History in Structure

Former Barclays Bank Building

A Grade II Listed Building in Plymouth, City of Plymouth

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Latitude: 50.3687 / 50°22'7"N

Longitude: -4.1417 / 4°8'30"W

OS Eastings: 247783

OS Northings: 54277

OS Grid: SX477542

Mapcode National: GBR RBF.0C

Mapcode Global: FRA 2862.B7Y

Plus Code: 9C2Q9V95+F8

Entry Name: Former Barclays Bank Building

Listing Date: 22 September 2003

Last Amended: 29 April 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1390618

English Heritage Legacy ID: 490720

ID on this website: 101390618

Location: Plymouth, Devon, PL1

County: City of Plymouth

Electoral Ward/Division: St Peter and the Waterfront

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Plymouth

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Tagged with: Building

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The former Barclays Bank building, constructed in 1950-2 to designs by Curtis Green, Son and Lloyd; converted and extended vertically in 2005-7 by Architects Design Group. This later extension is not of special interest.


Originally a bank building, designed 1949, and built 1950-2 by Curtis Green, Son and Lloyd, partner in charge Christopher Green, for Barclays Bank, with sculpture by William McMillan. The building underwent extensive work in 2005-7, with the ground floor being converted to restaurants, and the upper floors converted to flats; a two-storey vertical extension was built, providing further residential accommodation. The architect for the new work was Architects Design Group.

MATERIALS: part load-bearing and part framed construction, clad in Portland stone with granite plinth. The two-storey extension is fully glazed to the outward elevations, with a steel frame. The inward-facing elevations of the central courtyard are rendered, with sash windows.

PLAN: the original building was square on plan with an offset central courtyard, and of three storeys with basement; the roofs were flat, with stair towers within the courtyard to north and south, rising above the level of the internal parapet. The former double-height banking hall is entered from Armada Way through lobbies fronted by the corner porches, with small rooms to either side. The space behind and above the banking hall was office space, accessed through the hall, and by entrances to the north and south.

EXTERIOR: all façades are of twelve bays with small-paned windows: timber sashes on the upper floors (alternate ones are tripartite) and metal to the ground floor and semi-basement. The ground-floor windows have granite surrounds and aprons, with a deep sill band above; alternate first-floor windows are set within a flat Gibbs surround, formed by negative delineation of the bands and voussoirs, with raised circular keystone; there is a minimal cornice below the parapet. Corners facing north and south to Armada Way are set back above ground-floor level, with engaged semi-circular porches formed of square columns with circular moulding to capital and frieze, and slightly stepped hood, set on semi-circular steps. Solid panelled doors have an architrave surround with '1952' date, surmounted by a cartouche with the letter 'B'. To the centre of the north and south elevations are plainer entrances, each having glazed double doors within a moulded granite architrave with rectangular keystone. Above the south entrance the words 'Barclays Bank Chambers' are carved. Each entrance is approached by steps with wrought iron balustrades; a new ramp has been installed at the right side of the north elevation, giving access to both entrances. The west elevation, to Armada Way, is the most elaborate. The central five double-height bays have large round-arched openings with scrolled keystones, originally windows; of these, the left-hand, central, and right-hand openings have been extended to accommodate doors, with decorative glass above. The remaining window openings retain their original lead boxes designed by William McMillan, and dated '1952'. Also by McMillan are four engaged sculptures of heroic figures – the classical gods Ceres, Jupiter, and Mercury, together with a miner – set on tapered plinths between the windows and, in full relief, corner figures of Sir Francis Drake and an ARP warden or firefighter, complete with bucket and flames. The street names are carved beneath these figures.

The elevations of the glazed extension are set back from those of the original building, with overhanging eaves; the negative corners are filled by balconies. The glazing is in horizontal panels, with sections opening on a horizontal pivot.

INTERIOR: within the former banking hall, the street openings are reflected by tall door openings to the west. The space retains its coffered ceiling in decorative Swedish style, its classical frieze, and stone embellishment of window and door openings, to both street elevations and interior, with scrolled keystones, brackets and urns, and mouldings to the soffits; there is a stone dado. Along the centre of the hall, placed between the tall openings, are three square stepped columns with moulded panels. The entrance lobby to the north-west retains its original form, the opening to the hall being marked by a stone frame, with stone doorways set in a curved wall leading to the small rooms flanking the lobby. The office area to the north-east has been opened out to connect with the main space. A mezzanine has been inserted within the eastern part of the hall, reached by a spiral stair. A number of new fittings have been installed, including a central bar. The south-west lobby area has been converted to a separate café space, and retains no original features. The north and south entrance lobby areas retain their internal arched openings with glazed doors, and stone lining to the walls, with openings to the lift shafts. The open-well stairs have iron balustrades of geometrical pattern with a slender timber handrail, above basement level. The building's former office spaces, now occupied by restaurants and flats, do not retain original features. The basement, which contained the bank's strong rooms, retains an armoured door.

The original stairs have been continued into the new upper storeys, with the detailed balustrade having been replicated. A bridge link with glazed walkways has been inserted across the courtyard from north to south. Also within the courtyard, a raised extension against the north range provides extra restaurant space.


Following the devastating German bombing raids on Plymouth of 1941 the City Council employed the eminent town planner, Sir Patrick Abercrombie, in association with the City Engineer and Surveyor, J Paton Watson, to devise a plan to re-build the city. This plan, published as 'A Plan for Plymouth' in 1943, envisaged a grand new city planned on Beaux-Arts lines and completed with good contemporary architecture, divided into precincts. This was among the first plans for rebuilding England's bombed cities, and was certainly the most formal. The Plan divided the new city into precincts, with a civic centre, an area for shopping, and an area for hotels and restaurants arranged around the grand axis of Armada Way. .The space allotted to banks, to the south of the civic precinct, was slightly enlarged at the behest of the Committee of London Clearing Banks. Barclays Bank stands on a pivotal corner site on Armada Way, to the south of the civic centre, adjoining the listed Guildhall and registered Civic Square.

During the course of the C20 local and regional banks merged to form larger national businesses. This was part of a wider effort by the banks both to become more efficient and to compete with the building societies as home ownership and consumption increased during the increasingly affluent post-war years. Banks employed leading architects to design their most prestigious premises, and often developed a corporate style. The best known example of this phenomenon is the employment by the Midland Bank of Sir Edwin Lutyens as an architect in private practice during the inter-war years. Some major banks chose instead to create their own architects' departments composed of salaried architects.

The distinguished London architect William Curtis Green was employed by Barclays on a string of buildings starting with the 1927 conversion of his 160 Piccadilly (now listed at Grade II*). The firm of Curtis Green, Son and Lloyd, awarded the RIBA Gold Medal for Architecture in 1942, was known for its facility with classical architectural language, which endured as a favoured style for banks, suggesting the durability of tradition, and hence of savings entrusted. This is underlined by the subtle combination of granite and with limestone in the Plymouth building, which was probably designed by William's son Christopher. The building is the most overtly Classical building of the new city, and is of particular note as a Classical building of high quality, built so early in the post-war period. Construction work ended in 1952 with the building incomplete: the original design had a further two storeys, providing commercial office space in addition to that required by the bank, with the recessed top storey having a pediment surmounted by a flagpole facing Armada Way, but the builders only applied for a licence for the bank premises themselves.

In 2005-7 the building was re-developed to designs by Architects Design Group of Plymouth: restaurants were created on the ground floor, with flats above and two further storeys were added to the original building.

Reasons for Listing

The former Barclays Bank building, Armada Way, Plymouth, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the building is of note as an accomplished Classical building constructed early in the post-war period, to a design by a distinguished architectural practice, employing subtle variations on Classical details, enhanced by the use of contrasting Portland stone and granite;
* Artistic interest: for the exceptional quality of William McMillan's sculpture, enhancing the effect of the building, and reflecting aspects of Plymouth's history
* Interior: for the impressive double height banking hall, in which the overall space and rich decorative scheme, relating strongly to the external treatment, remain intact;
* Historic interest: for its significant role within the post-war Plan for Plymouth, being the first bank constructed, on a prominent site;
* Group value: the bank forms part of an exceptionally strong contemporary post-war group, with the Civic Centre and Guildhall – both listed – and the registered Civic Square.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

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