Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 3, November 1983

The Tophouse Telegraph and Post Office

page 35

The Tophouse Telegraph and Post Office

The Tophouse Telegraph Station was built about 1876– a two roomed cottage with verandah and lean-to office, kitchen and store room with out-buildings, garden and a good orchard on a ten acre section. Two more bedrooms were added about 1903 by the late Charles Chamberlain. The telegraph line ran from Nelson via Wai-iti Valley, Golden Downs and Kikiwa to Tophouse; then one line down the Wairau to Blenheim and another from Tophouse down the Buller to the West Coast. A permanent linesman was stationed at Tophouse, his chief duty being to repair any faults that occurred on the lines. His section ranged to Hope Junction, Belgrove and Birch hill. Morse was mainly used to send and receive messages and a good deal of switching over the different lines was necessary. The Post Office was opened about 1890 although there was no regular mail service until about 1908.

Mr and Mrs William White were the first officers and stayed a few years, then there was Mr Boers followed by the unlucky Mr and Mrs Wallis. Mr Wallis was killed in the Tophouse Tragedy. I think Mr Boers came back for a while and in 1898 Arnold Hodgen, a batchelor was stationed there. He married a Mrs Hurst from Australia who was staying with my mother at Tophouse and the wedding was held in the Tophouse Hotel. Mr and Mrs Peter McLaughlon were next, one of their boys, Bill, drove for Newmans for several years. He was followed by Mr and Mrs George Aldridge who had a family of eight, mostly girls and one small boy, Jack. They went to school with us at Tophouse Hotel. The eldest girl, Violet, was a smart telegraphist and served in the Nelson Office for some years. They stayed at Tophouse for several years and eventually went to Longford and Murchison.

George Aldridge used to take me on his inspections of lines every three months. On one occasion I rode rode the lines for three months and his daughter looked after the office while he had an eye operation. Snow was the chief trouble, the weight stretched the wire and they became tangled. Occasionally poles came down due to slips or rocks. Mr and Mrs Frank Rush followed Aldridges and were there for many years; then Charles Gates came, he married the Tophouse school teacher after about two years. The Rush family came back and stayed there until the Post Office was transferred to St Arnaud, Lake Rotoiti (I think about 1940). The old post office buildings are still there but are privately owned.

In the early days the telephone was not used much but in later years it was all telephone work. I understand the contract for clearing the way for lines was held by Jonathan Brough and his man. At least some of the line building was done by a man, Bob Salmond, who also relieved for the postmaster. The lines are now maintained by linesmen who travel from the townships by motor vehicles.