New Plymouth, the King family and the Stone Cottage
On the 18 November 1861, BNZ opened a branch in New Plymouth.
The second branch to be opened after Auckland, the branch was in a rented 'stone cottage adjoining the Government buildings' - although contrary to popular belief this is not the same Richmond cottage that exists today next to the public library. The Stone Cottage was rented by the Bank from J C Richmond for £50 a year.
From the Stone Cottage, the Bank moved to premises on the south side of Devon Street about 50 yards west of Currie Street corner. From there it moved to new premises erected in 1874 at the corner of Devon and Robert Streets. The original cost of this building was just over £6000. Besides the banking chamber and manager’s office the building also included a residence for the manager compromising six bedrooms, drawing room, sitting room, kitchen, scullery and pantry.
In 1895 work began on a new building on the present site at the corner of Devon and Brougham Streets. This building had accommodation for bank officers while the manager used the old 1874 bank building. In July 1896 the 1874 building was sold to the Bank of Australasia for £4000.
For nearly three-quarters of a century this “commodious, handsome” building was a feature of the town until, in spite of alterations to the interior it became too small to accommodate the staff needed to cope with the ever-increasing business. In 1953, therefore, proposals were mooted for re-building and temporary premises were sought.
Temporary premises were found in White’s Building and were occupied from 13 July 1959. In the meantime, work commenced on the present three-storey building to the design of the New Plymouth architectural firm, Harvey and Bowering. The new building was opened for public inspection on 7 September 1961 and about 1000 people looked over it.
On 8 September the building was officially opened by the Chairman of the Board, Mr John Grierson, C.B.E., in the presence of the General Manager (Mr. R D Moore), Staff and over 500 guests. At the same time the Bank’s centenary was celebrated.
The first manager of the BNZ in New Plymouth was Thomas King. A family with a strong history in the area. Thomas King was father to Sir Fredrick Truby King who went on to study medicine and establish Plunket. Thomas King retired from the Bank’s service on 10 December 1877.
The King relationship with the Bank continued for many years. Before going to Edinburgh for his medical studies, Truby King worked in the Bank of New Zealand, serving in the offices at Auckland, Wellington and Masterton. He joined the Bank in the Inspector’s Office at Auckland on 11 May 1874 and resigned whilst at Wellington on 5 August 1880. According to Mary King in her biography, Truby King – the Man, Truby left banking because he was depressed by listening to the tales of hardship told him by the Bank’s customers during depressed times. Another Thomas King, grandson of the first BNZ Manager, also served in the BNZ.
Alice Lilian Brewster was the first woman to join the Bank at New Plymouth, starting on the 2 February 1916. The bank had decided to employ women to help with the shortage of staff as men enlisted for the First World War. Nine men from New Plymouth Branch joined the Services during the WWI, four of whom never returned and are remembered on the banks memorial plaque.