Gothic Splendour to remain in Old South Melbourne

The English, Scottish and Australian Chartered Bank, known as the ES&A during its long lifetime, built some amazing buildings in Melbourne. These Bank buildings were constructed in a Gothic Style of Architecture and were certainly very different to some of the more sombre banks of the time.


The most famous of these was the building located at 388 Collins St, now an ANZ banking chamber. Its proper name is the Verden Chambers, but to the public it is affectionately known as the Gothic Bank.


The ES&A Bank built many of its branches in the Gothic style ranging from the Rocks in Sydney to Mt Alexander Rd Ascot Vale, where the theme prevailed. And perhaps one of the most notable examples in an otherwise Victorian era visage was the bank constructed on the corner of Bank St and Clarendon St, South Melbourne in 1880. It was and still is a striking edifice with curious round windows and full capped chimneys, a slate roof and pier capped wrought iron on brick fence.


Nationally it is probably the second most significant of the ES&A Bank buildings. “Built in 1880 to a design by architectural firm Terry & Oakden. It is an inspiring 2 storey Gothic Revival building of Hawthorn bricks into which are set polychromic brick bands, string courses of both render and encaustic tiles and granite colonettes flanking the doorway. Of local significance” Is it largely intact and when the ANZ added a section at the rear in the 1970s the modifications were supervised by the National Trust to ensure the new extensions remained in sympathy with the overall building. To a great extent it was a successful project and the building retained its integrity.


More recently the ANZ Bank have vacated the premises, moving further down Clarendon St next door to the Commonwealth (Cnr of Dorcas St).


The building is currently owned by a property group headed up by M/s Anne Mihelakos. As with other buildings on the Clarendon St strip, eastern side, the group have submitted plans to the Pt Phillip Council for a multi storey development at the rear of the heritage listed building. This involves the small carpark and the 1970s addition (which would be demolished). The new building featured would be for offices.


In designing the new building, the group’s Architects have looked to profile the bank building rather than hide it, encroach upon it, or envelope it. Design features such as the circular window highlight the existing bank building’s rather unique features.


With the removal of the ANZ Bank’s detritus and infrastructure, the large original chamber has been exposed. Advertising will soon begin for a new tenant (perhaps a high end furniture, homewares or design oriented showroom?).

Interestingly, the Development group scheduled to construct the new building are a predominantly female team, known as SheBuilt. The group functions with most project lead positions being filled by women.


“In an industry dominated by men, we’re proud to offer an alternative – a place where women can support one another creating projects of significance.”


This would appear to be a very different style of project. Currently awaiting approval, it is comforting to see this beautiful building being preserved intact, free standing with little alteration other than restoration of features removed in the 1980s. The project is now in the domain of public opinion. We are taking a neutral position and leaving it to you to make your own decision with regards to the project. We wish SheBuilt the very best and look forward to seeing these beautiful chambers come back to life with its high ceilings, mitred windows and marble edged entrances. And just the hint of a truly feminine touch.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

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