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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


Post Office History.

A Post Office was first established at Petone on the 1st July, 1878, being conducted by Mr. S. R. Johnson in conjunction with a shop which he owned. It is, however, evident from early records, that the town's postal history dates back to the year of settlement, for in July, 1840, a mail service was commenced between Thorndon and Petone (then Britannia) with a despatch daily from Thorndon at 8 a.m. and a return from Petone at 1 p.m. The rates charged were 2d. for letters and 1d. for newspapers. The service was operated by boat but in the event of unfavourable weather the mail was despatched on foot. Earlier in the year, the New Zealand Gazette
(a newspaper which evidently was published in Petone even at that early date) advocated the establishment of a mail service between Wellington and the Bay of Islands. "A post route," it states," up the valley of the Hutt and across the country to the Bay of Islands is much to be desired, and we believe could be discovered at a small outlay. It may be found by a white man, but to be turned to account as a means of periodical communication, must be traversed by natives. Were a small subscription raised we doubt not an intelligent European would be found to volunteer the attempt. This reward should bear relation to his success. When success has been the reward of the attempt, arrangements might be made for sending a mail periodically overland to the Bay of Islands."
On the 1st August, 1884, the post office was transferred to the railway station and Mr. A. S. Whitson acted as Postmaster. On the 24th August, 1891, the office was transferred again—this time to Mrs.Janet Fraser's shop situated between Sydney and Fitzherbert Streets. Mrs.Fraser acted as Postmistress until the 2nd July, 1900, on which date an office was opened on the corner of Jackson and Britannia Streets with a permanent Postmaster in charge. The site chosen—that on which the present post office stands—was decided upon despite some protests, but the wisdom of the selection is seen clearly to-day.
The sixties of the last century saw considerable activity in the construction of telegraph lines throughout the colony. Some of the difficulties encountered in this work are mentioned in departmental records and, in connection with the Welhngton-Petone section of the line which was being built in 1867, reference is made to the fact that the difficult nature of the country between Wellington and the Hutt caused some delay to the contractor who, to avoid the use and expense of heavy poles sunk into the rocky beach, placed ordinary poles at shorter distances along the margin of the main road. The road being formed of loose earth and the sea running unusually high during one of the early storms of the season, many of the poles were rendered unsafe and in one or two instances were washed down. Heavy timber and long spans were then adopted.
A money-order and savings-bank branch was opened in 1885. Gradual expansion of savings-bank business followed and by the 1st February, 1934, had increased to such an extent that on that date Petone was made a savings-bank ledger office. The first delivery of mail by postmen at Petone was inaugurated in 1887 with a delivery once daily. A delivery twice daily is, of course, now in operation.
The following is a list of the Postmasters who have been in charge of the Petone post office since it was made permanent:—
Name of Postmaster Date of appointment.
Mr. E. Greatbatch 2nd July, 1900.
Mr. W. C. Drake 24th July, 1909.
Mr. T. Ward 13th November, 1911
Mr. A. Roberts 22nd September, 1917.
Mr. T. A. Ballantine 15th August, 1919.
Mr. J. T. Martin 19th December, 1921.
Mr. G. Nelson 2nd June, 1924.
Mr. J. A. Louisson 11th May, 1925.
Mr. W. B. Rowan 21st November, 1932.
Mr. T. J. McCawe 10th April, 1933.
Mr. S. V. Bargh (Present Postmaster) 20th February, 1937.
The present Postmaster has under his control a staff of twenty-one officers.
It became apparent some years ago that additional accommodation was necessary to deal adequately with the increasing business at Petone and a new office, erected at a cost of £8,297, was opened officially for business by the Hon. F. Jones, Postmaster-General, on the 30th March, 1936. The building is a most up-to-date one and has been planned with a view to future extension, if necessary.
Since the post office comes in contact so closely with the public, departmental statistics reflect very truly the growth of a town and, in this connection, it is interesting to compare present-day statistics of the Petone office with those of past periods.
1894 1914 1938
Money-orders issued and paid : 817 4,515 6,344
Savings-bank deposits : : 879 7,294 26,811
Letters posted and delivered 94,614 687,128 1,281,328
Parcels posted and delivered 326 9,932 23,244
Other articles posted and delivered 46,631 263,234 1,151,204
These figures provide, in themselves, substantial evidence that Petone has developed rapidly during the last forty-odd years.
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Petone's Modern Post Office.

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Petone Railway Station, taken 1906.

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Railway Workshops, Petone, taken 1906.

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