13th August 2016

Dublin Bank Architecture Tour


Bank Architecture in Dublin (2011) Michael O Neill PhD FSA

Competition between joint-stock banking companies in the nineteenth century was intense and architectural prowess was part of the arsenal employed by the boards.

This has resulted is some of the most impressive buildings still dominating many streetscapes of the city. The locations, eclectic architectural styles and exquisite banking hall interiors are the subject of this tour.

Most eighteenth century private banks in Ireland had a small turnover and did not use a specific building type. An exception is the very fine neo-classical Newcomen bank on Castle Street, built in 1781 by Thomas Ivory and located outside the main entrance to Dublin Castle.

Bank of Ireland College Green

Banking Hall. Bank of Ireland College Green

Following the Act of Union, the Bank of Ireland purchased the Parliament Building as a head office and accompanying banking hall. The internal changes were made by Francis Johnston and the influence of Soane’s work at the Bank of England is apparent. Due to the Bank of Ireland monopoly and the delay in the introduction of joint-stock banks, it was mid-century before Johnston’s monumental top-lit banking hall could be responded to by other banking companies.


National Bank College Green

National Bank Headquarters College Green (now Abercrombie & Fitch)

Bank head offices were drawn to College Green and Dame Street following the precedent set by the Bank of Ireland. These were initially built in an Italianate classical style – The National and Royal Bank and later, following the influence of Deane & Woodward’s Museum Building in Trinity College Dublin, in an Italianate Gothic style – Provincial, Hibernian and Munster & Leinster.

Museum Building Trinity College Dublin. designed by Deane & Woodward 1853-7

Museum Building Trinity College Dublin. designed by Deane & Woodward 1853-7

AIB Dame Street

AIB Bank Dame Street (formerly Munster & Leinster)

These bank headquarters were inserted into a later Georgian streetscape.Their monumentality is striking, the innovative settings are perhaps harder to capture now. The employment of industrial quantities of cast iron and glass by mid-century allowed newer solutions to top lit banking halls, again executed in exquisite detail to rival competing institutions