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.

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