Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Former Post & Telegraph Office, Bellerive

Arguably Bellerive’s best known landmark, the Post & Telegraph Office was built in 1897. The community had been lobbying the Tasmanian Government for a new post office for a number of years before the Public Works department acquired land next to the corner of today’s Cambridge Road and Queen Street and drew up a design. The Bellerive Town Board donated a strip of ground on the corner so that the building’s front elevation could directly face the wharves. The Government invited tenders in February 1897 and the contract was awarded to Mr H. Gibbins for the sum of 653 pounds. The building was constructed of brown and white stones which were both quarried locally.

Queen Victoria was celebrating her diamond Jubilee in 1897 and the town board decided that in preference to spending money on fireworks, the occasion should be commemorated by incorporating a clock in the new post office. The cost of the clock was to be raised by local donations and fundraising events. A deputation from Bellerive went to meet the Minister of Lands to ask that the post office’s design be modified to include a tower to house the clock. The Minister explained that it would be quite impossible for the government to fund the erection of a tower otherwise every other town in the colony would be making applications for assistance in commemoration projects. Henry Lamb, the districts representative in the legislative Council, suggested that the clock might be built into the gable end of the building and the erection of the tower left to a subsequent time. This proposal was accepted and the original plans were modified to accommodate the clock.

The Mercury praised the new post office as not only a great convenience to the residence but a handsome ornament to the town. The clock was lauded as an immense boon to the public, particularly those needing to check the time on their ways to the ferries.

The post office operated on the site for 85 years until services were relocated to Rosny in 1982. The old building was then purchased by Clarence Council and is used for community purposes. Many locals remember the wide, long polished wood counter with pigeon holes for mail behind. Postmen in peaked caps with red band & gold lettering walked the street or rode their bikes, blowing a whistle to indicate to each householder the delivery of their mail. Lady telephonists connected local and trunk calls using a manual switchboard and telegram boys delivered urgent dispatches. Still a very handsome building and a significant part of the Bellerive streetscape.

Main Text & Information Source –
Interpretive Sign at the Site
“The Story of Bellerive – Street by Street” – Donald Howatson 2015