Warragul & Drouin Gazette
Ornate gothic style post office
It was exactly 50 years ago when Warragul’s modern post office officially opened in a case of out with the old and in with the new.
At the time, the Warragul Gazette reported the new $132,382 post office was an impressive addition to Warragul’s commercial area and would provide a talking point for visitors to the town. The opening on April 3, 1967 also gave Warragul one of the most up-to-date post offices in Gippsland.
However, many long-time residents believed demolition of the old two-storey post office in early 1966 robbed the town of a distinctive landmark.
The “old stalwart” served the town for 80 years and was described as imaginative and significant in its day.
To celebrate the new building, Post Office Historian Derek N. Baker provided an insightful history of almost a century of close association between the post office and Warragul district.
STALWART SERVES 80 YEARS A post office first opened under the name of Warragul in the area that had previously been known as Drouin East on March 16, 1877.
The first postmaster was James Biram, who conducted the post office in conjunction with a small general store.
Rail and telegraph communication came to Warragul at the same time, and did much to accelerate development of the township.
A public telegraph office was provided at the railway station from March 1, 1878, the date the railway line between Bunyip and Moe was officially opened.
Warragul’s first mail service with Melbourne operated once a week.
Mail closed at Melbourne at 1pm on Thursdays and arrived at Warragul at 9.30am the following day.
Mail closed at Warragul at 1.30pm each Friday, and arrived at Melbourne at 4am the next day.
From November 13, 1877, a mail service was also established between Buln Buln and Warragul twice per week by packhorse.
J. C. Ryan, who had served as postmaster at both Shady Creek and Buln Buln, was appointed Warragul’s first full-time postmaster. With the appointment of Ryan, the Warragul Post Office was transferred to temporary rented premises located on the corner of Queen St.
Plans were already being considered for an official building to be erected on a site set aside in Smith St. During 1884, a total of 69,086 letters were handled at Warragul Post Office and 2599 telegrams were sent or received.
On April 4, 1887, the contract was let for the construction of an official post office building. The foundation stone was laid by Sir John Nimmo, Minister for Public Works, on June 4, 1887. The building was completed and occupied the following year.
A manual telephone exchange was established within the Post Office during 1908, the first four subscribers, strangely enough, all having connections with the medical profession. They were Dr George Ley, Dr Horace Hayes, Dr Trumpy and Warragul District Hospital.
By 1912 there were 36 subscribers which increased to 211 by 1926.
In late 1949, due to lack of space for further expansion within the post office main building, the telephone exchange was re-housed in a prefabricated structure erected alongside the post office.
Originally, the top floor of the Warragul Post Office was used as the postmaster’s residence. Later, it became the district postal manager’s office.
By 1965, the existing post office again proved too small for the demands being made upon it, and so plans were prepared for a new building.
On Saturday, September 18, 1965, the Post Office closed for the last time. The prefabricated building that had housed the telephone exchange between 1949 and 1962, became the temporary post office during re-building operations.
Demolition of the old post office began in January 1966.
Postmaster of the time Mr Fidge had 19 staff and handled 3.5 million postal items in the 1965/66 financial year.
A HISTORY OF POST Even before West Gippsland was settled, mail was conveyed from Melbourne to Flooding Creek (Sale) where a post office was established in October 1848 and on to Alberton where a postal service was provided as early as January 1843.
It wasn’t until January 21, 1871, the first post office was opened in the area at Shady Creek, about 14 kilometres from where Warragul is now located.
The office, which had official status, was an important one, as apart from being on the Melbourne to Sale coach road, it was also the junction of a mail service to Walhalla. This service operated three days per week, mail being conveyed by packhorse by way of Tanjil Cooper’s Creek and Happy-Go-Lucky.
Walhalla was then a prosperous gold-mining centre, and the gold escort always stayed the night at Shady Creek, on its way to Melbourne.
There was also a mail service between Shady Creek and Crossover Diggings, another goldmining centre, about 19 kilometres distant. This operated twice a week by packhorse.
The first postmaster at Shady Creek was S Hodder, who was also classified as telegraph manager.
The Brandy Creek Post Office first opened on April 1, 1873, under the management of Hugh Fraser.
On November 19, 1874, the name Brandy Creek was changed to Buln Buln.
Brandy Creek was so named by Archibald Campbell, the founder of an alternative coach route between Sale and Dandenong. Campbell was discovered camping alongside a creek by a traveller. The two men shared a flask of brandy between them and Brandy Creek was born.
During the mid-1860s, the name Brandy Creek was broadly applied to the whole district around Warragul.
Its nucleus was a small village of that name that began about 1867 with the establishment of stables by Cobb and Co and a boarding house.
In 1892, the Buln Buln Post Office was moved to a new site about three kilometres distant apparently to be more centrally located in the new township developing there.
Sometime between 1906 and 1909, a small non-official post office opened at Brandy Creek located close to the site of the original post office of that name. It was closed on April 19 1958.
A post office opened at Drouin (originally known as Whisky Creek) on April 5, 1876, under the management of J. Sutherland.
The name of the post office was changed to Jindivick in July 1878, and at the same time an office that had opened as Drouin Junction in January 1877, was renamed Drouin.
The name Jindivick was short-lived, being changed after just one month to Drouin West However, a new post office opened at Jindivick on March 22, 1880.