History in Structure

Royal Bank of Scotland

A Grade II Listed Building in Plymouth, City of Plymouth

We don't have any photos of this building yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 50.3703 / 50°22'13"N

Longitude: -4.1379 / 4°8'16"W

OS Eastings: 248059

OS Northings: 54456

OS Grid: SX480544

Mapcode National: GBR RC1.CQ

Mapcode Global: FRA 2862.5QK

Plus Code: 9C2Q9VC6+4R

Entry Name: Royal Bank of Scotland

Listing Date: 20 August 2009

Last Amended: 29 April 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393429

English Heritage Legacy ID: 493569

ID on this website: 101393429

Location: Barbican, Plymouth, Devon, PL4

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: Bank building

Find accommodation in


The Royal Bank of Scotland, Plymouth, built in 1956-1959 for the National Provincial Bank by the Bank's architects' department, with B C Sherren as Chief Architect.


MATERIALS: reinforced concrete frame largely clad in Portland stone, Dartmoor granite and High Broom hand-made facing bricks. The attic storey is clad in patinated copper, and most of the windows and doors are bronze; the windows open on a horizontal pivot.

EXTERIOR: the building is free-standing on a sloping island site, with each elevation afforded architectural consideration. The plan form is an open E. To the front the character is civic and ceremonial in character, to the rear defensive and military.

The principal, west, elevation to Royal Parade is of five storeys, plus the set-back attic storey. It is fifteen bays wide with a large deeply recessed flat-headed portico of four storeys framing the central section, within which eleven bays are reduced to seven. The six slender granite columns to the portico - rectangular on plan and without ornament - are connected at the second floor by a continuous open balcony with railings. The columns have concealed lighting built into their rear face. Above ground-floor level the recessed windows are laid in a rigid grid around the portico where they are contained within the joint lines of the Portland stone cladding. The ground-floor windows are double-height, those to front of the portico lighting the banking hall and those to the side lighting the stair lobbies. The rear wall of the portico is decorated with turquoise mosaic, heightened with lilac, and enlivened by gold devices drawn from the histories of both the National Provincial Bank and Plymouth. The mosaic has been repaired in places. The two symmetrically placed entrances to the banking hall have door frames of white marble within which are set bronze double doors each containing ten decorative roundels depicting ancient and modern coins. A plaque to the north wall credits the builder. To either side of the portico, granite planters with fluted fronts are incorporated beneath the windows. The attic storey, with its copper cladding, is a shallow barrel-vaulted structure of nine bays with square windows. From its centre rises an illuminated clock tower of copper-sheathed steel with blue glass panels, which is surmounted by an access platform with bronze balustrade and flag-pole in the manner of a look-out or crow's nest.

The rear elevation is six storeys plus attic. The basement storey and machine-room with replacement glazing above act as a podium for the recessed upper storeys of the central façade and link the flanking stair towers. The basement storey originally consisted of a loggia with granite columns, which has now been filled with brick. The stair towers project to enclose the central façade and create an open balcony with railings above the machine room. The pattern of fenestration to the rear differs in character from that to the front. To the central façade the windows are rectangular and break through the joint lines. The windows lighting the banking hall are double-height. Each of the six-storey stair towers has a frame of Portland stone, within which the wall is clad in hand-made buff-coloured brick. The north tower is pierced by a rigid symmetrical pattern of small square windows - four to each storey - within Portland stone frames. The brickwork to the south tower, which contains toilets, is left blind. The Portland stone inner return of each tower contains a single window elongated over four storeys. Each tower is terminated by a set-back tile-clad service storey with rounded corners. The attic storey, which may originally have been open to the rear, is glazed along its entire length between squat tile-clad columns.

The end elevations are both of five storeys plus attic, clad in Dartmoor granite, with large rectangular windows to the ground floor and smaller rectangular windows to the four storeys above. The granite cladding projects to form a framed edge to the building's principal elevations to east and west. To the centre of each is a vertical row of windows, separated by panels in which the granite is machine-carved in vertical strips. In the south elevation there is a second vertical row of windows to the right. To the ground floors are projecting single-storey flat-roofed pavilions, the roofs of which are concave to their leading edge and supported by sturdy piers of roughly hewn Dartmoor granite. The pavilion to the south housed the manager's office. That to the north was the entrance hall for the tenants who occupied office space on the upper floors, and has glazed side-screens of sandblasted glass with cast emblems representing the National Provincial Bank (the C18 Bishop's Gate, the Bank's headquarters having been at Bishopsgate in London) and Plymouth. The entrance retains its original bronze doors, with replacement handles. Before the entrance, curved granite steps, with new handrails. There are planters beneath the windows on both end elevations, as on the west front.

INTERIOR: the building's principal space, the banking hall, which originally rose through two storeys, fronted by the western portico, was entered directly through the paired doors. Suspended ceilings have now been inserted throughout, and the area has been subdivided vertically by partitions. New cladding materials obscure the teak floors, the walls - the contemporary press reported that the north and south walls were lined with Serpeggiante marble - and the short marble columns which marked the south end of the hall; however, it is thought that these features survive, whilst the original banking desk may also survive, beneath later cladding. The double-height tenants' entrance hall survives as originally designed, though some more recent furnishings and fittings have been installed. The walls are lined with polished travertine limestone, the lower portion of the eastern wall, with openings for the stair and lifts, being of Derby Dene limestone carved with vertical strips. The entrance hall is overlooked by a three-sided gallery, angled above the entrance, with a bronze balustrade, which now gives access to the inserted mezzanine floor - an opening having been cut at this end and to the south - as well as to the stair and lifts. To the south wall, two engaged marble columns, echoing those originally visible in the banking hall. The travertine floor noted in the contemporary press is now obscured by carpet. The stair is of terrazzo, inset with non-slip cubes, and there is a bronze wedge-shaped handrail; the southern stair has a terrazzo dado with plaster above, and the handrail is of aluminium. The two floors above the banking hall were originally open, with the intention that they could be divided into offices as required. The original first floor - now referred to as the third floor - remains open, with a line of square columns relating to those of the portico outside. The columns and walls have later cladding, and there is a false ceiling. The windows to the west give on to the balcony in the top part of the portico; the two doorways which originally provided access have been partially blocked for conversion to windows. The original second floor, now referred to as the fourth floor, also remains open-plan, with the original timber fittings, including facings to the columns, the doors and door surrounds, and glazed screens. At the north end of this floor, a bronze tablet commemorates members of the National Provincial Bank who served in the First World War; the tablet was recovered from the bank's former premises in Bedford Street. The top floor, originally intended as a flat, is now an open office, with a timber-faced extension along the east side. It is thought that small rooms to the north and south ends of the building do not retain original features. The clock lantern and the chamber beneath it contain the original clock with its working machinery.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the contemporary railings to the rear car-park are set in dwarf walls of Dartmoor granite, stepped to accommodate the rising ground to the north, and consist of rectangular panels with rounded corners, separated by piers.


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. St Andrew's Cross was unquestionably the most prominent and desirable of the bank sites and an almost civic function was conferred on the building, standing at the head of the new Royal Parade, with the clock tower forming an important local landmark. The deep blue rear wall of the portico is suggestive of both royalty and the sea. The bank opened on 8 September 1958.

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 grew 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 National Provincial Bank of England was established in 1833. In 1918 it merged with the Union of London & Smiths Bank, and in 1924 the resulting concern was re-named as the National Provincial Bank. F C R Palmer and W F C Holden were employed soon afterwards as the bank's official architects. In the post-war period, with B C Sherren as Chief Architect, the National Provincial Bank continued to demonstrate its commitment to contemporary architecture with a series of new banks such as the Canterbury branch bank (1957), the most notable being the bank at Plymouth. The design, which bears a striking resemblance to the Finland Station built in Leningrad at the same time, is a compelling synthesis of recent Scandinavian Modernism, the Festival of Britain style (its curved copper roof recalling that of the Festival Hall), and traditional classicism. This subtly original interpretation of Classicism is based on the work of the Italian Rationalists and also draws on the local context for its effect. This was not just a branch bank, but was to be the headquarters for the South West of England. Accordingly the architects were given a very generous budget and this is reflected in the high quality materials used throughout the building.

The National Provincial Bank became part of the National Westminster Bank in 1970, which in 2000 was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland. The building is now occupied by the Royal Bank of Scotland, and is no longer used as a bank branch, though a small section of the former banking hall is used for business banking, with office space above. Changes in use are reflected in modifications to the interior of the building, most notably the division of the original banking hall.

Reasons for Listing

The Royal Bank of Scotland, Plymouth, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: as an inventive re-working of traditional bank architecture, rationalising Classical forms to create a commanding building in which an impression of solidity is combined with spacious modernity;
* Materials: for its use of high-quality materials, including granite and internal stone cladding, with bronze windows, balustrades and handrails, as well as the integration of artistic features such as mosaic, worked bronze doors, and sandblasted glass;
* Historical interest: for its significant role as part of the planned development of post-war Plymouth;
* Group value: the bank forms part of a contemporary group around St Andrew's Cross, with the unlisted Royal Insurance building, Norwich Union House, and Lloyds' Bank and Popham's Department Store, as well as St Andrew's Church, rebuilt in 1948-51, and listed at Grade I.

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.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.