The Western Australian Bank was a proud local business institution that was formed in 1841, and became part of the Bank of New South Wales in 1927. It was one of the very few Australian banks to survive the banking crisis of 1893, and for 86 years it was a trusted member of the West Australian business community.
The banknotes issued by the Western Australian Bank were readily accepted right up until the Commonwealth Government took over the note issue in 1910.
Established in 1841 on the Corner of St Georges Terrace and Pier Street
The Western Australian Bank (WAB) was established under a deed of settlement in Perth on June 23rd, 1841 by a small number of influential pastoralists and merchants in the Swan River Colony that were shareholders in the Bank of Western Australia (BWA). The first directors of the WAB included George Shenton Senior and Edward Hamersley Senior.
These shareholders were dissatisfied with a majority decision by the BWA board to have the BWA’s operations absorbed into the Bank of Australasia, and so chose to establish the Western Australian Bank in competition with the Bank of Australasia.
The first Cashier of the WAB was Richard Wells, and as the the population of Perth was only 2,760 people in 1841, Wells was in fact the only staff member needed to conduct the bank's operations. The first branch of the Western Australian Bank was located at the Eastern side of the intersection of St Georges Terrace and Pier Street - now the location of St Andrew’s (Uniting) Church.
The new WA Bank received strong support from local depositors, and was in fact so successful that it forced the withdrawal of the Bank of Australasia from the WA market in 1845.
The bank’s business was entirely based in WA, perhaps for this reason it was one of the very few banks in Australia that did not suspend during the 1893 financial crisis.
An article in the Argus newspaper in Melbourne announced on January 28th 1927 that the Western Australian Bank had been absorbed by the Bank of New South Wales for a sum of £1,900,000. At that time, the WA bank had 84 branches and sub-branches in Western Australia.
Amalgamation with the Bank of New South Wales was complete by March 29th, 1927, bringing with it the end of a local institution “that had so long identified with the life and fortunes of this state.”
First Notes Were Issued in 1841
The first issue of notes by the WAB was on June 24th, 1841. These notes are known today by collectors as the “Type One” variety, and were composed by a local printer within the Swan River Colony in black ink on only one side, on paper stock that was extremely light, even when compared to other notes from the pre-federation period. By the end of 1841, 1,800 of these notes had been issued and by January 1844, this number had risen to 4,000.
A small batch of several hundred unissued examples of the “Type One” WA Bank £1 note were discovered in the early 1980’s, and were marketed by the well-known coin dealers Downies. These unissued £1 notes were presented in a coloured cardboard album that contained a range of background information on the bank and the note, and was decorated by a number of contemporary watercolours of the Swan River Colony.
Downies’ marketing literature for the notes stated that “From records, it is possible that up to 650 of these notes exist in original and uncancelled condition. However, experts believe the number surviving may well be as little as half of that number.”
Type II Notes Issued from 1844
At the WA Bank’s half-yearly meeting of January 10th, 1844, the Bank’s directors announced that “A supply of new Notes, of a more durable character and from an engraved plate, is also daily expected, to supersede the neat but temporary note in type, which has hitherto been in circulation.”
These “Type Two” notes were engraved outside WA, and on the front at top centre featured an oval containing a swan, with the title of the bank and “Established 1841”.
The name of the bank is in the top and bottom borders, “Perth” is in the side borders. The back of these notes were also blank, all were issued between February 24th, 1844 and November 1st 1860.