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. The Ascot Vale building was fully restored by Balance Architecture to its original heritage splendour twenty years ago. 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 Bank (Cnr of Dorcas St).
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.”
The ANZ has since sold the freehold and it is now 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 Port Phillip Council for a multi storey development at the rear of the heritage listed building. This involves the removal of a small carpark and the 1970s addition (which is to be demolished). The new building featured would be for offices. It was originally approved for five storeys, amended to six storeys and the developers now seek a further amendment to structure atop of the sixth storey – making it seven storeys effectively.
In designing the new building, the group’s Architects have claimed to profile the bank building rather than hide it, encroach upon it, or envelope it. Unfortunately it appears that their efforts are in vain and largely unsuccessful. The new building dwarfs the older bank building. Design features such as the circular window are meant to highlight the existing bank building’s rather unique features. In real terms the new building is entirely out of place in this heritage precinct, towering over the shopping strip and adjacent buildings, ruining sight lines from the Town Hall and elsewhere.
This would appear to be a very different style of project. The developers are currently awaiting approval on the new height request. A demolition order on the 70’s addition and some other facets of the original building is already in place. The project is now in the domain of public opinion. We are no longer taking a neutral position. We encourage residents and interested parties to challenge the construction of the new building and its detrimental effect on South Melbourne and its heritage precinct. A new group ‘Save Old South Melbourne’ is in the process of being set up. We will invite interested parties to join and express their feelings and concerns to both Port Phillip Council and the Minister for Planning, Mr. Richard Wynne with regards to the project
We look forward to seeing these beautiful chambers come back to life with its spectacular high ceilings, mitred windows and marble edged entrances. And just a hint of the real founders of Old South Melbourne – the Dorcas Society.
The Dorcas society were women with vision who established the Emerald Hill precinct from 1854 onwards. Read about it here.
Heritage is precious. Value it, preserve it – it’s the bridge between our past and the present.