Culture and heritage

Heritage of NSW

Postmarked for history

Some of the most diverse and significant heritage in NSW is owned by the Commonwealth Government. Many of these heritage places are important elements in the physical and cultural fabric of our towns and cities and are much valued by local communities. Post Offices are among the oldest public buildings in the State and are often landmarks in their local communities.

For over a century Broken Hill Post Office has been the centre of communications for the far west of NSW. Constructed in 1892, this prominent building with its monumental square clock tower reflects the wealth and confidence of the mining town in the late 19th century. Today it is a key building in historic Argent Street and the focal point of Broken Hill's civic precinct.

As in Broken Hill, post offices are important landmarks in many towns across NSW. They are among the oldest public buildings in the State. Post offices are often located on prominent sites and form the heart of a cluster of civic buildings.

This is why the NSW Heritage Office and Australia Post are working together to ensure that our significant postal buildings will survive for future generations.

Those post offices which are of State significance will be nominated to the Heritage Council for listing on the State Heritage Register. Some of these buildings are being considered for sale by Australia Post so listing is an important step that allows potential owners, developers and the community to understand their significance.

This is an important process for the protection of our most precious postal buildings. Listing means that the heritage significance of the properties is recognized and will not be harmed by future development. Rosalind Strong, Director of the Heritage Office said, "Many of our most significant heritage places are owned by Commonwealth agencies. Australia Post's initiative in working with the NSW Heritage Office shows that partnerships across all levels of government can be successful in protecting these special places."

Australia Post certainly has some of our most important and oldest public buildings in its care. The first official Australian postal service was introduced in 1809. By 1839 there were 40 post offices in the colony, with more opening as settlement spread.

When James Barnet took office as Acting Colonial Architect in 1862, his appointment coincided with a massive impetus to the public works program. Funds were raised by Government borrowing for the construction of roads, railways, electric telegraph installations and post offices. Between 1865 and 1890 the Colonial Architect's Office was responsible for the building and maintenance of 169 post offices and telegraph offices in NSW.

In many ways, the 1880s were the high point in the work of the Colonial Architect's Department. A number of lavishly-built post offices with prominent clock towers were erected, such as Albury, Maitland, Tenterfield and Leichhardt.

Post Offices continued to be designed and built in the 1890s under the leadership of Colonial Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, although construction slowed under the depression years of the late nineties.

In 1901 all state properties exclusively used by the Post Office and Customs Departments were taken over by the Commonwealth Government.

This year Australia Post engaged heritage consultants, Godden Mackay Logan, to prepare nominations for the State Heritage Register on their behalf. A six-month undertaking that took researchers all over NSW, the project involved extensive research. Highlights of the work included the discovery of many early plans for post offices, particularly those of Walter Liberty Vernon.

Broken Hill Post Office with its unusual clock tower and extraordinary size was just one of the historic post offices investigated for its heritage significance. The Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for the Heritage Act, Dr. Andrew Refshauge has just announced that Broken Hill Post Office will be added to the State Heritage Register. It joins other significant post offices listed this year on the Register: Junee, Yass, Goulburn, Kiama, Casino, Glen Innes, Inverell, Millers Point, Randwick and Richmond.

Page last updated: 01 September 2012