1. Records of the Company of Scotland, 1695-1707
Long before the Royal Bank itself was founded, this was the company responsible for Scotland’s ill-fated attempt to establish a trading colony at Darien in Central America in the 1690s. That chain of events is closely tied to Scotland’s history, in recognition of which the records are inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World (UK) register.
2. 20 shilling note, 1727
I have to pick something from the birth year of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and as one of our very first series of banknotes, this can also stand as a representative of the bank’s long and fascinating history as a banknote issuer, right up to the present day.
3. Scott Moncrieff letters, 1801-1803
Robert Scott Moncrieff was manager of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Glasgow branch. Six days a week he wrote to William Simpson, the bank’s cashier (CEO) in Edinburgh. Although the letters were primarily meant to keep head office up to date with business in the Glasgow branch, the two men had worked together for 20 years, and were friends. The letters also include local gossip, personal news, grumbles about the weather and even a few jokes.
4. Field service postcards, 1916-1918
These postcards were sent by Samuel McKnight to his former Royal Bank colleagues, while he was away on active service in the First World War. In the 1990s they were rediscovered in one of our Edinburgh offices, with the following note: ‘These cards have been placed here by J. Smith, messenger, in the hope that perhaps long after this dreadful war the name of one may be again honoured who was loved by all. 10 June 1919.’
5. Advertisement for National Provincial Bank’s home safes, 1931
We have lots of lovely adverts, particularly for home safes, which were introduced in the 1920s and marketed to children and other small-scale savers. The best of them – like this one – are really engaging, and tell us a huge amount about changing attitudes, fashions and priorities over the decades.
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- Sherry Ostroff
- Can you provide some historical information about the Royal Bank of Scotland soon after it opened it's doors in 1727? Did the bank provided a way for a customer to leave their valuables for safekeeping? I know there weren't safe deposit boxes back then, but could a locked box be kept in a vault for many years until the owner/executor came to retrieve it?
- RBS Archives
- The safe keeping of valuables for customers was a key service offered by many early bankers. This was partly because the business of banking, in 17th century London in particular, grew out of the trade of goldsmithing. Goldsmiths already had secure storage for their jewellery and plate and it was a logical next step to offer safe custody for their customers’ precious belongings too. When the Royal Bank of Scotland itself opened in Edinburgh in 1727 the bank’s premises were very small and the cash and securities were kept in crude iron chests to protect them from fire and theft. However, we can find no evidence of a safe custody service amongst the early records other than references to jewellery and the like that passed into the bank’s care temporarily as security for advances. However, by the early 19th century nearly all banks would have offered the kind of safe custody service you describe, the facility to leave a package or box locked away safely in their strongrooms.