Stranraer is a town in Scotland. The Royal Bank of Scotland traces its heritage there back to 1862.
National Bank of Scotland
The Royal Bank of Scotland’s presence in Stranraer began on 1 December 1862, with the opening of a branch of National Bank of Scotland. Stranraer at that time was thriving. It had a long history as an agricultural and fishing centre, and in more recent decades its new-found importance to the Irish ferry trade had brought much more traffic to the town.
The bank appointed two local solicitors, Hugh Adair and William Wallace, to serve as its joint agents in Stranraer. The branch was established in a converted part of their law office on North Strand Street.
The branch must have been an immediate success, because within weeks of its opening the bank granted Adair and Wallace permission to hire an apprentice to help with the workload. Business continued to do well, and by 1869 it was clear that the premises in Adair and Wallace’s offices were not adequate. Adair consulted a local architect, who advised that it would be much better to build a new branch than to attempt to convert the existing premises. At around the same time an opportunity arose to purchase the empty plot of land next door. The bank did so, and between 1869 and 1871 erected new premises for its Stranraer branch there.
Commercial Bank of Scotland
By the time National Bank’s new premises opened, the branch was facing increased competition. In September 1870 Commercial Bank of Scotland opened a branch in Stranraer, and appointed William Wallace – one of the joint agents from the National Bank – to operate the new venture. He went on to run the branch for over 30 years, only retiring in 1902.
Like the National Bank branch before it, Commercial Bank’s Stranraer branch initially occupied rented premises, but by 1874 - having proved its worth to the bank’s directors in Edinburgh - the noted architect David Rhind was commissioned to design new premises. The building, completed in 1875, was admired not only for its beauty, but for the technical accomplishment involved in creating a building which arched over a burn running through the site. It is here, at 15 Bridge Street, that Stranraer branch remains today.
The Royal Bank of Scotland
The Royal Bank of Scotland opened a branch in Stranraer in February 1903. Its original location is not known, but in 1925 the bank bought premises for it in South Strand Street, at numbers 14-18.
In the post-war years Scottish banking entered a period of mergers which saw the number of note-issuing banks reduce from eight at the end of the Second World War to just three by the early 1970s. In 1959 Commercial Bank of Scotland and National Bank of Scotland merged to create National Commercial Bank of Scotland. Ten years later, National Commercial Bank of Scotland itself merged with The Royal Bank of Scotland.
In Stranraer, the Royal Bank now had three branches, all very close together: the former National Bank on North Strand Street, the former Commercial Bank on Bridge Street and the original Royal Bank branch on South Strand Street. For a while all three branches continued trading side-by-side, but in 1972 the Royal Bank of Scotland fully refurbished the fine David Rhind building on Bridge Street. When those works were complete, all the bank’s operations in Stranraer were brought together in those premises.