Former Cobargo Bank of New South Wales building listed for sale

The old Bank of New South Wales, later known as the 'Bank of Ales' is up for auction on Saturday February 26, 2022. Photo supplied.
The old Bank of New South Wales, later known as the 'Bank of Ales' is up for auction on Saturday February 26, 2022. Photo supplied.

A heritage building in Cobargo on the NSW South Coast, known as both the old Bank of New South Wales and later as the 'Bank of Ales', is up for auction.

Before potential new owners settle into the building, we wanted to take readers on a journey back in time, through a brief history of the building as well as memories from Cobargo locals of its time as a bank.

The Cobargo District Museum said the land was first purchased by the Bank of NSW in 1915 for 1000 pounds.

The museum said the land contained a saddler shop, a restaurant, a fruit shop, a garage and a condemned cottage.

The first steps to making it into a bank was converting the garage into a temporary banking premises until the two-storey brick building was completed by Kelly and Rigby in 1917.

A picture of the historic building in Cobargo while it was still a bank. Photo supplied.

A picture of the historic building in Cobargo while it was still a bank. Photo supplied.

Apparently it cost them £3275 to build the bank and the building's structure stood out from all the others in the village - but more on that later.

In 1982 the Bank of NSW took over operations of the Commercial Bank and the new entity was renamed Westpac Bank. In 1994 however, Cobargo's branch ceased trading and was closed off on May 6.

It was then sold by auction to a couple who established a sports clothing manufacturing business called Kinetix Sports Clothing.

As that business phased down it became better known for its supply of home-brewing products and referred to as the 'Banks of Ales'.

Fun fact: previous owners of the building painted over the letters so that it read as the Bank of Ales instead of the Bank of New South Wales. Photo: Amandine Ahrens

Fun fact: previous owners of the building painted over the letters so that it read as the Bank of Ales instead of the Bank of New South Wales. Photo: Amandine Ahrens

In preparing the above notes, ACM would like to acknowledge the assistance of Cobargo District Museum and two articles, Stories of Cobargo by Margaret Evans and Story of Cobargo written by Colin Tarlinton.

Roof not meant for Cobargo but the Snowy Monaro region

The bank's structure in 1917 was different to the rest of the buildings in town, the biggest stand out being its roof.

Cobargo local and principal at LJ Hooker Bega, Gerry Tarlinton, said the roof had in fact been caught up in a builder's mix up during its construction.

The roof in Cobargo had actually been meant for a building in Cooma, but while both roofs were being built, the builders accidently switched them.

Gerry Tarlinton said the old building lost only the garage at the back of the premises to the Black Summer Fires but luckily the rest of the building was saved. Photo: Amandine Ahrens

Gerry Tarlinton said the old building lost only the garage at the back of the premises to the Black Summer Fires but luckily the rest of the building was saved. Photo: Amandine Ahrens

"The roof in Cobargo is very steep and it was supposed to go to Cooma because they need steep ones up there to get the snow off, but Cobargo's roof ended up in Cooma," Mr Tarlinton said.

Mr Tarlinton said he remembered another fun fact about the bank's vault.

"If the staff were ever to get robbed back in those days, they'd lock themselves in the vault," he said.

"You could imagine back then if someone robbed you and you had a few of you in a room which was quite small, you'd run out of air. So they had a system where you would pull a steel rod out and it gave you air to the outside."

Mr Tarlinton said he also remembered opening up his first bank account there when he was 10 years old.

What would have been the front house and front office space, as well as the vault at the old Bank of New South Wales. Photo supplied.

What would have been the front house and front office space, as well as the vault at the old Bank of New South Wales. Photo supplied.

"I remember you'd walk up to a beautiful timber counter, and the counter was not dissimilar to now, you just had a timber screen with glass on it instead," he said.

Cobargo's Tony Allen shares a yarn of the building

Cobargo local Tony Allen said he remembered the bank's services being of great help to the local community, particularly the farmers.

"They had a staff of 25 people, that's massive for a small town to have a bank with that many people working in it in the mid seventies," he said.

Mr Allen said he remembered when the Cobargo football team had six players working and living in the old bank as well.

Cobargo's May Blacka outside the closed bank where a wreath was hung - "RIP the bank with no money". Photo supplied.

Cobargo's May Blacka outside the closed bank where a wreath was hung - "RIP the bank with no money". Photo supplied.

He said the bank's closure however in 1994, was strongly felt by the community.

"Just like that they closed, it was absolutely devastating and some never banked with them again," Mr Allen said.

Brenda Whiffen, another Cobargo local and former worker in the bank, said she remembers her time as a machinist there fondly.

"It was a lot of fun, I was the only girl there and we all had a lot of fun working together," she said.

The room that previously housed much of the brewing equipment formerly sold in the building. Photo supplied.

The room that previously housed much of the brewing equipment formerly sold in the building. Photo supplied.

Ms Whiffen had worked in the bank in the early 70s for a couple of years.

Ms Whiffen said she used to work at the back of the building but still remembers the "lovely" timber bench at the front counter and the front office of the bank which she said was nicely laid out at the time.

A tour before the auction

The auction of the building will take place on the premises on Saturday, February 26 at 10.30am.

"We'll be there around 45 minutes earlier and it'll be available for people to have a look through," Mr Tarlinton said.

Mr Tarlinton said he was excited to be handling the sale of the building.

A sneak peak into the living quarters of the historic building. Photo supplied.

A sneak peak into the living quarters of the historic building. Photo supplied.

"I'm excited because I opened my first bank account here as a child, and now here we are, 40 odd years later in a situation where you're selling it in your hometown," he said.

All three locals said they hoped the new owners will help restore the old building and make something out of the place.

"It's a well known building in such a prominent spot and you can't miss it, any which way you come through Cobargo," Mr Tarlinton said.

"It'd be lovely to see someone bring it back to its former glory, whether it be a lovely home or some sort of business."

A view of the historic building, known as the old Bank of New South Wales. Photo: Amandine Ahrens

A view of the historic building, known as the old Bank of New South Wales. Photo: Amandine Ahrens

This story 'If the staff were robbed, they'd lock themselves in the vault': Rich history behind bank listing revealed first appeared on Bega District News.