What is significant? The Former Bank of Victoria, also known as the Former CBC Bank, including all of the main building, the former servants' quarters at the rear and the rear wall.
History Summary During the decades following the discovery of gold in Beechworth in 1852 the town became the financial and administrative centre of north-east Victoria. A number of banks were established in the town in the 1850s. In 1856 the Bank of Victoria, which had been founded in Melbourne in 1852, purchased the site on the corner of Ford and Camp Streets. In the following year a new bank building was constructed, designed by the Melbourne architects Robertson & Hale. This building was destroyed by fire in 1867 and in the same year was replaced by a grand new building designed by the prominent Melbourne architectural firm Smith & Watts. This practice was led by A L Smith, who arrived in Victoria from England in 1852 and designed buildings throughout Victoria for the Bank of Victoria. These commissions continued after he formed a partnership with Thomas Watts in 1867. The Bank of Victoria amalgamated with the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney (CBC) in 1927 and the building continued to be used as a bank until the branch closed, and the building was sold, in 1943. It is now used as a jewellery shop.
Description Summary The Former Bank of Victoria is a two-storey stuccoed brick building in a Renaissance Revival style. It adopts an Italian Palazzo form with different finishes on the exterior of the ground and first floors. On the ground floor heavy banded rustication provides emphasis and forms voussoirs above arch headed windows, while the first floor is smooth rendered and window openings are rectangular with simple architraves and hoods. The words 'Bank of Victoria' appear below the upper cornices on the Ford and Camp Street elevations. Above the main entrance on Ford Street is a small balcony with a cast iron railing, and with a decorative pedimented opening into the manager's residence on the first floor. The ground floor once accommodated the banking chamber, gold vault and manager's office. The ground floor has now been converted to a shop, which has required the removal of several internal walls, but the original gold vault remains. The manager's residence on the first floor retains much of its original form, and the servants' bells serving the residence remain on the ground floor. Behind a courtyard at the rear is a single-storey brick building, originally used as servants' quarters. A rendered wall encloses the rear of the site, with the early timber gates now replaced with iron gates. The servants' quarters have been extended, and an extension to the shop covers part of the rear courtyard.
How is it significant? The Former Bank of Victoria, Beechworth is of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
Why is it significant? The Former Bank of Victoria, Beechworth is significant at the State level for the following reasons:
The Former Bank of Victoria is historically significant as a reflection of the increasing prosperity of Victoria, and of the towns established in the goldfields, during the 1850s and 1860s. It demonstrates the development which occurred in Victoria and in the goldmining towns as a result of the gold rushes, and the optimism and prosperity of such regional towns during the second half of the nineteenth century. The former servants' quarters at the rear and the manager's residence on the first floor reflect the common nineteenth century practice of employees living at their place of work. The servants' bells are a now-unusual feature in a commercial building, and reflect the partly residential nature of the building in the nineteenth century. [Criterion A]
The Former Bank of Victoria is architecturally significant as an outstanding example of the Renaissance Revival style, and is considered to be one of the finest banks in this style in Victoria. It is an important example of the work of the architectural firm Smith & Watts, whose designs epitomise the best qualities of this style. [Criterion D]
The Former Bank of Victoria, Beechworth is also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:
The Former Bank of Victoria reflects the wealth of Beechworth as a result of the gold rushes, and the importance of the town as the commercial centre of north-east Victoria in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. It is one of Beechworth's most prominent buildings and is an important feature of the Ford Street streetscape.