The former bank at 31 Granby Street, Leicester has long been acknowledged as a landmark in Leicester’s Victorian architecture. The building was built as the headquarters of the Leicestershire Banking Company at a time when Leicester was in the throes of a conflict of styles between the classic and the gothic. The architect of the building, Joseph Goddard, also accepted commissions from the banking company for branches throughout the East Midlands, many of which are still used today.
The Leicestershire Banking Company was established in 1829 to finance the burgeoning industries of Leicester. By 1840 the bank stood on the site of the present branch in Granby Street. The Three Crowns Hotel had previously stood here for more than a century, providing rooms and refreshments for travellers on the busy route between London and Manchester.
By 1872 the expansion of the bank’s business required a similar growth in its premises. Local architects were asked to submit their designs for a new bank in an open competition.
The winner of the competition was Joseph Goddard. He had already played an important part in introducing Victorian gothic to Leicester in his design of the famous clock tower. His winning design for the bank was a deliberate contrast to the classical design of the new building of the bank’s rivals, the National Provincial Bank (today’s NatWest branch). The spectacular gothic building was executed in red brick and Portland stone with an unusual corner porch and French pavilion roofs. The front to Granby Street is particularly impressive with its three tall decorated windows. The finished building cost £7439 and opened for business n 1874.
The interior of the bank is also a masterpiece of design. The enormous hammer beams form a lantern roof giving the building a lofty and imposing atmosphere. The pillars are hand-carved with individual friezes and each corbel stone is decorated with a different coat of arms. These heraldic arms belong to those towns and cities where the Leicestershire Banking Company carried on its business. It is not certain whether or not the stained glass windows were part of the original plan as they display certain art nouveau features. The clock in the banking hall was made by Dent’s of Southwark, also responsible for Big Ben. The portraits in the banking hall depict H Simpson Gee and Samuel Bankart, past chairman of the Leicestershire Banking Company.
The bank was so pleased with Goddard’s work that it continued to press commissions for new bank buildings on him throughout the remainder of the century. These include the banks at Uppingham, Wellingborough and Ashby-de-la-Zouch. These branches show the evolution of Goddard’s style away from the Victorian gothic towards a more restrained domestic revival and Queen Ann Style.
The Leicestershire Banking Company amalgamated with Midland Bank in 1890 and all its branches, including Granby Street branch (now a grade two listed building), became part of the bank’s network.
The building has now been acquired by ISKCON with the aspiration of making it a community hub and contributing to the regeneration of the cultural quarter of the City.