Wilcannia Post Office & Post Master's Residence | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Heritage

Wilcannia Post Office & Post Master's Residence

Item details

Name of item: Wilcannia Post Office & Post Master's Residence
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Postal and Telecommunications
Category: Post Office
Primary address: 45-47 Reid Street, Wilcannia, NSW 2836
Parish: Wilcannia
County: Young
Local govt. area: Central Darling
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Wilcannia
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT159DP759091

Boundary:

Property boundary of Lot 1
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
45-47 Reid StreetWilcanniaCentral DarlingWilcanniaYoungPrimary Address
Barrier HighwayWilcanniaCentral Darling  Alternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Central Darling Shire CouncilLocal Government05 Mar 19

Statement of significance:

The aesthetically pleasing Wilcannia Post Office and Post Master's Residence complex is likely to be of state significance because of its association with Colonial Architect James Barnet who designed the complex in 1878. It demonstrates Barnet's ability to design a small scale but elegant and richly modelled neo-classical Victorian post office suitably reflecting government authority. It is a rare example of a Barnet designed rural post office with substantial attached two-story Victorian Italianate residence, reflecting the important government role of the post master in such a remote location. It displays a rare combination of architectural styles, cast-iron detailing and wooden fretwork, and unusual range of stone masonry techniques. Design elements such as the deep three bay loggia and insulated two-story residence verandah reflect the need for shelter from the extreme heat. It is a prominent element of the circa 1880's historic streetscape dominated by Wilcannia sandstone civic and commercial buildings.

The Post Office complex is likely to be of state significance for its historical values. Its position on the Darling River and next to the bridge and former wharfs demonstrates its association with the biggest inland port in NSW. It is a tangible reminder of Wilcannia's dominance as a river port and commercial centre from the 1870's to early 1900's. This was eclipsed by the New South Wales government's refusal to build a railway to Wilcannia, or to lock the river to make navigation more consistent - a position taken to prevent trade benefiting Victoria and South Australia.
Date significance updated: 10 Jul 19
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: James Barnet
Builder/Maker: D. Baillie
Construction years: 1879-1880
Physical description: The Post Office is a single story neo-classical Victorian stone building with a beautifully detailed three bay arcaded loggia to the front. Behind the loggia the arched openings are echoed by arch headed windows and a door with an arch headed fanlight. The building has a chimney shared with the residence, and the hipped roof has a bracketed eave line and a raised semi-circular pediment bearing its name and date of construction. There is a verandah to the side with scalloped wooden fretwork sheltering the individual post boxes. The walls are coursed ashlar sparrow pecked Wilcannia sandstone.

The attached Residence is a fine two storey Victorian Free Classical style structure. It is also composed of sparrow pecked coursed ashlar sandstone walls with a hipped corrugated iron clad roof and two prominent chimneys.The richly detailed two storey front verandah was added in 1890, and the original single storey verandah removed. The verandah has cast iron columns and verandah brackets, wooden fretwork, and cast iron frieze panel with balustrade panels at first floor level. Both the top and bottom celilings of the verandah are tongue and groove wooden celiings, an unusual feature in far western NSW, but found also in the Bourke post office designed by Barnet's office. These ceilings provided insulation for the verandah and interrnal rooms against the summer heat hitting the north-north west facing wall.This verandah may have also been designed by Barnet's ofice as the tender was accepted in June 1890, and the cast iron columns, brackets, wooden fretwork and cast iron freize, as well as the wooden ceilings, are similar to the Bourke post office built in 1889. Windows at rear are double hung and French windows open at the front. Internally the original wooden staircase and fireplaces remain intact.

The internal joinery, skirtings, architraves, and windows of both buildings are mostly original, and most of the original door furniture is intact. The original post office counter is still in use. Floor plans for both buildings are original.

This is a substantial complex including outbuildings. A separate stone building in the rear yard is labelled store and battery room in the 1902 plans, associated with the telegraph office in the post office. It is made from random coursed rock faced masonry, with no quoins.

The post office is a prominent part of the historic streetscape, which also includes the impressive police and justice group including the courthouse, the old Wilcannia jail and the police station, and the police residence, all built in 1879-1880 of locally quarried Wilcannia sandstone and all designed by James Barnet.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Wilcannia Post Office and Post Master's Residence are in good condition, a series of state and federal grants has enabled the Central Darling Shire to restore the building to near original condition. The buildings are in better condition than when nominated. They have been used as a post office and residence from 1880 until 1997, then again from 2013, and will continue to be the post office indefinitely (Wilcannia LEP and Heritage Strategy). Grants resulted in removal of concrete flooring, re-pointing of walls, removal of built-in side verandah walls, re-instatement of original side verandah and post boxes. The recent Heritage Near Me grant completed in December 2018 resulted in the re-attachment of the residence front verandah to the wall plate and re-alignment of the iron verandah posts, new flooring to upper level verandah, and painting.
The buildings have maintained the original 1878 Barnet design, with the exception of the addition of the 1890 residence two storey verandah (which may also ahve been designed by Barnet's office), an alteration made necessary by the extreme climate.
Date condition updated:20 Aug 19
Modifications and dates: 1890: Addition of side verandah to Post Office, and replacement of single story verandah with substanntial two storey verandah to front elevation of Residence,
c1922: Addition of laundry to rear of residence.
circa 1979 addition of timber and iron verandah and bathroom at rear of residence
2009- Federal Jobs fund, $360,000 on stone restoration
2013 re-instated side post boxes and side verandah and re-opened as post office
2018 - HNM grant + CDS 200,000 project to re-attach, straighten, paint residence verandah
Further information: recent work to re-attach and realign and paint the residence front verandah has been funded by Heritage Near Me and Central Darling Shire, completed in December 2018
Current use: post office, bank, former residence soon to be used as offices
Former use: post office, telegraph and then telephone exchange, and residence

History

Historical notes: Aboriginal History of Wilcannia
Wilcannia is located on the Darling River, about halfway between Bourke and Wentworth. The river is known as Barka by the local Aboriginal people or Barkandji, literally people belonging to the Barka, and it is surrounded on all sides by Barkandji speaking people. The people from along the Barka and varying distances either side from near Bourke down to Wentworth all recognised the Barkandji language as their primary language, but they were divided into sub-groups with different dialects of this one language (Hercus 1982 & 1993). The Barkandji language is very different from all the neighbouring languages including the adjoining Ngiyampaa/Ngemba to the east, the Kulin and Murray River languages to the south, and the Yardli and Thura-Yura language groups to the west and north (Hercus 1982:6-7).
Barkandji have a unique culture and depended heavily on the grinding or pounding of seeds on large grinding dishes or mortars and pestles, such as grass, portulaca, and acacia seeds. In the riverine areas there is a strong emphasis on aquatic plant food tubers and corms, and fish, yabbies, turtles, mussels and shrimps as well as water birds and their eggs. Insect foods were also important, such as parti or witchetty grubs along the rivers and creeks, and termite larvae in the mallee country. Large and small canoes were cut out, necessitating ground edge axes, and string manufacture for fish nets, hunting nets, bags and belts was important part of the culture.The Wilcannia area still shows tangible evidence of traditional life in the form of canoe trees, coolamon trees, middens, heat retainer ovens, ashy deposits, stone tool quarries and artefacts (Central Darling Shire & Wilcannia LALC 2018).

Thomas Mitchell led the first exploring party to reach Wilcannia and gave the Barkandji their first unpleasant taste of what was to come. Mitchell travelled via the Bogan to the Darling River near Bourke and then down the river to Wilcannia then Menindee, reaching it in July 1835. Mitchell was harassed by Barkandji (Mitchell 1839 Vol 1:301) as he did not understand that he had to properly negotiate permission for use of water, grass, land to camp on etc., and in addition his men were abusing women behind his back and breaking all the rules. He gave them names such as the Fire Eaters and the Spitting Tribe as they tried to warn him off. His comments show that the Barkandji groups he met occupied "different portions of the river" (Mitchell 1839 Vol 1:304), and that they owned the resources in their territories including the water in the river. The exclusive possession enjoyed by the Barkandji and the need to obtain permission before using any of their resources is demonstrated by the following comment about the "Spitting Tribe" from the river near Wilcannia:
"The Spitting Tribe desired our men to pour out the water from their buckets, as if it had belonged to them; digging, at the same time a hole in the ground to receive it when poured out; and I have more than once seen a river chief, on receiving a tomahawk, point to the stream and signify that we were then at liberty to take water from it, so strongly were they possessed with the notion that the water was their own" (Mitchell 1839 Vol I:304)
A hill 15 kilometres north of Wilcannia was named Mount Murchison by Mitchell and this became the name of the very large original station that included the location that was to become Wilcannia township.
In 1862 the area north west of Mount Murchison Station was still frontier country with continual conflict. Frederic Bonney was based at Mt Murchison homestead and then nearby Momba homestead from 1865 to 1881and he bluntly states in his notebooks that in this period "natives killed by settlers - shot like dogs" (1866-1915 MSS).

Bonney recorded extensive detail about the lives, language, culture and personalities of the Aboriginal people at Mount Murchison/Momba and left us with the extremely significant series of photos of Aboriginal people taken in this period. He does not elaborate about the way the station was set up except for his comment above. Frederic Bonney not only respected and looked after the local people but he sympathised with them, worked with them, and respected them. The Bonney papers and photographs are a treasure of information about the Aboriginal people living there between 1865 and 1881. Bonney published a paper in 1884 but long after he had returned to England to live he campaigned for the better treatment of the Aboriginal people, and he tried to educate the public about the complexity of Aboriginal culture. Bonney names about 44 individual Aboriginal people living at Momba in this period, and one group photo from the same period shows a total of 38 people. Descendants of some of the people Bonney describes still live in Wilcannia and surrounding areas today (Bonney 1884, Bonney MSS 1866-1915, Lindsay 1983, Beckett, Hercus and Martin 2008, Hope and Lindsay 2010).

Aboriginal people worked on Moomba and Mount Murchison Station, and from very early times fringe camps grew up around Wilcannia. The land straight across the River from the Wilcannia post office was gazetted as an Aboriginal Reserve, and this became the nucleus of a very large fringe camp that grew into a substantial settlement spaced out along the river bank in the 1930's to 1970's. By 1953 the Aboriginal Welfare Board had built a series of 14 barrack- like and inappropriately designed houses in an enlarged reserve, now an attractive tree lined settlement known as The Mission (although never a mission it was beside a Catholic School and clinic, thus the name) (Central Darling Shire and Wilcannia LALC 2018). Today Aboriginal people are the majority of the population of the vibrant, creative and culturally active town of Wilcannia, and the main users of the post office facilities (Central Darling Shire & Wilcannia LALC 2018).

Wilcannia History

The first secure pastoralists at Mount Murchison were the brothers Hugh and Bushby Jamieson of Mildura Station on the Murray, who in 1856 took up Tallandra and Moorabin blocks (Busby n.d.), later extended with other blocks and named Mount Murchison Station. Captain Cadell's paddlesteamer Albury was the first to travel up the Darling, landing flour and other stores for the Jamiesons at Mount Murchison in February1859. The Albury then loaded 100 bales of wool from their woolshed and brought it down to Adelaide. At this time there were no other stations on the Darling between Mt Murchison and Fort Bourke. (South Australian Register 17 March 1859 : 4). A little later:

"An enterprising attempt has just been made by Mr. Hugh Jamieson, of Mount Murchison, to bring fat sheep speedily to Adelaide. Mr. Jamieson having chartered Captain Cadell's steamer, Albury, that vessel was prepared, and received on board at Mildura 550 fine fat sheep. These were landed at Moorundee last Tuesday, after a rapid passage of two days, all the sheep being in splendid condition when put ashore" (Maitland Mercury, 14 Jul 1860:3).

Jamiesons sold in1864 to Robert Barr Smith and Ross Reid from Adelaide (SA Weekly Chronicle 12 March1864:2). The brothers Edward and Frederic Bonney were leasing some adjacent blocks and possibly worked at Mount Murchison for these owners. In 1875 they bought the Mount Murchison/Momba complex, one of the largest stations in NSW (Hope and Lindsay 2010). In 1865 it was known as Mt Murchison, in 1881 it was all known as Momba, later splitting into smaller stations. The original Mount Murchison Station homestead block was also known as Head Station or Karannia, the Barkandji name for the area just north of the town near where the Paroo River comes into the Barka. The original Mount Murchison woolshed was located on what is now Baker Park, Wilcannia, which is adjacent to the current Post Office (Busby n.d.).

The site of Wilcannia was selected on Mount Murchison Station in 1864 by John Chadwick Woore, who was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands of the Albert District in 1863 and was based at Wilcannia (Woore 1928). The town was proclaimed in 1866 and in the 1870s it became a coaching centre for prospectors exploiting the region's gold, copper, silver and opal resources, and the administrative, service and shipping centre for the pastoral industry. Wilcannia was incorporated as a municipality in 1881, and around this time it became NSW biggest inland port and Australia's third largest inland port (after Echuca Vic. and Morgan SA)., 'The Queen of the River' or 'Queen City of the West'. At the height of its prosperity around 1880, the town boasted a population of 3,000. According to the Register of the National Estate, during 1887 alone, 222 steamers took on 26,550 tonnes of wool and other goods at Wilcannia wharves (MacDougall Vines 2017). The value of goods coming down the Darling River in 1884 was 1,359,786 pounds, and included over 30,000 bales of wool (SMH 15 Sept 1885:7) The customs house, another Wilcannia stone building now demolished, located immediately between the Post office and the river bank and wharfs, took 17,544 pounds in customs duties in 1889 (14 Sept 1889:13). Paddlesteamers gradually declined, particularly after the 1920's, although a few continued to trade up and down the river into the 1940's, still remembered by elderly Wilcannia residents (Ngearine Cattermole pers. comm).

Wilcannia in the 1870s and into the 1900s was the centre of the pastoral and mining boom of the far west of NSW, and it was the centre of the paddlesteamer river trade from the Upper Darling to the Murray River and outlets such as Adelaide and Melbourne. The frequent dry seasons and lack of water in the river led to other methods of transporting goods being used, such as camel trains, but when the water came down the river trade always returned. The river trade built Wilcannia's fine buildings, but it was also its undoing, as the NSW government intervened to reduce the river trade because goods were moving to and from Adelaide and Melbourne, not Sydney.

Plans to improve navigation on the river were suggested in 1859 after Captain Cadell's first successful voyage up the Darling that was followed by other paddlesteamers. Cadell gave evidence at a NSW Select Committee that the Darling would be become reliable for boats if a system of locks were built at very reasonable cost that would hold back water during the drier seasons (South Australian Register 17 March 1859 :4). The plans to build locks along the Darling River to make navigation more consistent were investigated again and again, but were not realised because the NSW government believed trade would benefit Victoria and South Australia.

After the opening of the Sydney to Bourke railway line in 1885 (Daily Telegraph 4 Sept 1885:4), Wilcannia lost its status as the major commercial centre of the Darling River. The trade from the far North West NSW then tended to go to the railhead at Bourke and straight to Sydney. There were plans in the 1880s for the railway to be run from Cobar to Wilcannia, however this plan was continuously put off. Plans for a railway to Wilcannia continued to be made throughout the 1890's and early 1900's, and including a proposal from Cobar to Broken Hill then linking to South Australia as the Great Western Railway. In 1907 "a large petition was forwarded to Sydney from Wilcannia for presentation to the Premier urging immediate construction of the Cobar-Wilcannia Railway, and subsequent extension to Broken Hill" (The Cobar Herald 12 July 1907:6).The NSW government attempt to stop trade leaking out of the state resulted in their refusal to build a railway to Wilcannia (as goods tended to go to Wilcannia and down the river), or to extend the railway to South Australia for the same reasons. The bend in the river on the north side of town celebrates this government intransigence by its name "Iron Pole Bend", the iron pole said to have been placed at the surveyed location of the proposed railway bridge. NSW eventually built a railway through the low population Ivanhoe route to the south of Wilcannia reaching Broken Hill in 1927, and even then it stopped at Broken Hill and did not join the South Australian line until 1970. The link between Broken Hill and the South Australian railway was provided from 1884 to 1970 by the narrow gauge private railway 'The Silverton Tramway', which also took trade from Wilcannia (Barrier Miner 23 Oct 1939:5, Australian Town & Country Jnl 7 January 1888 : 28).

The combination of missing out on the railway and locking of the river, the severe drought on 1900-1901, and the damage to the pastoral economy by drought, rabbits and over grazing, led to a down turn in Wilcannia's prospects, leaving the fine stone buildings such as the post office languishing as tangible reminders of a time when Wilcannia was known as the "Queen City of the West" and was the largest inland port in NSW and the third largest inland port in Australia.

Post Office History

During the 1850s postal services became more regular, and the great colonial investment in postal infrastructure got under way. From the 1850s, each major rural centre had a postmaster of its own as the post office became a symbol of the presence of civilisation in many outback towns. Government architects built substantial post offices in provincial towns as statements of the authority and presence of the government. The original Wilcannia Post Office was established in 1860 under the name of Mount Murchison, the name was later officially changed to Wilcannia in 1868 (SMH 13 May 1868:2).
The Wilcannia Post Office and Post Master's Residence were designed by the Colonial Architect, James Barnet, the signed plan being forwarded to Wilcannia in 1878. The Post Office and Residence were part of an official precinct in Wilcannia, with the courthouse (1880), gaol (1880) and police residence (1880) built across the road and one block south. In 1876 1,500 pounds was allocated to the post office project (NSW Gov. Gaz 24 Aug 1876:3327). Tenders were called in August 1878 and the builder D. Baillie accepted to erect the post office, and at the same time as the builder for the Court House, Lock-Up Gaol (NSW Gov. Gaz. 22 November 1878:4680), and Police buildings (NSW Gov Gaz 3 Dec 1878:4796). A further 3,100 pounds of consolidated revenue was allocated to the post office and 8,200 pounds to the court house and watch house in 1879 (NSW Gov Gaz 31 July 1879:3373). By March 1979 the post office was "in course of erection" (SA Register 21 March 1979:6).The complex was completed by 1880, succeeding the post office set up on Mount Murchison station in 1860 and a second weatherboard building that was used from 1866 (MacDougall Vines 2017).

The substantial two storey attached post office residence faces the main street and more than doubles the size of the complex. This is unusual as Barnet tended to have residences on the first floor of the main building or at the rear. It relates to the remoteness and government determination to make the job attractive to the right post master, a government representative who had to be an honest employee and trusted by this remote community. It consists of four rooms on the ground floor; parlour, sitting room, kitchen and servant's bedroom, and three bedrooms upstairs, plus various storage rooms and central staircase.

The new post office became the focal point of town, located in the main street and immediately adjacent to the wharfs and customs house. In 1896 the iron bridge with lift span over the Darling River was completed (Sydney Mail & NSW Advertiser 22 May 1897: 1089) and the east-west highway re-routed to go over the bridge and directly past the post office, from then on located on the busy corner of the main street and the highway. Descriptions include:
"the post and telegraph offices, together with the master's residence", are "both a substantial and ornamental piece of architecture" (Australian Town & Country Jnl, 8 Oct 1881:27);
"the post office is a very neat building indeed" with "white stone which seems to finely glisten among the dark foliage of the river timber" (Australian Town & Country Journal 7 Jan 1888 : 28);
"The colonnade of the post office is the Exchange of the town, and here all the business men meet daily and discuss the news of the district. Mails do not come in every day but when Her Majesty's mail coach is seen in front of the post-office there may all the people be seen gathered together. The Sydney and Melbourne papers are four days old when they reach Wilcannia, as the town is from 24 to 30 hours coaching from any railway terminus" (Berrima District Press 13 October 1894: 7).

In 1890 the tender from R. B. Spiers to erect a "verandah and balcony etc". at the Post Office and Telegraph office was accepted (NSW Gov. Gaz 10 June 1890:4588), referring to the two storey verandah and balcony at the post office residence and possibly the small verandah on the side of the post office as well. Drawings from 1881 and 1888 show the single storey verandah of the residence, but a photo from 1894 clearly shows the two storey verandah.The two-storey verandah was added in response to the extreme climate, the wooden lined ceilings on both levels an attempt to prevent the heat from penetrating onto the verandah and north facing wall and windows. The two storey verandah was probably also designed by Barnet as he held the position of government architect until 1890 and its detail is similar to the 1889 Bourke post office verandah.

This Post Office building was in continuous use until 1997 as a post office, telegraph, then telephone exchange, and post master's residence. The post office service was then moved and the complex was used as a residence only until 2002. It became the post office again from 2013 and provides both postal and banking services for the town and surrounding stations.

The remoteness of Wilcannia also meant that the central post office performed a range of significant peripheral services, such as posting up government edicts and community notices, weather measurements and warnings, flood warnings and river heights, timetables and pick-up and drop-down place for coaches, mail coaches, and later mail trucks and buses. The mail coaches/ mail trucks left the post office for the remote outback laden with mail, newspapers, groceries, spare parts, school lessons for outback children, and travellers (workers, family and friends and even occasionally nurses and church people). Mail coaches/mail trucks played a unique role enabling people to exist in the outback that cannot be underestimated. Mail trucks still operate out of Wilcannia delivering mail and parcels to the remote outback stations.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Postal and telecommunication services-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Developing ports-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - providing postal services-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - building and operating public infrastructure-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - providing community facilities-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - facilitating telecommunications-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The 1880 Post Office and Post Master's Residence demonstrates both the growth of postal services across NSW and Wilcannia's development and increasing prosperity during the late 19th century as the town evolved into a major river port and service centre for the expanding pastoral and mining industries. Its prominent position on the Darling River next to the bridge and former wharfs demonstrates its association with the river port, which at the time was the biggest inland port in NSW. Its position and design demonstrate the importance to the state of post offices for postal services, telegraph, and later telephone service. The remoteness of Wilcannia also meant the central post office performed a range of peripheral government services, and the substantial attached residence relates to the government determination to make the job attractive to the right post master, a significant government representative who needed to be trusted by this remote community.

Wilcannia in the 1870s' to about 1900 was the centre of the paddlesteamer river trade from the Upper Darling to the Murray River and outlets such as Adelaide and Melbourne. The NSW government intervened to reduce the river trade as goods were moving to and from Adelaide and Melbourne, not Sydney. Despite many promises they refused to build a railway to Wilcannia. Plans first investigated by government in 1859 to build locks along the Darling River to make navigation more consistent were not realised for the same reasons - that trade would benefit Victoria and South Australia. The combination of missing out on the railway and the locking of the river led to a down turn in Wilcannia's prospects, leaving the fine sandstone buildings (such as the post office) languishing as tangible reminders of a time when Wilcannia was known as the "Queen City of the West" and the third largest inland port in Australia (after Euchuca Victoria and Morgan South Australia).
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Post Office and Post Master's Residence was designed by the Colonial Architect, James Barnet. As Colonial Architect between 1862 and 1890, he was responsible for many of the most significant buildings in Sydney, along with hundreds of public buildings in rural NSW. He believed in designing buildings that properly reflected the authority of the state - the Wilcannia post office complex demonstrates his ability to translate this to appropriate scales for rural areas. It is representative of a relatively unaltered example of Barnet's work, that still functions as a post office. It is likely he also designed the two storey verandah on the residence, added in 1890 in response to the extreme heat.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Victorian neo-classical and Italianate design of the complex and the fabric of coursed ashlar Wilcannia sandstone matched with appropriate and detailed decoration makes this an aesthetically pleasing complex. Interiors retain the original floor plans and detailing, which add to the aesthetic value.

The post office complex forms a prominent part of an important group of Wilcannia sandstone buildings that make up the circa 1880 visually striking historic streetscape. They nclude the police station, jail & residence and court house (all designed by Barnet), other civic and private buildings.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
It is of local significance as a central focal meeting place and important service for this isolated community. The beauty of the Wilcannia sandstone buildings instill a sense of pride and community identity.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The complex is a rare combination of Victorian neo-classical post office and Victorian Italianate residence, Barnet's designs were usually the single building with the one style.

The post office is also a rare example of a James Barnet designed rural post office with substantial attached residence facing the main street. This reflects the important government role of the post master and lack of suitable housing in such a remote location. Elements of the design are also rare, including the verandah detail combination of wooden fretwork and cast-iron lace, and wooden ceilings on both floors of the verandah. The complex is also rare in its inclusion of two different methods of coursed masonry, and variety of stone detailing, and evidence of past telegraph and telephone technology.
Integrity/Intactness: The complex has a high degree of integrity both externally and internally.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

managed by Central Darling Shire as a post office/bank outlet, and aspire to use the managers residence as offices or residence in near future.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - Under consideration for SHR/IHO listing  28 Sep 17   
Local Environmental Plan I3201 Feb 13   
Heritage study  01 Jan 98   
National Trust of Australia register      
Register of the National Estate     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Central Darling Cultural1996090Godden MackayJ S Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenBeckett, J. , Hercus, L A. & Martin, S2008Mutawintji. Aboriginal Cultural Association with Mutawintji National Park
WrittenBonney, F.1883On Some Customs of the Aborigines of the River Darling, New South Wales
WrittenBonney, F.-50Bonney Papers ML MSS 259
WrittenBushby, J. E. P. Some Notes on Wilcannia, NSW
WrittenCentral Darling Shire & Wilcannia LALC2018Wilcannia Aboriginal Community Heritage Study
WrittenGodden Macay Logan1998Central Darling Shire Cultural Tourism Study
WrittenHercus, L.1993Paakantyi Dictionary
WrittenHercus, L. A.1982The Bagandji Language
WrittenHope, J. & R. Lindsay2010The People of the Paroo River. Frederic Bonney's Photographs
WrittenJim Wilson & Bill Kay Wilcannia Post Office Drawings of front elevation Verandah
WrittenLindsay, R.1983The Bonney Photos
WrittenLiz Vines CDS Heritage Advisory service2014Wilcannia Three Year Heritage Strategy
WrittenMcDougall & Vines Heritage Consultants2006Wilcannia Post Office and Post Masters Residence
WrittenMcDougall & Vines Heritage Consultants2017Wilcannia NSW Community Based Heritage Study
WrittenMcDougall and Vines2010Revised Schedule of Conservation Works for the Wilcannia Post Office Reid St Wilcannia
WrittenMitchell, T. L.1839Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia: with decriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix, and the present colony of NSW
WrittenWoore, John Chadwick (late)1928North-West of Wilcannia in 1863.

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5056697
File number: H05/00288/1 & EF18/7900


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