Bank Of Australia

In the late twenties, the building which then stood on the southern end of Messrs. Nock and Kirby's premises was owned and tenanted by one, John Redman, sometimes spelt Redmond. In a memorial to Governor Darling, under date, November 11th, 1829, Redman praying for a grant of the site, states that on it stood a public house with the sign of "Keep within the Compass" and a front two-storey dwelling house and shop. Next door to Redman's was the Bank of Australia.

Robbery Mystery

One morning, in September, 1828, the teller of the bank opened the strong-room to find what was to him an appalling sight. In one wall was a hole large enough to let a man through; the room was in disorder; and when he recovered sufficiently to count the damage a sum of between £12,000 and £13,000 was missing. For two and a half years this robbery was one of Sydney's mysteries, and even today some writers assert that it has never been cleared up. This, however, is incorrect.

Whistleblower

Some two years after the crime a convict at Norfolk Island, undergoing a life sentence, offered, in exchange for a free pardon, a passage to England, and £100, to tell how the deed was done. His offer was accepted, he was carried to Sydney, and three men were arrested and tried in June, 1831.

Mystery Solved

Blackstone, the convict referred to, in giving evidence, said he was approached to join in the robbery. He agreed, and, being a blacksmith, was given the job of making the tools for excavating. These, he said, in operation made no more noise than a rat gnawing. There was a large drain crossing George street which passed underneath Mr. Redman's house and emptied into the waters of the Cove, which at this time ran up to Bridge street. This drain carried off, I presume, the flood waters from the Essex street hill.

It has been written many times that the robbers excavated right across George street, but there was no necessity for this; the drain was large enough to crawl through. A man who had worked on the bank premises gave one of the band the exact location of the bank strong-room, and after taking a series of measurements the men walked down a court on Mr. Redman's premises to the beach where the drain discharged, crawled up the drain, and started to cut through the wall of that gentleman's house. This was two and a half feet through, and the bank wall about the same. It required three days to cut the hole, and, all being convicts, they were free only on Saturdays. On one occasion the drain was entered from Mr. Thornton's land, which was on the southern corner of George and Essex street (i.e., on the other side of George street).

Convicts Found Guilty

The three men were found guilty and sentenced to death. Unfortunately for Blackstone, the informer, on the day before he was to receive his reward he was caught burgling a store, whose contents were worth only £20, and was again sentenced to transportation for life.