THE first banknotes to circulate in the colonial days in Australia were issued by private banks. The Bank of New South Wales was the first after Governor Macquarie decided to form the financial institution. This week's image is a genuine Bank of New South Wales five-pound note that was issued on October 6, 1866, just one of a series of denominations issued by the bank.
Each individual note had its own individual serial number, in this case AA203884. It was issued in Sydney and signed by the bank manager and principal accountant, with each serial number entered into the notes issued register.
The note could then circulate around Sydney and throughout New South Wales and even into other states. Notes such as this would have also circulated on the nearby Turon goldfields.
Part of the Bank of New South Wales' function was to issue banknotes to give a uniform currency backed by gold assets held in its vaults.
This saw the expiration of an era for the promissory notes that had been used earlier as an emergency issue.
The first banknotes issued were two shillings and sixpence, five shillings, 10 shillings, one pound and five pounds.
This banknote is in pound sterling, however, when the Bank of New South Wales first opened, it issued banknotes in Spanish dollars.
This note was printed by Charles Skipper and East, printers of London, before being shipped out to Sydney. Bank records show that these types of note design were first issued on April 1, 1863.
The notes were printed on special banknote paper, but they were quite flimsy, and the circulating notes could tear on fold lines or go through the wash.
In the same year our note was issued, the Bank of New South Wales opened a branch in a rented building in nearby Sofala in 1866, opening for business on July 2.
It bought gold and looked after the local European and Chinese prospectors up until February 27, 1893. During this era, more than 10,000 miners spent time on the Turon and Macquarie rivers.
The two-storey bank building was located on Denison Street in Sofala. The lower floor was for banking business and where the safe was located. The upstairs was for the manager's residence and his family, if he had one. It was constructed of solid, locally made brick walls with a corrugated iron roof.
The banking section on the lower floor featured a central door with an arched multi-glass panel above it and with a large window either side. An upstairs verandah went right across the front of the building.
Occupying a leased building was common in smaller townships and villages and it is known that in 1871, the bank was paying £100 per annum to Thomas Harland, who became the owner of the land on December 31,1862.
In 1871, the land, lot 62, and building was purchased by James Fulton. The bank stayed on as the occupier on a reduced rental of only £80 per annum after renegotiating the rental agreement.
Some time between 1881 and 1893, the Bank of New South Wales actually purchased the land and the bank building from James Fulton for £500. The bank occupied the block of land measuring 28 foot, six inches by 72 foot, seven inches deep to Bowen Street and 38 foot, four inches to Denison Street.
After the bank closed and vacated the premises, it was leased to Christopher Hade on a weekly basis for £100 per annum until 1903.
All banks at one time or other experienced problems with forgers who almost constantly tried to forge banknotes.
In the Central Police Court in Sydney in late April 1892, for example, Frank Laagford, 23, described as a miner, and Alfred Smith, 22, a miner, were charged with having forged a £1 note of the Commercial Bank of Australia.