Banking began in Sydney in 1817 when the Bank of New South Wales opened its doors with an ex-convict as its first teller.
In 1836, branch banking began in Australia when the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney opened in West Maitland and three years later the Bank of Australasia hurriedly set up a branch at East Maitland.
Thereafter the banks of prosperous Maitland never looked back and by 1858 the local Bank of New South Wales held deposits of £96,000.
Only Sydney and Melbourne held more and the brisk business of the district facilitated the construction of a series of outstanding bank buildings.
The first of these came in 1860 when the Bank of New South Wales constructed a new bank to the design of one of the colony’s most talented architects, Edmund Blacket.
This building has since been demolished but it was an outstanding example of Victorian commercial design.
Next to appear were new premises for the Commercial Bank Company of Sydney (1864), which also engaged Blacket. Then came the Bank of Australasia (now ANZ) which constructed a fine new building on the corner of High and Elgin Streets in 1870.
Much praised at the time, this structure has been considerably altered in order to increase the space available for business.
The Australian Joint Stock Bank, not to be outdone, employed Maitland’s own outstanding architect for its new branch, now the council’s cultural centre, which was built in 1882 and which is regarded as the best of John W Pender’s work in High Street.
Finally, there was the Commercial Banking Company’s 1888 structure at 315 High Street which was acclaimed by The Maitland Mercury:
“This bank when finished will, without doubt, be one of the finest buildings of the kind, not only in any of the country towns, but also in the colony, or indeed the colonies. It already presents a handsome and striking appearance as it approaches external completion. The front of the building is of Pyrmont stone, and in its construction a thousand tons have been used.”
SOURCE:The Rise of High Street, Maitland - A Pictorial Historyby John Turner