The building was constructed in 1880.
The building was constructed in 1880. Contributed

Quay St building through the ages: Bank, law firm, tearooms

TO CELEBRATE the opening of the Ellrott's Riverston Tearooms at the former Rees R and Sydney Jones building, The Morning Bulletin has dived into the archives to look at the history of the building.

The two-storey rendered brickwork building, on the corner of Quay and Denham St, was built in 1880.

It was described as one of the grandest and most prominently positioned buildings in Quay St.

At the time of construction, The Morning Bulletin noted it was a "handsome structure”.

It was built for the Queensland National Bank for £8000 by Rockhampton builders Collins and McLean with construction beginning in 1872.

By 1880 the bank held 40 per cent of the total deposits and advances in Queensland.

Many of the Quay St buildings were funded or directly related to the wealth of the discovery of gold at Mount Morgan, however this building predicated the gold discovery by two years. This building in particular represented the earlier success of Rockhampton as a major trade and transport centre.

The architect was Francis Drummond Greville Stanley, who designed a "classicism revival” style. The building was the first of many bank buildings for Stanley who went on to design Queensland National Bank buildings in Brisbane, St George, Maryborough, Warwick, Toowoomba and Bundaberg , which were built from 1880-1887.

A banking chamber was designed on the first floor with the second storey housing a living residence for the bank manager.

In 1886, Rockhampton architect John W Wilson called for tenders for painting the exterior of the building. Further work to the bank was carried out under Wilson's supervision in May 1887, including painting and repairs.

The building forms part of the city's historic d CBD precinct which is distinguished by the late 19th Century commercial buildings.

The precinct represents the importance of the Port of Rockhampton on the Fitzroy River at the time. The port was influential in establishing Rockhampton as the commercial city centre. The Fitzroy River wharves fostered the substantial commercial development along Quay St.

The solidity of the buildings symbolised the wealth, confidence and community developers and investors viewed in Rockhampton's future.

Queensland National Bank moved to new offices on East St in 1975.

The building was later that year purchased by legal firm, Rees R and Sydney Jones, which occupied a building three doors down.

Rees Rutland Jones founded the legal firm in 1864.

He was one of the best known legal practitioners and prominent public identities in Central Queensland, eventually becoming a member of the Municipal Council, member for Rockhampton North in the Queensland Legislative Assembly and solicitor for the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company.

CHEERS TO US: Jim Ellrott with his two daughters, Caitlin Ellrott and Hannah White, celebrate the opening of Riverston Tearooms on Quay street yesterday morning.
NEW BEGINNING: Jim Ellrott with his two daughters, Caitlin Ellrott and Hannah White, celebrate the opening of Riverston Tearooms on Quay St last week. Vanessa Jarrett

He was the town's solicitor from the years 1871 until 1896.

He was married to Matilda Jane Brown and together they had 13 children.

He established the legal firm with his brother-in-law William John Brown. When Brown died in 1889, he was replaced by Charles Sydney Jones, who was no relation.

At the time of his death, Rees R Jones was the oldest practitioner (age 76) on the Roll of the Supreme Court.

The premises were refurbished in 1988. The ground floor of the building (former banking chamber) was redesigned to accommodate professional members of the firm as well as the support and administrative staff. With the increase in staff numbers and the introduction of new workplace technologies, it was decided that a mezzanine floor should be built between the ground and first floor.

The first floor living quarters was converted into an area containing the Law Library, Board Room, interview rooms, kitchen and staff rooms.

Rees R and Sydney Jones occupied the building for 36 years, from 1976 to 2012.

The building was listed on the State Heritage register on October 22, 1992.

The owners of Riverston Tearooms, Jim and Maria Ellrott, bought the building in early 2015.

The Ellrotts did some further renovations to the building, restoring some parts, converting upstairs back to a living quarters and re-doing the floors. They also removed a set of stairs that were installed in the 1980s to open up the main downstairs area for the Tearooms.

Riverston Tearooms officially opened to the public on September 27, 2018.

The Ellrotts also owned another business House of Treasures, an antique store in William St. The antiques have been combined into the tearooms space as displays positioned throughout the eating area. Another room will also house estate jewellery.