Royal Bank of Scotland: “A sober mid-Victorian interpretation of the palazzo style.”

Royal Bank of Scotland, Church Street, Sheffield. Image/DJP/2022

Royal Bank of Scotland, on Church Street, closed earlier this year, its use undermined by the growth of online banking, and Sheffield city centre lost its last grand purpose-built bank.

Now it is empty, awaiting a buyer who will have to pay more than £575,000.

An excellent redevelopment opportunity’ with the potential for a wide range of future uses including ‘residential, offices, hotel, retail and leisure’, subject to obtaining planning permission. The building has 9,910sqft of floor space spread across the basement and the ground, first, second and third floors.

Until a buyer comes along, and that might be a lengthy process, the bank will stand silent, dust gathering, and trees growing from the roof. It joins several gracious old buildings that stand vacant on Church Street.

But let us look back to happier times.

The year was 1866, and the directors of the Sheffield and Rotherham Bank had decided to build new premises ‘which should take its place as amongst the first in the town.’

Sheffield and Rotherham Joint Stock Bank, old premises on Church Street, Sheffield. Image/PictureSheffield

The directors invited several well-known architects to submit their plans for a new bank on the site of its old premises on Church Street.

“The aim of the architects is to produce a suitable front, which could take its place becomingly among the other buildings in the same street (the Cutlers’ Hall and the Hallamshire Bank) and be effective and business-like, without excessive decoration.”

The winning design, came from Flockton and Abbott, it was built by Mr J Niell of Bradford and Sheffield, and the wooden interiors were supplied by William Johnson and Son, Fargate.

“The style of architecture selected is Italian. The bank will have a frontage to Church Street of about 70 feet, and the elevation will exceed that of the Cutlers’ Hall. The front will be of Darley Dale stone, and the introduction of sixteen pillars of polished red granite will effectively embellish the design.

“The principal features of the exterior are those suggested by the purposes of the building and are formed mainly by the banking room with its entrance, and the general meeting room on the first floor.

“The banking room (55ft by 34ft and 21ft high) will be a large and lofty apartment, its counter being 50ft long, and especial pains have been taken to arrange it so that every portion shall be thoroughly well lighted with large and lofty windows at each end, and a roof light for the central portion.

“The entrance to the bank is very short and direct. Close by the manager’s seat and under his control is a money safe (9ft square by 6 ft) with an iron safe inside it lined with steel. Adjoining this is another safe for the reception of books. There will be communication between the safe doors and a bell in the resident’s clerk’s bedroom.”

The Sheffield and Rotherham Joint Stock Banking Co. (Limited), Church Street. 1897. Image/PictureSheffield

The bank opened in 1867, but what became of the Sheffield and Rotherham Bank?

There was a time when banks were local businesses, built to serve Sheffield’s people, but they were amongst the first businesses to disappear through national mergers and acquisitions.

The Sheffield and Rotherham Bank was one such, its history going back to 1791 when Vincent Eyre (1744-1801), solicitor, and land agent for the Duke of Norfolk, became a founding partner in Walkers, Eyre & Stanley, a new bank with branches in Sheffield and Rotherham.

Eyre probably provided a significant amount of the original capital, and like his fellow partners, Samuel Walker (a wealthy Rotherham iron merchant) and William Stanley (a prominent Rotherham merchant), probably used the bank to manage and develop his own business activities. The Duke of Norfolk was also an important early customer of the bank.

The business was sold to the Sheffield & Rotherham Joint Stock Banking Company in 1836 and grew rapidly, its main office was on Church Street, with branches in Bakewell (1837), Buxton, Cavendish Circus (1856), Dronfield (1873), Matlock Bridge (1877), Baslow (1892), Darley Dale (1893), Higher Buxton (1899), Parkgate (1899), Attercliffe (1902) and Winster (1904).

The bank had its problems, with major accounting difficulties discovered during the 1840s and bad debts soaring during the local commercial depression of the late 1870s.

In 1907, with a paid-up capital of £256,000, the bank was acquired by Williams Deacon’s Bank Ltd of London and Manchester, which had a strong network of branches in the Manchester area and was looking to expand into South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire.

Williams Deacon’s Bank later became Williams & Glyn’s Bank and subsequently disappeared within Royal Bank of Scotland.

Williams Deacon’s Bank Ltd., No. 5, Church Street, previously Sheffield and Rotherham Joint Stock Banking Co. Ltd. 1909. Image/PictureSheffield
The Cutlers Hall, postmarked 1903, Williams Deacon’s Bank Ltd., No. 5, Church Street, left, (previously Sheffield and Rotherham Joint Stock Banking Co. Ltd.). Image/PictureSheffield

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.