The image above shows a grand building which once was at the heart of Sydney’s business activities. The postcard describes the building as the Wool Exchange, but in actual fact its proper name is The Royal Exchange. However, the building was the site of wool auctions in Sydney and in time became the worlds greatest centre of wool sales.
Although the Royal Exchange can trace its history back to the 1820s, it was not until 1851 that the Royal Exchange Company was formally created. The aim of the company was to create a place where the business community of Sydney could meet and conduct business. Land was granted to the company in Gresham Street and by 1857 the building was complete. Many leading citizens of Sydney’s business world soon became members of the exchange including John Fairfax, T S Mort, Robert Tooth and W C Wentworth.
The building itself may have a fascinating history, but what went on inside the walls is truly remarkable. The first telegraph message sent in NSW was sent from the exchange on the day that it opened and within a week a telegraph line was installed linking the exchange directly with the signal station at South Head. Many prominent associations of the time were formed within the walls of the exchange including the Royal Humane Society of NSW and even early attempts to form the Chamber of Commerce were undertaken here! NSW first telephone system was installed in the exchange in 1880, connecting the exchange with the Darling Harbour Woolsheds. Just weeks later numerous wharves had been connected and by 1882 there were 300 subscribers to the system. Even the first public demonstration of electric lighting in the colony took place here, being held in the dining room on the 6th of December 1882.
Although The Royal Exchange itself still exists today, in the same location, the beautiful building which was once such a prominent landmark and bore witness to so many historic events is now long gone, replaced by a modern Royal Exchange.