Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Hobart Savings Bank

The absence of a monetary constitution when Australia was settled in 1788 created the conditions for a century of free banking. Banking companies proliferated in this unregulated environment and Van Diemen's Land was unexceptional. Fifteen banks operated in the first fifty years of Van Diemen's Land's existence, out of an Australian total of 51. They were generally of a limited size and operated on a small scale.

Consequently many failed, while others merged with larger banking companies, particularly those with branch banking structures. Banks were set up either as regular commercial institutions, such as the Bank of Van Diemen's Land (1823), or in a philanthropical vein to encourage the lower classes to save their money. Sometimes these aims were combined. When the Derwent Bank was established in 1829, attached to it was the Convict Savings Bank, an attempt to encourage convicts to improve their miserable status.

The major banks of this type, both aiming at all the'lower classes', were the Launceston (1835) and Hobart (1845) Savings Banks. The Hobart Savings Bank was established by a group of Hobart entrepreneurs headed by George Washington Walker. This bank was originally located at Walkers shop No.65 Liverpool Street and opened for business on the 1st of March 1845.

The function of the bank in the words of the draper Quaker Walker was as follows, "The encouragement of frugality, prudence and industry in the community, and more particularly to enable working classes to improve their circumstances , by means easily within their reach. It offers to all who choose to avail themselves of its advantages a safe mode of investing their savings, affording them not only security but interest for their money, and the liberty of withdrawing either the whole or any part whenever needed" By the end of the first year of trading 601 accounts were in operation.

In 1853 Walker sold his drapery business and the bank needed to find new accommodation "within the ordinary haunts of business and tolerably central." The bank continued to be housed in Walkers new premises located in Collins Street opposite the Hobart Town Courier. In 1857 the government made a decision to vacate the Hobart Gaol located on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets. In July of 1859 a new building on this site became the head office of the Hobart Savings bank. In the following years the bank opened numerous branches in the towns and suburbs of Tasmania.

The Hobart Savings Bank building is a very fine example of a Regency office building and part of a group of related buildings forming an historic precinct. It maintains an excellent intact interior. 'The Actuary or General Manager of the Hobart Savings Bank lived upstairs until the early years of this century'

The Tasmanian banking institutions that ultimately survived well into the twentieth century were two trustee savings banks, namely the Launceston and Hobart Savings Banks, plus the Agricultural Bank of Tasmania (1840) which specialized in rural finance. Attempts to merge the two trustee savings banks into a single state Bank of Tasmania in the mid-1980s failed on parochial grounds, although the Tasmania Bank was created through the merger of the Launceston Bank for Savings and the Perpetual Executors Building Society.

The Hobart Savings Bank continued its separate existence until Tasmania Bank entered a crisis phase in 1989 as a result of poor lending strategies. The Trust Bank of Tasmania rose from the ashes of the Tasmania Bank initiated by a significant injection of state government funds and the inclusion of the Hobart Savings Bank. The new Trust Bank retained the trustee structure of its predecessors. However, the Trust Bank could not sustain a competitive position in the Australian capital market, given its smallness, and so its assets were purchased by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in 1998.

The original building on Murray St still retains its original exterior and grandeur and I believe it may well be currently utilized as office space of some description. A beautiful and classic looking building.

Main Text & Information –
“A Companion to Tasmanian History – Banking & Finance” webpage

Update 23rd May 2014
Thank you to blog visitor Julia, who let us know that the property is now a private residence. Julia also very kindly shared a video link which takes us on a short journey through the inside of the residence. Really fantastic!!! Thank You, Julia

Video Link -


  1. The architecture in your photos is beautiful, especially for such an early period in Australian history. Therefore I would suggest that tons of money was spent on creating the image of a reliable, solid, trustworthy institution that the good citizens of Hobart could do business with. I haven't seen the inside, but the banking chamber may have exuded a sense of reliability as well.

    1. Hi Hels. Great call!!! I would love to see inside as well. I reckon the place must have been quite spectacular in its heyday. I really like the decorated door bell by the front door. Makes you feel like the bank is a very secure institution and your money would be very safe inside. Have never had to ring a door bell to gain access to a bank before. :)

  2. Hi Geoff, The Savings bank is now a private residence
    I really enjoy your posts - keep up the good work

    1. Hi Julia,
      Thanks heaps for clarifying the current situation. And thank you for the link to the awesome video. I'll put the link on the main post so people can access it easily. Thank you so much. A great contribution. Cheers Geoff

  3. Hi there,

    I worked for Colonial State Bank & was part of a team who flew from Sydney to Hobart in Dec 1999 to meet the staff who were broken the news that a takeover deal had been signed. At the time CBA were not in the picture. Colonial were trying to expand market share and there were rumours that we would go to Perth next if we successfully bid for BankWest. Unfortunately, CBA closed that deal and before we had even merged all of the Trust Bank records into Colonial, the shoe was on the other foot & CBA was to be our destiny. I remember all of the Tasmanians we worked with as geniune & professionals who were nice to us during the process & even gave us Colonial people some words of comfort when we were told the same news as they did 6 months previously. So to correct the information above, Trust Bank's assets were purchased by Colonial in 1999 & then Colonial was purchased by CBA in 2000. We closed Colonial's doors in mid 2001.
    Kath Hope

    1. Awesome. Thanks heaps Kath. A great insight to the final years.