1897 – Former National Bank, 62-68 High Street, Belfast

Architect: William Batt

The National Bank Ltd, a bank founded by Daniel O’Connell in 1835 had branches in Ireland and Britain. The Irish branches were acquired by Bank of Ireland in 1965 and rebranded temporarily as National Bank of Ireland, before being fully incorporated into Bank of Ireland. The British branches were acquired by Williams & Glyn’s Bank. Their Belfast branch was a streel-framed, terracotta and brick finished building constructed 1893-97 by William Batt. The building’s exterior has survived largely intact until the ground floor was re-clad and the small central balcony was removed in the 1980s.

“Owing to the dilapidated buildings on and surrounding the site (almost the oldest in the city), a great deal of time and care had to be taken when sinking for foundations, piling, and underpinning the walls all round to a depth of nearly six ft., this latter dangerous work being executed carefully, without any mishap. The depth to bottom of excavation is 5 ft. 6 in. below level of footpath, and the building rests on over 200 piles, none of which are less than 40 ft. in length, when driven, and heads cut off, having railway irons and massive longitudinal and transverse timbers framed and bolted to tops of piles, and the remaining spaces filled in with concrete, so as to make a solid, massive foundation.

The whole of the floor spaces between walls are—to prevent the possibility of any damp arising—filled in with a layer of concrete 2 ft. deep, made level on top to receive the mosaic and wood block floorings, and all walls are covered with Messrs. Engert and Rolfe’s patent anti-damp course. The sewerage pipes are metal, specially prepared, and glass enamelled inside, made by Messrs. Cameron and Robertson, of Glasgow. A large inspection chamber (Messrs. Harriman’s patent) has been built in front under footpath, and a similar one in yard at rear, with glazed buff bricks, having hinged metal air-tight man-hole covers, for easy examination.

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All the terra-cotta, which is of a very enriched description, was modelled and manufactured by the 6taff of Mr. J. C. Edwards, of Ruabon, from special designs. He also supplied the dark red facing and white enamelled bricks, and the former makes a good contrast with the buff terra-cotta. The name of, the company, and the year in which it was established, formed of ornamental enamelled terra-cotta blocks, are fixed on each gable in a very conspicuous position, 75 ft. above footpath, having ornamental trusses and scroll pediments over same. This part of the work is built in cement, together with the whole of the front wall and chimneys from foundation to top.

There are also three bond-courses built all round in cement, equally spaced asunder in each storey, having four tiers, galvanized hoop iron bond worked in each ; and under joists of all floors, galvanized plates of wrotiron chain-bonds are also laid in cement, all these bond – courses are in the greatest possible unbroken lengths, properly lapped, and firmly rivetted at joints, so as to prevent settlement.

The patent treasury, though small, is not surpassed in strength by any in Ireland. It is formed of heavy steel plates, and rails rivetted together, and the space between are filled with iron cement concrete, the whole forming an absolutely impregnable compound body. This apartment has a patent undrillable, unbreakable, compound steel burglar-proof door, fitted with a pair of self-locking steel ventilating gates on the inside. The walls of book-room are lined inside with white enamelled brick, fitted with patent ventilated wrot-iron shelving, and has a steel fire- and thief-resisting door.

Both treasury and book-room are lighted by electricity, and each door is controlled, and keyholes locked up by a night bolt, operated from manager’s bedroom in front part of buildings, and this portion of the work was done by Messrs. Chatwood and Co., of Manchester.

The buildings throughout are fireproof, as all roofs, beams, joists, and lintels are rolled steel, together with the large rivetted box girder fixed across banking chamber, 32 ft. long, 3 ft. deep, and 18in. broad, in one span, carrying rear wall over banking chamber, and weighs upwards of seven tons. The floors and roof are all formed of concrete, as well as steps of front staircase, and the surfaces of floor are finished with oak and red wood blocks.

This steel and concrete work of front block and flat over banking chamber, has been done by Messrs. Homan and Rodgers, of Manchester.

The outer surfaces of front roofs, together with the roofs of turrets, are covered with Patent Stamped Copper Tiles, and scroll copper cresting on ridge, and the latter ornamental copper gutters, gilded copper finials, and lightning conductors. A moulded zinc and metal ornamental dome frame 11{ ft. in diameter, is set on flat over rear portion of banking chamber. Tho copper work and dome frame was done by the patentees, Messrs. Ewart and Son, of London.

Two patent band lifts are fixed in the premises, by Messrs. Clark, Bunnett and Co., of London ; one in connection with office to raise ledgers to store-rooms, and another in residence, to raise coal, wood, and other articles to kitchen, and will probably be worked hereafter by electricity. The portabledivision, or extra thick self-coiling wood shutter between drawing and dining-rooms, this firm also supplied.

The wooden ceilings and partitions, which are few in number, are made fireproof by covering them with Banks’ Patent Helical Steel Lathing, which is the newest material of this description.

The banking chamber, and stores for old ledgers, and room for stationery, are heated by Messrs. Musgrave and Co., on their most recent principle. The special arrangement for the proper ventilation of the first apartment is also placed in the hands of this firm, who also made the ornamental wrought-iron enclosure to front stairs.

The fittings of banking chamber are dark polished oak, except the tops of counter and desks, which are mahogany. The counter takes a segmental shape, the pilasters and panels in front all richly moulded and carved. The surfaces of walls and angles are broken up by panelled and moulded oak pilasters, running from floor to entablature, having carved caps and fluted shafts. A framed and moulded oak dado extends all round the walls 6 ft. 6 in. high, having both plinth and capping. The entrance porch has ornamental pilasters, and turned elaborately carved columns at each side. The glass in upper panels of doors is protected by neat wrotiron hinged grilles. The other inner doors are oak, with trimmings and linings to agree. The space for clerks and counter is divided on top of framing by foliated grilles of wrotiron, and the panels contain monograms, and have solid effective lamp standards to correspond.

The ceiling of banking chamber is executed in the best fibrous plaster, specially modelled, by Messrs. Goodall of Liverpool, divided into two bays with deep moulded ribs to form panels, and have rich ornamentation. A bold moulded and enriched entablature runs round opening of dome light, and another similar in angles of walls along box girder above frieze.

The whole of this fibrous plaster is decorated in a most artistic manner, including entablatures, frieze, cornice, ceiling and enriched panels, metalled and finished as old Venetian gold, and entablatures metalled and lacquered, the frieze being in two shades of old ivory color. The whole of the surface of all the walls between bottom of frieze and top of dado, is carefully and neatly covered with Patent Tynecastle Canvas, and all decorated, and painted to approved shades of color, as directed. This latter portion of the work, together with the oak fittings, was erected by Messrs. Gillow and Co., of Lancaster and London.

The building is lighted throughout by electricity and gas, all the fittings for the banking chamber and other main rooms are of the most recent description, arranged on the combination principle to suit both gas and electricity in each fitting, and the lamps are fitted on the top of the standards before mentioned. The wiring switches, and cut outs for this part of the work, and also the fittings for upper rooms, Messrs. Laing, Wharton, and Down, of London, fixed. The ornamental wrot metal work along desks, combination fittings for banking chamber, and enriched wrot metal and bronze grilles to enclose front doors, and outside knobs and plates, were supplied by Messrs. Singer and Sons, of Frome, Somerset, from special designs. The combination fittings of metal and bronze required for other places, will be supplied Messrs. Winfield, of Birmingham.

The banking chamber is 44 ft. long, 30 ft. wide, and 18 ft. high, having the manager’s apartments over in front block, and kitchen, pantries, and large yard at the rear. The entrance porch and public space in front of counter is laid with pure white Roman marble mosaic flooring, having effective borders and centres, by Mr. J. F. Ebner, of London. The floors of lavatory, w.cs., and coat and hat-room, are laid with handsome encaustic tiles, and the walls, from floors to ceilings, are treated similarly in faience, and have a neat dado in each. Messrs. Wolliscroft, of Hanley, supplied the tiles for kitchen, pantries, and corridors. The rear part of banking chamber is lighted by a stained glass dome, which presents to the eye a singularly beautiful and effective object, differing from the stereotyped dome, in not having the longitudinal plates of glass from base to top, but the ironwork containing the stained glass being arranged in geometrical form. The work is executed to harmonise with the style of the building, and consists of bent plate stained glass, and painted and stained leadlights, the latter representing the arms of the four provinces of Ireland, Dublin, Belfast, and the arms of the National Bank, Ltd., and also allegorical subjects, as Commerce, Manufacture, &c. The whole ofthis and other special work was executed, and including the bending of the plate glass, by Messrs. Carlisle and Wilson, in their premises, North Street, Belfast. The lavatory in connection with banking chamber is fitted up in the most improved manner, containing Messrs. Doulton’s ” Simplicitas ” w.cs. and urinals, the latter having white enamelled backs, and rouge marble sides and tops, and self-flushing cistern of similar marble, and plate glass fronts and sides. The lavatory basins are Messrs. Morrison and Ingram’s patent, having D bowls, ornamental metal frieze, and rouge marble tops. The other sanitary matters in the building are also done in a similar manner, and all ventilated on the latest approved system. All this work was executed by Mr. John Dowling, of Belfast. The chimney-pieces, grates, tiled hearths, and range were supplied by Messrs. Itiddel, of Belfast.

The special window and door fastenings and locks were made by Messrs. Charles Smith and Sons, Ltd., of Birmingham.

Tha general contractors entrusted with the erection of the building were Messrs. H. and J. Martin, of Belfast, who had to proceed slowly with the operations, and use every necessary precaution, so as to prevent any damage being done to the adjacent old buildings, and to avoid any accident from taking place, in which they were successful. The upper portion of front block is fitted up with framing having stiles and rails of yellow pine, panels pitch pine, and mahogany mouldings. The architraves on first floor have mahogany columns, with caps, annulets, and heads boldly carved, and ornamental entablature over revolving partition all polished, the upper rooms being furnished in a simpler manner.

The two entrance doors and frames, which are of a very massive character, were also made by this firm. The frames are Riga oak, carved on outer edges, stiles and rails of doors are also oak moulded, and sunk, having selected teak panels elaborately carved, and the whole of the exterior faces are highly polished. The whole of the carving was executed in an artistic and spirited manner by Mr. J. Edgar Winter, of Belfast.

The plaster work is of an ornate description, also carried out from special designs ; the ceilings are thrown into panels by moulded stucco ribs, and have enriched pateras and centre pieces, and a moulded dado, in Keene’s cement, is carried round walls of staircase.

The height of the building from footpath to main cornice is 60 ft., and to top of finials of turrets 85 ft.

All the contracts were carried out in a very superior and up-to-date style, to the entire satisfaction of the architect, Mr. William Batt, M.R.I.A.I., Garfield Chambers, Belfast, and under his superintendence, and in accordance with his competitive design, which was selected by the directors, and the premises will very shortly be ready for occupation.” The Irish Builder, February 1, 1897.

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