Webpage created: August 22, 2019
Webpage updated: August 22, 2019
BANK OF ENGLAND, PLYMOUTH BRANCH
Once upon a time Plymouth had a Branch of the Bank of England. It was situated on the corner of Union Street and George Street, hence Bank of England Place.
The Bank of England was founded in London on July 27th 1694. The idea of setting up branches in provincial cities and towns was under discussion for many years but it was not until 1826, following the financial crisis of 1825, that the decision was finally taken. They were intended to have a steadying effect on the industry and were not intended to compete with the county banks.
In 1827 a branch was opened in the Westcountry, at Exeter. However, this location was considered to be inconvenient by the Treasurer of the Navy so it was closed and moved to Plymouth. Mr Robert Morris came with the Bank from Exeter and continued to be in the agent in charge. The first office was on the corner of Saint Andrew's Terrace, Plymouth, between Princess Square and Athenaeum Place. The Plymouth Branch opened for business on May 1st 1834.
The Bank then purchased from a Miss Wise a house with a garden running down to George Street. It is said that the house had previously been a Government residence and that Admiral Lord Nelson had once dined there. Mr Charles Robert Cockerell (1788-1863), the Bank's architect, designed a new building for Plymouth. This was erected at what became Bank of England Place, at the Plymouth end of Union Street, and was opened on July 1st 1844.
Mr Morris retired from the post of agent in 1867, when he was 80 years of age and was replaced by Mr Charles Beard, who had been a sub-agent at Exeter.
Over the following decades the Bank continued to supply money to the Royal Dockyard, the Inland Revenue and any other local Government Departments that required their services. They were the clearing bank for the commercial banks in the area and administered the Exchange Control Regulations. Although at first the Bank of England did accept private accounts this ceased in time.
During 1940 it had to provide financial assistance to refugees and even to foreign governments. The Bank of England survived the Blitz of March 1941 and was open for business as usual on the morning of Saturday March 22nd 1941.
But in post-war Plymouth it was decided that the Bank of England no longer needed a presence and the branch was closed on Tuesday February 15th 1949.
The premises were then taken over by the Westminster Bank and National Provincial Bank of England until they had to vacate it on June 24th 1957. The building was used as headquarters of the Civil Defence organisation for a few years before demolition.