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The Central Post Museum: Mauritius in postal times

Le musée de la poste centrale - ile Maurice

The history of the Central Post Office in Mauritius

Long before the advent of modern technology and e-mail, Mauritius had a well-developed postal system adapted to the needs of the nation. However, the first simple postal administration in the island dates back to 1772 under the French occupation. It goes without saying that the postmen of the time were slaves who delivered letters to their separate recipients. Although there was no physical work, the main purpose was to get the letters to the recipients.  

However, the postal system fell into disuse and was resurrected by the English colony in 1834, which re-launched the Mauritian Post in January 1935. At that time, domestic letters were delivered three times a week. As far as infrastructure is concerned, the station on La Chaussée started its work in July 1836 and the first postage stamps of the island appeared in 1847. 

The history of the Central Post Museum

Built in 1868 but inaugurated in December 1870 by Governor Gordon, the imposing structure of the post office served for over a century as the island's mail station, but also as the office of the Postmaster General. But with time and modernisation, the building is now a postal gallery illustrating the historical backdrop of the country's postal administrations from the old stamps to the history of the Mauritian Government Railways, the postal administrations having been affected by the railway stations and the railway line. 

In 1958, the General Mail Station was announced as a national landmark through Government Notice No. 614 by Representative Sir Robert Scott. 30 years later, the building was reconfirmed as a national monument through the 1985 National Landmarks Demonstration. Recently, the General Mail Station was registered on the National Landmarks of Mauritius under the provisions of the Legacy Reserve Act (No.40) enacted in 2003. The building is considered to be one of the most imperative national heritage jewels of the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Cushion area and the city of Port Louis. 

An outstanding structure of the central post office

The general mail station known in Mauritius as the "Central Post Office" was built with stone squares and thick iron and wood bars that are set into the structure. The front of the building which includes five curves where the words "Mail Station" are inscribed in the Oxford style. The engraving of the date "1868 A.D." is also obviously observed. 

Let us go back to the period 1847 to 1870. The English Mauritius Post Office was known as the Postmasters' Building and was located in Port Louis. Reverend Patrick Beaton who was a preacher and a guest of the English government, had in 1853 stated that the old Postmaster's building had been erected on Government Road near Government House. 

It was not until December 1868 that 75% of the building was completed and between 1869 and December 1870, the roof, exterior partitions and front of the building were finished. At the time, the Mauritius General Mail Station cost between £10,000 and £11,000. Over a period of six years, the Surveyor General's office used more than 80 workers to improve this particular structure. Indo-Mauritians and Creoles who were protected by monthly contracts. These people were skilled specialists, stoneworkers, carpenters, masons and blacksmiths, who earned high wages for their work. 

The postal frame 

Years passed and in December 1870, the general mail station was officially presented before it was completed as a utility on 21 December 1870. A few years later, six years later in October 1876, postal stamps were also printed and issued by prepared postal workers. Moreover, stamps have been used in Mauritius since 1848 for the postal administrations and in 1876 they were made at the mail station.  

History took its course and in the mid-1870s, it was at the General Mail that the foundation of the provincial post offices was organised and updated by the Postmaster General and his staff. Thus, by the mid-1880s, some 33 post offices were established in the eight regions of the island. In this way, the Central Post Office building played a central role in the development of an advanced postal framework in Mauritius. 

Heritage at the Central Post Museum

The roof plan, the clock and the external outline, particularly the five curves and also the engravings, on the front of this structure are vital cases of the advanced craftsmanship that created in English in the mid-Victorian period. There are, however, other key postal workplaces that share a comparable history with the Central Post Office, for example, the Rose Slope Mail Station and the old Souillac Mail Station which were built over a century ago by the labour of Mauritian workers. This substantial image remains anchored in our technical and social heritage. And how can we not speak of the foundation of the postal showroom in the General Mail Station whose work in 2008 has enhanced its remarkable esteem and its heritage which would be safeguarded for what is to come. 

Postage stamps from the Central Post Museum

Every stamp has a history and this history goes back to 1846. At that time, the issue of stamps was discussed out of the blue and the proposal was submitted to the Administration Committee. But after lengthy discussions, the proposal was recognised and received and in the meantime, the cost of postal administration rose to the bottom: one penny for domestic postage and two pennies for external postage. 

It must also be acknowledged that the engraving of these stamps was given to Joseph Barnard. He was sent an illustration of the Victoria rule showing in profile and was verbally told the works to appear on the stamps. And while he was scratching away at the engraving, he inadvertently overlooked the words he was told. So he went back to the Postmaster General, Mr Brownrigg, to affirm the directions he had received. He engraved 'Mail Station' instead of 'Post Paid' on the stamps. An aesthetic error that has made the historical backdrop of stamps in Mauritius. The total engraving done, all the last engravings were executed without seals of the postmaster. While it was thought that these stamps would be destroyed before distribution, Governor William Gomm used them to send invitations. Of the 20,000 stamps printed, only 25 remain in the world; private authorities and galleries.

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