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Bank House

A Grade II Listed Building in City and Hunslet, Leeds

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.7971 / 53°47'49"N

Longitude: -1.5507 / 1°33'2"W

OS Eastings: 429689

OS Northings: 433519

OS Grid: SE296335

Mapcode National: GBR BHL.GM

Mapcode Global: WHC9D.4TTF

Entry Name: Bank House

Listing Date: 26 January 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1419336

Location: Leeds, LS1

County: Leeds

Electoral Ward/Division: City and Hunslet

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Leeds

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Leeds St George

Church of England Diocese: Leeds

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Summary

Former Bank of England regional headquarters building, 1969-71, by Building Design Partnership. Inverted ziggurat of in-situ reinforced-concrete construction with grey Cornish granite and bronze cladding. 5-storeys plus basement

Description

Former Bank of England regional headquarters building, 1969-71, by Building Design Partnership. Inverted ziggurat of in-situ reinforced-concrete construction with polished grey Cornish granite and bronze cladding. 5-storeys plus basement

PLAN: this large building has three principal elevations; that to the east faces King Street, whilst that to the north faces Park Place, and that to the south faces York Place. It is approximately square in plan with a central lightwell serving the two uppermost floors and a vehicular passageway and parking area that cuts through the ground floor on the west side of the building. Internally there are two main stairs serving the ground - fourth-floor levels, which are located towards the western end on each north and south side of the building.

EXTERIOR: the building's form is an inverted ziggurat designed to provide each floor level with an equal amount of light. The ground-floor walls thus follow the building line and its footprint, but the first floor is recessed back to accommodate a grit-blasted concrete deck/'pedway'. The deck is located on the north and east sides of the building and was a planning requirement intended to receive an anticipated elevated pedestrian walkway system that was never constructed; the north-east corner of the deck has been removed. The underside of the walkway incorporates a recessed lighting scheme. Above the recessed first floor the building's upper-floor levels successively cantilever outwards up to the fourth floor, which regains the building line and that of the ground-floor level.

The ground floor incorporates windows on the north elevation and northern end of the east elevation. The windows are set within simple dark-bronze frames set flush with the granite cladding and are formed into tall projecting bays/modules; identical projecting modules are also present on the ground floor of the south elevation and remaining section of the east elevation but they are windowless on these sides. The upper floors are lit by similarly styled window modules, and a stairwell on the south side of the building is lit by two full-height vertical window bands. All the building's windows have bronze tinted glass

The main entrance is located to the centre of the ground floor on the east elevation and has been altered. It was originally recessed, but the recess has since been in-filled with modern glazing and a new lighting canopy added above, which sits underneath the first-floor deck. A secondary entrance on the north elevation is the staff entrance, which was originally solely for the use of the commercial tenants on the uppermost floors. It consists of four tall doorways recessed into the projecting ground-floor bays with bronze glazed doors and overlights. At the base of the stairwell on the south side of the building are two similarly-styled doorways that form fire exits. At the western end of the building on both the north and south sides are vehicular entrances with bronze-coloured roller shutters. First-floor level doorways on the north and east sides, which were originally intended to be additional entrances accessed off the pedway are now windows.

INTERIOR: internally the walls and floor of the main entrance foyer were originally lined with granite, but the space has since been heavily altered and modernised and is not of special interest*. The tenants' entrance foyer on the north side of the building off Park Place retains its granite-lined walls and floor.

There are two main honed-granite stairs located on the north and south sides of the building with narrow open wells and painted-metal horizontal rail balustrades surmounted by timber handrails; that to the north side of the building was originally solely for the use of the commercial tenants on the uppermost floors. An early-C21 steel open-well stair, which is not of special interest*, has been inserted on the eastern side of the building between the first and fourth floors.

The first-floor former banking hall is now a meeting room and office lobby space and is double height with walls clad with Cornish granite. Originally the top-lit space had a sculptured aluminium ceiling by Alan Boyson and a screen containing a glass panel engraved with an image of Britannia by Warwick Hutton, but both of these features have since been removed. The original counter has also been removed and openings in each north and south wall have been enlarged. Single-storey meeting room 'pods' have also been inserted into the space. The rest of the building's interior is plain and is a mixture of open-plan and partitioned spaces that are not of special interest*. The basement, which is still occupied by the Bank of England as a cash centre, was not inspected, but is not considered to be of special interest*.

* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.

History

The Bank of England first established regional branches in 1826-8 in response to the failure of local banknote-issuing banks and also the competition of larger banking companies. Leeds was the bank's sixth regional branch to open in 1827. In 1862-4 the branch was rebuilt to the designs of P C Hardwick and was known as Sovereign House, 24-25 Park Row (listed at Grade II). C R Cockerell is the architect most commonly associated with the bank's C19 buildings, designing branches at Bristol (1844-7), Liverpool (1845-8) and Manchester (1845-6); all are listed at Grade I.

In the latter half of the 1960s, and partly as a result of the 'Great Train Robbery' of 1963, British banks attempted to limit the movement of money around the country by establishing regional bullion centres with reinforced basement vaults. The Bank of England embarked upon a programme of rebuilding their key branches in Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol and Leeds.

The Leeds branch was constructed in 1969-71 to the designs of Building Design Partnership (BDP) with Bill Pearson as partner in charge and Bob Greenslade as project architect; Greenslade was subsequently succeeded as project architect by Ken Appleby when he was promoted and went to run BDP's Belfast office. The design was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1968. The building was constructed on the site of a warehouse of 1862 designed by Cuthbert Brodrick, which was demolished in 1967. Leeds County Borough's planning requirements stipulated that the height of the building should not exceed that of neighbouring streets and be a maximum of 4-5 storeys. They also required the incorporation of an elevated pedestrian walkway ('pedway') into the design, which was anticipated would connect with other developments and walkways in the city centre. However, the pedway scheme was never constructed. BDP's initial design for the building was cubic with the walkway inset behind columns, but this was felt to create a dark level so an alternative design of an inverted ziggurat was instead produced, inspired by Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles' Boston City Hall in the United States.

The bank occupied the basement to second-floor levels of the building, whilst the two top floors were let as commercial office space. The branch closed in the late-1990s, but the building still remains in partial use by the Bank of England as a cash centre. In 2003 the building's interior was refurbished by Chetwood Associates (North).

Design Partnership, formerly known as The Grenfell Baines Group, was launched in April 1961 as a multidisciplinary practice based mainly in the north-west of England. In December of the same year the practice changed its name to Building Design Partnership as there was already another business operating under the same name. The practice integrated architects, planners and engineers, along the Bauhaus principles of 'different professions under one roof' and its work concentrated mainly upon designing the new post-war infrastructure of public and commercial buildings, particularly the redevelopment of towns and cities in the north of England. The firm's projects included: Preston Bus Station (listed at Grade II); Blackburn shopping centre; the ICI Headquarters, Wilton; campuses for the Universities of Bradford and Surrey and Ulster College (later the University of Ulster); and the headquarters of the Halifax Building Society (listed at Grade II), amongst many others.

Reasons for Listing

Bank House, constructed in 1969-71 to the designs of Building Design Partnership (BDP), is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: its inverted ziggurat form and strong level of stylistic detailing exemplifies the 1960s trend towards dramatic cantilevered volumes and cleverly projects the visual character of strength that the Bank demanded; providing an air of impenetrability and strength appropriate to its banking and bullion centre use. Its expensive finishes of polished Cornish granite and bronze were also specifically chosen for their weather resistance and aesthetic interest on days of poor light;

* Context: it is the most architecturally ambitious and accomplished example of the Bank of England's 1960s programme of rebuilding regional branches/bullion centres. It also lies at the end of an architectural sequence that includes listed C19 Bank of England branches by PC Hardwick and CR Cockerell, and represents the bank's response to modern C20 banking developments;

* Architects: it is a good example of the work of Building Design Partnership, the largest of the multi-disciplinary practices operating in the 1960s/70s, marrying engineering complexity and architectural finesse, and it was regarded by BDP as a milestone project for the firm;

* Degree of survival: the exterior is largely unaltered, and whilst the interior is plain and has undergone alteration in places, a number of notable original features survive, including the former banking hall's granite-lined walls, two honed-granite stairs, and the granite-lined walls and floor in the entrance foyer off Park Place.


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