Postmaster, but operating from different sites. As the town continued to grow so did the needs for better postal facilities and in 1878 the Morpeth Municipal Council applied for a more substantial Post Office building to meets the needs of a growing community. The NSW government obliged and commissioned James Barnet to design a Post Office to reflect the status of Morpeth. Once again Barnet designed the Post Office in his usual Italianate style, with corrugated iron gable roofs, arched windows, stucco details, string courses, mouldings to arches, key stones and pediments. However there was no clock tower included in the design and when quizzed by this lack of respect to the town of Morpeth the Postmaster-General replied that if the council want a clock they will have to pay for it! As would be the case today, the council said thanks, but no thanks! 

Mr Robert James of West Maitland was awarded the contract for the construction with the corner stone laid on the 17th  March 1880 and the building was officially opened on the 27th November 1881. The final cost for the building was £1882 ($1.5 million), but excluded the price of the original land purchase for £200 ($170,000) from Mrs Dickson.

As part of the Australia Post rationalisation and post office restructuring during the 1990's  Morpeth Post Office once again lost its 'official' status, however it continued serve the Morpeth community but now as a Licensed Post Office (LPO). 

The Morpeth Post Office has ridden on the fortunes of the town, from the heady days when the town was a important river town and a vital transport link in the early development of the colony of NSW, through to today where the town now is a major tourist destination trading on its wonderfully restored 19th century architecture. However, after 129 years of service to the Morpeth community, the Post Office has moved out from its stately abode on Swan Street, as the owner has now listed this iconic James Barnet designed building for sale with an asking price of $889,000. The Morpeth LPO is now located in a modern shop just off the main street and while losing its claim to being the longest continuous trading Post Office from the same building, they are still providing postal services to the Morpeth community, as has been the case for over 170 years!

As for playing cricket of the Sabbath, I think that game in 1845 could have signalled the beginning of the end for strict religious observance on Sundays .... who knows? 

I'd like to thank Maitland City Library, Newcastle City Library & the online resources of the National Library of Australia for their assistance in the research of this blog

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When the bikers rule the town

Do you remember the scene in the 1970 movie 'Black Bikers From Hell' when the bikers take over the town and cause mayhem? You know the movie, it has that famous tageline "God forgives. The Black Angels don't!" Ok then, what about that immortal line "This time I'm gonna kill ya, Frenchie. You filthy, no good, egg-sucking, finger-licking, snot-picking scuzzy faced rat!"  .... still not ringing any bells?

Ok then, lets start over again, remember the 1954 movie, starring Marlon Brando,  The Wild One, where bikers take over the town and has the best biker dialogue ever on the silver screen  "What are you rebelling against?" "What have you got?" Priceless!

So with all those infamous scenes in mind I headed down to Newcastle, arming myself with my Sanyo S1275 for self defence to watch the 33rd annual Newcastle Bikers for Kids Toy Run. This is a charity event held to help with donations of toys, food and cash, through the Salvation Army, to assist those less fortunate in our Hunter Valley community.

This year proved to be another stunning success with thousands of bikes (some estimates were up to 4,000!) doing the pilgrimage from Sandgate Markets through to the Newcastle Foreshore. The streets of Newcastle were just a mass of colour, movement and noise, as the bikes came through bringing cheer to the assembled crowds. I even seen one thing that I thought I would never see, one of the visiting coal ships (Sincere Pisces) almost slowed to a halt to observe this great event and that in itself is a very rare event indeed ! While events of this type are not exclusive to Newcastle, it is a continuation of the many free community fun days that are bought into Newcastle to provide the city a weekend spectacle and more importantly, a chance to raise funds/awareness to those that are less fortunate in our community.

Part of the crowd along the Foreshore
If you are thinking of heading into town to capture some of the excitement and colour of one of these events, my advice is to go the early, know the route, visit a couple of vantage points and stake your claim, because the once the crowd moves in it is hard to jostle for a good photographic position. Also, plan a fallback position as well, just to get a different angle of the parade as it passes, even if it means climbing on a seat, or even bringing along a step ladder, anything that will help give you a different perspective and, most of all be patient.  

Once again Newcastle was the place to be on a Sunday to take in all the city has to offer and if you do  come to visit one of these wonderful events always remember to pack your camera (with fully charged batteries), perhaps even bring a picnic lunch, just  to make a day of it.

thanks for the effort guys!
"A picnic? Man, you are too square. I'm... I... I'll have to straighten you out. Now, listen, you don't go any one special place. That's cornball style. You just go.... " - Johnny Strabler 'The Wild One ' (1954)

- as long as it's Newcastle Johnny, as long as it's Newcastle! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Balmy Nights & Red Lanterns

Over the past few years Newcastles Hunter Street Mall has fallen on hard times as major retailers left the CBD to go seek their fortunes in the glitzy suburban mega malls that are become part of the urban landscape. As each retailer departed the CBD it left another vacant shop along what was once reputed to have been one of the longest main streets in the southern hemisphere. This was especially evident in the Hunter Mall area, where shop fronts had all the ambience of a gapped tooth smile and also being closed off to traffic, also made it look lifeless.

While some in the community stood around pointing fingers and looking for culprits to lay blame on, the Newcastle City Council (NCC) and some of the more civic minded citizens buckled down to come up with some workable solutions. One of the most controversial decisions made by the NCC was to spend $330,000 to reopen the Hunter Mall to vehicular traffic, which had been closed since 1981. Another step was the establishment of the Renew Newcastle group to reopen vacated shops by finding artists, cultural projects and community groups to use and maintain these buildings until they become commercially viable or were redeveloped. The third part of the revitalisation process was involving Newcastle Live Sites (a partnership between NCC, Hunter Development Corp. & Arts NSW) in bringing live entertainment into the Mall during the Xmas build up. 

free puppet show for the kids
As result for the past two years the Hunter Mall and Newcastle itself is being transformed into a vibrant arts orientated centre.with one of the main focal events being the Red Lantern Markets which are generally held late November through till mid December. While there are a lot of food, art and craft orientated speciality stalls to choose from, (over 70 this year alone!) some of the more savvy boutique shops in the Mall are also open to take advantage of the passing trade, making it a unique shopping experience. Another advantage is that you can usually talk to the person that made the item and find out some background to that special gift, something you can't do at K-Mart or Toys 'R' Us!

The Red Lantern Markets are also an urban photographers dream with so much colour, people and movement around, sometimes it hard to know when to frame a shot, but it is a vast landscape to choose from!

There are very few places on earth where you can drive down to the city (or catch a train, ferry or utilise the excellent bus service) have lunch at a 5 star restaurant (Honeysuckle or Darby St), walk to beach to have an afternoon swim (Newcastle, Nobbys or Newcastle Baths), then do your all christmas shopping in a relaxed market style atmosphere and then if the mood takes you, go and watch a latest release movie at the King Street theatre, all this within an easy half hour walk of the Newcastle CBD. 

No wonder Lonely  Planet Guide recently listed Newcastle in its top 10 of places to visit in 2011!     

The last Red Lantern Market for 2010 will be held on Saturday 11th December 4pm - 10pm  ... don't miss it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Mighty Fine Vintage

Robyn Drayton Wines 
I was lucky enough to spend another week in the Hunter Valley wineries picking truckloads of our beautiful produce for delivery just in time for the festive season.and summer holidays. Of course every time I visit the wineries I always pack my Sanyo S1275 camera, my camera of choice when on the road.

Lindemans Wines
Now I have been doing this work on and off now, depending on the rosters, for a number years and I have seen the vineyards displaying every aspect of viticulture through every type of season. From the autumn hues to the starkness of winter vines, to the new growth in spring and to the picking of the harvest in late summer. I have also witnessed the vagaries of the Australian weather, from dams that have run dry in drought and where the only moisture comes from the sweat of the farmers brow,  through to total inundation of the land, where at times the ground becomes so soaked that the ground turns to a glutinous clay bog, where fruit becomes bloated and ruined on the vine due to the inability to harvest .

Out all those visits, over all those years, I have never seen the wineries of the Hunter Valley looking so lush and green. Late spring rains have turned bare winter vines into row upon row verdant fields of what could be another stunning vintage for the Hunter Valley region.

With the fruit now set on the vines, every Hunter Valley vintner is eyeing off the long range weather forecasts to assess when will be the best time to harvest the vintage, which traditionally in the Hunter Valley  is around February/March. However, every year brings new challenges, because the grapes have to have the perfect balance between sugars and acids, it is a combination of local knowledge, science, skill and a lot of luck. Miss the harvest by a day or two and the crop for the year is ruined. This why the vintners are worried, the long range forecast is for a wet summer and for an extremely wet February, right in the middle of harvest season. If it is too wet the wineries can't use the mechanical harvesters and have to rely on skilled teams of fruit pickers to manually bring in the bulk of the harvest which increases the cost of production and reduces wineries margins. A testing time ahead for these skilled artisans of the land.

However, for the casual visitor, now is a great time to visit the wineries, to taste the special wines from the Hunter Valley, eat some of the best food from some of our top restaurants and soak up the wonderful vista of green that is laid out before you at every winery (remembering to pack your camera!). Life doesn't get much better than this!

The only people that will have a worried look on their faces will be the vintners as they ponder, the age old dilemma that faces every farmer, no matter what the crop .... when to harvest. 

Ivanhoe Estate

Monday, November 22, 2010

Being part of the solution

Newcastle is going through some growing pains at the moment, with various developments continuing, not just around our beautiful harbour, but throughout the city. This hasn't been an easy task as every second person has an opinion about what development is appropriate. This debate has not been helped by what to do with the railway that runs from Wickham to Newcastle city and effectively stops development between the CBD and the harbour. It is such a polarising issue that has effectively split into two rival camps, the Save Our Rail group and the Fix Our City group.

While the railway is a major issue, neither group seems to be able to appreciate that there is other development that needs to be addressed. So last Saturday the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) asked for volunteers to come down the Cottage Creek precinct to take part in a workshop to help the HDC with ideas on how the community would like to see the last piece of the Foreshore puzzle fashioned to link the whole project together, from Nobbys Beach to Carrington/Linwood Estate.

The former Cottage Creek site started life as a mangrove swamp and then following the settlement of Newcastle in the 1804, a convict farm was then started in the area (with a Government cottage built, thus becoming known as Cottage Creek), the cottage was located approximately on the site of the new KFC store in Hunter St . As Newcastle continued to grow so did the need for land, especially around the harbour and so progressively the area became one of Newcastle's prime industrial areas. Over the years the area became home to variety of industries including timber mills, fuel depots and finally Throsby Wharf with associated railway marshalling yards. In fact anything north between the railway and harbour became one vast ugly industrial complex.

That all changed in 1992 with the Building Better Cities programme and slowly, but surely, over the intervening 18 years the Newcastle harbour has been transformed from industrial scar tissue to a vibrant city meeting and living space.

Former Wickham School of Arts - 1881
That is not to say there hasn't been mistakes along the way and this is what the HDC is trying to avoid with its emphasis on community consultation in the Cottage Creek precinct development, hoping that it will instead become a show piece for the city of Newcastle. So along with around a dozen other community spirited citizens we spent a couple of hours touring the site providing feedback to HDC representatives, so they can use the information gathered to provide the guidelines  for the eventual rejuvenation of this last piece of the former industrial wasteland.

I also took the opportunity to grab the the Canon 400D to take some shots of the area prior to its transformation, so in a decade or so I'll be able to look back at the photo's and proudly say I was a small part of the process of transformation. Being part of the solution, instead of grumbling about the problems.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Achtung, deutsche Autos und Newcastle die besten

In most countries when you think Germany you think beer, sauerkraut, sausages and Oom Pah Pah music ... but not here in Newcastle. In Newcastle when we think German, we think cars and not just any car, but the iconic Volkswagen  Kombi. 

Borgward 1500cc Coupe
The Volkswagen Kombi became synonymous with the Australian outdoor lifestyle and  throughout the 60's and 70's, they were the campervan of choice as young hippies followed the surf around Australia's coastline. These days however the Kombis have, like their owners, aged gracefully and reflect a certain timeless beauty. However, the petrol powered Kombi slowly and quietly dropped out of favour with today's modern back packers  and 'grey nomads' for the newer flashier diesel models from Europe, 

The Kombi itself came in other variants other than the camper, with crew cab utes, panel vans and micro buses also figuring in the model line up, quite a versatile vehicle. On display down at the Foreshore today were all the examples of these quaint VW's from the 'day to day' commuter types, right through to the fully restored version and all were proudly displayed by their fastidious owners.

Lloyd Alexander TS 
To be fair, it wasn't just a KombiFest, nearly every type of German automotive heritage was on display, with Beetles, Porshe's, BMW's and Mercedes-Benz, all proudly being represented. The were even a couple of oddities like the NSU Prinz 30 (with a 2 cylinder 600cc engine producing 15kW), a Lloyd Alexander TS (a 2 cylinder 600cc, producing 18kW), two Borgward Isabella coupes and a Borgward Isabella saloon (all had a 1500cc engine, producing 45kW).

NSU Prinz 30
Also on display were the ubiquitous Beetles, as well as a beautifully restored Karmann Ghia that almost stole the show from the Kombis, with its timeless classic lines and flawless presentation, she was a real stunner. Another rarity, although not of German heritage, was a Lancia Delta HF Turbo, a model which dominated the WRC in the late 80's, early 90's and one I haven't seen for years.

Nearly every make and model of modern German motoring history was there, from the latest Mercs and Bimmers, nearly every variant of the Kombis, Beetles by the dozens and rare compacts, however one make was conspicuously absent ... the Audi's, which was disappointing.  
VW Karmann Ghia

Once again the Newcastle Foreshore park proved to be a wonderful place to wander around the exhibits in near perfect weather and talk to the enthusiasts in a relaxed atmosphere, but more importantly, being able to capture some of these wonderful cars using my Sanyo S1275 camera 

So if you are ever visiting Newcastle, although we might not have flashy theme parks, a stroll around our Foreshore can always bring something wonderful to look at and a place to relax for a few hours without paying a lot of dollars. A rarity in this day and age.

And make sure you bring a camera!

P.S. Although not typically German, the NRMA also had a wonderful display of some of their former vehicles, including 3 NRMA, the iconic HD Holden panel van (pictured above)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Things That Go Squish

One of the wonderful things about Australia is the extremes of weather that we can be sometimes be subjected to and this year our Spring is continuing this wonderful tradition. A tradition that was immortalised in verse by Dorothea Mackellar - in her poem 'My Country' with a stanza that is transcribed into every Australians soul 

I love a sunburnt country, 

A land of sweeping plains

Of ragged mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons 
I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

Last Spring was so dry on the Australian east coast we were hearing of houses cracking as the clay based soil under the houses dried up so much, due to the lack of moisture, it was causing the houses to shift on their foundations and the repairs were costing owners many thousands of dollars in remedial work to fix the cracked walls.

This Spring we are blessed as persistent showers continue to soak the ground, filling the dams and watering the gardens. However, as much as the wet weather is appreciated it does kind of make outdoor activities problematic, activities such as photography.

One of my big problems during these rain events is keeping the equipment dry and out of the wet weather. This means every shot has to be planned and executed, no 'point & shoot' in persistent rain. One of the advantages is consistent (if low) light levels, which negate shadows on the subject and funnily enough, reduces the use of the flash.

Newcastle itself,  is a city that prides itself on it's beach culture, with a central business district that is within a ten minute walk of some of Australia's best surf beaches and a wonderful dining culture along the harbour foreshore, the city does tend to recede into its shell during periods of continual wet weather. People tend to hustle along, avoiding the rain and not stroll along soaking up the wonderful views that are usually afforded by the harbour and beaches.

Even so, it was during one of our recent wet weather events, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, that I grabbed my good friend, the Sanyo S1275 camera and took a sodden stroll through our wonderful city and quite enjoyed the isolation that was afforded to me. Only the hardy and the foolish were to be seen on our beautiful city streets

Sometimes it is worth taking the camera out on days that are challenging, however, I must admit, the best part of the day was getting out of the rain and having a wonderful hot cup of coffee before heading home.   

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mammals, Mustangs & Markets - A brief trip to Port

One of the advantages of being a 24/7 shift worker is how you can manipulate the system to suit your weekend activities. The other weekend was a prime example of using the system to my advantage, I finished work at 7am Friday and didn't have to be back at work 9.30pm Monday, virtually a long weekend! The lack of sleep and the longer term impacts of constant night shifts will be something for my doctors and my psychologists to deal with in the future .... I had 3 days off in beautiful Port Macquarie!

Unfortunately, one thing that I wasn't able to manipulate was the weather, with an intense low pressure system bringing gales force winds of up to 90kp/h and keeping maximum daytime temperatures down to a chilly 18° along the coast (the low even bought snow to the Central West!).

Now the reason I was in Port, my wife was required  to attend the Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia (www,cmca.com.au) 25th National Rally for work and I decided to tag along for the weekend. The rally itself was a huge event, with over 1,000 vehicles, of all shapes, sizes, combinations & condition, from the very new $500k rigs, down to the home built backyard jobs. However, the weather was windy and cold, so while we made a full day of it, I left my camera tucked away.

On the Sunday the weather cleared to an almost perfect Spring day and after losing Saturday, I was not going to let this opportunity pass by, so when we went out I made sure the battery in the the Canon 400D was fully charged.

Our first stop was the Ford Mustang 'Show & Shine' at Settlement Point, where every type of those iconic Pony cars from 60's, were on display, with their heavy use of chrome and V8 engines, it was a petrol heads paradise.   

After we had poked around the displays we decided to continue our early morning walk around to the marina and as it happened there were some quite good deals on whale watch tours, $25 per person! Now I've seen the whales, but it has always been from land, now this was the perfect opportunity to face these huge mammals of the sea on their own turf , so to speak!

It is really a spectacular sight to see these wonderful creatures up so close and luckily I had the Canon with the 300mm lens to take advantage of their frolics.

After watching the whales play, it was time to head home and so instead of heading out to the Pacific Hwy to race back home, we chose the more leisurely coast road that winds it way from Port Macquarie to Laurieton, taking in beautiful hideaway spots such us Bonny Hills, Lake Cathie and North Haven. We were even lucky enough to have lunch at the monthly Laurieton markets and wander around the stalls of local produce and  bric-à-brac on display. 

Sometimes it's best not to have a plan, only to 'Laugh More, Live Longer' the motto used by  CMCA members and travel around our beautiful country and take advantage of the quieter coastal retreats ....plus you can always drive to some better weather!  

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When The Torries Come To Town

The was time in the motoring life of Australia that the small to mid size market was dominated by Holden Torana. The Torana's were based on existing Vauxhall/Opel designs and were extensively modified from their British/German heritage (especially in the engine department) to suit the harsher Australian driving conditions. Not only were they successful in the showroom, but they virtually dominated the Production/Touring Car races throughout the 70's, making drivers like Peter Brock, Colin Bond, Alan Grice and Bob Morris virtually household names by their exploits on the Australian racetracks.
HB 4 cylinder with automatic transmission

The first Torana, the HB series were introduced in May 1967 and were basically a facelifted Vauxhall Viva, with 4 speed manual transmissions and underpowered 1.2 litre engines. From these humble beginnings grew the mightiest Torana of the all  .... the A9X.

The A9X, of which only 405 were ever made, were powered by the fearsome 5.0 litre V8 (L34 spec.), with an unbreakable 'T-10' 4speed gearbox, 4 wheel disc brakes and was completed with a  rear facing air induction bonnet scoop, this Torana  looked like it meant business! When in the hands of the late Peter Brock, the A9X Torana dominated the touring car seasons of the late 70's, winning the 1979 Australian Touring Car Championship series and the 1978 and '79 Bathurst 1000 races, making it quite the formidable touring car of its time.

Colin Bonds LC XU1
A change of heart at Holden saw the Torana model gradually phased back and when the UC Torana was released in March 1978, the V8 option was dropped. In 1979 the hatchback version ceased production and the brand struggled on until 1980, now only in 4 cyl form, until Holden, mercifully axed the Torana brand from the Australian motoring landscape.  (Holden however continued racing with the newly launched V8 Commodore in 1980, a tradition that continues today)  

Now we in Newcastle have a special fondness for the Torana and each year we hold a car show on The Foreshore to showcase all that is wonderful with these iconic cars, from the very mild, to the radically wild. I also have my own Torana connection, owning three little beauties, a 4cylinder, 2 door HB, a 4cylinder, 2 door LC and my favourite a 6cylinder, 4 door LC model.

Peter Brocks A9X  
This year I attended Toranafest, making sure I was armed with my little friend the Sanyo 1275s and spent over an hour just wandering around the exhibits, admiring the work that the Torana enthusiasts put into making sure their cars are perfect for the event.  And reliving my youthful past!

So if your ever in Newcastle in September, make sure you check out the Newcastle Toranafest and take a step back in time when the mighty Holden Torana was the undisputed King of the Mountain.    


Monday, September 20, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Leichhardt (2040)

"A deputation, consisting of the Mayor (Mr. Sydney Smith, M.L.A.) and aldermen of Leichhardt, accompanied by Mr.J. Garrard and Mr. F. Smith, M.L.A's [sic], waited upon the Postmaster-General yesterday and complained of the existing arrangements in the Leichhardt Post-Office, in respect of the charge being under the control of a postmistress. It .was urged that the business transacted justified the appointment of a postmaster and complaints were made in respect of tho alleged incivility of the postmistress.Specific charges were made against her, into which an inquiry was demanded." - Sydney Morning Herald 22/12/1888

It was not an uncommon event in the early days of the Post Office for the Postmater-General to receive this type of deputation from disgruntled local businessmen, who demanded that their postal business be handled by 'man' and not by a woman. However in this case and with all other such type of cases, the charges were dismissed, with Mrs Cross retaining her position as Leichhardt Postmistress.

Leichardt itself started out as Piperston Estate and following the subdividing of this estate by Walter Beames in1849 he changed the name to Leichhardt Town after his good friend Ludwig Leichhardt who famously disappeared while exploring northern Australia in 1848.

As Leichardt continued to grow so did the need for better postal services and so in 1881 Leichhardt Council approached the Postal Department for the provision of a Post Office to service 3,500 residents. The department agreed to their requests, however on the advice of the postal inspector, they denied Leichhardt a Telegraph Office, due to the existing office at Petersham Railway Station.   

So it was on the 20th July 1881, local grocer Mr George Purdie became Leichhardt's first Postmaster, operating the Post Office from his shop on Balmain Road. In May 1882 the Post Office was also operating as a Money Order Office and also as a Government Savings Bank. By October of 1882 the Postmaster-General decided to upgrade Leichhardt Post Office to 'official' status and incorporate the Telegraph Office as well, so new premises were sought. 

On the 3rd January 1883 Leichardt finally had an official Post & Telegraph Office located at 9 Short Street, with Mrs Ellen Cross appointed as Postmistress and Telegraph Operator. Mrs Cross also had two letter carriers appointed as well to cope with the expanded business.

As the community continued to grow the Post Office became more cramped, so in 1885 the Postal Department began to look for larger premises to rent, however they were unsuccessful. It  was eventually decided to build a new purpose built  Post Office on a block of land on the Cnr Norton and Wetherill Streets purchased in December 1886. Tenders were called for the erection of a James Barnet Victorian Italianate designed Post Office (replete with an impressive clock tower) with Messrs. Innes and Winchester successful with their bid of £2465 ($2.2 million). They completed the construction in 1888 and now Leichhardt had a double reason to celebrate, a new Post Office and Australia's centenary of settlement. 

For some inexplicable reason the clock was never installed in the Post Office and as most clocks were installed by public subscription, Leichhardt council decided in 1897 to install clock in the Town Hall  instead, leaving the Post Office with a very impressive tower!

In 2000, Australia Post decided that it's future lay in the new Norton Street Plaza, leaving this iconic James Barnet designed building to take up residence amongst the soulless glass and chrome of a modern retail establishment.
While the Post Office on the Crn of Norton and Wetherill St has moved on, Australia Post continues its commitment to providing job opportunities and supporting women in the workforce, 127 years since Mrs Ellen Cross. Now that is something to be proud of!

I would like to thank the invaluable assistance given to me by Amie Zar (Community Information and Local History Leichhardt library)

UPDATE - Australia Post has now decided to move back to it's former home in Norton St http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/post-office-gives-its-old-home-new-lease-of-life-20121012-27i80.html

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When memories are enough

In 1993 after 10 years of serving with the Australian Army, I decided to elect discharge and seek my fame and fortune in the civilian world. However, seven of those years were spent in Sydney and six of them we were living in Leichhardt, a suburb of Sydney's inner west, so it is understandable that the family shares quite a bond with that cosmopolitan part of Sydney.

During our time there our kids went from Primary School to High School, our son played his junior rugby league on some of rugby leagues most hallowed turf (Leichhardt & Birchgrove Ovals), our daughter swam competitively at Leichhardt Pool, the local rugby league team the Balmain Tigers contested consecutive Grand Finals (1988 -89, losing both) and I think it was the first time that our family felt part of a community, so our bonds with the area remain strong.

So on a recent trip to Sydney, Jude and I went back to Tiger Town to see how the place has fared since we left in the summer of 1993.

This is our place at Unit 6/64 Charles Street. The palms I planted in our small courtyard seemed to have grown quite a fair bit since we left! Charles Street was a great place to live, with Leichhardt Oval only a 15 minute walk away & some of Sydney's best restaurants even closer!

 I was quite surprised to see that our local corner shop is still operating and is still owned by Charlie after all these years. In a fast paced world where the landscape is dominated supermarkets and 7/11's, there is still a place for local business's to grow and thrive. Charlie also saved me the newspaper headline leader about Canberra's amazing win in the 1989 Grand Final.

Blackmore Oval was the home of the mighty Leichhardt Wanderers. Mick later left the Wanderers and went to play with the Balmain Police Boys. Both clubs are steeped in rugby league history and both played on some of Sydney's most iconic rugby league grounds. 

I don't think there is anything better than an Il Cugino pizza. Il Cugino's are still located on Norton Street and are still serving the best pizza's in Sydney. A couple of times each month during our time in Leichhardt we made sure we visited this family owned pizzeria to take home a family treat    

Kegworth Public School was the second school we enrolled the kids at, they first went to Leichhardt PS, but we had to change schools due to 'difficulties' with the Headmistress. The kids then settled in well at Kegworth with Sheryl becoming School Captain and Mick becoming a Prefect, a pretty impressive achievement! My Aunties also attended Kegworth PS in the late 1930's, so we really had a strong family connection with the school!

 26 Marlborough St Leichhardt was home to 1 Amenities Unit, where I served two postings, 1987 - 89 and also 1991 - 93. The building itself was originally a fire station and then became an army drill hall around the time of  WWI. It was eventually sold off by the Department of Defence in 1994 for I believe around $60,000!. Although the street frontage hasn't changed at all, the building has been extensively renovated out the back and is now a private residence. I still have some very happy memories from that little obscure army unit!

It is sometimes pleasant to go back to an area that holds so many happy memories for us as a family, to walk around the old landmarks and reminisce about the happy times we had. Whilst it was fun, and I still do so love Leichhardt, I'm more than happy with my life choices. Although it was hard for the kids to break their bonds with the area, I'm glad we did, initially moving to the Central Coast and now to our home at Newcastle. 

Leichhardt is now a memory, not a destination. 

However, seeing what property is fetching in Leichhardt these days and what I could have bought it for in 1986 ... I too could be driving a Ferrari!