The nature of our postal and communication services has changed radically over the years, but our dependence on them remains undiminished. While the delivery of handwritten letters from family and friends has been largely replaced by online messaging, the delivery to our door of goods we order online is ever increasing.
In June 1869 when New Lambton was but a year old, the residents recognised the importance of communication services, and petitioned the government for a post office for their growing town. Their request was denied, but every year another request was patiently forwarded to Sydney, until finally in 1872 a licence was granted to Mrs Hutchinson to conduct Post Office business from her general store in Regent St, opposite the public school. This arrangement continued until August 1880 when the post office facility closed, and was replaced by a letter receiver installed on the street.
Calls for the return of a post office continued over the next decade. In 1892, on land purchased from the New Lambton Coal Company on the corner of Regent and Victoria Streets, a small weatherboard building was erected to serve as New Lambton’s first dedicated Post Office. Mr G H Rowthorn was appointed as postmaster. With the new building came new technology, the introduction of a telegraph service.
New Lambton grew and by the mid-1930s it was clear that the old wooden post office was inadequate to meet the needs of the population and ever-changing technology. In 1938 the Postmaster-General’s Department erected a two-storey brick building adjacent to the old building, to house the post office on the ground floor and an automatic telephone exchange on the upper floor. The old weatherboard post office was demolished soon after.
That original building may have been gone for 80 years, but other buildings on the same block of land now house broadband and mobile communications infrastructure that keep us connected, and today power our online messaging and shopping.
The article above was first published in the July 2020 edition of The Local.
1872 Post Office
The location of the 1872 Post Office can be seen in an 1877 diagram relating to the proposed location of New Lambton Public School.
On 26 July 1892, the Postmaster-General, Mr John Kidd, visited Newcastle and toured various suburbs and post office facilities, including the New Lambton post office that was very near to completion. The newspaper report of Kidd’s visit gives a good description of the new building.
This is a commodious and handsome weatherboard building, of 30ft by 62ft outside dimensions. It is roofed with galvanised iron, and has a front and back verandah 7ft by 30ft dimensions. The building is situated at the corner of Victoria and Regent streets, on an allotment of land 90ft by 134ft. A room 22ft by 16ft, with a lobby 6ft by 16ft, is set apart for the post-office, and there are four nicely-fitted rooms – two of 12ft by 14ft, and two of 12ft by 12ft dimensions – for the residential use of the postmaster, Mr. Bates, of Hamilton, is the contractor, and the contract price was £382, with £40 for extras. The post office will be a great boon to the residents of New Lambton, as hitherto there has been none nearer than Lambton, from whence letters, &c., have been delivered daily by a postman. Mr. G. H. Rowthorn, assistant postmaster at Lambton, has been appointed postmaster.
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|22 Jun 1869||"The inhabitants of New Lambton have just memorialized the Hon. the Postmaster-General for the establishment of a Post-office at that township. New Lambton now contains a population of upwards of three hundred, and it is expected that in less than seven or eight months hence, it will increase to double that number."|
|6 Jul 1869||"A numerously signed petition had been sent to the Postmaster-General, praying for the establishment of a post-office at New Lambton, on the ground of its being now a considerable centre of an increasing population, and of its being upwards of two miles from the nearest post office, Lambton ... if the present position of the Lambton post-office is not sufficiently central, the proper course would be to remove it to a site that is more so."|
|13 Jan 1870||"the inhabitants of New Lambton suffer considerable inconvenience from the want of a post-office at that township, and expresses a hope that a second petition, which is about to be presented to the Postmaster-General, praying that a post-office may be established in the village, will be taken into favourable consideration"|
|9 Feb 1871||"another application will shortly be made to the Postmaster-General for the establishment of a post-office at New Lambton"|
|23 Jul 1872||Yet another petition for a post office at New Lambton.|
|13 Sep 1872|
10 Sep 1872
|Government Gazette - Post Office to be established at New Lambton.|
|6 Mar 1876||"Mrs. Hutchinson, who keeps the Post-office Stores …"|
|26 Jun 1880||"It is rumoured that the Post Office at this place is to be closed, and that a letter receiver is to be substituted, a responsible letter carrier is also to be appointed."|
|7 Jul 1880||"The New Lambton post office is to close with the present month, and a letter receiver is to be erected under Mr. Sneddon's verandah … Mr. Thomas Sneddon has been appointed licensed vendor of postage stamps, and Albert Bedford has been appointed letter deliverer and telegraph probationer in the Lambton office."|
|28 Sep 1880||"The licensed stamp vendor here has resigned his position, owing to the miserable per centage allowed by the Government for their sale. He considers 2½ per cent. insufficient to pay for serving the stamps. People have now to obtain their supply from the Lambton post office."|
|9 Sep 1882||"I have heard frequent complaints about the postal arrangements here, and the people generally, I am sure, consider it desirable that they should have a post office of their own. For some time past, owing to the paltry commission allowed by the Government for selling stamps, no one in the town can be found to undertake their sale, consequently the people have had to walk to Lambton, or depend upon the obliging disposition of the letter-carriers to bring them a few stamps."|
|13 Mar 1885||Sale of Mrs Hutchinsons general store "opposite the Public School at New Lambton."|
|14 Apr 1890||"A deputation ... waited upon the Hon. D. O'Connor, Postmaster-General, this morning to urge upon him the necessity of the Government taking steps to provide a post and telegraph office and letter delivery at New Lambton."|
|1 Sep 1891||Government Gazette: "TENDERS will be received ... from persons willing to sell to this Department a piece of land in a main street of New Lambton, with a frontage of about 50 feet, suitable as a site for a Post and Telegraph Office."|
|6 Nov 1891||New Lambton Council asked for a different site for the Post Office, on land owned by D Williams Junr. There is an allegation that “undue influence had been brought to bear in favour of the [New Lambton Coal] company’s offer”|
|1 Jan 1892|
30 Dec 1891
|New Lambton Council receives a letter "From the secretary of the Postal Department, intimating that the New Lambton Coal Company's land as a site for the post office had been purchased and definitely decided upon."|
|5 Apr 1892||"TENDERS FOR ERECTION OF POST AND TELEGRAPH OFFICE, NEW LAMBTON (on allotments 6 and 7, section C, at the corner of Regent and Victoria Streets)"|
|27 Jul 1892|
26 Jul 1892
|Inspection by Postmaster General (Mr John Kidd) in New Lambton of "the new post-office, which is just being completed."|
|1 Sep 1892|
1 Sep 1892
|"The new post and telegraph office, situate in Regent-street, has been completed by the contractor and formally handed over to the department. The office will be opened today for business transactions, which will undoubtedly prove a lasting convenience to the residents. Mr. G. H. Rowthorn, recently of Lambton Post office, is the resident postmaster."|
|16 Dec 1908||"The installation of the promised public telephone bureau is assuming signs of soon becoming an established fact. The cabinet has been placed in position on the verandah of the postal premises, and now only requires the necessary connections, when it will be brought into use."|
|21 Jul 1926||"Minor improvements are being effected to the post and telegraph office, consisting of a new front verandah and steps, new flooring to the general office, and betterment of the drainage of the premises ... telephone communication comes mainly through the Waratah exchange … The number of subscribers however, is growing to such an extent and it is considered that conditions will shortly, warrant the establishment of a local exchange."|
|8 Nov 1934||"New Lambton Council received another courteous refusal, from the Postmaster-General's Department last night to its repeated request for a new post office."|
|13 Jul 1937||"Speaking in the House of Representatives, Mr. R. James (Hunter) said that on many occasions he had urged the Postmaster-General's Department to provide a new post-office building at New Lambton. This town, he said, had a population of about 8000, but the residents were still compelled to conduct their postal business in an old weatherboard pre-Federation office, which was a disgrace to the department."|
|27 Oct 1937|
1 Nov 1937
|"The manual telephone exchange at New Lambton, which has been in course of construction for several months, will be brought into use next Monday. The exchange has been built to relieve pressure on Newcastle and Hamilton exchanges, pending the installation of the automatic telephone system."|
|24 Mar 1938||"The Postmaster-General's Department advised the council last night that it had approved the erection of a two storey building to house the post-office and an automatic telephone exchange, and that the preparation of drawings and specifications was proceeding with the object of inviting tenders for the work as soon as circumstances permitted."|
|29 Aug 1938||Tenders called "for the erection of a new post office and telephone exchange at New Lambton. The building, which will be of brick, will be two storeys high and of modern design. Situated at the corner of Regent and Victoria-streets, adjacent to the existing weatherboard post office and residence ... It is the intention of the department to demolish the old post office building."|
|28 Mar 1939||"Construction of the new post-office at New Lambton is almost complete. It is expected that the post-office will be open for business in about a month. It is near the old post-office building at the corner of Victoria and Regent Streets."|