Thursday, 22 October 2009

Midland Bank, New Cross

Mervyn King's very good speech in Edinburgh calling for a reform of the banking sector was the perfect opportunity I was waiting for to post a painted sign signalling to the passing public the local branch of one of Britain's Big Four. And this sign isn't for any bank but the one where I opened my first account in the UK (although that was up north and not in New Cross), when I came as an Erasmus student in 1993: the Midland Bank. Even though HSBC Holdings had acquired full ownership of the Midland in 1992, the golden griffin surrounded by a circle of golden dots on a dark blue background still adorned my first chequebooks, statements, cards, etc. A few years later Midland adopted the HSBC logo and colours in place of its griffin. Then in 1999 the name itself was dropped and replaced by HSBC.

The origins of the Midland Bank date back to 1836. It was the brainchild of Charles Geach, a former clerck at the Bank of England's Birmingham branch, who obtained the support of prominent merchants and manufacturers from the city. Through acquisitions and mergers, and the opening of new branches across the UK, the Midland rapidly became one of the country's leading banks. In their book A Guide to Banking in Britain, Robert Pringle and Robin Pringle give a short history of the Midland Bank, pages 53-56.


This sign was painted on the side of the New Cross branch of the bank and would have been visible by anyone going westward along the area's main thoroughfare. The neoclassical building, dated 1903, was certainly designed by the firm of Gotch and Saunders. The Midland closed this branch in the early 1980s and the building, which is grade II listed, stood empty for more than 25 years. It is currently being restored and converted into a bar / music venue.

Location: New Cross Road / Picture taken on: 23/07/2009

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