By Mike Heal, Foster and District Historical Society Inc. Vice President.
IT was interesting to read in last week’s Mirror about the old Foster police stables, and a move by the Shire to have a structural engineer assess this building with a view to restoring these stables. How the stables got to this state of dilapidation can only be answered by the Lessors of the land, but if you’re interested in the history of the township of Foster, then you should know, we only have 3 government buildings still standing from the 19th century. They are, the old Post and Telegraph Office, now the Foster and District Historical Society, the old Courthouse, now Manna Gum House, and the old Police stables, in the grounds of the Manna Gum precinct. No, the Exchange Hotel was built in the early 20th century.
These buildings were built during the late 1880s, and early 1890s, at a time when Foster was changing from a ruinous gold mining town to a prosperous agricultural town helped by the changes in the Land Acts, that allowed people to select arable Crown Lands for cultivation before survey. At the same time a new railway line was being built, and this opened in 1892. The town was already established, but the early government buildings were built during the gold mining years, the police quarters, courthouse, post office, all built from green timber, rough sawn, and roughly built. With a population of around 200, it was time for the government to build more substantial buildings, the town deserved better. They agitated the government, they responded, and what we see today are our only reminders of those prosperous times of the late 1880s, early 1890s.
In 1907 the Foster Progress Association lobbied the government to build a new police station on the Police Reserve in Station Road, Foster, requesting these quarters to be fitting for a township like Foster. In fact, they embarrassed the government by forcing their hand by highlighting the cost of renting premises. They wrote to the Minister telling him that the rental on the police house was being increased by 10% each year, and they couldn’t see why they were not using their own reserve. The initial cost would only be for the quarters, because there was a stable behind the Courthouse. The government was convinced, plans were drawn up by the Public Works Department, and money allocated to estimates.
Just before World War Two, (WW2) a request was submitted to move the stables from behind the Courthouse to behind the police quarters, but war was declared, and the request was dropped.
After WW2, around the early 1950s the request was again brought up, and this time approved. The stables were moved but altered to accommodate a Police Vehicle and a Police Horse. They retained the original timbers internally from the 1880s, including the cobble blocks in the stable but replaced external timbers and added double doors for the garage to preserve the integrity of the building.
During the 1950s Mounted Constable Ian Strawhorn served at Foster.
When he was policing in Foster there was no police car, and if he required a car, he had to use his own or borrow a car (if required) and claim, or use the Police horse.
Mounted Constable Strrawhorn’s wife said; the reason why he came to Foster was because the Station required a “Mounted Constable”, hence the stable,
Maybe third time lucky, but again, just like our forebears, we need to agitate the government to restore the stables by re-instating the integrity of the building for future generations to see the workmanship of the internals and externals of the design of the building. Remember, this is one of only three buildings left, that can connect us to our township’s history from the 19th century with alterations from the 20th century. What a difference between the photo of 1956 and the one in last week’s Mirror.
The Foster and District Historical Society has been in talks with the Shire, but more help is wanted from the town associations, and concerned people. Please write to the Shire and agitate for save the Foster Police Stables and preserve our history, just like our forebears who wanted to improve the township.