New Selborne Chambers

The Board of Counsel's Chambers Limited acquired old Selborne Chambers in 1956. The initial enquiries had been made through J. W. Shand, Q.C., and the real estate company Hardie and Gorman Pty. Limited pursued the matter, eventually reporting that an offer to purchase for £70,000, subject to existing tenancies, would probably be accepted. The occupants were advised and at a special meeting twenty-three of them, including a firm of solicitors, agreed to support the purchase by subscribing £25,000 in installments over two years. Against these funds the company's bankers agreed to grant further accommodation and the M.L.C. Insurance Company advanced the balance on the security of a mortgage. A firm offer to purchase for £70,000 was then made and accepted. Contracts were exchanged in March 1956, which was indeed planning for the future as, at that time, there were still vacancies for rooms in Wentworth Chambers. In consequence of the purchase Counsel's Chambers Limited increased its nominal capital to £575,000 and Shand was appointed an additional Director representative of the Selborne occupants. Vacant possession of the chambers was eventually obtained after negotiations and some court proceedings. By 1960 the Board decided that demolition of the old building would be desirable so that a much larger replacement might be constructed. Preliminary architects' sketches were drawn and a special committee of the Board was established to supervise the matter.

For some time previously Manning had been discussing with Government representatives a proposal to build a court house for Federal and State Courts between Phillip and Macquarie Streets. The plan was for Government acquisition of Denman Chambers in Phillip Street and of all buildings on the King Street frontage, including the Queen's Club which stood at the corner of Macquarie Street, and of the Attorney-General's Department and State Crown Solicitor's office in Macquarie Street. The scheme originally envisaged completion of new Selborne Chambers con-currently with the Federal section of the Court and the vacation by the State law authorities of the Macquarie Street property. Space was then to be supplied in new Selborne Chambers for the Attorney-General's Department and the State Crown Solicitor, while the State Government was to make available the Queen's Club as temporary accommodation for the dispossessed occupants of old Selborne and Denman Chambers.

New Selborne Chambers

At a meeting of the Board in July 1960, Barwick, who, not-withstanding retirement from private practice after his appointment as Commonwealth Attorney-General, still played an active part in the company's affairs as Chairman of the Board, presented a report prepared by Manning on the future of the buildings. According to the report:

The Company as originally conceived, was to be a Company of practising barristers and the purpose of the combination was to secure, first of all, that the Bar would remain physically aggregated in Phillip Street, secondly that it should have premises where space would be available at rentals less than commercial rentals and, thirdly, that it should find a professional home.

The report, which was adopted in principle, envisaged a long-term option to purchase the reversion of Wentworth Chambers from the Crown and the ultimate vesting of the freehold of the two buildings in a corporate body representing the Bar, together with a proposal to peg shareholders' capital claims on the company. It was hoped that this would eventually ensure that all the profit or capital accretion derived from ownership and use of the buildings would be channeled to the Bar through the Association to create a fund for Bar amenities and, in due course, to promote legal education and establish scholarships.

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