Drummonds Bank, Charing Cross, London, 1777-1779, part executed (16)
The founder of Drummonds Bank, Andrew Drummond, was born in 1688 at Machany, Perthshire, a younger son of Sir John Drummond and his wife Margaret. A descendant of the Viscounts Strathallan, from May 1705 Drummond pursued a career in commerce, taking up an apprenticeship to Colin McKenzie, a goldsmith based in Parliament Square, Edinburgh. By 1712 Drummond had relocated to London, where he operated as a goldsmith from premises in Charing Cross, located at ‘the sign of the golden eagle’. By 1717 he had expanded his business to included banking services, which he developed steadily over the next three decades. In October 1745, however, his bank suffered a significant setback, when on 3 October business was abruptly halted and all outstanding accounts settled. Two weeks later, on 15 October, the Bank was once again in operation, but with less than half its previous clients on the ledger.
Winterbottom highlights this unusual period and raises the possibility that Drummond was suspected of aiding the Jacobite rebellion, and as a result his accounts seized and inspected. Indeed, Drummond’s older brother William, 4th Viscount Strathallan (1690-1746) was a known Jacobite who had previously taken part in the 1715 uprising, and following the rising of 1745 he took up an active role in command the army of Charles Edward Stuart in Scotland. William subsequently died in April 1746 at the battle of Culloden, and as a result the family’s estates were forfeited. Drummond’s Bank, however, recovered and flourished with the help of his son John (d. 1774) and his nephews, William’s youngest sons Robert and Henry (d. 24 June 1795). In 1755 Drummond bought back the family’s estate at Machany, and in 1760 made the decision to relocate his business to a new site on the western side of Charing Cross.
Messrs Drummond became increasingly popular with wealthy Scots, and indeed Robert Adam held an account with them from 1764. Other noteworthy clients of this period included Sir William Chambers, Capability Brown and the plasterer Joseph Rose.
At the time of Andrew Drummond’s death, in February 1769, his Bank made annual profits of £10,000 and served 1,500 customers, compared with the 400 accounts held in 1744.
Winterbottom cites a contemporary account by John Ramsay who records Drummond reflecting on his success in London, having ‘planted a colony of Drummonds round Charing Cross which appears to thrive’. Indeed, following the death of its founder, the Bank continued under the directorship of three branches of the family, initially in the form of Drummond’s son John and later grandson George, and his nephews Robert and Henry.
Messrs Drummond survived the banking crisis of 1772 almost unscathed, having cautiously avoided speculative bills, and as a result found themselves to be in stable circumstances during the period of economic recovery. By the time of Henry Drummond’s death in 1795 the Bank held 3,200 accounts and made annual profits of £30,000.
Robert Adam’s scheme for Drummond’s Bank dates from 1777-1779. As Drummond’s son John died in 1774, having survived his father by only a few years, the commission must have been made by either one of Drummond’s nephews or possibly his grandson George Drummond (d. 6 March 1789). Significantly SM Adam 17/55 and 20/209, designs for a pier glass and table, are inscribed for George Drummond. They are, however, of the slightly later date of 1779 and are not specifically assigned to the property at Charing Cross. The inscriptions for a record drawing of a frieze for the drawing room (SM Adam 53/53), do however refer to both George Drummond and Charing Cross, along with a further frieze allocated to the oval room, which is in turn visible in the plans for the ground and first storeys (Adam volume 31/118-119). The designs for alterations to the house, together with those for chimneypieces are dated to 1777 and are simply assigned to Messrs Drummond. It is equally possible that Drummond’s nephew Henry was responsible for initiating the commission. From 1765 through to 1781 Adam produced a number of designs for Henry Drummond’s London residence, with the earliest intended for his townhouse in Great George Street.
This scheme was produced for the site acquired by Andrew Drummond less than 20 years earlier for £1,100. The earlier building, commissioned by Drummond and constructed in 1760, was a relatively plain three-storey, five-bay house, with the central three bays projecting and pedimented. Designed in 1758, its architect is unknown. It is perhaps worth noting, however, that both John Vardy and William Chambers worked for Drummond at his Stanmore House in the early 1760s. Adam, as part of his scheme, proposed a new, more elaborate façade. However a survey drawing dating to the 1870s shows that this was never executed, with the 1760s façade preserved at the centre of a much expanded premises. It is clear that Adam oversaw alterations to the Charing Cross site, with a resulting payment of £508 made to him in 1781. It is, however difficult to ascertain the extent of the work carried out. Adam clearly made a number of interior alterations, and King notes the survival of one of the Adam chimneypieces of this scheme (Adam volume 23/90). Presumably salvaged following the demolition of the Drummonds building in 1879, it is now situated in the board room of the Royal Bank of Scotland Drummonds branch, located at the same site. Interestingly the rate books of the 1770s show that in 1772 Messrs Drummond purchased no. 52, a property adjacent to the bank. However the rate books record that for a number of years after its purchase the usage of no. 52 remained entirely domestic. It is not listed as an incorporated part of the Bank premises until around 1777. Significantly this coincides with the date of Adam’s scheme for the Bank, and therefore suggests a number of structural alterations were also made at this time.
The present building occupying the site from 47-52 Charing Cross was constructed from 1879-81 to the designs of P.C. Hardwick. In 1924 Messrs Drummond was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland. It continued as an independently managed bank until the 1960’s and is currently Drummonds Branch RBS.
See also: Henry Drummond, 10 Great George Street, London
John Ramsay, 'Andrew Drummond', Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century, A. Allardyce (ed.), 1888; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 36, 69; G.H. Gater & W.H. Godfrey (eds.), Survey of London: Volume XVI Charing Cross (St. Martin-in-the-fields), Part I, 1935, pp. 98, 103, 109-110; E. Harris, The Furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, p.54; G. Beard, The Work of Robert Adam, 1978, p. 9; R. Saville, Bank of Scotland – A History, 1695-1995, 1996, pp. 152, 168, 544; D. King, The complete works of Robert and James Adam & unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 32, 52, pl. 57; F. Sands, Robert Adam’s London, 2016, pp. 25-27; P. Winterbottom, ‘Drummond, Henry (c1730-1795)’, www.oxforddnb.com, 2004; P. Winterbottom, ‘Andrew Drummond (1688-1769)’, oxforddnb.com, 2010; M.G.H. Pittock, ‘Drummond, William, fourth Viscount of Strathallan (1690-1746)’, www.oxforddnb.com, 2013; www.rbs.com/heritage/companies/messrs-drummond.html (accessed Sept. 2018)