On 30 September 1887, following four years of construction, the Sandhurst Public Offices on Pall Mall were officially opened (during the city’s prosperous gold era), and this grand Renaissance Revival style building operated as the city’s post office for over a century, until Australia Post established their new city facility at the corner of Williamson and Hargreaves Streets in 1996.
Since then, the former Post Office has become residence to Bendigo’s tourist information centre, and with its prime position in the heart of town, council recognised an opportunity to put the building to even greater public use by establishing a place for the display and interpretation of the region’s rich and dynamic history.
A provincial city recognised for its heritage and culture, Bendigo’s attractions feature many well known institutions, including Bendigo Art Gallery, the Capital Theatre, the Golden Dragon Museum, the Central Deborah Mine and Bendigo Tramway’s Talking Trams. However, to date there has never been a traditional ‘social history’ museum, a venue where significant collections, artefacts and material that explore the broadest possible history of the region can be exhibited and enjoyed.
The establishment of the Post Office Gallery introduces this social history element to the community’s cultural foundation, by providing the residents of the City of Greater Bendigo and its many visitors with a vital focal point for its long and proud history. And by employing a ‘gallery’ model, with a changing annual exhibition program, Post Office Gallery makes possible a continual exploration of the region’s heritage whilst also ensuring operational sustainability, broad engagement, and strong and ongoing community involvement.
Post Offices in Bendigo
Bendigo has had several post offices since the discovery of gold 160 years ago, with the most recent on Hargreaves Street being number seven.
The first was opened in June 1852, with two tents on Bendigo Creek - one being for incoming mail, and the other for outgoing. Those receiving mail were notified by lists posted on nearby tree trunks. Less than a year later, a wooden building was erected at the same location, despite constant mud in summer and regular flooding in winter.
In 1858 the post office was moved to a larger brick building on View Place. By the late 1860s these accommodations were inadequate; operations were temporarily relocated to the Temperence Hall further up the street, while a new building was erected at View Place. The original brick building was carefully dismantled and re-erected as a private residence in the township.
Continuing population expansion meant that the community quickly outgrew the new facilities, and in 1882 plans were drawn up by Major George W Watson (Department of Public Works) for the new Sandhurst Public Offices on Pall Mall. The Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Brougham Loch, laid the foundation stone on 8 August 1884 at a ceremony marking the beginning of construction.