In 1872 the telegraph line, providing state of the art communication, linked Gulgong (in central western New South Wales) to the outside world. Gulgong was thriving, with massive gold production- in August 1871 the Gulgong Guardian reported that 10,000 ounces of gold (that’s worth about 17 million dollars at today’s gold price) had been sent from the goldfield by escort during the previous month. The population was close to 9000.
Today Gulgong is famous for its incredibly rich heritage of gold-rush era buildings. The original Telegraph Station, constructed of weatherboard and iron, no longer exists, but 140 years later, Peter and Annette Bruce, owners of Gulgong’s historic Post Office and postmaster’s residence, recreated it, using the original Colonial architect’s plans. These plans were an unexpected find among Government archive documents relating to the Post Office.
Recreating the Telegraph Station involved meticulous attention to detail. The hardwood weatherboards were rough sawn, and the single sash 12-pane windows and 4-panel doors were especially made, as were many other features. The result is an authentic building which complements the many historic buildings in the town centre.
Happily, the new Telegraph Station is furnished and appointed vastly better than the original, which was apparently pretty terrible. The Gulgong Guardian, on 21 February 1872, under the heading “Our Fabulous Telegraph Service”, presented a scathing criticism of the building, describing it thus:
“An office … about 24 feet square, out of which a space 3 feet 2 inches by 2 feet 11 inches is allotted to the public. One side of this box, which can accommodate only one person at a time, is the pigeon hole through which messages are passed. On the other side is a narrow ledge on which to write your message.“
A year later, things had not improved. The Gulgong Guardian reported, on 7 May 1873 that the building was inadequate and neglected.
“…the disgraceful unfinished state of the Telegraph Office … is a fair illustration of the manner in which the goldfield is managed by the existing Government…
This neglect is degrading to the inhabitants, and simply brutal to those who are compelled to do duty in such a building…one person at a time can squeeze into the three by three box so ingeniously erected for the writing of messages. If it is raining, any second person must stand out in the weather, patiently waiting his turn to aid the public revenue. Last year an old nail can, perforated with holes and placed on three bricks, did duty as a stove. The smoke arising from it gave a delightfully hazy aspect to the interior, and a weird look to the shivering forms gathered around it for warmth. “
Today’s Telegraph Station offers luxury accommodation that the gold rush era citizens could not have imagined. Peter and Annette were amazed at how a building, designed so long ago, could be used efficiently and comfortably today (with the addition of the kitchen and bathroom of course).
Operating as Gulgong Accommodation, the building now houses two luxurious private apartments. One is a studio apartment, the other has two bedrooms. Have a look at the website- http://gulgongaccommodation.com.au/.
The Telegraph Station is surrounded by lovely gardens, with plantings of summer annuals, spring bulbs, crepe myrtles, and a lovely plumbago hedge.
Flourishing climbing roses (the sublime Pierre de Ronsard) grow along the post-and-rail fence.
The building is an important part of Gulgong’s gold-rush era streetscapes, with their jumble of charmingly faded shops, banks and hotels, solid municipal and administrative buildings, and humble, weathered cottages, creating the town’s unforgettable atmosphere of history and nostalgia.