Naseby’s postal service with times

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The News continues its regular Charms of Yesteryear feature this week, helped by Maniototo Early Settlers Museum researcher Hazel Harrison.

She shares her knowledge of the Naseby Post Office, which still stands proud on the town’s main street, about 120 years after it opened.

Almost three years later the postmistress contacted the Central Otago District Council requesting a wage rise, which puzzled the council as they, despite paying out a fortnightly wage, were not aware of her.

 

A two-storey brick building that boasts a certain type of grandeur sits proudly in Naseby’s Derwent St.

The building, which opened in March 1901, housed the town’s telephone exchange and post office service, and also provided weary travellers with a place to stay.

Times changed quite significantly for Naseby residents when the building was finally completed, as Maniototo Early Settlers Museum researcher Hazel Harrison points out.

 

In August 1863, the first Naseby postal service opened in a shop owned by a Dr Smith, where mail was collected each Wednesday but no stamps were sold from there.

A few months later a Mr Busch opened a shop, where the Maniototo Jubilee Museum is now.

Post office facilities were transferred to Mr Busch’s shop, but not everyone was pleased with the changes, Mrs Harrison said.

“Some locals were not satisfied with the service, as mail for Naseby posted in Naseby had to travel to Dunedin and return before being delivered, a delay of three days.”

She said Charley Rowe, who became aware of the problem, started his “Rowe’s Express” delivering mail and any type of goods from businesses, in Naseby or beyond as far as Dunedin.

“Once the officials realised local mail did not have to go via Dunedin, Rowe’s Express was out of business.”

By 1870 the telegraph came to town and needed a separate building and operator.

A section on Derwent St was bought and tenders were called for a post office and telegraph office.

Four years later the telephone replaced the telegraph.

“By 1899 that building was run down and needed to be replaced. A deputation met with prime minister Richard Seddon and successfully pleaded their case.”

Fast-forward to 1901, when the idea of the grand brick design was proposed, complete with telephone exchange, post office and accommodation.

A Mr Drake was awarded the tender and on March 27, 1901 Naseby mayor Alexander Herdman, later chief justice of New Zealand, officially opened the building.

In August 1909 the old post office clock was replaced by a new double-faced clock.

“That clock is still on site and operating, but requires to be hand-wound every seven days.”

Local postman mail delivery was stopped in 1923 due to cost cutting and replaced by postal boxes.

When NZ Post moved to close the post office in the 1980s and relocate the boxes to a nearby shop, the Naseby Borough Council acquired the building to continue normal services.

In 1990 district councils took over from local boroughs, which included all assets.

“Almost three years later the postmistress contacted the Central Otago District Council requesting a wage rise, which puzzled the council as they, despite paying out a fortnightly wage, were not aware of her,” Mrs Harrison said.

“They quickly arranged with the Naseby Store for the postal boxes to be moved there and postal services be provided by the store.”

As a result, post office business went the “full circle” returning to a local shop.

The grand brick building is now owned by the Department of Conservation, which has leased part of the ground floor as a Naseby Information Centre and Craft Centre.