City Bank of Sydney 1869 10 Pound Unissued Specimen Note MVR# 2c about Unc
A scarce and attractive heirloom from one of Sydney's strongest banks.
The City Bank of Sydney was formed in 1863, merged into the Australian Joint Stock Bank in 1916, then merged again into the Bank of New South Wales in 1931, and finally merged into Westpac Banking Corporation in 1982.
The financial strength of the bank was demonstrated during the Australian banking crisis of 1893, when it was one of only a handful of Australian banking institutions that did not suspend trading. The bank’s notes were backed by NSW government legislation, and they were regarded as being instrumental in NSW working through the stagnant trade and commerce of that period.
The head office of the City Bank of Sydney was on Pitt Street, on the location where Martin Place now is. At the time, the building was described as being "one of the architectural gems of Sydney".
Despite the fact it included a number of architectural innovations to minimize the risk of fire, the building burned to the ground on October 2nd, 1890. The fire in fact consumed the whole block bounded by Moore, Pitt and Castlereagh Streets - it was described as being "...the most disastrous fire ever known in Australia." The fire was thought to have started in a Pitt Street printery, it burned all day and into the following day - between 150 and 200 firemen fought the blaze.
A newspaper article covering the event noted that more than a few of those firemen "obtained liquor" from some of the affected premises, and and "...became so intoxicated that they were not only useless but a hindrance to the other men at work. Superintendent Bear dealt with them rigorously whenever a case came under his notice but unfortunately, many of them escaped his observance and did much damage to the adjoining properties by reckless use of the hose. The crowd also interfered so much with the work of the firemen that it was considered advisable to call out the Permanent Artillery, and the men were drawn up across the street, and kept back the too curious spectators until permanent barricades could be erected."
An interesting post-script to that story is that the stone facade of the Bank was purchased by Charles Hoskins (an iron and steel manufacturer), who removed it stone by stone to his building site on The Boulevarde in Strathfield, where it was re-assembled to form the front part of his personal residence. The building has changed hands several times over the years since then and is now part of the Primary School Campus of Santa Sabina College for girls.
The City Bank of Sydney is regarded as being one of the strongest banks to do business in Australia's largest city.
This specimen note remains a scarce and attractive heirloom of its momentous history.
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