The old bank in the town where I grew up is for sale. Oh, how I long to buy it, and set up house there on the wide, lazy river near Bartlett’s Wharf.
The bank was still open a few hours, a few days a week, when I was a small girl, to provide banking services to those who couldn’t make the trip into one of the larger towns nearby (although the post office also offered some banking services). It is set back from the river, and across the road from the old Royal Hotel (built by Tooheys in 1927, after they bought and knocked down the existing pub).
Between the pub and the bank is a broad strip of grassland, which used to be the site of three enormous fig trees. Only one matriarchal beauty remains. The trees were planted on Empire Day in 1935, to celebrate the silver jubilee of the Coronation of King George and Queen Mary.
Like the pub, the old bank is red brick. A beautiful, tidy, small old building. It was built in 1922, after the existing bank, which was on the river, burnt down. The building was the first in town to be built facing away from the river. Originally, although in New South Wales, the bank was built and operated by the Queensland National Bank. The bank stopped providing full services in 1949.
The small village is a river town, and the town was oriented towards the ferry and riverbanks throughout the early years of its development. The town itself is quite small. It experienced a heyday around the time the bank and pub were built, in the 1920s, although it had been a thriving township in the late 1800s.
Bartlett’s Wharf, near the bank, was named for Edwin Bartlett, who owned and operated a general store near the wharf from 1886. The store sold general goods and saddlery, as well as providing postal services and acting as an agent for the North Coast Steam Company. The town was a busy river port with at least one shipyard, where several ships docked at the wharf each day to load and offload goods, particularly after Carter’s mill was established in 1871.
In those days, the river was full of boats and punts. Locals travelled cross-river to go to church or school, or to visit friends, as well as to transport their own produce on schooners or other larger boats. The ferry operated until 1964, and was built to accommodate people, animals and vehicles. The council’s toll rates include charges for foot passengers, mares, geldings, asses, mules, gigs, buggys, wagon drays and bicycles. The ferries were replaced by a lift span bridge in the 1960s. The bridge, one of the most significant features of the current town, was built by Dayal Singh Constructions, at a cost of more than £360,000.