Australia in the 1810s


The Bank of New South Wales


On arrival in the colony Governor Lachlan Macquarie found that the European colonists' existing form of exchange was essentially rum. This barter system was so endemic that Macquarie himself used rum to pay for the first Sydney hospital and for the Sydney to Liverpool road. Prior to 1813, the currency of the colony was limited to handwritten notes of credit issued by the English treasury, English pennies and shillings, Indian rupees, Dutch guilders and the Spanish dollar brought into the colony by visiting mariners. A major problem was that when colonial merchants imported goods from overseas they had to pay using an acceptable currency and this depleted the currency stock from the colony.

To prevent counterfeiting and currency leaving the colony, Governor Macquarie issued the holey dollar, which had the centres cut out of the Spanish dollars. In 1813, the colony received £10,000 worth of Spanish silver dollars. Macquarie had a hole punched through each dollar; one part of the dollar (the holey dollar) was worth 5 shillings and the centre part (dump) of the original dollar was worth 15 pence.

In 1817 Macquarie approved the Charter for the first Colonial bank and the establishment of the Bank of New South Wales. It was founded by some wealthy merchants and colonial officials who provided about £3,000 as starting capital. The bank issued banknotes between five shillings and five pounds and paper tokens from one shilling and two shillings and sixpence. Two years later the New South Wales Savings Bank opened in Sydney, Parramatta, Windsor and Liverpool for any settler to bank their savings, no matter how small.

The Bank of New South Wales_1810


A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.

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