Canterbury Post Office

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On 6th December, 1855 a petition was forwarded from the "Inhabitants and Landowners of Canterbury, Cooks River, Georges River and the surrounding districts”, asking for the establishment of a Post Office at Canterbury. The petition contained the names of nearly all the residents in that area, who pointed out that they had no direct or regular communication.

Mail delivered by the baker

The petition met with no success for on 30th August, 1856, a letter was received from Barnabas Hartshorne, Storekeeper, asking for the establishment of a Post Office. Hartshorne advised that the next Post Office was at Ashfield more than a mile and a half distant, and that there was no road between the two places except a bush track. Letters from Ashfield were taken to Canterbury by the baker, whom he alleged could neither read nor write. The request was refused. The request was repeated, and again the petition was rejected. However, the Postmaster-General was prepared to direct the Postmaster at Ashfield to make up a sealed bag for Canterbury, provided that a party authorised by the residents could receive it.

William Slocombe, who was the person selected to receive the mail, wrote on 8th June 1857 complaining that letters from Sydney were still being sent to Enfield, instead of Ashfield. A baker was collecting the mails at Enfield and carrying them to Canterbury, and charging one-penny each letter for his trouble, Mr Woolcott of “The Hermitage”, Canterbury, complained of delays to his mail, and in explanation the Postmaster of Ashfield stated that "All letters for Canterbury are put into the Canterbury bag as soon as they are received in the evening, and given the following morning to Mr. Slocombe's boy. The bag from Canterbury is not delivered here until after the mail has left for Sydney".

A letter from Mr. Woolcott, dated 16th February, 1858, mentioned "Surely our district is of sufficient importance to entitle it to regular postal communication, say at least once or twice a week. No doubt you are aware that it is already honoured as a Polling Place and at the last - elections about 120 votes were polled here. I think that in the village and its vicinity there are at least 500 inhabitants”.

Following this plea, it was arranged for Mr Slocombe to convey the mail to and from Ashfield and Canterbury every morning, Sunday excepted, between the hours of seven and eight o’clock.

Canterbury Post Office Opened

In March, 1858, it was decided to establish the Post Office as from 1st April of that year with Slocombe, as Postmaster, at a salary of £12 per annum. Slocombe resigned in August 1863 having sold his property to Thomas Davis, whom he recommended as his successor. A petition recommending this was signed by the residents.

On 1st October 1863, Thomas Davis commenced as Postmaster. William Slocombe returned to Canterbury, and took over his old premises, also the position of Postmaster, on 1st November, 1867. Two names of local interest which appeared on the petition were those of Mr Homer and Mr Beamish.

There was some delay in letters being handed out to the public, and it was arranged to pay the Postmaster 5/- a week more. At the time he had been receiving £12 per annum for taking mails to and from Canterbury and Ashfield, as well as conducting the Post Office. There were only 42 letters posted each week at Canterbury, so the Department did not make much profit from the local post office.

In 1880, a petition was forwarded asking for a twice-daily mail service with Sydney, also a delivery service. There were only 33 letters daily received at Canterbury, and this included the Belmore correspondence. It was approved in October 1880 that mails be exchanged twice a day with Ashfield. On 16th July, 1881, James Slocombe took over as Postmaster from his father, who resigned on account of his age, and also took over the store.

References

"An Australian Post Office History: Canterbury". The Director, Posts & Telegraphs, G.P.O., Sydney (n.d.)