Royal Exchange Demolition - Past, Present & Future
Glasgow’s Royal Exchange Square is famous for its gallery of Modern Art, the coneheaded statue of the Duke of Wellington and the wee skaters who hang out on the back steps of what is now All Saints, complaining that things are really difficult (that doesn’t really happen much any more but it it one of my abiding memories of the area).
The area on Queen Street directly opposite the statue is more known for its supposedly grotesque mid-century construction on the far side of the road. As you can see from the photos above, the former Bank of Scotland building resembled a hangar on Tracy Island more than a comfortable office space. The proposed replacement seems even more at odds with Royal Exchange House which is situated on the opposite corner.
Still, I’m neither an architect or a town planner so I suppose I’ll just come straight to the point. A photo on Facebook got me thinking about what must have stood on the site of 110 Queen Street before the Bank of Scotland premises.
You’ll never guess- it was another bank.
The British Linen Bank (which was a thing) opened its doors on the corner of Queen Street and Ingram Street in the mid-1840s and remained open right up until the 1960s. Banking history is fraught with mergers and pitfalls and if you’re really interested in the history of the Scottish Linen Bank then I’d encourage you to go and read up on them.
Suffice to say, it was a merchant bank formed by an Industrial Charter (the only one of its kind in Britain) and was closely linked to Linen Manufacturing. You know… hence the name.
By the late 18th Century the bank operated 18 branches and by the mid 1800s (when this branch opened) it had expanded to almost 35 branches right across the country, culminating in well over 100 branches by the turn of the 20th Century.
Up until the First World War, the bank had avoided the mergers and amalgamations that punctuate much of banking’s history but by 1919 it was decided that the Linen Bank required more clout and was purchased by Barclays.
This remained the case right up until 1969 (just after the demolition of the Queen Street building) when Barclays used it as a bargaining tool in order to take a 35% stake in The Bank Of Scotland.
The assets of the two banks were quickly merged and this is where the only piece of site history comes into contention. According to Canmore, the building was demolished in 1968 but other accounts put the demolition in 1969 as part of Bank of Scotland’s efforts to wipe out traces of the Linen Bank by demolishing their headquarters.
Either way, the modern replacement was opened in 1971 before the name of the British Linen Bank finally reemerged as the Merchant Banking arm of Bank of Scotland.
Didn’t think so.
The fact remains that the Scottish Linen Bank Headquarters is yet another example of Glasgow’s forgotten heritage. The buildings, streets and communities which have disappeared; buried under the grand schemes of modernising developers and town planners. Sometimes it’s nice just to be able to see them again.