Monday, December 7, 2015

Royal Bank of Queensland, George St

Have you ever thought about setting up a bank or an insurance company? When I first worked in the insurance industry I used to fantasise about starting a new insurance office, but that was merely the day-dreams of youth, largely based around the idea of making my then very tedious job redundant.

Yet in the earliest days of the Australian colonies that is what happened. Groups of men got together, pooled resources and kicked off these necessary commercial institutions. One such establishment was the Royal Bank of Queensland, set up under Royal Charter (how hard would it have been to obtain that from the farthest outpost of the Empire?) in Brisbane in 1886. The aim of these enterprises was to retain capital locally in the colony to provide further growth, rather than having profits repatriated to England. 

The Richard Gailey designed building that we are looking at today is in George St and was originally erected in 1885 as two shops, but leased to the Royal Bank of Queensland in 1888. Here is a current photograph of the building, the last structure in Brisbane with associations to the Royal Bank of Queensland, although some of their other buildings elsewhere in Queensland remain and are heritage listed. This building is listed on the BCC heritage register.
 (Photo: © 2015 the foto fanatic)
In the days prior to Federation banks issued their own currency. In fact they did so right up to 1910 when the Australian government legislated to prevent private banks from issuing notes. Here is a copy of one of the bank's own £20 notes from 1886.
In the years leading up to the 1890s Brisbane, and George St in particular, were in an expansionary phase, but the inevitable bust cycle arrived in tandem with the 1893 flood, a double-whammy that took Queensland many years to recover from. There had been heady days in commerce, but the boom and bust cycles that repeated themselves in those times made life very difficult for a fledgling bank.

The Royal Bank of Queensland built this head office in Queen St in 1891. It was replaced in 1930 by a new National Bank building that still stands in the Queen St mall. 
 (Photo: SLQ 66715)

Yet in 1893, only a couple of short years later, there was a petition to wind up the bank after it was forced to suspend business in a knock-on effect following financial problems at other banks. The Royal Bank of Queensland managed to survive that period and it existed for another two decades.

The Royal Bank of Queensland merged with the Bank of North Queensland in 1917, forming the Bank of Queensland. A mere five years later the Bank of Queensland was folded into the National Bank of Australasia.

The Bank of Queensland that exists today emerged in 1970 from beginnings as a building society and subsequent mergers with other institutions. It has no association with the Royal Bank of Queensland discussed here.  

Click here for a Google Map.


Dear readers: This is the last post for this year, but the blog will return early next year. I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas season and a healthy 2016. tff
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