Sunday, 25 September 2016

Launceston Post Office

Launceston gained its first overland mail service from Hobart in 1816, a decade after the city was established in 1806. It is claimed that this was the first overland mail delivery service in Australia. Postal services in the form of a private house post office service were introduced at Launceston from at least the 1820s. Arundel Wright was the first postmaster, conducting business from premises on the corner of York and John Streets.

The most enduring location, prior to the current building, was within the Government Offices opposite the present location, from 1859 to 1889. The Government Architect, W.Eldridge, began work on the design of the present building in 1885. He had already designed the imposing Italianate public buildings and Supreme Court in Hobart. The initial contract to construct the building was signed with James Hills, but was replaced by a new contract with John and Thomas Gunn. A third firm, Corrie and North, was mentioned in 'The Examiner' in connection with the building in 1890. This firm was involved with alterations to the tower.

The reaction of the people of Launceston to their new post office appears to have been quite negative, with a correspondent to 'The Examiner' declaring the corner tower to have an 'absurd pepper-pot aspect...the architectural enormities of this (being) the last and grossest insult to the architectural taste of the citizens of Launceston'. Some called for the tower to be 'partially destroyed', while others felt that the building ought to have been 'more commodious' and 'less decorative'.

The telegraph office was opened in the new building on 22 December 1890 and postal services were transferred there in January 1891. The matter of the clock for the building (which had not yet been installed) resurfaced on the occasion of the centenary of the City of Launceston in 1906. A Clock and Chimes Committee was formed to arrange for the funding and installation of a clock in the tower. An amount of 1339 pounds was raised for this purpose.

The Committee also sought to redress the problem of the 'pepper-pot' tower by seeking new designs from the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs which had taken over responsibility for the design of post offices in 1901. Two schemes were considered for the upper part of the tower, both being Italian in inspiration, and the chosen design was by Hedley Westbrook, under the supervision of J.S.Murdoch. The new tower top and the clock were complete by 1910. There were extensive alterations in 1933. The building has continued to function as the general post office for Launceston up to the present day.

Main Text & Information Source –
Australian Heritage Database