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Britain’s ‘most beautiful bank’ to become a Wetherspoons bar

Application lodged with council reveals ornate interior of former Strand Lloyds

21 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Photos: Mike Quinn 

IT was known as Britain’s most beautiful bank, the sort of counter which you might even be happy approach with a stinking red overdraft.

With its ornate fixtures and fittings, the law courts branch of Lloyd’s in the Strand was just as interesting to architecture buffs as customers searching for a cheap rate mortgage.

No 222, however, fell victim to the bank’s overhaul of its services and a round of branch closures and now, the Westminster Extra can reveal, it is being lined up for a completely different use: a new bar in the Wetherspoons’ portfolio.

Paperwork filed at Westminster Council shows plans to convert the ground floor and basement into a new pub: Britain’s most beautiful bank could soon be Britain’s most beautiful ’Spoons.

The company insists there would be competition for such a title and as part of the package of documents sent to the planning department it shares past projects in which has brought unseen marvels, such as closed cinemas and opera houses, back into life bars.

While the chain is perhaps best known for its affordable prices and curry club deals, it also prides itself on spotting historic gems.
No 222 Strand was meant to have had a future as a restaurant for lawyers working in Aldwych – the Royal Courts of Justice stand opposite.

The business failed, however, in the late 19th century and Lloyd’s moved in, operating a bank there for more than 100 years. It was listed by commercial estate agents last summer after the bank finally moved out.

“The interior is renowned for its magnificent Doulton tiles, which commemorate the history of the site,” the bank had said in its marketing material.

“It includes a portrait of a Palsgrave – Frederick – the failed restaurant was named in his honour.

“Frederick, later King of Bohemia, was married to James I’s daughter, Eliza.”

Agents for Wetherspoons have told the council: “The previous occupants imposed a modern corporate banking hall interior to this building and service areas. Contemporary screens, counters, interview rooms, ceiling lighting, office partitions.”

Nigel Browne, from the Institute of Historic Building Conversions, praised Wetherspoons for its restoration work.

“Although Wetherspoons does acquire existing pubs, it has gone out of its way to collect a large number of interesting properties in key locations which have been developed to optimise its businesses,” wrote Mr Browne.

 

Kate Wignall, who runs walking tours Look Up London, blogged about the building shortly before it was closed to the public.

“The best piece of trivia – printed on an information sheet inside – is the claim that the original dining room was ventilated by a pair of women riding a tandem bicycle, which powered a huge pair of bellows,” she said.

“As ludicrous as this sounds, a bicycle-like piece of equipment was found during refurbishments, connected to the pipework.”

Westminster’s planners are current reviewing how the conversion will work.

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