Monday, January 4, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Wallsend (2287)

On the 14th September 1914, Pte William King was one of the eventual 300 brave men from the Wallsend area that signed up to join the ranks to fight the dreaded Hun during World War 1. However, on the 24th May 1915 at the age of 21, he, along with thousands of other fresh faced youths laid down their lives in the Dardnelles campaign in Turkey. William, as a member of the Wallsend & Plattsburg model band, would have played merry contemporary music in the rotunda, opposite Wallsend Post Office, the same Post Office that would bring home the tragic news of his death to his loved ones & fellow bandsmen. The plaque erected on the rotunda opposite the Post Office is testament to his sacrifice.

The Wallsend area was first surveyed in 1822 by Henry Dangar & the surrounding lands were keenly sought after, with the first grant going Mr J.Weller in 1824. Originally farming was the mainstay of this small rural community, however following the discovery of coal in the local area during the 1850's, big mining companies turned their attentions to the farms located around the Ironbark Creek vicinity. 

It was the consortium of the Newcastle-Wallsend Coal Company (NWCCo) in the late 1850's,  that put in place the infrastructure & on the 9th March 1861 Wallsend coal mine was officially opened.

The township quickly grew & with steady employment, 1 acre building blocks were selling for £120 - 150 & houses were being built for £50. The first Post Office was established as an agency in 1861 with Mr T.Johnson operating the agency from his hotel, which he renamed the Post Office Hotel! In 1876 deputations were made to the Postmaster General for a separate, more permanent building be considered & so in 1880 work commenced on the new Wallsend Post Office on the corner of Harris & Tyrrell Streets, formerly known as the Lemongrove Estate.

On the 25th March 1882, Wallsend finally had a Post Office it could call its own. It was  constructed in the Victorian Regency style of the day, solid brick construction with a painted stucco finish. I have no reports about the opening of this fine building, however I'm sure that it would have been a grand event.

The design did change over the years with such alterations such as a bathroom (1899), buggy space (1903), telephone exchange (1907), formal entrance lobby (1914) & sometime after 1907 a front verandah (pulled down in 1952). In 1952 the most hideous alteration took place when Australia Post built a wood & iron addition to the side of the building which thankfully was pulled down when the building was renovated after Australia Post vacated in July 1994.

Although I'm usually hard on the efforts of Australia Post in vacating these wonderful buildings, I can see the logic in this move, there was no parking in the area & terrible access/egress to the building, so the move to Wallsend Plaza was a positive step in raising customer expectations.    

The old Wallsend Post Office still reflects the stoic nature of the community that was prevelant around the turn of the 19th century, with its solid construction & domination of the local landscape. This was also a time when the Post Office was woven into the vibrant fabric of the towns that they served, something we have seemed to have lost in our quest for growth.

I'd like to thank the staff at NCC, Stocklands & the Wallsend Library for their assistance in compiling this blog

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