MARTIN PLACE

Post Office

This brings us to Martin place and the Post Office. This street is a comparatively new throughfare; yet the origin of its name is in doubt. The popular impression is that it was named after Sir James Martin, but in a book published in 1872 the writer says that the new Post Office is to be fronted by a street to be named "St. Martin's lane," and that the Post Office is to be called "St. Martin's-le-Grand."

George Street in 1856, Sydney, Australia

 

GEORGE STREET IN 1856.
Looking towards the Quay from the vicinity of the Post Office. On the left are the Commercial and New South Wales banks, with two shops between. On the right is the Post Office with its six Doric columns.


The latter is the street in which is situated the General Post Office, London. Again, in the "Sydney Mail" of January 21st, 1888, referring to the Post Office, it is stated that "the frontage to St. Martin's lane—a new street now in course of formation connecting George and Pitt streets--is 353ft. 6in." As was recorded in the second chapter, the first Post Office was in Isaac Nichols' house in George street North. It was removed to a little office at the rear of the old Education Offices, Bridge street, recently demolished. In the thirties the Post Office was moved to its present site into a building once used as the Police Office. This site was purchased some years previously by Governor Macquarie for a hogshead of brandy and £30 (or £50). In a picture of this epoch a coach-and-four may seen waiting to pick up the mails for the interior. To write a letter and despatch it to the country was not a matter to be lightly entered upon, for the rate of postage depended upon the distance. A letter 1/2oz. in weight cost 4d. for 15 miles, 6d. for 20, and so on, to 12d. for 300 miles.

In 1847 the six Doric columns seen in the 1856 picture were added to the old building, and when you pass Bradley's Head you may see one of those columns on the point marking the end of the measured mile. In October, 1863, the old Post Office was abandoned, and the department was moved to a temporary building in Wynyard square, while the present office was built. This latter building was opened by a conversazione on September 1, 1874. New South Wales has one curious honour which is not popularly known. It was the first country in the whole world to use postage stamps. In 1837 a Parliamentary committee of Great Britain, on the recommendation of Rowland Hill, proposed that stamped covers or envelopes be introduced. A copy of this report reached Sydney and Mr. Raymond, the postmaster, recommended its adoption here. This was approved by the Governor, and on November 14, 1838, the "Government Gazette" announced that stamped envelopes could be obtained at 1/3 per dozen. This was the first use of stamps in the world, as it was not until February, 1840, that Great Britain adopted the system.

The streets of Sydney today lack one thing—a street character.

Billy Bue, a Sydney Street characterThere has been a succession of these eccentric gentry from the early days, beginning with Billy Blue. Then came the Flying Pieman, Abby Dabby, Garden Honey, Paddy the Ram, and Old Dad—the last of the tribe. In 1828, if one were walking down George street one would meet of a certainty the "Old Commodore," an alternative title to Billy Blue. A writer of those years said that Billy deserved a pension: "Scarcely a day passes but Billy Blue, an octogenarian, makes more than half the faces he meets look happier. Many a one smiles or laughs at him and at nothing else."
"The Commodore for ever," "Standard for ever," "Never Strike" were some of the stock expressions of the Commodore. He was given a grant on the North Shore by Governor Macquarie; hence we have Blue's Point; and a daughter married one Lavender, who gave his name to the bay.