Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Bank of Scotland, 38 Threadneedle Street EC3

The side entrance to the HBOS offices in Threadneedle Street has a wrought iron grille with the words South Sea House, and indeed the place is on the site of the offices of the South Sea Company, set up in 1711 to trade with South America.
The current building was designed in 1902 for the British Linen Bank by Scottish architect John Macvicar Anderson. He designed the grumpy-looking Neptune on the keystone of the arch, with cornucopia pouring money over his head.
Above that is a charming relief showing two sailors lounging on the dockside, one with navigational implements including a telescope, a lead line and a chronometer. The other sits next to bales of exotic south seas produce. A forest of masts rises behind.
Anderson said he recovered the work from the studio of the sculptor John Bacon Junior, who died in 1859. Apparently, the South Sea Company had commissioned it but never paid up, so Bacon held on to it.
It is a wonderful bit of propaganda, hinting at the boundless riches that the Company would bring to London's docks.
It is ironic that the building should have become the London HQ of HBOS, considering the pivotal role that company had in the recent property bubble.


Capability Bowes said...

Those "sailors" look awfully like recycled Greek "comedy and tragedy" masks to me.

ChrisP said...

Those heads are odd, aren't they?
Pevsner says the whole thing was 'reworked', so perhaps Bacon's students had a hack at it for practice.