One of Sydney’s historic postal buildings is on the market.
The former Richmond post office, in the Hawkesbury region north-west of Sydney, is a two-storey Victorian Italianate-style building built in 1875 and designed by one of early Australia’s most influential architects, James Barnet, who also designed Sydney’s GPO and Customs House, among many others.
On 1535 square metres, it has eight bedrooms and two bathrooms, and is commercially zoned. It last sold at private sale in July 2006 for $2,145,000.
Peter Chidgey from Ray White Richmond, who is conducting the sale, said: “It offers great potential for any hospitality pursuit, including function rooms, a cocktail bar, fine dining or a country pub, or any other commercial activity, including professional suites.”
The property is an important piece of the rich story of Australian postal history.
State Heritage-listed in 2000 for “its historical associations, strong aesthetic qualities and social value”, the Richmond post office was associated with “the historical development of communications services to the Richmond area”, according to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
Today we take for granted the ability to send and receive a parcel. But, before colonial control of the post, “mail was usually passed on by ad hoc arrangements made between transporters, storekeepers and settlers,” said the National Archives of Australia.
Mail systems were informal, “flexible” and relied on the “cooperative spirit of the country people,” according to the archives. “It was common for early settlers to ride many miles out of their way to deliver neighbours’ mail that had been collected from informal distribution points.”
But the “cooperative spirit” wasn’t always reliable. There was a problem with theft – parcels got nicked off boats coming into Sydney.
Australia Post was established in 1809 and Australia’s first postmaster, former convict Isaac Nichols, was appointed.
His job was to go aboard all the ships coming into the Quay and get the parcels – people could then come to his house and collect them.
The first post office in NSW was in 1810. In 1825, an Act of the Legislative Council regulated postal services, including postage rates. From 1830, mail was delivered to Richmond three times a week “where the local constable would deliver it on a voluntary basis” wrote the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
From the 1850s on, citizens petitioned the colonial Postmaster General to ask for a post office to be established in their towns. “The network of communications spread and grew steadily as the authorities acted on those petitions deemed to be justified,” wrote Alan Day in Descent Journal in 2002.
An informal post office was established in Richmond in 1844 at the current address. In 1870 Richmond citizens petitioned for a new post office to be built, and the current building, designed by colonial architect James Barnet, was opened in October 1875. A second storey to provide living space for the postal master was finished in August 1888.
Early posties rode horses, then drove horse-drawn carriages. The property still possesses the original stables where the travelling posties would have tethered their horses, and rested.
The property will be auctioned on March 6, 2019, with the current owners hoping to receive in excess of $3 million.
Mr Chidgey said: “We just sold Benson House in Richmond for $2.3 million. It’s a nice historic building, but only zoned for residential, while the post office is zoned for commercial activity.”