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Bank of NSW

1899, 7 High Street and 14 Cliff Street, Town Lot 19, Wilkinson & Smith, architects.
In 2022 this was for sale.

The Bank of NSW building, at 7 High Street, on the corner with Cliff St, was designed by Wilkinson & Smith, and built for the Bank on land owned by Pearse and Owston in 1899. The building was fully leased to NDA when it was sold in 2014. The current owner is former mayor Peter Tagliaferri.

Australia's earliest films discovered in bank cellar

Twelve canisters of film were found in the cellar in the Bank of NSW building on the corner of High and Cliff Street Fremantle in 1979. Some of the films had been shot by Marius Sestier, the first person to shoot moving film in Australia. His films include one of the 1896 Melbourne Cup. He was here in 1896 on behalf of Lumière Cinématographe, the Lumière Brothers having made the first movies ever only just the year before, in 1985. When he departed Australia in 1897, he left the films with his colleague, Georges Boivin, who gave them to his brother-in-law, Edmond Antoine, who bought the Bank building from the Bank in 1927 through his company the Swan Wool Scouring Company. It may have Jean, Edmond's eldest son, who stored the films in a trunk in the cellar there, as he ran the business. The location would have been chosen because cellulose nitrate tends to disintegrate and even self-ignite if not kept in appropriate stable conditions, such as below ground. According to the TV Week story which follows, some of the films were made by the Lumière Brothers. If that was the case, Sestier must have brought them with him to Australia for public screening.
For more of the story, read Sally Jackson's articles (see refs below).

The title deed (below) shows that in 1927 the property was purchased by Edmond Antoine's company, the Swan Wool Scouring Company, and continued thus until 1958 (although Antoine had died in 1936).

Former Bank of New South Wales Building. Architect: Wilkinson and Smith. On the south-east corner at no. 7 High Street. This was constructed for Captain W M Owston in 1899, and he operated a branch of the bank there until 1916-17. It has a superb carved jarrah ceiling, typical of the sober opulence of older banks. On the top of the facade are scallop shell mouldings, a decoration found on other buildings in the West End. Now NDUA Comms Lab and academic offices. Hutchison.

Heritage Council:

The first building on Lot 19 was a long galvanised iron warehouse built for Pearse and Owston, to the rear of the lot. It was not until 1899 that a banking chamber and three offices were constructed. The Bank of New South Wales was Australia's oldest bank and for many years its most nationally based. Its appearance in Fremantle in the 1890s suggests that boom time in the western third was being watched with interest by financiers in the eastern colonies. Its opening coincided with commencement of work on the inner harbour. The one storey building was not elaborate when compared with bank buildings in Melbourne or Sydney, but it does represent an investment in the fortunes of the colony and a growing awareness that Fremantle was about to grow into a major port. It had one chamber and three rooms and was in use as a bank until 1926.
In 1926 Swan Wool Scouring Co of WA took over as owners and occupiers.
In 2002 the building was occupied by Millennium-Exposition of Wonders.
In 2010, the building is the School of Business for Notre Dame University.
A Heritage Assessment was prepared in November 2009 by Heritage and Conservation Professionals for advice to Council (DA0562/09) for retrospective development approval for the installation of air conditioning units.
Physical Description
This single storey painted tuck pointed brick commercial building with roughcast stone foundations and a zero setback from the pavement. The building features stucco cornice and highly decorative parapet, which has engaged low piers and pediments that are finished with a pair of spheres on the top corners. The main entrance has a stucco gable above and recessed timber French doors, the recessed stucco arched windows have external metal security bars. Heritage Council.

After the Arcs d'Ellipses farce, the paint was removed from the bricks in the pediment and they were apparently repointed with red mortar, in what may have been experiment to see how the whole building would look if so renovated. (Merely my own personal observation and hypothesis.)

References and Links

Heritage Council.

Wikipedia page.

Jackson, Sally nd, 'Marius Sestier and Australia's earliest film', NFSA.

Jackson, Sally nd, 'Salon Lumière: Australia's first cinema', NFSA.

Jackson, Sally 2010, 'Patineur Grotesque: Marius Sestier and the Lumière Cinématographe in Australia, September-November 1896', Screening the Past, 1 September.

Many thanks to Julie Dyson for information about her great-uncle, Georges Boivin, and about the discovery of the Sestier films. Also for the copy of the title deed above, and the cutting from TV Week.

Garry Gillard | New: 29 August, 2015 | Now: 10 December, 2023