National Bank of Scotland


The National Bank of Scotland opened in the former Dumbreck's, or Gibb's Hotel, Edinburgh in 1825. 1 Until the early 19th century, personal loans from merchants were able to supply most of the financial requirements of intending businessmen. 'Scotland is a small country ...the promising man ... need never go short of capital. If we don't know him, we know someone who does.' 2 By 1824, commercial expansion prompted the new National Bank of Scotland to issue shares, 'upwards of 760,000 having been subscribed for since yesterday by about 300 individuals'. 3 They began their business at 42 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh in 1825: this was their head office until 1936. 4

The bank's first chairman was Alexander Henderson, Edinburgh Lord Provost 1823–7. 5 Like other joint-stock banks (i.e. issuing transferable shares) in the later 19th century, the National expanded via numerous branches which received deposits. 6 Lending was, in turn, conducted from Edinburgh, though some 'Glasgow branches ... conducted more business than the Edinburgh head offices'. 7 'Extensive business connections ... made it vital' to open London offices, and in 1864, the National Bank became the first Scottish bank to do so. 8 Agents, i.e. local businessmen, running branches ‘as an adjunct to their other interests’, were replaced by newly-created branch managers from the early 20th century, who had to initiate new business themselves. 9 Among its investments, the National provided the first ‘venture into commercial turbine exploitation’, the marine ‘Turbine Steamer Syndicate of 1901’ with a loan, alongside Denny shipbuilders, financing this ‘revolutionary new’ form of ship propulsion. 10

The National was a founder-member of 'the oldest professional body for bankers in the world', in 1875. 11

Urban planner and sociologist Patrick Geddes's first job was an uncompleted apprenticeship in the bank's Perth branch, in 1871. 12


1: Glasgow Corporation, 'The National Bank of Scotland', Glasgow Industrial Guide, Glasgow: John Menzies, 1955, p. 83; Directory for Edinburgh, Leith ... 1824–5, p. 124; Morning Post, 19 September 1821, p. 1; Scotsman, 17 June 1826, p. 381.

2: Glasgow Corporation, 'Banking', Industrial Guide to Glasgow, Glasgow: John Menzies, 1950, p. 67.

3: Caledonian Mercury, 23 December 1824, p. 1; Scotsman, 25 December 1824, p. 911.

4: Caledonian Mercury, 10 November 1825, p. 3; Scotsman, 21 March 1925, p. 11; 1 September 1934, p. 10; 'National Bank of Scotland Head Office', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 1840–1980, [accessed 16 June 2013].

5: Scotsman, 23 March 1825, p. 188; 21 March 1925, p. 11.

6: Examiner, 30 January 1825, p. 1; Bob Teevan, 'National Bank of Scotland', Banking Letters ... to and from Scottish Banks, [accessed 16 June 2013].

7: J. Jackson and C. Munn, 'Trade, Commerce and Finance', W. H. Fraser and I. Maver, eds, Glasgow, 2, 1830–1912, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996, p. 82.

8: Scotsman, 21 March 1925, p. 11; Richard Saville, The Bank of Scotland: A History, 1695–1995, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996, p. 365; H. V. Bowen and L. P. Cottrell, 'Banking and the ... British Economy', A. Teichova, G. Kurgan-van Hentenryk, D. Ziegler, eds, Banking, Trade and Industry: Europe, America and Asia, Cambridge: University Press, 1997, pp. 105–6.

9: C. W. Munn, 'Working in Scottish Banking in the Twentieth Century', M. A. Mulhern, J. Beech and E. Thompson, eds, Scottish Life and Society: The Working Life of the Scots, Edinburgh: John Donald, 2008, p. 270.

10: F. M. Walker, The Song of the Clyde, Edinburgh: John Donald, 2001, p. 103.

11: Aberdeen Journal, 14 July, 1875, p. 3; Scotsman, 14 January 1876, p. 4; Glasgow Herald, 11 January 1876, p. 6; C. W. Munn, 'Working in Scottish Banking in the Twentieth Century', M. A. Mulhern, J. Beech and E. Thompson, eds, Scottish Life and Society: The Working Life of the Scots, Edinburgh: John Donald, 2008, p. 266.

12: V. M. Welter, Biopolis: Patrick Geddes and the City of Life, Cambridge, Mass: M.I.T. Press, 2002, p. 256; J. Scott and R. Bromely, Envisioning Sociology, Albany, New York: State University Press, 2013, p. 30.