The Mound, Edinburgh
This landmark building has been a distinctive feature of the Edinburgh skyline for more than 200 years.
It was built in 1806 as the Head Office of Bank of Scotland. Today it is also the registered office and Scottish Headquarters of Lloyds Banking Group.
It has a fascinating history...
The First Building
In 1796, at the Bank of Scotland's 100th AGM, its directors decided to commission a purpose-built head office. It took some time to find a suitable location, due to the cramped nature of Edinburgh's Old Town. Eventually, in 1800, the site at the top of the Mound was purchased from Edinburgh Town Council. It cost £3,500. Construction started soon after, to a design by Robert Reid and Richard Crichton. These were former pupils of the celebrated architect Robert Adam. Their building was a detached Georgian-style villa, topped by a shallow saucer dome. It was completed in August 1806.
The Challenge of the Mound
Straddling Edinburgh's Old and New Towns, the site posed grave challenges for the builders. Firstly, there was a steep drop of 16 metres from front to back. A more serious issue was instability: the 'earthen Mound' (as it was known) was a man-made hill, created from the earth excavated for the New Town. The site had also been a rubbish dump in the past, and contained vast quantities of household waste!
Consequently, there was a serious risk of slippage. To overcome this, a substantial retaining wall was constructed on the north side of the building.
Complaints and Problems
By the 1850s, the building was proving unsatisfactory. It was now too small for the Bank's growing business. There had also been complaints that it looked stark and ugly when viewed from Princes Street. Indeed, the famous judge Lord Cockburn described it as a 'prominent deformity'. Seeking to resolve these issues, several architects were invited to submit plans for extending and improving the building.
A New Look
The directors eventually selected David Bryce. His solution was to add full-height wings to the east and west, tied back to the original building by curved quadrants. A single-storey extension was built along the front. And to harmonise the old and the new, the whole building was encased in a Roman Baroque façade.
The new wings were crowned by domed lanterns, whilst the existing central dome was replaced by one much higher, in the Florentine style. It was topped by a statue of Victory, sculpted by John Rhind.
This radical transformation of the building took place between 1864 and 1878. Since then, the exterior has remained largely unaltered.
David Bryce also made changes to the interior. The most dramatic was the conversion of the single-storey telling room into a magnificent two-storey banking hall. Unfortunately, in 1929, this space was again reduced in height with the installation of a mezzanine floor.
In July 2003, Malcolm Fraser Architects were appointed to oversee a major restoration of the Mound. Piecemeal changes, made over the course of the 20th century, had compromised the aesthetics and functionality of the building. The architects had to perform the tricky balancing act of restoring key architectural features, while upgrading the infrastructure, and making better use of space.
The focal point of the project was the reinstatement of the double-height hall. The intermediate floor was dismantled, and Bryce's ceiling and plasterwork were painstakingly restored. The console brackets, which had been removed in the 1980s, were reinstated. Today this stunning room, fittingly named the 'Bryce Hall', is an impressive conference facility.
In order to make the building more eco-friendly, a geothermal heating system was installed. Externally, the grounds were landscaped to create a new terraced garden. This is open to the public, and also serves as the entrance to the Museum on the Mound.
The restoration was completed in 2006.
Statues and Symbolism
On the south elevation, above the main entrance, is a carving of the Bank's coat of arms. This was completed in 1810, as part of the ornamentation of the original building. The coat of arms (granted in 1701) consists of a shield bearing the saltire cross, surrounded by four gold bezants (heraldic representations of coins). Flanking this are the twin figures of Justice, with her scales, and Plenty with her cornucopia of money. The Latin motto ‘Tanto Uberior' means ‘so much the more plentiful'.
The statue of Victory, holding a laurel wreath, stands on top of the central dome. It was sculpted by John Rhind in the 1860s. In classical Latin the goddess was known as 'Victoria', a reference to Queen Victoria, who was on the throne at the time.
Normally Victory is shown with wings. These were not incorporated here, however, probably due to concerns about the additional weight.
The statue is hollow-cast in spelter - a zinc-lead alloy. It is one of the earliest examples of the use of this alloy for monumental work. In 1995, the statue was gilded, as part of Bank of Scotland's tercentenary celebrations.
On the two subsidiary domes are statues of Prosperity, with her urn and grapes, and Plenty, who holds a sheaf of corn. They are carved from solid stone.
The statues on the north elevation represent Agriculture, Commerce, Mechanics and Navigation, with 'Britannia and her Children' as the centre group.
- The building's story is illustrated by a range of displays and hands-on activities at the Museum on the Mound.
- An extensive archive of material relating to the building's history is maintained by Lloyds Banking Group Archives in Edinburgh.
- Find out more about the history of the Bank of Scotland.
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