FNB Building – Adderley Street

The First National Bank building, in Adderley Street, designed by Herbert Baker.

Sir Herbert Baker was at the height of his career when he designed what was then Barclays Bank. His reaction to the commission was not one of enthusiasm, for he remarked, ‘I really do not feel that I much want to do the work except for a rather natural longing to attempt to remove some of the squalor of Adderley Street.’ It was designed in Baker’s London office, but carried out by by the Cape Town architects, Forsyth & Parker. This was the last building that Baker designed in South Africa. It shows the approach of the mature architect, with the bold and dignified facade of grey granite and the domed banking hall within the great bronze doors. The sandstone that was used for the walls, were taken from a specially opened quarry near Ceres. The travertine and marble used for the walls and floors of the banking hall were specially imported from Italy. The furniture and fittins were also designed in London, but made in Cape Town.

During the 1920’s the roof was heightened, but it retained the central dome with the figure of Britannia on top.

The 4 circular plaques on the angles of the banking hall dome were placed in 1932. They are:

  1. Symbols of Great Britain

Gold lion with a crown: EnglandHarp: Ireland

Red Lion: Scotland

Dragon: Wales

  1. Symbols of the Union Of South Africa

Lady with Anchor: Cape Colony

2 Wildebeest: Natal

Ox Wagon: Transvaal

Orange Tree: Orange River Colony

  1. Arms of Cape Town

The arms of Van Riebeeck, a shield with three besants superimposed upon the anchor of Good Hope.The signs of Lombard Street

Bell: 44 Lombard Street

Rose & Crown: 50 Lombard Street

Bible: 54 Lombard Street

Eagle: 56 Lombard Street

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