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Brown Shipley & Co Ltd

A Grade II Listed Building in City of London, London

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Latitude: 51.515 / 51°30'54"N

Longitude: -0.0892 / 0°5'21"W

OS Eastings: 532682

OS Northings: 181298

OS Grid: TQ326812

Mapcode National: GBR SC.32

Mapcode Global: VHGR0.D5PX

Entry Name: Brown Shipley & Co Ltd

Listing Date: 26 January 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1422067

Location: City of London, London, EC2R

County: London

District: City and County of the City of London

Electoral Ward/Division: Coleman Street

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: City of London

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): City of London

Church of England Parish: St Margaret Lothbury

Church of England Diocese: London

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Private bank, designed c1970 and built 1973-5, by Fitzroy Robinson & Partners, incorporating a single bay of an earlier building of 1848 to the Founders Court elevation. Frame construction clad in dark brown/grey polished Swedish Blaubrun granite, bronze-anodised windows. 5-storeys plus three basement levels


Private bank, designed c1970 and built 1973-5, by Fitzroy Robinson & Partners, incorporating a single bay of an earlier building of 1848 to the Founders Court elevation. Frame construction clad in dark brown/grey polished Swedish Blaubrun granite, bronze-anodised windows. 5-storeys plus three basement levels.

PLAN: the building has a squat T-shaped plan with a linear range aligned west-east that fronts Moorgate, with the south side of the building, which abuts an adjacent building, incorporating a short projection containing the main stair and lifts. The site's ground level slopes gently downwards from north to south.

EXTERIOR: the front (west) elevation facing Moorgate is of 4-bays with a slightly taller ground floor. The bays have large windows set within deep moulded frames with splayed reveals. The four upper floors are subdivided by lesser mullions to form paired windows. The main entrance is set to the ground floor of bay-3 and consists of a pair of solid bronze doors with a high-relief roundel design by A. John Poole, each weighing 1 1/4 tonnes and costing £24,000 in 1975; replaced glazed inner doors behind lead into the former banking hall, which is now a reception area. Gilded lettering on each splayed polished-granite doorway jamb reads 'Brown Shipley & Co. Limited'. Bronze screens with abstract low-relief designs, which were also designed and produced by Poole, are attached in front of the ground-floor windows. The rear (east) elevation facing St Margaret's churchyard is of 3-bays and shares the same styling as the front elevation. The south side elevation faces into the Founders Court alleyway and consists of a single-bay Baroque-style ashlar facade retained (albeit with some alteration, as historic photographs reveal) from the 1848 building. Set to the ground floor is a tall arched doorway flanked by piers with vermiculated banded rustication and with a central keystone above depicting a god's head. The doorway contains a partly-glazed panelled door set within a glazed screen incorporating a fanlight above. Above the entrance is an ornate double-height surround incorporating a segmental pediment supported by hybridised decorated Ionic columns with a scrolled apron below. Below the apron is a balustraded ornamental balcony. The surround originally contained banded rustication, but a tripartite window was inserted in 1973-5, which lights the second floor. An historic photograph reveals that the facade has been raised as the balcony originally sat immediately above the entrance keystone, but is now set higher above a stringcourse. Immediately above the segmental pediment, and set just below a deep dentillated eaves cornice, is a glazed roundel, which was also added in 1973-5 and lights the third floor. Set back above the cornice are the two uppermost floors of the 1973-5 build clad with Portland stone and with a wide window to each floor. The near part of the return wall to the left in Founders Court is the rear elevation of a stair hall and lift projection and is clad in Portland stone. A tall ground-floor doorway has square-panelled doors and a wedge lintel above; to the left of the doorway a stone is engraved with bronze lettering that reads 'Brown Shipley & Co Limited', whilst to the right of the doorway is an engraved foundation stone laid in 1973. Ventilators exist to the upper floors and have been designed to resemble windows with wedge lintels.

INTERIOR: internally the building has been heavily altered on all floor levels and spaces have been modernised. At the time of writing (2014), further refurbishment works are also ongoing. Originally there was a proliferation of bronze and dark marble within the interior, such as light switches that were originally custom-made in bronze, but these features have all since been removed. As the bank no longer stores cash on site, or provides a cash service, there is no longer a need for a banking hall. The former ground-floor banking hall*, which has been opened-up to create a large reception area with glazed-partitioned meeting rooms flanking the entrance, is not of special interest. Originally there was a long bronze banking counter with bronze-tinted glass, and the space also had downlighting, dark-coloured marble wall cladding and a contrasting paler marble floor, but these features have all been removed. An open-plan office space on the north side of the ground floor* has also been partly incorporated into the reception space and also partitioned to create further meeting room spaces* and a disabled toilet*, all of which are not of special interest. A lift shaft that originally transported bullion between the ground and basement levels survives behind a later stud wall in the disabled toilet, but the lift car itself has been removed; the lift doors are visible in the basement. The main lift lobbies on each floor* are not of special interest. Originally they had dark-coloured marble wall cladding and bronze moulded lift doors, but the cladding has since been replaced by pale polished stone and plain lift doors have been installed; the lift car interiors have also been refurbished. An altered and modernised lobby area exists just within the Founders Court side entrance* and is not of special interest except for a wall-mounted plaque of carved wood commemorating the bank's employees killed during the First and Second World Wars that was retained from the 1848 building. A former foreign exchange counter area off the north side of the lobby is now a kitchen* and the former clerks/dealers space at the eastern end of the ground floor is now a modern break-out space with an inserted late-C20 mezzanine*; both spaces are not of special interest. The elegant main stair gives access to all the floor levels and lies within the building's southern projection. It has a sinuous form that wraps around a narrow open well with a solid balustrade with a sweeping line on the half-landing levels. The balustrade has a roughcast-render finish to the well face and has pale Italian marble cladding to the stair-flight face and balustrade copings. The balustrade is surmounted by a raised brass handrail. A goods lift with replaced doors is accessed off the stair's landings. An additional secondary stair is located to the rear right/eastern end of the building and also accesses all the floors. It has a marble riser in place of a closed string and a metal balustrade with a bronze handrail; the balustrade echoes the sinuous design of the main stair although the secondary stair itself has sharp angles. The upper floors* are largely open-plan with original partitions removed and are not of special interest. Additional secondary glazing has been added internally to the third-floor windows and, at the time of writing, is due to be added to the windows of the remaining floors. A meeting/boardroom (originally the directors' large dining room) at the eastern end of the fifth floor that was originally designed as a replica of one of the rooms in the 1848 building, has been refurbished and altered, and is not of special interest*. However, the room’s east wall, which is fully glazed with bronze-anodised frames and sliding patio doors is included within the Listing. The doors lead out onto a terrace with views over to the Bank of England. The terrace has a decked floor and bronze railings set behind a parapet. An identical terrace is located at the western end of the fifth floor, and is accessed through an identically styled glazed wall and sliding doors. The building's three basement levels*, which contain a mixture of modernised meeting rooms, stores, plant rooms, the former canteen, and vaults are not of special interest.

* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest


The merchant bank of William Brown & Co was founded in Liverpool in 1810 by William Brown, the son of Alexander Brown, an Irish linen and dry goods merchant who emigrated to Baltimore, United States in 1798 and went on to become one of America's richest men. In 1805 William became a partner in his father's business, which was already dealing in foreign exchange by this time, and in 1810 he was sent to preside over a new office in Liverpool to manage the ships and cargo using the port under his father's commission. The office later evolved to become the primary bankers to the cotton trade in England.

In 1814 the Liverpool office became known as William & James Brown & Co, and William and his three brothers, George, James and John became partners in each other's businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to the Liverpool office, Alexander Brown & Sons was based in Baltimore, John A Brown & Co was based in Philadelphia, and James established Brown Brothers & Co in New York in 1825. A further office in New Orleans managed their cotton trade business. In addition to financing the shipping of dry goods, linen and cotton, and dealing in foreign exchange, the family business was also involved with railways on both sides of the Atlantic and established its own shipping line.

In 1824 Joseph Shipley, a Quaker merchant from Wilmington, Delaware became a partner in William & James Brown & Co, and in 1837 he became a partner in all four of the family's merchant houses, William & James Brown & Co subsequently becoming known as Brown Shipley & Co.

Following the end of the American Civil War and the fact that the family's transatlantic business interests were no longer dominated by cotton, Brown Shipley & Co acquired the former premises of the Central Telegraph Station (constructed in 1848) in Founders Court, near to the Bank of England in the City of London for £22,000, and moved there in 1863. Brown Shipley & Co were early pioneers of payment through 'letters of credit' and by the 1970s they were one of the world's largest dealers in bank notes.

In 1970 Fitzroy Robinson was commissioned to design a replacement building for Brown Shipley & Co's Founders Court site. The new building was opened in 1975 by the former Prime Minister, Edward Heath MP (1916 - 2005), a former employee. A number of interior refurbishments have been carried out since the building's construction.

Herbert Fitzroy Robinson (1914-2005) trained at the Bartlett School of Architecture under Professor Albert Richardson and went on to form Fitzroy Robinson & Partners in 1956 amidst a commercial building boom in the City of London. The firm’s reputation in the square mile was consolidated with a high profile bank for NM Rothschild & Sons on St Swithin’s Lane (1963-5), and a flurry of commissions in the City followed in the 1970s and 80s, including 7-8 Princes Street (1970-2), 6-9 Snow Hill (1974-6), and 51 Moorgate (1985-7), as well as regional bullion centres for the Bank of England in Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission building in Maidenhead (c1974), a rare non-commercial project. The firm also collaborated with other architects on a number of projects, including the Stock Exchange, City of London (1964-72, radically altered in 2004) with Llewelyn Davies, Weeks, Forestier-Walker and Partners, and 50 Queen Anne’s Gate, Westminster (1972-76), designed in association with Sir Basil Spence. By the time Robinson retired in 1986 Fitzroy Robinson & Partners was one of the largest architectural practices in western Europe, responsible for designing nearly 2 million m² of office space in the City of London alone. The practice continues today as Aukett Fitzroy Robinson.

Reasons for Listing

Brown Shipley, designed c1970 by Fitzroy Robinson & Partners and constructed in 1973-5, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: it is an excellent example of post-war commercial architecture that draws on inspiration from C19 commercial designs, but reinterprets this influence in a modern way. The façade’s dramatically dark granite frame and the reflective surfaces of its bronze-anodized windows, enhanced by the ground-floor level massive bronze doors and bronze window screens, by A. John Poole, makes a powerful contribution to this City streetscape.

* Materials: the building's extensive use of fine materials, including bronze, provides an air of opulence apposite for a private bank, and also makes clever reference to Brown Shipley's history of currency dealing.

* Degree of survival: the exterior remains unaltered, and whilst the interior has incurred considerable change, it still retains notable original features, including the elegant sinuous main stair and the secondary stair, which maintain the stylish character and distinction of the exterior.

* Architect: it was designed by the notable post-war commercial practice of Fitzroy Robinson & Partners and is one of their most distinguished works, successfully combining a rational monumentality with a humane scale.

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