Woolwich branch shortly before the First World War © RBS

Our First World War banks

In 1914 30 of the banks that were to come together to create today’s RBS were trading independently

This site explores the First World War from the perspective of 30 of the historic banks that have come together since 1914 to form today’s RBS. Some of these are still high street names, such as Ulster Bank, Isle of Man Bank, Coutts & Co and The Royal Bank of Scotland itself. Others merged in later decades to form what became NatWest, or were acquired by one of our other constituent banks. All were based in the United Kingdom.

Whether the names are still familiar today or not, each one of these banks has a place in our heritage. The wartime experiences of their staff and customers are part of what RBS remembers on this site.

Find out about the constituent banks mentioned on this site which were trading during, or just prior to, the First World War in the directory below.

You can also review how they have come together since 1914 to form RBS in the extract below from our family tree.

Directory of our First World War banks

  • Bank of Whitehaven

    Banknote of Bank of Whitehaven, 1905

    This shareholder-owned bank was established in Whitehaven in 1837. It was acquired by Manchester & Liverpool District Banking Co in 1916, so eventually became part of NatWest.

  • Beckett & Co

    This private Leeds-based bank was founded in 1774. By the First World War, it had around 17 branches in the Yorkshire region, and was one of only a handful of English provincial banks that still issued their own banknotes. Beckett’s was acquired by London County Westminster & Parr’s Bank in 1921, so eventually became part of NatWest.

  • Bradford District Bank

    This Bradford-based shareholder-owned bank was established in 1862 by local woollen manufacturers. It grew by acquiring another bank and opening branches in the region. In 1918, when it was taken over by National Provincial & Union Bank of England, it had 10 branches and 4 sub-branches. National Provincial Bank eventually became part of NatWest.

  • Child & Co

    Child and Co, Fleet Street, London, 1900s

    Tracing its origins to a 16th century goldsmith’s shop, Child & Co was located at one of the old gates into the City of London and in the 18th and 19th centuries served an exclusive and aristocratic clientele. In 1924 it was acquired by Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co, so eventually became part of The Royal Bank of Scotland.

  • Commercial Bank of Scotland

    London office of Commercial Bank of Scotland, c.1913

    This Scottish bank was founded in Edinburgh in 1810 to provide banking facilities to small businessmen. During the Edwardian period it extended its branch network and by 1914 it had 176 branches. In 1959 it merged with National Bank of Scotland, creating a new bank that joined The Royal Bank of Scotland in 1969.

  • Coutts & Co

    Coutts & Co, 440 Strand, London, 1900s

    Founded by a Scottish goldsmith in London’s Strand in 1692, this bank became one of the leading private banks in 18th and 19th century London, acting as banker to both royalty and prominent people from the worlds of politics, the arts and business. In 1914, on the eve of the war, it acquired the banking house of Robarts, Lubbock & Co. Coutts & Co was acquired by National Provincial & Union Bank of England in 1920, but has continued to trade independently to the present day.

  • Crompton & Evans’ Union Bank

    Share certificate of Crompton & Evans’ Union Bank, c.1910

    This joint stock bank was established in 1877 to bring together three separate existing banks in Derby and Chesterfield. It immediately acquired three other banks and by early 1914, when it was itself taken over by Parr’s Bank, it had 18 branches and 28 sub-branches. It is a predecessor bank to NatWest. 

  • Drummonds

    Drummonds and Admiralty Arch, London, 1910

    Founded by a Scottish goldsmith in 1717, this private bank traded in Charing Cross, London. During the 18th and 19th centuries it numbered many Scots and many important architects, artists, composers and craftsmen amongst its customers. In 1914 it was occupying a relatively new banking house overlooking Trafalgar Square and the Mall. It was acquired by The Royal Bank of Scotland in 1924, and was the bank’s second acquisition in 200 years and its first south of the border.

  • Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co

    Country office staff of Glyn, Mills, Currie &Co, 1896

    This private bank was founded in London’s Lombard Street in 1757. It grew quickly, developing a large business as London agent to many English and Welsh provincial banks and providing banking services to over 200 of the new railway companies. Glyn, Mills acquired two other banks in the Victorian period, but continued to operate from a single City of London office. It was acquired by The Royal Bank of Scotland in 1939.

  • Guernsey Banking Co

    Banknote of Guernsey Banking Co., 1923

    This shareholder-owned bank was established in St Peter Port, Guernsey, in the Channel Islands in 1827. The bank issued its own notes and opened 2 branches and an agency. It was acquired by National Provincial & Union Bank of England in 1924, so eventually became part of NatWest.

  • Holt & Co

    Cheque of Holt & Co., 1910s

    This army agency was founded in London in about 1809. Victorian army agencies kept the accounts of regiments, distributed pay, dealt with claims for pensions and provided banking services to officers and their families. During the First World War Holt & Co handled the pay of 35,000 army officers and also acquired Woodhead & Co, a naval agency. In 1923 it was taken over by Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co, so eventually became part of The Royal Bank of Scotland.

  • Isle of Man Banking Co

    Banknote of Isle of Man Banking Co, 1914

    This joint stock bank was established in Douglas, Isle of Man in 1865. In 1914 it had eight branches and had recently opened a brand new head office building. It issued its own banknotes. In 1926 it was renamed Isle of Man Bank. In 1961 it was acquired by National Provincial Bank, but continued to trade independently, and still does so today.

  • London County & Westminster Bank

    Head office of London County & Westminster Bank, London, c.1915

    This joint stock bank was established in London in 1836 and grew very quickly by opening branches and acquiring other banks in the south east. It created its own overseas bank in 1913 and in 1917 acquired Ulster Bank in Ireland. By 1918, when it merged with Parr’s Bank, to become London County Westminster & Parr’s Bank, it had 700 branches and was one of Britain’s largest banks. Its name was shortened to Westminster Bank in 1923. It was one of the two banks that came together to form National Westminster Bank in 1968.

  • London County & Westminster Bank (Paris)

    London County & Westminster Bank (Paris) loan poster, 1919

    This overseas bank was formed in 1913 as a subsidiary of London County & Westminster Bank with a main branch in Paris, although its head office was always in London. During the First World War the bank opened several new branches in France and Spain. It merged fully with National Westminster Bank in 1989.

  • Manchester & County Bank

    This Manchester-based bank was founded in 1862. By 1914 it had 67 branches and 50 sub-branches. It was acquired by District Bank in 1935, so eventually became part of NatWest.

  • Manchester & Liverpool District Banking Co

    Manchester office of Manchester & Liverpool District Banking Co, 1910s

    Established in Manchester in 1829, this shareholder-owned bank grew quickly in north-west England by opening new branches and acquiring other banks. In 1914 it had 212 branches and sub-branches and continued to grow during the war, acquiring Bank of Whitehaven in 1915. It was acquired by National Provincial Bank in 1962, so eventually became part of NatWest.

  • National Bank of Scotland

    London office of National Bank of Scotland, 1914

    This bank was founded in Edinburgh in 1825 and issued its own banknotes from the outset. By 1914 it had 124 branches and 5 sub-branches and was the second largest bank in Scotland. In 1918, building on an existing foreign exchange connection, it was acquired by Lloyds Bank but remained entirely separate. In 1959 it merged with Commercial Bank of Scotland, creating a new bank that joined The Royal Bank of Scotland in 1969.

  • National Provincial Bank of England

    Prestatyn branch of National Provincial Bank of England, 1918

    Established in London in 1833 this bank was one of a new breed of shareholder-owned banks which intended from the outset to have a national, rather than a regional, branch network. By 1918 it had over 450 branches. In that year it merged with Union of London & Smiths Bank and was restyled National Provincial & Union Bank of England. The new bank had over 700 branches. Its name was shortened to National Provincial Bank in 1924. It was one of the two banks that came together to form National Westminster Bank in 1968.

  • Northamptonshire Union Bank

    This shareholder-owned bank was established in 1836 in Northampton as Northamptonshire Union Bank, a reconstruction of the private banking business of John & Samuel Percival (established c.1796). In 1920, when the bank was acquired by National Provincial & Union Bank of England, it had 25 branches and sub-branches in the Northamptonshire area. It was a predecessor bank to NatWest.

  • Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Banking Co

    Cheque of Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Banking Co, 1910s

    This joint stock bank was established in Nottingham in 1834. By 1911 it had almost 30 branches. Just after the war, in 1919, it was acquired by London County Westminster & Parr’s Bank, so eventually became part of NatWest.

  • Parr’s Bank

    Staff fire brigade of Parr’s Bank, London, 1914

    This bank was established in Warrington in 1788 by local businessmen, but later became a shareholder-owned bank. By 1918, when it was acquired by London County & Westminster Bank, it had 235 branches and 94 sub-branches. It was a predecessor bank to NatWest.

  • Robarts, Lubbock & Co

    Lombard Street office of Coutts & Co, formerly Robarts, Lubbock & Co., 1920s

    This private bank was established in London in 1772 and was the last private bank to have a seat on the London Clearing House. In July 1914, just weeks before the outbreak of war, it was acquired by Coutts & Co. Its Lombard Street office was retained by Coutts & Co as a City of London branch.

  • Sheffield Banking Co

    This joint stock bank was established in Sheffield in 1831. By 1913 it had opened 32 branches and sub-branches. Just after the war, in 1919, it was acquired by National Provincial & Union Bank of England, so eventually became part of NatWest.

  • Stilwell & Sons

    This naval agency traces its origins to a merchant trader who operated next to the Navy Office in London in the late 18th century. Victorian navy agencies distributed pay, dealt with claims for pensions, handled prize monies and provided banking services to sailors. The business was acquired by Westminster Bank in 1923.

  • The National Bank

    Banknote of The National Bank, 1915

    This bank was established in London in 1835 to provide capital for Irish economic development. It initially carried on its banking business in Ireland but later also opened branches in England and Wales. By 1914 it had 150 branches and sub-branches, of which 135 were in Ireland. In 1966 the bank’s Irish business passed to Bank of Ireland and the company and its English and Welsh branches passed to National Commercial Bank of Scotland. In this way these branches eventually became part of RBS.

  • The Royal Bank of Scotland

    Head office of The Royal Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh, c.1910

    Founded by royal charter in Edinburgh in 1727, The Royal Bank of Scotland issued its own banknotes from the outset. In 1914 it was one of several similar shareholder-owned banks in Scotland. It had 162 branches and employed around 900 staff, and although it had had an office in London for 50 years it had no other branches south of the border. Since the First World War it has grown steadily and now heads up a large family of banks and related businesses.

  • Ulster Bank

    Dublin College Green branch of Ulster Bank, 1911

    A joint stock bank founded in Belfast in 1836, this bank issued its own banknotes and by 1914 had 78 branches and 89 sub-branches stretching across the island of Ireland. The Easter Rising of 1916 altered the political and economic landscape in Ireland and Ulster Bank was taken over by London County Westminster & Parr’s Bank in 1917. It has continued to trade independently to the present day.

  • Union of London & Smiths Bank

    Head office of Union of London & Smiths Bank, London, 1910

    This joint stock bank was established in London in 1839. In 1902 it had 51 branches, but during the following years took over several large banks in London and the provinces. When it was acquired by National & Provincial Bank of England in 1918 it had 231 branches. It was a predecessor bank to NatWest.

  • Williams Deacon’s Bank

    Office of Williams Deacon’s Bank, Manchester, c.1900

    Founded in Manchester in 1836 as Manchester & Salford Bank, this shareholder-owned bank acquired the old-established London private bank of Williams, Deacon & Co in 1890. By 1914 it was an important British bank with 73 branches and 44 sub-branches in north-west England. It was acquired by The Royal Bank of Scotland in 1930.

  • Woodhead & Co

    Customer loans ledger of Woodheads, 1910s

    This naval agency traces its origins to Lark & Woodhead, established in London in around 1804. Victorian navy agencies distributed pay, dealt with claims for pensions, handled prize monies and provided banking services to sailors. In 1915, during the First World War, the firm was acquired by the army agency of Holt & Co, and eventually became part of The Royal Bank of Scotland.