Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Archive Anecdotes

Snippets from the city's archives

Jun 6, 2013

The illustration below depicts the cover of the menu for the Directors' Dinner of 'Commercial Bank of Scotland Ltd' held one hundred years ago on the 21st June 1913.

It is held by Group Archives of 'The Royal Bank of Scotland'.


The impressive building depicted behind the chariot is an artistic representation of the bank’s headquarters in George Street, now well known as ‘The Dome’.


Commercial Bank of Scotland was founded in 1810 in Picardy Place, but in 1843 it acquired, for £20,000, the Royal College of Physicians' Hall in George Street. This was demolished in March 1844 and replaced, at a cost of £21,318, by a new Commercial Bank head office, designed by David Rhind in classical style.

In April 1847 'The Scotsman' reported:

'The rich and massive architecture of the front constitutes it the finest object in the fine street on which it stands, and the internal arrangements and decoration are every way worthy of the imposing exterior.'

The principal entrance, under a portico supported by six Corinthian columns, led into a handsome lobby, from which a double staircase and gallery led to the upper apartments and the general manager's house. The banking hall was also lavish and ornate in design. It was surrounded by Corinthian columns which supported an ornamental roof with a breathtaking gilded dome. Mahogany desks and counters were placed in the inner half of the hall.

                           Print taken from a drawing circa 1847

'Altogether the arrangement and decoration are in a style which is not less than gorgeous, and though some may think it is an extravagant display in a place of business, there can be no doubt that such examples of decorative art are calculated to exercise a most beneficial influence on the public taste, and the more public and easily accessible the building so adorned, the more extensive will be the diffusion of that influence' (The Scotsman).

By 1910, when Commercial Bank of Scotland celebrated its centenary, the paid up capital of the bank stood at £1,000,000, deposits had reached £14,459,743 and there were 167 branches.

Both world wars had a profound effect on the bank. During the Great War, 578 members of staff enlisted for active service, and 99 were killed. Their sacrifice was marked by a memorial plaque in the north wall. In the Second World War, 850 staff enlisted for active service and 53 were killed. No serious damage was caused to the George Street office through enemy action but many hundreds of American and Allied servicemen included it in their sight seeing tours of Edinburgh when garrisoned in the area.

When, in 1959, Commercial Bank of Scotland amalgamated with National Bank of Scotland Ltd to form National Commercial Bank of Scotland Ltd, 14 George Street ceased to be designated a head office. Ten years later, in 1969, amalgamation with The Royal Bank of Scotland, led to the premises becoming The Royal Bank of Scotland’s ‘Edinburgh George Street office’.                                                                     

By 1993 the building no longer provided appropriate accommodation for the efficient provision of modern banking services, so on 4 June 1993 the building, once described as 'an outstanding monument .. .. grander than any bank in London’ closed its doors for the last time as a bank, 146 years after it had first opened for business as the head office of Commercial Bank of Scotland Ltd

Purchased in 1993 by Caledonian Heritable Ltd. the building now houses ‘The Dome’ and provides sumptuous accommodation for a complex of bars, restaurants, tearooms, conference rooms and garden café. http://www.thedomeedinburgh.com/history

                                                                                 Photograph circa 1960

Each Friday at 11am (April – October) the ‘Hidden Georgian Gems’ walking tour, leaving from St Andrew’s Square Gardens, includes an out of hours private viewing of this grand former banking hall. http://www.mercattours.com/hidden-georgian-gems.asp

All images reproduced by kind permission of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. (c) 2013

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