The English Scottish & Australian Bank, or ES&A Bank was once one of the major banks in Australia. The Wingham branch opened on 21 July 1947 in leased premises under the management of Mr R.E. Diamond.
Approval for new premises was granted in mid 1955 when the Bank was advised that the present lease would not be renewed beyond December 1957. An irregular-shaped vacant block of land at 15 Bent St (now 13A) was purchased by the Bank for £700; plans for the erection of business premises were submitted for approval later the following year.
From 1953, The ES&A Bank were pioneers of the innovative, Modernist style. They were making a statement, or you could say, branding through architecture. This is not unlike Apple stores today.
The Wingham Branch featured a modern open design with glass and aluminium grill work. The Branch premises were completed at a cost of £13,340 (that was X 10 the average house price at the time) and opened on 4 September 1957.
The opening of the building caused a sensation. It was the first Modernist building in the town. The Wingham Chronicle ran front page articles on it three issues in a row. It said:
Opening To-Day: New Bank Building:
NEW ES&A BANK PREMISES AT WINGHAM…situated in Bent Street are designed to express the latest modern trends in banking.
The contemporary design of the building aims at providing inviting and stimulating conditions for clients and staff alike…
The attractive and utilitarian structure reflects great credit upon the architects for its original conception and upon the builders and allied sub-contractors for the excellence of their individual contributions to the work. It provides a pleasing addition to Wingham’s skyline.
The Chief Manager of the E.S. & A. Bank officially opened the dazzling new premises of the Bank in Wingham on Tuesday. ‘I have much pleasure in handing the building over now to the charge of the Manager, for the use and benefit of the citizens of Wingham,”.
The progress in the construction of the glamorous new building in Bent Street has been watched with pride by every citizen of the town, since the foundations were laid until the culmination on Tuesday, when there it stood, ‘a thing of beauty” – a valuable acquisition to a progressive town and its civic-minded people.
On 1 October 1970, the ES&A Bank Limited merged with ANZ Bank Limited to form the present day Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited.
ANZ Bank’s Wingham branch closed on 18 July 1997, just prior to the 50th anniversary of its opening – the business of the branch was transferred to Taree.
The building was then owned by Dr Shansi Shariff and leased as a music store selling instruments and giving tuition. The vault was used as a drumming room!
The most recent owner is local Wingham business man Bryce Hawkins. Mr Hawkins owned the Wingham Ford dealership and was responsible for the demolition of the Wingham Emporium which was on the corner of Isabella and Wynter Streets to make way for a lot to park his new car stock.
During the period of his ownership since 1997 the building received little maintenance. In addition to this the last tenant – Holiday Coast Credit Union – made a major fit out that did not consider the architectural style or significance of the building. This resulted in the major damage of the original metal tiled ceiling, (to install a false ceiling and ducted air-conditioning). Damage and removal of entrance portico sandstone flag stone flooring (includes cutting in a ramp and gluing of carpet onto the stone). Mr Hawkins advised that the partial demolition of the Bush Rock facade feature wall was most likely approved by Dr Shansi Shariff.