Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Campbelltown (2560)

On the 1st December 1820, in front of 50 to 60 farmers in a paddock about 50 kilometres south west of Sydney Town, Governor Lachlan Macquarie declared that this would be the site of his 'new' town. The Governor later wrote in his journal,  "This ceremony having gone through, I named the township Campbell-Town in honour of Mrs Macquarie's maiden name, and on my pronouncing this name aloud, all present gave three hearty cheers in honour of the occasion…".  This new town was located on the edge of his main protagonist John Macarthur's huge Camden Park Estate and may be viewed as a deliberate attempt to antagonise his rival in the fledging colony 

The only problem was, not long after this bold proclamation, Governor Macquarie was sent back to England and replaced by Governor Brisbane. Not that this helped the town grow and by 1823, Campbell Town only had a church and a few bark huts.

The years continued to roll on and Brisbane was replaced by Governor Darling in 1826. Darling had the first plans drawn up  for the town in 1827, the streets were actually named, everything was ready and then once again, nothing much happened, although farmers continued to take up selections around the district.
With each new resident came the pressure to establish postal services and although a daily  (although ad hoc) mail run to Sydney had started as far back as 1826, the townsfolk wanted a better standard of postal services.

On the 8th March 1828 the first 'official' Post Office opened and was co-located at the local courthouse, which occupies the current courthouse site (the orginal courthouse operated as an Inn owned by Mr Daniel Cooper, until purchased and converted in 1827). This makes Campbelltown of one the first of seven country Post Offices opened in NSW. The first Postmaster, Mr James Scarr was also employed as the Clerk to the Chamber of Magistrates, so he would have been fairly busy attending to both duties. The mail arrived from Sydney via Liverpool by carriage at 8am on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, with all outgoing mail ready to be dispatched on these duties. This may also explain the regular turnover of ealy Postmasters, their postal work and court duties would have been horrendous!

It wasn't until 1831 that settlers were finally allowed to take up selections in the new town, eleven years after Lachlan Macquarie's ambitious proclamation. Housing took off with residents quickly taking advantage of the cheaper land and finally the fledgling town began to take shape.

Sometime around the 1850's the Post Office moved into Bursill's Shop at 292 Queens Street (pictured below), when Mr William Fowler took over the running of the Post Office.

There were several more moves of the Post Office, back down Queens Street to Mr John Brays premises opposite Patrick Street (It is interesting to note that the Post Office lost its 'official' status in 1868 probably due to falling revenues, although I could not find any information that mentioned why) and then moving to the Railway Station in 1869. 

Due to community condemnation, mainly due to of lack of space, the NSW Postmaster General agreed to give the running of the Post Office back to Mr John Bray. This was no easy alliance, with constant battles over the rental of the premises, remuneration for work performed and was probably the catalyst for the NSW Postmaster General to review the postal services in the area. A quick look at revenues for 1877 show -
  • Post - £243
  • Telegraph - £123
  • Money Order - £9
In 1878 the NSW Postmaster General requested that a suitable site be found for a new purpose built Post Office, so after several sites were considered the Postmaster General purchase a block of land from the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney at 261 Queen Street for £400. Tenders were were let for the James Barnet designed  Post Office, once again featuring the familiar cement rendered classic revival 'Italianate' style, with curved arch portico and slate roof. It is interesting to note that the local citizens of Campbelltown demanded and recieved an impressive town clock, which was incorporated into James Barnet's original design. The total cost of construction, including the clock, came to £1,990.

It must have been a proud day for the citizens of Campbelltown when the fully completed Post Office was opened to the public on the 18th June 1883.

This fine Post Office was also one the first to fall victim to Australia Post's push to update it's property portfolio and in 1975 in a move that defied logic, Australia Post just moved out and into their new premises located in Dumaresq Street, leaving this wonderful historic building empty. The stand off between Australia Post and the local council continued for nearly a decade, with Post offering the site to the council for the (then) unrealistic price of $200,000. A Permanent Conservation Order was finally placed over the building on 22 July 1983 as part of the sale of the building into private ownership thus saving this building from any possible demolition. Today this wonderful James Barnet designed building contains shops on the ground floor and office space of the upper floor. 

It may not be a Post Office anymore, but it is still a beautiful building and one that complements the wonderful historic Campbelltown streetscape.

I'd like to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of the Campbelltown Council Library Local Studies section and The Campbelltown & Airds Historical Society for their use of their time and resources in compiling this blog. 

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