Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wet Days & Wine

Ahhh, the vineyards of Polkolbin in the spring time can be quite picturesque with lush verdant vines thriving in the warm Australian sunshine. 

 .... What !!!

Well normally this would be the case, however springtime in Australia, especially in New South Wales, can be extremely temperamental, with wild swings in temperature and weather conditions, especially in the current La Nina conditions. And believe me this week certainly proved the point as to the changability of our weather. 

As the week started out it was hot and humid and quite uncomfortable. However, by Wednesday morning the heavens had opened up over the Hunter and dropped over 80 millimetres, which is over 3 inches in old speak, of much welcomed rain over the district. So while our summer is just around the corner, a cold snap such as the one we are experiencing at the moment, can have you wondering why you packed away your winter weight jumper and wet weather gear so early, brrrr

Although the dams can always use a much needed top up, working in the constant precipitation is not much fun and dodging the constant deluges can try the patience of a saint ... or an Australia Post transport driver. 

As Charles Dudley Warner famously said, although mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain,  "everyone complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it" 

However, I just think I'll just let Enya take us out with -

It's In The Rain

Every time the rain comes down,
close my eyes and listen.
I can hear the lonesome sound
of the sky as it cries.

Listen to the rain...
Here it comes again...
Hear it in the rain...

Feel the touch of tears that fall,
they won't fall forever.
In the way the day will flow,
all things come, all things go.

Listen to the rain...
(the rain...)
Here it comes again...
Hear it in the rain...
(the rain...)

Late at night I drift away
I can hear you calling,
and my name is in the rain,
leaves on trees whispering,
deep blue sea's mysteries.

Even when this moment ends,
can't let go this feeling.
Everything will come again
in the sound, falling down,
of the sky as it cries.
Hear my name in the rain.

'In The Rain' lyrics Roma Ryan courtesy 2005 EMI Music Publishing Ltd -

Monday, November 21, 2011

Walking Into The Past

In 1973 the Daily Mirror newspaper described Ingleburn as a "wasteland" dominated by "ugliness, lack of amenities and boredom". As a teenager growing up in the suburb at the time I was absolutely gobsmacked that anyone would describe my town in such vitriolic manner and also as a result of that article, I don't even think my mother has bought a Murdoch published newspaper for nearly 40 years! 

When I was a young kid growing up in Ingleburn in Sydney's south western suburbs, history was something that happened in more exotic locales. In the NSW school history syllabus during the 60's & 70's, we were taught about the great monarchs of the United Kingdom, the journey of Australia's discovery by Captain James Cook, Australia's convict transportation era, the explorations of the Australian continent, the deeds by our brave fighting men at Gallipoli (World War 1) and the defeat of the Japanese by the sons of Gallipoli at Kokoda (World War 2). All great historical events in their own right and it was probably deemed sufficient in the public school curriculum at the time, given the limited resources available to educators at the time.

However, history existed right under our noses if we cared to suspend our prejudices, remove our blinkers and just look at our own town.

The development of Ingleburn can be traced back to colonial botanist, George Caley, who in 1805 traveled from Prospect across to the upper reaches of the Georges River mapping its course near Ingleburn. Not long after the travels of Caley, settlers pushed out of the Sydney confines and into the area that is now known as Ingleburn. In 1809 four soldiers, William Hall, William Neale, Joshua Alliot and Timothy Loughin from the NSW Corps took up farm selections in the area that became known as Soldiers Flat, on the eastern side of Bunburry Curran Creek (according to Parish Maps of the late 1830's show that Bunburry is spelt with 2 r's and not with one 'r' as it is today). Although the southern railway came through in 1858, it wasn't until 1869 that a rail platform was built on the Neale property to service the growing rural industries and so a name had to be found for the new locality. The name chosen was Macquarie Fields, named after the large property located on William Redfern's land holdings to the north of the platform. The properties near the platform changed hands a few times up until 1881 when the area was purchased by Elias Laycock and the home he built on his new holdings  was called Ingleburn House. Also in 1881 William Redfern's former Macquarie Fields property was subdiivided and became the new village of Macquarie Fields. To save confusion over the names in August 1883 the railway authorities decided to adopt the name of the nearby Elias Laycocks house, so the name was changed to Ingleburn. When the area around the station was eventually subdivided, the area simply became known as Ingleburn as well.

As Ingleburn was basically a rural village, most of the early buildings were constructed using easily accessible building materials such as timber and iron. Even the local public school, which was relocated from Brooks Point near Appin and opened in 1887 was originally built as a timber and iron structure. The current brick building, including the teachers residence, that stands on the site today were constructed in 1892 at a cost of  £1097/9/0 ($1.6 million) which reflects the standing Ingleburn had achieved in it's very short history.

Ingleburn even managed their own civic affairs when they elected their own council and which first sat in1896. The first meetings were conducted in Alderman Smiths lounge room (as there was no council chambers at the time) with Mr Barff serving as Ingleburn's first Lord Mayor. Also serving were some old Ingleburian names such as Mr Percival and Mr Collins (the areas first Postmaster) who were elected as Alderman in the first local administration. Eventually the council was incorporated into the Campbelltown Council in 1948. One of the legacies of the Ingleburn Council was the development of Kings Park (now called the Georges River Reserve) in the late 30's as a recreation area and was popular spot for swimming on those hot summer days. It was also where a lot of local kids, myself included, learnt to swim, mainly thanks to the now heritage listed weir that made the conditions less treacherous by artificially slowing down the fast flowing water. The area was also used extensively by the Scouting movement for orienteering and bush related activities, a real asset to the early community before the age of swimming pools.   

In 1901, the original railway station burnt to the ground and so the government decided that it would be one of the first built in the contemporary style of the day, that is in what is known as the 'Initial Island' style. Ingleburn railway is one of the few remaining examples of the first attempts to implement this style of rail architecture into the Sydney metro area and is considered to be the prototype for many other railway station buildings that were erected in the 1910 -20  period using this style.

The Ingleburn School of Arts (Community Hall) is another example of pride in local community, built in the 1920's it is an example of the Art Deco style that was becoming in vogue around that time. The hall has survived during this time, however a recent redevelopment of the Ingleburn Arts Precinct, saw the old hall demolished and now only the facade remains.
It was during the 1970's that population of the former rural village exploded, when the Housing Commission and developers opened up vast tracts of farmland to housing and changed the face of my town forever, dragging the locals from a sleepy insular backwater, to a thriving Sydney suburb. However, what puts Ingleburn apart for other suburbs in south west Sydney is that Ingleburn has a very rich civic and architectural history  ... all you have to do is look.

N.B. - I'd like to thank the Campbelltown City Library, the online resources of the National Library of Australia, the late Ingleburn historian Mrs Genevieve Tregear & my 4th Form history teacher Miss Burrows, who gave me my inspiration ... better late than never!. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Ghosts of Post Offices Past - Ingleburn (2565)

It was in 1896 that the Postal Inspector gave the fledgling town of Ingleburn this less than romantic description: " the Ingleburn community consists cheifly of fruit growers and wool carters" and while not flattering, it was probably an accurate assessment of the community at the time.

The small township of Ingleburn, situated 44 kilometres south west of the Sydney CBD, grew from fairly humble beginnings, originally just a rail platform that was built in 1869 and was originally called Macquarie Fields, after a large property situated to the north of the platform. The name was changed to Ingleburn in 1883 to avoid confusion after the Macquarie Fields estate was subdivided and was gazetted as the town of Macquarie Fields.

The land around the Ingleburn platform was also subdivided into smaller town lots in 1885 and the town began to take shape. As the town grew, so did the needs of the community for postal facilities and in October 1886, Mr W.Collins, a local storekeeper, was appointed as the Ingleburn Receiving Office Keeper (ROK), which paid him an allowance of £5 p.a. ($4,100). By 1891 business had grown sufficiently for the status to be  raised to become a Post Office and Mr Collins appointed Postmaster with remuneration increased to £22 p.a., ($16,600) with a porterage allowance of £10 ($7,500) to move mail between the rail station and Mr Collins' shop. However, not everyone was pleased with this arrangement, as the Collins shop was located a quarter mile away (400 metres), on the western side of the railway line, which was away from the expansion of the town which was occurring on the eastern side of the line, according to the Ingleburn Progress Association in November 1891.

The Postmaster General must have agreed with the sentiments expressed by the Progress Association because in February 1892, arrangements were made with the Railway Department for the Post Office to be moved to the station and Herbert J. Webb was placed in charge, combining both the telegraph and post offices in the one area.

In 1900 the Postmaster General decided upgrade facilities at Ingleburn and with agreement from the Railway Department a new room was built apart from the railway office and included a 'silence' cabinet for the telephone. Miss Frances Quinn was appointed Postmistress in March 1901 on a salary of £55 p.a.($37,000) and this new arrangement also proved quite fortuitous as the Railway Station burnt down in 1901! The Post office continued to grow, with Money Order facilities offered in May 1901 and a branch of the Government Savings Bank in opened July 1901.

In 1909 the Postmistress, Miss Quinn, was transferred to Greta in the Hunter Valley and the Postal Department decided to move the Post Office to the general store owned by Mr A.B. Kavanagh, who became Postmaster in January 1910, mainly because he offered to allow out of hours access to the telephone. However, it was not a popular move according to the local residents, who petitioned to have the Post Office remain at the railway station. Mr Kavanagh sold the business in August 1912  and Mr S. McIlveen became Postmaster. In 1917 Mr McIlveen moved the Post Office to a new brick building on the opposite side of the street (Oxford St) and installed a larger swithchboard ... And of course the local residents opposed the move.

In 1933 the Post Office moved back to the other side of Oxford St and remained there until extensive renovations in October  1964, These renovations involved the complete demolishing of the old store and then rebuilding it as a purpose built Post Office. During the construction phase, the Post Office moved into 41 Oxford Street as a temporary measure and moved back to 10 Oxford Road in December 1964. In March 1970 Ingleburn Post Office finally was granted official status and at the time the Post Office had grown to employ 6 staff  (Postmaster Assistant, P/T Assistant two Postman and one junior Postal Officer)

As Ingleburn continued to grow rapidly during the 1970's so did the needs of the community for better postal facilities and so in 1977 a new Post Office complex was opened at a completion cost of $174,000 ($820,000) . It  was estimated at the time that the building would have a serviceable life of around 20 years, however, after 34 years at 34 Oxford Street Ingleburn, the Post Office continues to meet needs of it's growing and diverse community of nearly 19,000 residents. A far cry from when the Postal Inspector made his cutting remarks in 1896!  

Footnote - Local historians like to point out that the large Bunyan Pine located on the eastern side of Ingleburn Rail Station was planted near the site of  Postmistress Quinn's Post Office which opened in 1901, making that wonderful old pine 110 years old this year!         

N.B. I'd like to thank the staff at the Campbelltown City Library & the online resources of the National Library of Australia for their assistance in compiling this blog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Stockton (2295)

In 1800 a gang of 15 convicts, escaping from Broken Bay in NSW, stole the colonial sloop 'Norfolk' and ran aground at the present day Stockton, thus giving the area it's first and more romantic name, Pirate Point. 

Situated less than 1 kilometre across the harbour from Newcastle, Stockton has its own unique history, which dates back to early Aboriginal occupation and was known as  "Burrinbingon" by the local Worrimi tribe. Stockton was known by the aboriginal as a gathering place of plenty as it was well stocked with oysters, pippies and plenty of fish species in the river. When Lt Shortland 'discovered' Newcastle in 1797 word got back to Sydney about the natural riches that could be found, especially the coal and cedar and it didn't take long before 18th century entrepreneurs came to take advantage to the abundant riches. One of the first  businessmen was Hugh Meehan, who in 1799 began operating a saw pit on Stockton's northern shore      

Following the establishment of the convict settlement at Coal River (Newcastle) in 1804, Stockton then became a horrendous place of punishment as convicts were sent over the river to work the lime kilns that were situated close to the former aboriginal middens that were scattered around the area.   

By 1823 the convict era had finished and so private settlements along the length of the Hunter River flourished, including Stockton. Large grants of land were issued in the 1830's and early industries quickly flourished, salt works and foundry in 1838, vitriol (sulphuric acid) works in 1853, tin smelter in 1872 and the colony's biggest textile factory (which burnt down in 1851). however the mainstay was shipbuilding, with at least six shipbuilders operating in the area by the 1860's.

With a population of over 150 permanent residents the first calls were made for the establishment of a Post Office on the peninsular in 1859, however the NSW government declined, mainly due to the high cost submitted by the contractors to convey the mail across the harbour, one tender was quoted as £60 ($10,000), which was considered to high of a cost at the time.

Not to be deterred, in November 1861 representations were once again put to the government, this time by local politician Mr James Hannell and in this instance they were successful. On the 1st February 1862, Mr Samuel Sterling became the first Postmaster of the new Stockton Post Office. A contract was also let to Mr Henry Plenglaze for £36.13.5 ($6,000) to provide a 6 day mail service from Newcastle to Stockton. According to the Parish Maps the first Post Offices seemed to be located off Fullerton Road, near what is now known as Punt St (formerly known as Factory St.). Several Postmasters followed Mr Sterling ... William Adams (1868), Edward Miner (1870) and then in 1873 the former contractor, Henry Penglaze, who held the position until his death in 1882,  then passing the running of the Post Office licence to his wife, Elizabeth.

As Stockton continued to grow, especially when the Stockton Coal Company commenced operation in 1882, so did the demands for better postal services, including the connection to the telegraph. Following an assessment by Postal Inspector Davies in 1886, it was decided to erect an 18 mile  telegraph line from Raymond Terrace to Stockton and amalgamate the Post Office and the Telegraph Office.

In 1887, Stockton at last had an official Post & Telegraph Office with Mr John Beckett appointed to the position with a salary of £124 p.a. ($130,000). On the day he opened Stockton's the new Post & Telegraph, the 27th June 1887, his first message as the official Post & Telegraph master was "I have opened the office here this morning, may I take on a Probationer to carry messages, no other person employed here but myself ", Postmaster Beckett was quick to realise the short comings of being the only employee at the Post Office! Not only was his plea for additional staff agreed to but he also gained a part time Postman as well, John Griffiths, who commenced his rounds on 1st September 1887, thus earning the distinction of being the first postman in Stockton .

In 1890 the Post Office also gained a lamp for the front of the Post Office and as this had to be lit and maintained by Postmaster Beckett, so he asked for and was granted an additional allowance of £4 p.a. ($670) to perform this task. Just another perk of the job that we have seemed to have lost over the years!  

By 1891 however calls were made by the Stockton Municipal Council for a public building be erected for a Post Office, instead of operating out of Mr Bruce's rented premises, so after much negotiating a site on Hunter Street was selected and on the 18th February 1901 at a cost of £1,219 ($815,000) , Stockton finally had a new purpose built Post Office to be proud of.

Over time technology moves on and the Post Office building in Hunter Street had outlived it's useful life which required extensive renovations just to make it habitable. So in the late 1930's it was decided to build a newer office in Clyde St (cnr Douglass St) and update the delivery and retail service. It was with little fanfare on the 6th December 1941 that the new £2,500 ($490,000) modernised Stockton Post Office opened for business. The old Hunter Street Post Office was then sold off and converted into residential flats, eventually the building was demolished and became part of the revamped Stockton foreshore. 

By the late 1990's, the Post Office structure was once again under review and as a result the retail business became an LPO (Licensed Post Office) and is now located in the newsagency at 29 Mitchell St. The old 1941 Post Office building was retained for a few more years before it  too was also sold off and in June 2001, the remaining postal staff and contractors were moved out to Heatherbrae, near Raymond Terrace. 

Next year marks the sesquicentennial (1862 - 2012) of Post Office operations in Stockton, a Post Office that has had quite the history of being moved, updated, downsized, revamped and hopefully, will continue to serve this local community well into the future.

As for the 15 pirates from the Norfolk? Eleven of them stole another boat, but eventually all were recaptured and two of the ringleaders executed ... perhaps they just should have opened a Post Office! 

N.B. I'd like to thank the staff at the Newcastle Library, the National Archives of Australia, The National Library of Australia & the residents of Stockton for their help in compiling this blog.