The Bank Of Ireland On College Green Dublin
This noble structure, formerly the Parliament House, but purchased after the Act of Union, by the Company of the Bank of Ireland, for 40,000l. and a rent of 240l. per annum, is probably not exceeded in magnificence of exterior by any building in Europe. It fronts College Green, and is nearly at right angles to the west front of the College, and by its contiguity to the latter, forms a scene that has not many rivals.
The foundation of the Parliament House was laid in 1729, by Lord Carteret, Viceroy of Ireland, and the building was completed in 1739, at an expense of about 40,000l. This building not being sufficiently extensive to accommodate Lords and Commons, in 1785, an eastern front, leading to the House of Lords, was designed and executed, by the late James Gandon, at an expense 25,000l.
In 1787, a western front and entrance were added, from the design of Mr. Parke, architect, for about 30,000l. The centre of this edifice, is a grand colonnade of the Ionic order, occupying three sides of a court-yard; the columns are lofty, and rest on a flight of steps, continued entirely round the court-yard, and to the extremities of the colonnade, where are the entrances, under two archways: the four central columns support a pediment, whose tympanum is ornamented by the royal arms; and, on its apex stands a well executed figure of Hibernia, with Fidelity on her right, and Commerce on her left hand. This magnificent centre is connectet with the eastern and western fronts, which contend with it in beauty, by circular screen walls, the height of the building, enriched with dressed niches, and a rusticated basement: the eastern front, which is towards College-street, is a noble portico of six Corinthian columns, three feet six inches in diameter, crowned by a pediment with a plain tympanum; on which stands a statue of Fortitude, with Justice on her right, and Liberty on her left hand. The entablature of the central portico being continued round to the eastern front, exhibits an architectural impropriety, the columns of one being of the Ionic, while the others are of the Corinthian order; but this is not very obvious, from the great extent of the building, and from the shape, which does not admit of both porticos being seen together. The western front, to Foster-place, is a beautiful portico of four Ionic columns, surmounted by a pediment, and connected with the centre, by a circular screen wall, corresponding to that which connects the eastern wing to the centre.
A military guard-room has been erected adjacent to the western front, the entrance, through a magnificent arch-way, ornamented with Ionic columns, and crowned by military trophies, forming the extremity of Foster-place; the design and execution of J. Kirk. Within this stately and extensive pile of building, the most ample and splendid apartments are provided.
Beneath the grand Portico, are two entrances leading to the Cash-office. There was formerly a grand entrance in the centre, leading to the Court of Requests, where now the Cash-office stands; this splendid apartment, which is 70 feet in length, by 50 in breadth, was designed by Francis Johnston, Esq. The walls are of Bath stone, pannelled, and decorated with fluted Ionic columns, resting on pedestals; beneath the entablature, all round, are 24 windows, some of which are made of looking-glass to preserve uniformity. From the ceiling, which is also beautifully ornamented, rises a lantern 50 feet in length, and 80 in breadth.
The desks of the officers are at a distance of 5 feet from the wall, so as to afford a convenient passage behind; nor do they at all conceal the elegant pillars, as their bases are the height of the enclosures around the desks. In the centre of the floor, which is chequered flagging, two tables are placed for public use, as well as counters all round the room, in front of the clerks' desks.
The entrances are at each end, which also communicate with handsome corridors, conducting to the different offices of the Bank.
These corridors formerly encompassed the House of Commons, which was an octagonal room, covered with a dome, supported by Ionic columns, which rose from an amphitheatrical gallery, fronted with an iron balustrade of scroll-work, where strangers were permitted to remain during the debates. This room was always considered an extremely beautiful apartment, but it has latterly been considerably ornamented and improved. There were two of the inferior apartments, particularly elegant, one for the hearing of controverted elections, and the Record-room.
The House of Lords, which remains unaltered,, is an oblong room, with a semi-circular recess at one end, where the throne stood: the throne has been removed, and in the recess has been placed a white marble statue of his late Majesty, George III, in his parliamentary robes, with the insignia of the Orders of the Bath and St. Patrick, executed by J. Bacon, jun. Here may be seen two specimens of tapestry brought from Holland, extremely well executed, which were permitted to remain at the request of Mr. Johnston; one represents the battle of the Boyne, fought between William and James, in 1690. The other, the famous siege of Derry. There is also in this room an excellent bust of the Duke of Wellington, by Turnerelli; and in another niche, one of his late Majesty. This room is now called the Court of Proprietors.
In the western side of the Bank, is the Library-room, now used to preserve the paid notes until the period arrives for destroying them. In a small apartment may be seen a well executed model of the Bank, executed by Mr. Doolittle. Next the model-room is an armoury, well supplied and arranged.
The repeated fires that have broken out in this building have stimulated the exertions of the Directors in providing apparatus to protect them from any serious loss in that way for the future. On the 27th of February, 1792, between 5 and 6 o'clock in the evening, while the Commons were sitting, a dreadful fire broke out, and totally consumed the House of Commons; but it was shortly after fitted up, precisely in the same manner; and, in 1804, a fire broke out beneath the portico at the front, and injured the columns so seriously, that large pieces were obliged to be inserted in many of them; this was supposed to have been done intentionally. Against such accidents, the Bank is now amply provided, there being two large tanks of water, one at each side of the building; adjacent to which, engines of immense power are placed, supplied with great quantities of tube; and the forcing pumps are capable of inundating the entire building if required.
This extensive pile is nearly of a semi-circular form, and stands on an acre and a half of ground. The grand front is 147 feet in breadth; and, for elegance of design, is unrivalled; but, in addition to many extraordinary events connected with the history of this magnificent building, the name of the architect who gave the original design is not positively ascertained. Harris says it was executed under the inspection of Sir Edward Lovel Pearce, but omits any mention of Cassels, who is generally supposed to have been the person who gave the design, and who was also the architect of Leinster House (the Dublin Society) in Kildare-street.
We cannot here particularize the numerous offices connected with the Bank, yet must not pass over in entire silence,
The Printing House - which stands at the rear of the Bank, on the diameter of the semi-circle, and which has been fitted up according to the advice, and under the superintendance of Mr. Oldham. About four years since, the number of forgeries induced the Directors to seek for some remedy in the formation of a proper circulating medium; and to remedy the obvious defects of their notes, they employed Mr. Oldham to provide them with a plan of numbering, analogous to the stereotype dating and numbering of the Bank of England notes, which he accordingly did; and with this difference from the mode in which the Bank of England note is numbered, that, while their machinery only executes units, without additional adjustments, and thereby requires confidential assistants, Mr. Oldham's apparatus continues the series to 100,000, independently of the control of the operator.
The Engraving Engine is capable of engraving an indefinite number of notes, possessing absolute identity, not only between each other, but also between different parts of the same note; and it is capable of re-producing the same precise characters for ever. This machine engraves the border, the vignette, &c.
The Printing Presses. - There are four printing presses, worked by steam, on an exceedingly improved construction; a shifting roller passes over the head of the pressman, and, at every pull, shifts itself, and presents a dry surface. Five thousand notes are struck off every day at each press, all of which are proof impressions. To one of the supporters of every press, a small box is attached, with glazed apertures in the top, in which figures present themselves successively, at each pull of the press, indicating the number of impressions taken up to that time of the day. This registering apparatus is secured from the interference of the printer, as the box containing it is locked.
There are six presses employed in numbering and dating the notes; each of which is composed of a brass box or chest, surmounted by a tympan, connected with the box by hinges: the tympan is so contrived as to receive the skeleton note, and, by means of an aperture in the upper surface of the box, a duplicate number and date is impressed at each pull or fall of the tympan. It should be observed, that the press is calculated to receive two notes at once; which, of course, increases the despatch. To provide against every species of imposition, there is not only a confidential person present, but the machinery is secured by lock and key.
Institution. - The subscribers to the Bank of Ireland were incorporated 1783, by the denomination of the "Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland," and transacted business, for the first time, on the 25th of June in that year, upon stock amounting to 600,000l in 4 per cent government debentures. But, an Act was afterwards passed, authorising government to cancel those debentures, and grant an annuity, at the rate of 4 per cent in lieu thereof. In addition to their capital, they borrowed 60,0001. upon 5 per cent debentures, previous to making any issue; and, in the year 1784, they raised 40,000l. upon similar securities.
All monies paid into his Majesty's Treasury, Court of Chancery, and Exchequer, are deposited here. The first dividend was made in 1783, at the rate of 4 per cent, from which time it has gradually risen, and now bears about 51 per cent interest.
The governor, directors, and officers, are annually elected in the month of April: there are 15 directors, of whom five must be new. The necessary qualification for governor is to be actually possessed of 5,000l. in stock, of a deputy governor, to be in possession of 3,0001., and of each of the directors, 2,0001. each.
In the year 1791, a continuation of their charter was obtained for 21 years from the expiration of the charter the Bank was then possessed of (three years of which were still unexpired) on condition of 400,000l. being added to the capital; which would make in all 1,000,000l sterling. About 1792, or 93, the bank raised a further sum of 120,000l. upon debentures bearing 4 per cent interest, - redeemable at the expiration of three years, according to their option; and in 1821 they obtained a renewal of their charter, on condition of increasing their capital half a million.
Every office is arranged on a systematic and convenient plan. In the Cash Office, all lodgments are made, notes and post bills issued, and exchanged or accepted, drafts paid, &c. This Office is open from ten to three everyday, but private bankers' notes are not received in lodgment after two o'clock. The Bullion Office is open also from ten to three each day: here silver is issued for notes not less than ten pounds; but silver is not received there after two o'clock. In the Discount Office bills are received from half-past nine to half-past eleven; and the office opens again at one for the delivery of bills. This office is not open on Saturdays. The Receiver's Office is open from two to three, and from five to six in the afternoon, for the payment of bills which were not honoured in the course of the day. Irish bills falling due on Sunday are payable the Monday after, but English bills are payable the Saturday before. Neither post bills or private notes are received in payment of bills at the Bank.