Unusual Land Bequest Of Last Century
By A Staff Writer
THE sale by auc tion to be held today, of the Ex chance Buildings in
Pine street recalls an unusual chapter in the history of land owner- ship in Adelaide. It is one of the last pro- perties to be sold by the in heritors of the rich Mc- Henry bequest, in which the entire block of land bounded by Pirie street, Exchange place, McHenry street and Gawler place was be- queathed by the owner to the 'lessees or holders' of the property. Dr. George McHenry, an Englishman who invested money in land in Adelaide, bought the two town acres 168 and 169, of which this area was the southern part, from Mr. (later Sir) Row- land Hill, secretary to the Board of Colonisation Com- missioners. Hill had acquired these two acres under Land Orders 190 and 191 in the original sale of land in the colony. The sale to McHenry was made soon afterwards, for the transfer was recorded in 1837. It was part of an ori- ginal investment of £162 by McHenry in this and country land. McHenry sold the portion of the land north of Mc-
Henry street during his life- time. and it was not involved in the bequest. McHenry street, named after him, was made as a private road, and a lane on the next acre towards King William street was also at one time called McHenry street. It is now Exchange place. In 1868, William King, a timber merchant and at one time a city councillor, leased portion of Acre 169, and by 1874 all the property to Gawler place, except for two blocks fronting Gawler place at the back, were leased to King. In 1877 King erected on the corner of Pirie street and Gawler place the block of shops known as King's Buildings. On the part of the property where the Ex- change Buildings now stand, he had a timber yard. King fell into financial difficulties that year, and the remainder of his 50-year lease was bought for £11,000 by the brothers Henry and Frank Rymill, who became sub-lessees, and paid £400 a year to McHenry. King leased from them for £800 a year the portion of the land on which King's Build- ings stood. When taking over the land, Henry Rymill had it resur- veyed, and found that a nar- row strip between the two acres, 3 ft. 6 in. wide at one end and 1 ft. 9 in. at the other, was not accounted for. In 1879 he obtained a sepa- rate lease for this portion from McHenry, and the firm thus became direct lessees of a small portion of the land. Building began that year, when 292 ft. of frontage from Exchange place was panted on an under-lease in the Exchange Building Co. The Exchange Build- ings, designed to accommo- date sharebrokers, were completed in 1880 at a cost of £12,000. King leased from the Ex- change Building Co. the 85 ft. immediately east of the new building, and in 1882 built Pirie Chambers, since modernised as Queensland Insurance Building. Mr. (later Sir) Josiah Simon, QC, leased the next 103 ft. of the frontage and erected Selborne Chambers and the Selborne Hotel, where the Hotel Adelaide now stands. King finally went bank- rupt and left the State to live in Victoria, and the whole of his sub-leases re- verted to the Exchange Building Co. When George McHenry died in 1890, it is assumed he felt that those who had risked large sums in improve- ing the value of his land should reap the benefit of it, and he left it to his son, Louis McHenry, with the wish that on his death it might pass to the lessees. This Louis Mc- Henry stipulated in his will when he died in 1896. The Rymill brothers, as
holders of the leases and, through Henry Rymill's lease of a small strip, of the land, direct lessees, were the chief beneficiaries, but a legal battle followed the return of William King from Mel- bourne to claim his inherit- ance. The Court ruled against him, holding that the words 'lessees or holders of the present leases' did not mean both . 'lessees and holders ...' but was an explanatory phrase for the present occu- piers of the estate. The value of the estate, comprising the whole of the block except for two small properties facing Gawler place, was estimated in newspaper accounts of the time at £70,000. Death duties were paid on a value of £40,000. In 1929, to lessen the im- pact of Federal and State taxation, the families of the joint owners agreed to di- vide the property, with an adjustment in money for the difference between the two portions. The family of Frank Ry- mill took Pirie Chambers and the Selborne block, and Henry Rymill's family the Exchange Buildings and King's Buildings.