The world of ‘banks’ is at the very heart of the story of Mary Poppins; aside from the magical nanny herself, the main characters are the Banks family and Mr Banks is preoccupied with his work at a…you’ve guessed it, a bank! Britain itself has a long history of banking, with many branches once residing in the grandest buildings of a city that have now been transformed into elegant hotels and restaurants. As new feature film Mary Poppins Returns hits screens this winter it’s the perfect time to seek out your very own ‘Banks’ experience in Britain.
The Ned, London
A City of London landmark since 1925, the building now occupied by luxury hotel The Ned was once the headquarters of Britain’s Midland Bank, a striking building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens – one of Britain’s greatest architects – that was the largest clearing house bank in the world at the time it was built. Now a five-star hotel, part of the Soho House & Co Group and Sydell Group, its banking legacy means guests stay in a super-stylish building dominated with high-vaulted ceilings and grand doors. Its rooms range from the cosy ‘Crash Pad’ to Grand Heritage suites on the Grade I-listed fifth floor, while its pièce de résistance is its spectacular restaurant hall. Eight restaurants, ranging in cuisine from Italian to British, American to French, sit within the former banking hall, each with its own space separated by 92 verdite columns and walnut banking counters.
The Old Bank Hotel, Oxford, central England
Surrounded by the impressive architecture of ancient Oxford University colleges as well as the Bodleian Library, The Old Bank Hotel still manages to stand out in Oxford thanks to its stunning design. It fully became a bank in 1808, and had strong links with the University, counting author of Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll as one of its customers. Now a five-star property with 42 bedrooms, many with gorgeous views of Oxford landmarks, The Old Bank Hotel has recently undergone a refurbishment, resulting in the creation of a rooftop bedroom and terrace overlooking Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’ skyline.
Harbour Hotel & Spa, Bristol, south-west England
Situated in the heart of Bristol, the Harbour Hotel & Spa is housed in not one, but two former Lloyds Bank buildings. Designed by famed Victorian architect William Bruce Gingell, who was inspired by the 16th-century Venetian Library, the hotel has a stunning façade and beautiful interiors. The former banking hall is particularly grand and often hosts events, while what were once the bank vaults are now the hotel’s luxury spa. Indulge in a treatment or two or a dip in the hydrotherapy pool knowing that you’re relaxing in the location where a lot of money was once guarded!
Inn on the Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland
It may not be on the same grandiose scale as some buildings that were formerly bank headquarters, but this gem of a boutique hotel on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile has lovingly conserved many of the building’s original features from when it was the British Linen Bank, built in 1923. The hotel’s nine bedrooms include large sash windows, high ceilings and original cornicing, while its pub also nods to its banking heritage in its décor and style.
Hotel Gotham, Manchester, north-west England
Sir Edwin Lutyens left his mark in Manchester when he designed the building of a former bank that is now home to Hotel Gotham. The architecture is quite breathtaking and the luxury hotel pays homage throughout to the building’s original purpose, maintaining elaborate period touches such as the polished wooden counters so synonymous with banks from the last century. The five-star hotel offers 60 rooms, including five Inner Sanctum Suites – two of which are named ‘Bank Manager’s Suites’ – all of which are decadent in style. Guests (and members) have access to its VIP Club Brass lounge, which is accessed through two vault-like doors.
Old Bank of England, London
This pub and restaurant’s name sums up its past…it sits in the former Law Courts branch of the Bank of England, on the historic Fleet Street in the City of London. Stunningly renovated, the Old Bank of England has updated the ornate interior of the venue where the Bank of England traded from 1888 until 1975. When you’re enjoying your hearty British meals (think hand-made pies and fish and chips) you’ll be doing so surrounded by history; the basement still contains the original vaults used to store bullion and some of the Crown Jewels during the First World War. The two safes are now the venue’s cellars and kitchens.
The Corinthian Club, Glasgow, Scotland
Five floors of what was once a former bank and high court in the heart of Glasgow now house the restaurant, bar and event spaces of The Corinthian Club. One of the city’s most elaborate buildings, the Club has retained many of the original features of the Glasgow & Ship Bank (which was built in 1842) such as the impressive 26-foot glass dome and delicate, elegant plasterwork. Book into Teller’s Brasserie at the Club for a French-influenced dishes created using Scottish produce.
The Wolseley, London
Situated on Piccadilly, The Wolseley is run in the style of the European Grand Café, serving everything from breakfast to lunch, afternoon teas to dinners – it’s also very much a place to see and be seen. As well as the food, people come for the prestigious surroundings of the building that started life as a car showroom – Wolseley Motors – in 1921 and became a branch of Barclays Bank in 1927. Architect William Curtis Green created an opulent building, with marble pillars and archways, later adding banking counter and managers offices, which now serve as the bar and tea salon. When it became The Wolseley many aspects of the original design, including the domed ceiling and marble flooring, were kept.
The Dome, Edinburgh, Scotland
Dine on traditional Scottish favourites at this Edinburgh restaurant, which was once one of the city’s most striking bank branches and its décor remains as opulent to this day. Located in Edinburgh’s New Town, an elegant Graeco-Roman façade and Corinthian Portico greet its guests. You can dine under the dome itself in the Grill Room, among wood-panelled walls and Art Deco-inspired mirrors in The Club or take afternoon tea under the crystal chandeliers of The Georgian Tea Room.
Potted Pig, Cardiff, south Wales
Modern British cuisine and French/American culinary influences are on the menu at Cardiff’s Potted Pig, situated in a former Lloyd’s Bank vault beneath the city. Regularly changing seasonal menus are served in this underground restaurant that has retained a raft of original features, such as cast-iron cage doors and shallow-arched ceilings. The exposed brickwork, wooden floors and comfy sofas of its Gin Lounge make it the perfect place to experience its huge range of bespoke gins.
Bank of England Museum, London
The Bank of England itself may not be open to visitors but you can explore its fascinating museum in the City of London. Five different galleries will take you through economic history and that of the Bank of England, from the origins of paper money and examples of forged notes to explaining why modern banknotes are difficult to counterfeit.
Royal Mint Experience, Llantrisant, south Wales
The Royal Mint makes and distributes British coins and official medals for around 60 countries every year and its location in south Wales, 30 minutes’ drive from Cardiff, also offers a visitor experience. Take a guided tour of the manufacturing areas to discover how coins are created and the chance to strike your own coin. The experience concludes with an interactive exhibition divided into six zones, which include the history and origins of the Mint and the roles coins play in our lives.
Museum on the Mound, Edinburgh, Scotland
Close to Edinburgh’s Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle, the Museum on the Mound is located in the historic Bank of Scotland Head Office and takes visitors through the story of money. You’ll be able to see Scotland’s oldest banknote, come face-to-face with a million pounds, see how safes are cracked open and learn much more about the design, technology and security of money at this free museum.