RCS Library in 1928
Whilst the Society grew rapidly, it was a several years before it acquired a permanent
headquarters. Until May 1869 the Agent-General for Victoria, George Verdon, provided the Society
with rooms. Adequate funds then permitted the renting of a suite in the Westminster
Palace Hotel (RCI, Proceedings 1869, p.210). A series of moves followed but by
the early 1880s it was no longer felt that hired rooms were suitable. After much
procrastination the lease for a piece of land in Northumberland Avenue was acquired
and a building fund established. A new six-storey building was completed in 1885.
This accommodation soon proved to be somewhat cramped and the early 1900s saw
considerable structural work. The expanded headquarters opened in December 1910
with the library occupying the entire first floor. However, within a few decades space was once again in short
supply. The 1930s saw the purchase of a neighbouring building and the construction
of a new headquarters across both the old and new sites (Rees 1968, pp.24-25,
93-94 and 132-133).
Throughout all the upheaval the library continued to grow and by the mid-1930s it
consisted of over 244,000 items (Mackenzie 1998, p.169). Nevertheless, it was
becoming increasingly obvious that the Society was in need of re-organisation,
particularly in regard to financial matters. In the early 1930s the then Librarian
wrote: "Will Fellows who propose new books please note that the Library grant for
the year 1932 has been cut by one half and with the best will in the world, it is
not possible to purchase many of the books that are suggested" (Library Suggestions
Book, quoted in Barringer 1994, p.2; see also: Rees 1968, p.193). However, the
advent of the Second World War focused attention elsewhere and, for a few years,
budgetary concerns became secondary.