Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Kurri Kurri (2327)

The Kurri Kurri Times was the local area newspaper for the newly established coalfields district and it was known for some straight talking when it came to local issues. An example of this was on Friday, May 12, 1905, in the Town Talk column it noted that,

"Another week has passed and the slow-moving old gentlemen who control the Postal Department have not yet sent along that letter-carrier.
There is nothing like making haste slowly, but the postal dignitaries please us a wee bit too well" ... ouch!

Kurri Kurri itself  was established in October 1902 as a 'government' town to service needs of Stanford Merthyr and Pelaw Main collieries, just two of the burgeoning mining operations located on the fast growing South Maitland coalfields. 

When Stanford Merthry commenced operations in February 1901 (the mine was officially opened on the 6th Sept. 1901), the area that surrounded the mine was virgin bushland and the early mineworkers were forced to erect shacks, on leased company land, for rudimentary accommodation. The Miners Union considered this arrangement to be an imposition on the families and so began pressuring the state government to open up allotments of freehold land for auction. The basic form of the township of Kurri Kurri was drawn up and the first auctions were held on the 10th January1903.

It is surprising how quickly the town grew and of course one of the first requirements of the area was the provision of a Post Office. Local shopkeeper Mr C.J. Darke was appointed the towns first Postmaster on the 17th August 1903, less than 8 months after the first land sales!  

As the town grew so did the pressure for better postal facilities, with a telephone service (7/11/03), Government Savings Bank (1/2/04) and finally a telegram service (22/8/05). With each new service came increasing pressure for Mr Darke to employ more staff and acquire better facilities. When the Post Office moved to larger premises on the 1st August 1905, the erstwhile Postmaster, Mr Darke forgot to inform the good citizens of Kurri Kurri, which earned him a light-hearted rebuke from the Kurri Kurri Times,

"Scores of people were fooled on arriving at the old Post Office on Tuesday. It had been vacated early in the morning without notice.
The new office, next to Lewis' Hall, is much more commodious and convenient"

On the 11th January 1906 Kurri Kurri finally became an official Post Office and Mr R. Galloway took over the duties of Postmaster from the very popular Mr Darke. As there was still no official Post Office building, the department continued the lease on Mr Darkes former Post Office premises. Also, staffing continued to be a problem and the letter carrier tendered his resignation soon after the appointment of Mr Galloway because of the heavy work load, which was also not helped by the fact that he was also responsible for delivery of the telegrams. This situation was finally resolved with the employment of a telegram boy.  

Although expectations were high for a brand new Post Office, especially after the appointment of Mr Galloway, progress was painfully slow and it wasn't until the 1st July 1907 that the new building on the Cnr of Victoria & Lang Streets was completed at a cost of £867 ($610,000).

The designed followed Walter Vernons standard Federation Bungalow Style design for country Post Offices with its homely simplicity and robust honesty, a design that reflected the nature of the people it served.

Unfortunately even this wonderful example of Walter Vernons' federation design couldn't escape the rationalisation of Australia Post property portfolio and in December 1998 the property was sold into private hands.

Today Kurri Kurri is still served by Australia Post, but as is the fashion in these less romantic days, it is located in a convenient shopping centre, with easy access, plenty of parking and in a building with all the architectural style of a besser block. That is progress I guess!

So where did Kurri Kurri gets it unique name from? Apparently it is derived from the local aboriginal Wanaruah people and it means the very first and as Kurri Kurri was the first 'planned' town in NSW, it is a very apt name indeed

I'd like to thank the assistance of the Coalfields Heritage Group, Brian Andrews, the staff at the Newcastle Family History & Historical Society and the online resources of the Newcastle Museum.


Anonymous said...

gday i would like to find some former workers from the old post office

John McCulloch said...

Brian Andrews from the Coalfields Heritage Group, (located in the Edgeworth David Museum, 36 Gillies Street, Kurri Kurri.), would be the best point of contact for tracking down former employee's of the old PO