"A CHOICE HOLDING" - The Story of
81 - 91 King William Street,
On the 10th August, 1844, Captain Charles Sturt left Adelaide for Central Australia from the corner of King William and Currie Streets.

To Captain Sturt, the corner was a weedy and rubbish littered vacant lot. To us, today, it is Head Office.

Thomas Dyke was the holder of a preliminary Land Order which entitled him to purchase a Town Acre for 12/-. The actual acre was to be his was decided by the drawing of lots, and in December 1837 he acquired Town Acre 140, a "choice and enviable holding".

In 1848 the acre was divided up, and what was to become 81 and 91 King William Street was bought by Edmund Isaac Trimmer. George Morphett was granted a 90 year lease of the corner block by Trimmer in the following year and this lease was later assigned to William Elder (who in turn, at a later date, assigned it to The Bank of Adelaide).
Pictured above : Departure of Captain Sturt's Expedition August, 1844. From an original water colour by S.T. Gill. Looking north-east from what is now 81 King William Street.
By 1897 the Bank was looking for a permanent home. The Gresham Chambers premises, rented at 240 Pounds - per annum, were only suitable for temporary occupation and the Bank first brought a piece of land in Grenfell Street, now partly occupied by the Pearl Assurance Company, for 4,500- Pounds.
This land was later disposed of and in December 1873 the Bank accepted an offer of an 87 foot frontage to King William Street from Mr Trimmer, who had previously given the Bank a 20-year lease over the same area. This land was occupied at the time by Messrs.Way, Parker and Brown, Barristers and Solicitors and is the greater portion of the land on which the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia Limited was later to have its Adelaide Office, and which the Bank was to reacquire in 1962.
The Bank then decided to sell this land to Mr. (later Sir) Samuel Way, the Chief Justice, and to buy from E.I.S. Trimmer's sons, Frederick and Edmund Trimmer, the corner block measuring 70 feet to King William Street and 90 feet to Currie Street for 9,500- pounds.
Once the complicated transactions were completed and the Bank had obtained a freehold title to its site, the stage was set to demolish the meagre buildings facing King William Street and the somewhat more substantial structure occupied by Sherrings, Printers, at the Currie Street corner, with its three iron verandah posts to which citizens hitched their horses.
The design of the new premises was thrown open to public competition, a common practice then, and a brochure was issued giving full details and conditions.
Entrants, who had to submit their plans by February, 1878, were required  to provide accommodation in the basement for two strong rooms for coin, books and securities, a voucher room, stationery room and a clerk's cloak room. On the ground floor the requirements called for a public office and clerk's room, a board room, a waiting room to accommodate also two or more clerks and a lift from the basement.
Pictured Left : Grenfell Street through to Currie Street. Looking West 1865.
Head Office of The Bank of Adelaide in 1880. Alfred Chambers on right of photograph.
The first floor was to be the Manager's residence, to be entered from Currie Street, and was to comprise a drawing room, dining room, morning room and library, together with three bedrooms, two servants rooms, kitchen, scullery and larder.
The successful design was to be awarded a premium of 150 pounds - and the second 75 pounds - and architects were told that "the facades should be boldly treated to be carried out in freestone and not dependent for effect on the elaboration of details". It is obvious that the Directors did not wish to emulate the classic fantasy of the Head Office of the Bank of South Australia which still graces 59 King William Street.
There was little surprise when, from the twenty seven plans submitted, that of Mr E W Wright, a former Mayor of Adelaide and architect of the Town Hall and the G P O, was chosen.
The building was erected by Brown and Thompson for a contract price of 24,000- pounds - and by the beginning of October, 1880, the bank was conducting business from the new premises.
The elaborate suite of rooms designed for the domestic occupation of the Manager and his family were, however, never to be used for that purpose as Mr Wilkinson preferred to continue to live at Lower Mitcham.
The western boundary in Currie Street abutted Alfred Chambers which were originally owned by Joshua Gurr, Storekeeper and Corn Factor of Saddleworth, and subsequently by the Executors of the Estate of Richard Mitchell Deceased. In 1937 the Bank purchased Alfred Chambers of 45,000 pounds - demolished the building and rebuilt on the area to double the size of Head Office by adding five extra bays along Currie Street to merge with the original facade.
The King William Street facade remained unaltered except for the widening of the main entrance doors and the removal of iron railings from below the ground floor windows. The graceful external spiral staircase from the roof to the ground at the south-western corner of the building was another victim of progress.
Until 1962, when 91 King William Street was repurchased by our savings Bank for $480,000, a triangular piece of wasteland behind this new aquisition and alongside the rear southern wall of Head Office was mainly inhabited by weeds. One of the few pieces of land in the city mile that had remained "untouched by human hands" since Adelaide began, it was, in 1962, bituminised and converted into a car park for Bank vehicles.
Pictured left : 91 King William Street in 1898. The Old National Mutual Building on left. Portion of spiral staircase can be seen at rear of Head Office.
Why wasn't this block, right in the centre of the city, ever built upon?

Upon the death of E I S Trimmer, the property bounded by Currie Street, King William Street and Savings Bank Place was inherited jointly by the two brothers Frederick and Edmund Trimmer.
These two brothers, however, failed to agree on a a number of matters and finally decided to partition the property. The problem then arose as to how to do this without giving one brother a more valuable half. To divide it either north - south or east - west would have given one brother a frontage to both Currie and King William Streets.
It was therefore decided to divide the property diagonally in a north - east/ south west direction, and this was done. (See Line "A" in diagram).
Subsequently, the property was again divided along what is now the boundary of our two buildings (Line "B"), the Bank acquiring the corner site and, in 1937, Alfred Chambers in Currie Street which purchase included the triangular portion of land (shaded in diagram).

When the Bank extended its building over the site formerly occupied by Alfred Chambers it was decided that it was impractical to extend the building over the irregular piece of land. Some years later it was sold to the National Mutual Life whose building occupied the southern portion of the land and extended up to the boundary of the triangular piece.
In 1962, when our Bank repurchased the National Mutual Life site, the piece of waste-land was included in the transfer.  

It is interesting to note that what is now Savings Bank Place, a roadway between the Savings Bank of South Australia and 91 King William Street, was not always so.

Before the National Mutual Life built its building at 91 King William Street, it owned and operated from a two storeyed building next door to the present site. Later, when The savings Bank of SA built its present Head Office, the old National Mutual Life building was demolished and the area converted to a public roadway - Savings Bank Place.
Pictured Left :  King William Street 1901. (Farewell to Boer War troops). No 91 on right, next to old National Mutual Building.
When I was Principal Staff Training in The Bank of Adelaide, and probably because of Editor of the Bank's Magazine (which went with the job), I was instructed to write a brief history of the Bank. This was reproduced in the "Report to Staff 1978", and in the possible likelihood that it may be of interest to some it went as follows:

"From modest beginnings The Bank of Adelaide grew into an institution of which its staff could be proud. Of course it was closely identified with South Australia, but as far back as 1890 it spread beyond the confines of the State. In many respects it enjoyed some unique qualities.

The die was cast when a group of Adelaide's leading citizens met to discuss the formation of a bank sympathetic to local requirements. The first Directors were the Hon (later Sir) Henry Ayres (Chairman), Hon T Magarey, Messrs. T G Waterhouse, R Barr-Smith and G P Harris. Other prominent men associated with the Bank's formation were Dr F C Bayer, and Messrs John Dunn, I S Henry, Sir William Morgan, William Peacock and R A Tarlton.  The Trustees under the Deed of Settlement were Messrs Joseph Fisher, Anthony Hall and James Smith.

The new Bank commenced business in Gresham Chambers where the AMP Society now stands. The premises were rented, but later the Bank moved to its permanent site at the corner of King William and Currie Streets, where some years before Captain Sturt had left on an expedition which resulted in the discovery of the Barrier Ranges and Cooper Creek.

When the first balance sheet was presented, four branches had been opened, the first at Kapunda, followed by Port Adelaide, Gawler and Goolwa. In 1886, a local institution, the Commercial Bank of South Australia, failed, and by taking over many of its branches, premises and staff, The Bank of Adelaide considerably strengthened its base.

The London Office was opened in 1890, as a direct link with the 'mother country' was considered imperative. The commencement of representation with the United Kingdom provided vital functions with Europe, and the service to Australian visitors, whether on business or pleasure became legendary.

Financial disasters happen from time to time in every nation's history, but the year 1893 ranks high with the worst in South Australia. Many banks closed their doors, some never to open again. While commercial and political circles were vainly attempting to stem the tide of a crisis originated by an orgy of land speculation, The Bank of Adelaide remained open conducting normal operations. No other local banking institution survived. Its prestige deservedly enhanced by the triumphal emergence from these troublous times, the Bank was proclaimed by the Government under the Trustee Act 1893 as a Bank in which trustees could deposit funds without liability to themselves. For many years the Bank was the only bank in South Australia to enjoy that privilege.

The turn of the century heralded a great pioneering period by the Bank, especially in the development of primary industry. Important districts in the mid-north were beginning to progress with the advent of superphosphate and the subdivision of station properties, and branches at Balaklava, Brinkworth and Port Broughton were opened.

Pictured left The Bank of Adelaide, Waikerie, SA
The Bank of Adelaide was the first bank to become established on Yorke Peninsula, and Curramulka, Minlaton and Yorketown started progressing. In 1905, branches were opened at Port Lincoln and Tumby Bay on Eyre Peninsula, outposts in a vast expanse of undeveloped country stretching into the Great Australian Bight. The Bank of Adelaide was the first bank to assist settlement in the Murray flats, the mallee lands, and the river districts. Indeed, the river branches experienced a period of prosperity because of the facility of transport in an age when roads could only be called rough trails at the best.

Consider the courage and loyalty of the staff in those times, living in primitive conditions to support the interests of their employer and ultimately the prosperity and emergence of their State. The Bank of Adelaide supplied the bulk of the money employed in early development. It was later that Government assistance came in the form of the Advances to Settlers Act, 1908. The trail was blazed by those hardy men and women in the banking industry - we should be aware of it and we should be proud of it.

Post First World War saw the bank developing its interstate network. Sydney was first in 1919, followed by Melbourne (1920), Perth (1922), and Brisbane (1927). Many years were to elapse before we opened at Dandenong (1963) and Hobart (1970). A highly successful venture in the ACT was a result of opening Canberra City (1968), Woden (1975) and Belconnen (1977). Townsville Branch opened in 1978 - expansion into a fast growing provincial city.

The corporate strength improved dramatically. The Savings Bank business, commenced in 1962, continued to expand solidly, steadily increasing its market share. In 1969, The Bank of Adelaide acquired the whole of the shareholding of Finance Corporation of Australia Ltd. with the purpose of increasing the Group's flexibility. The further evolution of the banking industry saw the formation of Adelaide Group Date Pty Ltd., and the Bank's entry into the computer world.

Finally, The Bank of Adelaide was one of a handful of companies in Australia that paid a dividend to its shareholders since incorporation; two other companies - the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac of course) and the Colonial Sugar Refining Co Ltd share that distinction.

Truly, the staff of The Bank of Adelaide inherit a history of which they can be justly proud. They are maintaining that heritage throughout the network of branches, departments and offices.

To all staff, both past and present, this Report is dedicated".
Pictured at Left
Dean Thomas.
This site was last updated on the 9th May 2002.