RBS to close 150-year-old North Bridge branch

The RBS's 158-year-old North Bridge branch will close on September 30. Picture: Jayne Wright
The RBS's 158-year-old North Bridge branch will close on September 30. Picture: Jayne Wright
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For more than 150 years it has served its loyal customers, but RBS today announced it is closing one of its oldest city centre branches blaming the growth of online banking.

The branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland on North Bridge was originally opened in June 1856, by the Commercial Bank of Scotland, but it will close in September after seeing demand for its services drop by a fifth in recent years.

RBS has reported a 30 per cent drop in transactions at its branches generally since 2010, a pattern repeated elsewhere across the UK.

The changing pattern has seen many of the city centre’s traditional banks converted into pubs, restaurants and clothes shops since the turn of the century.

The North Bridge branch, which currently employs five staff, has been based in the area for 158 years, but had been on its present site since 1900.

It had been forced to move twice in 18 years as the business rapidly expanded in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Although the building is yet to be put on the market, it is expected to raise a lot of interest from restaurant operators.

An RBS spokeswoman said: “We have taken the difficult decision to close our RBS Edinburgh North Bridge branch on September 30, 2014. The number of customers using this branch has dropped by almost a fifth over the last few years as more and more of them use alternative ways of banking with us.

“This includes by telephone, in Post Offices, by app and online.”

The Dome on George Street, the former HQ of the Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1847, is among the most spectacular converted former banking premises in the city centre, while the Bank Hotel on Royal Mile bares many of the hallmarks of its financial heritage.

Planning expert Bill Cowan, of the Old Town Association, predicted that former banks would be increasingly be converted into shops, pubs and restaurants.

He believes the North Bridge premises will be sought after by restauranteurs which he said were worth at least 50 per cent than retail outlets when it came to re-sale.

He said: “In five years’ time, banking will be unrecognisable.

“If you stand in St Andrew’s Square, practically all the buildings were banks at one time.”

The Commercial Bank of Scotland was founded in Edinburgh in 1810, and obtained a royal charter in 1831.

It grew substantially through the 19th and early 20th centuries. It joined with National Bank of Scotland to form National Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1959 and merged with RBS in 1969.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com