Adamstown Post Office

Often in this column, the pairing of “then” and “now” photographs highlights what has disappeared or changed over the years. This month, one of the most striking things is the similarity. Ralph Snowball’s photograph shows guests assembled for the official opening of Adamstown’s new Post Office by the Postmaster-General Mr J Cook on 21 December 1895. Apart from a missing awning, 125 years later the exterior of the building is remarkably unchanged.

One difference can be seen in the roads. In 1895 Kyle Rd was a primitive dirt track, and the front of the post office was level with the street. In 1900 Brunker Rd was lowered when the Adamstown tramway was built, and the building gained steps and a ramp.

This was Adamstown’s third post office. The first opened in April 1877 and was operated by John and Ann Syme from their residence in Victoria St. In May 1889 William Lee took charge of postal affairs in Adamstown, and a decision was made to relocate to a more central location in Union St (Brunker Rd). Commenting on the impending move, the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate noted that “the postal authorities have decided wisely … the present office is inconvenient and most unsuitable.”

The second post office opened at the end of 1889, but its usefulness was short lived. Within a year Adamstown Council was complaining that it was only “a four-roomed dwelling-house” and was “far short of the requirements of the place at the present time.”

In 1894 the government approved the budget for a new dedicated post office, and the following year accepted the construction tender of Southon brothers for £1200.  The building had a large office and lobby and seven other rooms to accommodate post and telegraph work. Constructed from Waratah stone the building has endured. It serves the same purpose today as when it opened, for while the world has changed much, our human desire for connection and communication remains undiminished.

Opening of new post office at Adamstown, 1895. Snowball Collection. Courtesy of Newcastle Region Library. Accession Number 001 000196.
Adamstown Post Office in 2020.

The article above was first published in the December 2020 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

Adamstown’s FIrst Post Office

The first post office in Adamstown was located at 74 Victoria St, at the residence of John and Ann Syme, and was opened on 16 April 1877.

Adamstown’s first post office, photographed in 1936 on the occasion of the jubilee of Adamstown Council. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 Mar 1936.
Ann Syme, first postmistress of Adamstown, photographed in 1936. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 Mar 1936.
The Victoria St building that housed Adamstown’s first post office, photographed in December 2020.

Note that the funeral notice for Ann Syme indicates that she lived at 64 Victoria Street, however it appears that a renumbering of streets occurred in Adamstown at some stage, and what was 64 Victoria St later became 74 Victoria St. In 1931, Adamstown Council were considering street renumbering but decided against it at that time.

Claiming that it would prove too costly an undertaking, Adamstown Council refused last night to renumber the houses in the municipality. The town clerk (Mr. W. Brown), pointed out that in a majority of the streets the numbering was incorrect on account of many allotments being subdivided since the first numbers were issued.

The Newcastle Sun, 10 September 1931

The renumbering must have taken place at a later time, as in the modern numbering scheme there is no 64 Victoria St.

The location of John and Ann Symes house is confirmed in the old land title certificates. Lot 5 of Section 13 in Victoria St (houses 68-74 in the modern numbering scheme) was purchased by Jenkin Williams in 1877.

Purchase of land in Victoria St Adamstown by Jenkin Williams in 1877. Historical Lands Records Viewer, Vol-Fol 307-223.

Lot 5 was subsequently subdivided, with the western portion (houses 72-74 in the modern numbering scheme) sold to John Syme in 1881.

Purchase of land in Victoria St Adamstown by John Syme in 1881. Historical Lands Records Viewer, Vol-Fol 556-203.
Purchase of land in Victoria St Adamstown by John Syme in 1881. Historical Lands Records Viewer, Vol-Fol 556-203.

Adamstown’s Second Post Office

Adamstown’s second post office opened at the end of 1889 in a newly constructed wooden building on block of land in Union St (now Brunker Rd).

The new building erected by Mr. Joseph Davenport in Union-street for a post and telegraph office is completed, and the postal business of Adamstown will in future be transacted there. According to the notices posted at the office, the office will open at 9 a.m., and the postal department close at 6.30 p.m., while the telegraph department is allowed to remain open till 8 p.m.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 30 December 1889.
Adamstown Post Office in Union St (now Brunker Rd), 1890-1895.

The Torrens Purchasers Index of 1888-1890 shows that Joseph Davenport purchased a 1 rood (quarter acre) block of land in Union St. Unfortunately the Volume-Folio reference of 102-41 against this entry is erroneous and points to a different land purchase.

John Henderson, a reader of this blog, provided invaluable assistance and identified that the correct reference is 202-41, where we learn that Joseph Davenport purchased Lot 9 of Section 13 on Union St in September 1889.

Lot 9 of Section 13. Vol-Fol 202-41, p1.
Transfer of land to Joseph Davenport, Vol-Fol 202-41, p2,

From Deposited Plan 60 we see that Lot 9 of Section 13 was on the eastern side of Union St (Brunker Rd) just south of the Glebe Rd intersection.

Location of Lot 9 Section 13 in Adamstown. Deposited Plan 60 at Historical Lands Record Viewer.

This location is 257-259 Brunker Rd, where the supermarket and news agency are located today.

Lot 9 of Section 13 in December 2020.

Adamstown’s Third Post Office

In 1936, in the lead up to the celebration of Adamstown’s jubilee (50 years since the municipality was incorporated) a faded photograph of the post office opening was found in the Adamstown Council chambers. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate of 15 February 1936 observed that …

the building in the photograph is very little dissimilar from the building that serves the public in Adamstown today

… the very same observation I wrote in my article 84 years later, before I had found this 1936 newspaper report!

The report also gives us some valuable information on the names of people appearing in the photo.

Additional interest is given to the photograph by the group of prominent men of Adamstown assembled in front of the building. Conspicuous in this group is the Postmaster-General of the time (Mr. J. Cook), who officially opened the new office in December, 1895. Others include Mr. Alfred Edden, M.L.A., who retired from the mayoralty to become first representative in the Legislative Assembly of Kahibah and, subsequently, Minister for Mines. Mr. W. Brown, who was town clerk of Adamstown for 45 years, is there, and so is Mr. J. Curley, who was the miners’ General Secretary in Newcastle for many years. Also recognised in the photograph are Mr. John Blakemore, once an alderman and one of the first residents of Adamstown; Ald. W. Cowan, J. Gray, M. Lydon. J. Thwaites, J. Robinson, T. Hetherington (who was a member of the first Adamstown Council, and Mayor in 1888, and was a victim of the Dudley colliery disaster in 1898), and Messrs. J. C. Cosgrave (Schoolmaster) and A. Shaw (afterwards an alderman).

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
20 Feb 1877
17 Feb 1877
At a public meeting, a speaker stated that "a post-office was badly wanted, and, after being duly discussed, it was proposed and carried that the committee take such steps as the case may require towards getting the same."
5 Jun 1877
16 Apr 1877
Government Gazette: "A Post Office was established on the 16th ultimo [16 April 1877] at Adamstown, near Hamilton."
3 May 1889"A "bungle" has taken place with regard to the local post-office. Since the establishment of a post-office in Adamstown it has been conducted by Mr. John Syme and family till last Wednesday, when Mr. William Lee took charge of the postal affairs of the township. It is understood that the post office will be at Mr. Lee's residence, pending a more central place being arranged for."
26 Nov 1889"A building is being erected on Mr. J. Davenport's land in Union-street for the Post and Telegraph Office. In causing the office to be removed to Union-street the postal authorities have decided wisely, and in the interests of the people. The present office is inconvenient and most unsuitable."
16 Dec 1889"The new post and telegraph office is now nearing completion, and within the next fortnight the postal business will be transacted in the new office."
30 Dec 1889"The new building erected by Mr. Joseph Devenport in Union-street for a post and telegraph office is completed, and the postal business of Adamstown will in future be transacted there."
25 Oct 1890"At the council meeting on Thursday night the Mayor called attention to the pressing necessity there is for better accommodation at the local post and telegraph office. The building in which the postal, telegraph, and savings bank business is done is a four-roomed dwelling-house, and though it is far in advance of the building formerly used, it is far short of the requirements of the place at the present time."
12 Feb 1891"… the Government Architect has submitted a sketch plan for a new post and telegraph office at Adamstown, and the Postmaster-General having approved of the same, the papers have been returned to the Works Department for action."
23 Mar 1892"Messrs. Melville and Edden to-day interviewed the Minister for Works and handed to him a strongly-worded protest against the erection of a wooden building at Adamstown for a post and telegraph office, and urging him to decline receiving tenders for this work, as it was promised when the money was voted that the building should be of brick."
8 Jul 1892"Alderman ADAMS, Mayor of Adamstown, introduced by Mr. Edden, interviewed the Postmaster-General with reference to the new post-office at Adamstown. After some conversation, Mr. KIDD promised that the original plans would be carried out immediately."
14 Sep 1894"… the Works Department had been asked to make provision on the estimates for 1895 for funds for the purpose of erecting a post and telegraph office at Adamstown."
15 Dec 1894In budget estimates … "a considerable amount is set apart for the erection of and additions to post offices at Adamstown, Minmi, and other places in the vicinity."
1 Feb 1895"… tenders will shortly be invited for the erection of the post-office."
27 Mar 1895Tenders for erection of Adamstown Post Office called for, closing date 10 April 1895.
30 Apr 1895"The tender of Southon Brothers has been accepted for the erection of a post and telegraph office at Adamstown, the price being £1143."
23 Dec 1895
21 Dec 1895
"THE new post and telegraph office at Adamstown was formally opened to the public on Saturday afternoon by Mr. J. Cook, Postmaster-General, in the presence of a large number of people."
11 Jan 1900"Mr. Shaw, an engineer in connection with the tram extension, placed before the council plans showing that Brunker-road will be cut down 2ft 3in in front of the post-office and about 12in fronting St. Stephen's Church."
15 Feb 1936"… discovery among some old lumber at the Adamstown Council Chambers this week of a faded photograph taken on the occasion of the official opening of the present Adamstown Post Office". The article contains names of some of the men in the photograph.
18 Mar 1938Obituary of Ann Syme, aged 83, the first postmistress of Adamstown. Buried in Sandagate Cemetery 24 February 1938.

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