Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Lambton (2299)

It must have seemed like an exciting time for the residents of Lambton, when in 1950, the then Postmaster-General , Mr Anthony advised the Lambton community that they would soon have a brand new Post Office, with modern delivery facilities and amenities  to replace the aging existing building that was opened in 1884. To assist in the transition, the burgeoning mail sorting and deliveries would be handled from the front room of the Lambton Mechanics' and Miners' Institute in Elder St.

The new building never eventuated.

The deliveries and mail sorting were eventually transferred to the Broadmeadow Mail Centre , then  later to Hamilton Delivery Centre and now to Warabrook Delivery Facilty. The Post Office itself would eventually succumb to Australia Posts property rationalisation programme and in May 1996 this wonderful building was listed for sale. With the sale completed in 1997 the postal facility was downgraded to LPO status and now resides in the newsagency in Elder St.

However, the postal history of Lambton is still a rich one and can be traced back to the mid 1860's, even well before the establishment on the township in 1870! Actually the area is another Hunter town that came into existance on the back of a coal mining venture, this time initiated by the Scottish-Australian Mining Co., in 1862.

As with most of these towns, due to the influx of miners who settle close to the pits, they quickly flourish, and once you have residents, one of the first thing they demand is a reliable postal service to satisfy the needs of their community and Lambton was no different. On the 1st March1865 Lambton had their first Postmaster when Mr Daniel Jones was appointed, a position he held for six years. Mr Davies became the next Postmaster and ran the Post Office from his house in Grainger Street. It was during his tenure that the magic of the telegraph arrived in 1875, Lambton was certainly a town on the move!

In 1880 the first approaches were made to the NSW Postmaster-General to upgrade the Post Office to  official  status and erect a purpose built Post and Telegraph office to better serve the community. The deputation produced figures to show that over 48,000 mail articles had been posted and revenues were around £400. The Postmaster-General initially baulked at the idea, however by 1882 the NSW Colonial Government had committed to building a new Post Office  in Dickson St.

So on the 27th June 1884, the good citizens of Lambton were finally greeted with their new £1848 ($1.5 million) Post Office, which also incorporated the Telegraph Office and the Government Savings Bank. Once again the Post Office was constructed in the style of the day for country Post Offices, that being of Victorian Italianate 2 storey design, cement rendered over brick, with a front veranda and iron roofed, much in the style favoured by James Barnet, who was NSW Chief Architect at the time (it should be noted however, that Barnet was not listed as the architect on this project, which, for the period was intriguing!). Due to the slope of the land this building also had basement constructed from Pyrmont sandstone which bought up from Sydney. Another feature that was later added to the font veranda wall was the Lambton Post Office Roll of Honour in memory of those locals who had laid down their lives in World War 1 and was erected by Lambton Ladies Anzac Club in 1916.  

The current owners, Hann Insurance Brokers, have beautifully restored this wonderful building to its original late 19th century grandeur and is a credit to them and the Lambton community.

I think the Newcastle Morning Herald summed up my feelings about this beautiful building when on the 27th June 1884 they wrote " The building, as a whole, is one of the most handsome and substantial of its class in the Northern District, and, to all appearances, will stand for centuries." ..... Unfortunately not as part of Australia Posts' shrinking property portfolio.   

I like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of The Newcastle Family History Society Inc. (The Story of Lambton - a Suburb of Newcastle, NSW) and the Newcastle City Library in the research of this article.

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