"Last week we noticed that at the meeting of this body several communications from his Excellency the Governor were read over. We cannot forbear saying a few words with reference to one of these letters. It conveyed permission from his Excellency to the Council to hold their future meetings in a wretched looking hovel, bearing the dignified name of post office, with the proviso that their meetings should in no way interfere with the duties of that establishment. Now to us of the township, who know the building in question, this gracious offer with its stipulation appears highly ridiculous; and we will venture to say that this murky looking affair would never have been honored by the Governor's notice had he been rightly informed of its appearance and history. We will give both in as few words as possible. It is one of a group of old ruinous road-party huts, which have been allowed to remain, a standing disgrace to the township ; it is composed of slabs, with a mixed covering of thatch and bark, and it has served in its time for a constable's barrack, a bawdy house, and a gambler's hell. Such is the concern which no doubt misrepresentation induced the Governor to offer for the accommodation of the Council." - The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser 29 June 1844
It would seem that the locals at Wollombi were not happy with the state of their local Post Office in 1844!
The future of Wollombi seemed assured.
During the construction phase, as the road came north from Wisemans Ferry, various locations were sought to site the convict camps and one of those places happened to be on the banks of Wollombi Brook, where soldier settlers (veterans of the Peninsular War), free settlers and emancipists had already began to take up allotments. The first sale of village allotments took place in July 1838 and the first Post Office was established 1st January 1839 with a weekly mail service to West Maitland with Mr John McDougall appointed Postmaster. Mr McDougall was an interesting choice as Postmaster as he was a former convict overseer on the Great North Road and was in charge of Iron Gang 7 from 1830 -1834. However his tenure as postmaster was quite brief as the it seems that Augusta Dunlop, eldest daughter of the new Police Magistrate, David Dunlop, took over the role of Postmistress in 1840.
As the town grew so did the services with the telegraph (3/3/1860), Money Order Office (1/7/1866), Government Savings Bank (11/12/1871) and then Wollombi finally gained official status (10/7/1882). Although the services provided expanded, it seems the building did not and there were many calls to upgrade the Post Office. In early 1892 tenders were called for for the erection of a new two storey building and in June 1892 the successful tenderer was Elliot & Halliday who won the contract to construct the new Wollombi Post Office for £1852 (SMH 2/6/1892). Although no one seems to really know when the building was completed, it seems construction was well under way by September 1892 (The Maitland Mercury 13/9/1892) and seems to have been completed by September 1893 (Richmond & Windsor Gazette, 23/9/1893).
Despite the boom years of the 1840's, the town was doomed by technology and it came in the form of the Sophia Jane, a steam powered ship that could do the run from Sydney to Newcastle in 8hrs and then travel up river as far as Green Hills (Morpeth). The next blow was the arrival of the Great Northern Railway at Maitland in the 1860's which meant that stock and produce ceased to use the old convict road to Sydney. The Post Office then lost it's official status in 1934, however the town still survived and the Great North Road served as an alternative road north. Then in 1945, with the building of the road bridge across Hawkesbury River at Peats Ferry, even vehicular traffic stopped using the winding hilly convict era road and this signaled the end of Wollombi as a vital transport hub.
Today Wollombi is a quaint village, that is steeped in Australia's convict history, with many fine buildings that have stood the test of time, including the former Post Office, which is still standing after 120 years of service to the community and looks like doing so for quite some time to come.
I'd like to thank Newcastle Historical Society , Newcastle Library, The National Library of Australia & Neil Hopsons book 'The 'NSW & ACT Post, Receiving, Telegraph & Telephone Offices' for all their help and information