Passing along the street to Hunter street, on the southern corner we still find a building which was, in 1848, a tavern kept by Mr. C. Skinner. On the corner of De Mestre-place Mr. J. G. Cohen had his auction mart, and on the other side of the place Mr. G. S. Lloyd, the commission agent, was located.
One door removed from Mr. Lloyd were the three shops which still exist, and are numbered 314, 316, and 318. In the centre one of these Mr. J. T. Grocott had his music saloon, while No. 318 was the home of that stormy petrel of the literary world, the “Atlas.” Inseparably associated with this newspaper is the name of Robert Lowe, who descended on Sydney in 1842, flamed here as a meteor for eight years, then returned to England with a comfortable competence, and lived to become Viscount Sherbrooke, Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Next door to the “Atlas” office was the Bank of New South Wales.
Bank of New South Wales
The bank was founded in 1817 in Mrs. Reibey’s house, Macquarie place, but moved to these premises in 1822. The late Nehemiah Bartley in his reminiscences has left us an interesting picture of this old bank. He says: “To return to the scenes of older Sydney! Why do they so persistently refuse to fade from my memory? Here I find myself once more in 1852, in the old Bank of New South Wales, in that dark, low. and dismal building on the east side of George street, with the dingy grass plot in front of it; how unlike a modern bank it is to look at! And yet they made money there. Once more do I pore over those ghostly old ledgers, rich in memories of embryo Australia—crammed with bygone names, each folio with its little story of surname; each one mingles somehow with the warp and weft of early Sydney family life.
Trustees of Launcelot Iredale, William Ranken Scott, Reuben Uther, George Swinnerton Yarnton, R. and E. Tooth, John Yates Ruther, R. A. A. Morehead, T. S. Mort, Herbert Salwey, W. C. Wentworth, R. R. C. Robertson, of Wellington Vale; John Smith, of Wallerawang; C. R. and W. D. G. Haly; and time would fail me to tell of the Paytons, the Tittertons, and of Tom Kite, and of Elizabeth Beard, and of the times when the wild red and white epacris could be found growing two miles nearer to the General Post office than they now can be . . . when they used to give concerts in the big room of the Royal Hotel, and when Tom Mort would be the funny man of his party there. When ‘Simon the Cellarer’ was the latest sensation in bass songs, vice ‘The Standard Bearer’ superseded (pro tern) . .. To return to our dear old bank. The accountant, H. B. Cotton, was a tall, thin, mercurial gentleman, who, in office hours, wore a sort of long coat, and by the way of relief to the tedium of eternal figures he would at times strike an attitude and quote Shakespeare, a proceeding which failed to meet the approval of John Hunter Bailey, our Scotch secretary, a clever, earnest man, a connection of Dr. Lang’s, but foredoomed by the phthisis to a too brief career of usefulness. He checked his banking cough one day as he saw Cotton in a Shakespearian attitude, and uttered the words, ‘Is this sober earnestness seemly in an accountant when there is a discrepancy in the balance?’ alluding to some calling over that yet remained to be done over an undiscovered error, and which Bailey thought should take precedence even of Shakespeare.
Old John Black, the manager, lived on the premises, which had not been constructed with that eye to the due separation of banking and domestic concerns which obtains now in the palatial banking houses. And it fell out one day that Mr. Bailey, while absorbed in writing letters of great importance to the London office, had his nerves shaken by feeling a something unknown and decidedly out of its place between his legs. The startled secretary (who was childless himself) suspended his pen in mid-air, dived under the office table, and beheld a half-clothed cherub (one of the junior Blacks) playing with the wastepaper basket. How it ever got there was a mystery, but it evoked this severe remark from the stern Scotch banking disciplinarian: ‘Ye little neekid savage! What are ye doing here?’ ”
The bank remained in this building until 1853, when it moved to the site it now occupies. About midway between the bank and the Post Office were the auction rooms of E. A. Lloyd, and close by the Sydney Choral Society, founded in March, 1845, by Isaac Nathan, “to improve the state of choral music in the city, to provide volunteer choirs for the parish churches, and to encourage the practice of music in general,” was wont to meet. The whole of the street from No. 318 to the northern side of Martin place, embracing an area of 1 ac., 2 rds., 31 per., was originally a grant to James Chisholm.