Alness

Alness is a town in Scotland. The Royal Bank of Scotland traces its heritage there back to 1874.

Our first presence in Alness

The Royal Bank of Scotland’s Alness branch was first opened by Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1874. At that time Alness, although still a small rural community, was growing more prosperous, not least thanks to the arrival of the railway in the district during the 1860s.

The village’s development attracted the interest of Commercial Bank of Scotland, and on 5 February 1874 the bank's directors resolved to open a sub-branch there. Kenneth Mackenzie Ross was appointed sub-agent, under the supervision of the bank’s agent at Invergordon.

Alness remained a sub-branch until 1888, when it was made fully independent. It continued to grow, and in 1904 a new site on the north side of the High Street was bought for a purpose-built bank office. The new premises were open by 1906 and the Commercial Bank’s business in Alness continued to grow.

Tougher times

The First World War had a profound effect on both Alness and Commercial Bank of Scotland. The Admiralty Dockyard at nearby Invergordon became a busy naval base and large numbers of servicemen were stationed in the district. Commercial Bank, in common with the other banks in the area, struggled to cope with increased responsibilities alongside staff shortages.

During the Second World War, the dockyard at Invergordon again became an important naval base. Flying boats were stationed at Alness, and the Alness Public School buildings were requisitioned by the War Office. Commercial Bank had to cope with wartime controls over foreign exchange and lending priorities, responsibility for the marketing and distribution of defence bonds and the loss of staff to active service.

The later twentieth century

In the aftermath of the war, Alness experienced only limited growth. Some new housing was built and the distilleries, RAF and naval bases all continued to operate. Nevertheless, agriculture and forestry remained the main industries and, although Alness provided a shopping and service centre for the surrounding area, in 1960 the railway station was closed.

Commercial Bank of Scotland was also experiencing challenging times, and in 1959 it merged with National Bank of Scotland to form National Commercial Bank of Scotland, making Alness one of over 400 branches of the newly-merged bank. In 1965 its premises were enlarged and refurbished.

Change came to Alness in the late 1960s when the Highland and Islands Development Board commissioned the preparation of a strategy for industrial expansion at Invergordon. This report concluded that Alness was a prime site for the residential growth that would arise from such expansion.

A large-scale house building programme was launched. Alongside it, many new amenities were built, including Coulhill Primary School, Alness Academy, Averon Community Centre and a new health centre. In 1973 the railway station was reopened. The population of Alness grew from 1,500 in 1967 to 6,625 in 1976.

In 1969 National Commercial Bank of Scotland merged with The Royal Bank of Scotland and Alness branch became part of the much-expanded Royal Bank.