Former HSBC & Lloyds Banks, 51 – 55 Corn Street, Bristol

The facade of HSBC in 2016

The Lloyds Bank is a historic building situated at 53 & 55 Corn Street in Bristol, England.

Originally the West of England and South Wales Bank built by Bristol architects Bruce Gingell (1819–1899) and T.R. Lysaght in 1854. Gingell was one of the most progressive Bristol architects of the latter part of the nineteenth century. He went on to design the General Hospital. Gingell is said to have used St Mark’s library in Venice as a starting point for this building. Spend a few moments viewing the sumptuous friezes by John Thomas (1813–1862). John Thomas had been responsible for overseeing the carving on Charles Barry’s new Houses of Parliament. On the ground floor the crests of Newport, Bath, Bristol, Exeter, and Cardiff are shown – the main towns from where the bank operated. On the first floor the ‘elements and sources of wealth’ are symbolised by life-size figures. They include: justice and integrity; education and charity; peace and plenty; art and science; commerce, navigation and commerce. And above this chubby cherubs depict the activities of the bank: receiving, paying, storing, coining money, engraving and printing, and trading with Africa and America.

The adornment was intended to emphasize the wealth, and therefore financial stability, of the bank. It didn’t stop the bank going bust, however, twenty years later in 1878.

The opulent interior features Corinthian columns.

It is a grade II* listed building and housed a branch of the Lloyds Bank until closure in early 2014.

This happens to be my first building of 2016. I felt it was about time to get something up and this presented the opportunity to do exactly that. This building really is something; in fact it’s supposedly one of the most iconic and oldest buildings in the city centre…

I was aware of these banks closing a while back but truth be told never made any effort whatsoever to have a look at them. Given the location and what the buildings are I suppose I just assumed they were a no go. Who knows… Anyway, before entering the pub next door one evening (our usual spoons) we spotted the scaffolding around it and said we’d have a look once we’d finished socialising over cheap food and even cheaper beer.

Fast forward a few hours and we’re standing inside the main banking lobby of the HSBC bank – winner. Sometimes lateral thinking really works out.

Soon we began to realise that there was no obvious way into the Lloyds TSB branch which is situated right next door. We must have spent the best part of an hour wandering around the building, high and low, trying to get next door. As we were about to give up, one of the others noticed something. We’d originally dismissed it but after persisting for a bit longer, we hit the jackpot. One very tight squeeze and we found ourselves doing the usual PIR and camera check in the next building along.

Wandering into the huge banking hall was something else. These moments are one of the things that exploring is all about. What was even better was that all the lights worked! Just when we thought this was the gem we’d been hoping for, we found the basement and the large network of safes.


On with some photos…

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