Royal Bank of Scotland plc

The Royal Bank of Scotland plc (1727-date) is part of NatWest Group.

Brief history

The Royal Bank of Scotland was founded as a corporation by royal charter in Edinburgh in 1727. It grew thanks to its successful note issue and correspondent relationships with Scottish provincial banks. In 1783 it opened its first branch in Glasgow, and before long this branch was more profitable than the Edinburgh head office.

The bank had opened 6 further branches by 1836 and a number of other branches were acquired following the collapse of Western Bank of Scotland in 1857 and of City of Glasgow Bank in 1878. The Royal Bank acquired Dundee Banking Co in 1864 and opened a branch office in the City of London in 1874. By 1910 the bank had 158 branches and 900 staff.

During the First World War the volume of banking business grew, prompting a series of major amalgamations after 1918, including moves to affiliate certain Scottish and English banks. The Royal Bank acquired Messrs Drummond of London in 1924; Williams Deacon's Bank in 1930; and Glyn, Mills & Co, which owned Holt & Co and Child & Co, in 1939. Williams Deacon's and Glyn, Mills continued to operate as separate entities and the business became known as The Three Banks Group.

In 1969 the Royal Bank of Scotland merged with National Commercial Bank of Scotland. Under the arrangements for this merger, a new holding company called National & Commercial Banking Group (later the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and, from 2020, NatWest Group), was created to own the Royal Bank of Scotland and its other constituents.

The Royal Bank of Scotland continued to flourish, playing a leading role in lending to businesses serving the North Sea oil and gas industry. In 1982 the Royal Bank of Scotland acquired Lockerbie Savings Bank and in 1985 it acquired Annan Savings Bank.

In 1985, following abortive takeover attempts by Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Standard Chartered Bank, the businesses of the Royal Bank of Scotland Ltd and Williams & Glyn's Bank were merged fully so that all branches became part of the Royal Bank of Scotland plc.

Branches: The bank has opened 472 branches and sub-branches in Scotland since 1727 in its own right. In 1969, after the merger with National Commercial Bank of Scotland, the new combined bank had 682 branches. In 1999 664 offices (excluding overseas branches) were operating.

Published histories

  • The Royal Bank of Scotland: a history (Edinburgh: privately published by the Royal Bank of Scotland, 1998)
  • S G Checkland, Scottish banking. A history, 1695-1973 (Glasgow: Collins, 1975)
  • N Munro, The history of the Royal Bank of Scotland, 1727-1927 (Edinburgh: privately published by the Royal Bank of Scotland, 1928)
  • M Pohl and S Freitag, Handbook on the history of European banks (Aldershot: Edward Elgar, 1994)
  • R Saville, Bank of Scotland. A history, 1695-1995 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996)

Summary of our archive holdings

Our archival records of the Royal Bank of Scotland have the reference code RB.

For help understanding words used here, check our glossary of banking record types (PDF 68 KB).

Corporate records

  • bank and personal journals, correspondence, ledgers and cash books of John Campbell, bank cashier 1717-77
  • stock journals 1727-90
  • printed warrants for royal charter 1727-1816
  • stock ledgers 1727-1824
  • royal charters 1727-1830
  • minutes of the court of proprietors 1727-1979
  • directors’ meeting minute books 1727-(1985)
  • transfer books 1731-1809, 1817-65
  • advertisements for general meetings and dividend payments 1782-1875
  • lists of proprietors 1793, 1880-1943
  • first cashier’s correspondence including letters from the Glasgow agency 1801-7
  • articles of sale of capital stock 1802-3
  • cashier’s and secretary’s letters 1816, 1901-56
  • sederunt books with board agendas 1816-1972
  • rules, orders and bye-laws for governing the bank 1819-1902
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland Acts with associated correspondence 1819-1985
  • additions to general ledger 1835-47
  • papers re the bank’s participation in railway building schemes 1846-1922
  • shareholder mandates for acceptances of stock 1851-73
  • powers of attorney on behalf of shareholders 1860-73
  • registers of directors’ attendance 1865-1968
  • minutes of meetings with managers of other Scottish banks 1872-6
  • directors’ remuneration books 1878-1926
  • share registers 1893-1929
  • directors' fees book 1894-1938
  • governor’s speeches 1917-39
  • merger papers: Messrs Drummond 1922-5, London Western branch 1928; Williams Deacon’s Bank Ltd 1924-31; Glyn, Mills & Co 1924-50; National Commercial Bank of Scotland 1967-71; Williams & Glyn’s Bank 1983-5
  • registers of documents executed under seal 1922-60
  • nominee company minute books and other papers 1924-(1985)
  • general manager’s and other senior officers’ correspondence 1929-57
  • dividend book 1932-56
  • chairman’s files 1943-69
  • papers re British Overseas Bank Ltd 1944-51
  • papers re the establishment and operation of Industrial & Commercial Finance Corporation Ltd 1944-52
  • report on prospects for computerisation of accounting 1962
  • papers re the Scottish banks’ contribution to the Harold Wilson committee of Enquiry into financial institutions 1975-7
  • minutes of the directors’ general purposes committee 1976-8
  • papers re the acquisition of Annan Savings Bank 1984-5

Financial records

  • charges of management books 1727-1969
  • dividend books 1727-75
  • interest books 1729-51
  • telling books 1730-5
  • ledger of transactions on the bank’s account at the Bank of England 1733-46
  • calls repaid book 1737
  • statement of finances 1742-49
  • weekly balance ledger 1763-4
  • register of funds due to the bank 1773-80
  • additions to the general ledger 1797-1858
  • annual statements of the affairs of the bank 1817-54
  • weekly abstracts of accounts 1836-9
  • weekly returns of the Bank of England 1844-78
  • financial accounting papers 1845-1940
  • balance sheets and annual reports and accounts, including subsidiary companies 1864-(1985)
  • asset and valuation statements 1875-1940
  • balance ledgers 1900-77
  • annual balance sheets of Scottish bank 1910-55
  • chief accountant’s letterbook 1912-(1915)
  • chief accountant’s letterbook 1912-19
  • cash abstract book 1933-69
  • branch profit and loss statements 1943-66
  • profit and loss statements 1946-67
  • correspondents cash book 1955-62
  • guide to charges and commissions 1966
  • reports and accounts of Royal Bank Insurance Services 1979-(1985)

Legal records

  • papers re the legal status of the bank with regard to limited liability 1857-1931
  • registers of legal opinions and decisions 1857-1969
  • legal opinion re liability of the bank’s directors 1878-9
  • legal reports re failure of City of Glasgow Bank 1878-82
  • papers re legal cases involving the bank 1892

Customer records

  • cash account ledgers 1728-50
  • customer account interest books 1731-2, 1751-2
  • cash credit ledgers 1740-6
  • cheques 1769-(1915)
  • correspondence re business of some customers 1793-(1915)
  • register of customer bonds 1821-(1915)
  • deposit receipt ledger indices 1832-(1915)
  • registers of bills lodged for negotiation 1836-71
  • letter from Coutts & Co re remittance of customer credits 1848
  • letter re bank charges 1866
  • bond book 1873-(1915)
  • deposit receipt registers 1877-(1915)
  • deposit receipt consignment book 1882-(1915)
  • circular letter of credit 1882
  • list of circular letters of credit 1944

Head office branch records

  • quarterly reports on cash and deposit accounts branches 1834-44
  • lists of branches, agents and correspondents c.1846, 1875, 1932-40
  • branch record books 1855-1968
  • papers re branch inspection department 1858
  • branch committee reports 1859-71
  • branch circulars 1875-(1915)
  • instructions to agents and accountants 1878-1913
  • branch inspection reports 1880-4, 1948-63, 1967-8
  • agents’ notebooks c.1880s
  • inter branch receipts 1882
  • branch procedure books 1885-1905
  • abstract of correspondence with branch agents 1888-92
  • letterbook of the superintendent of branches 1895-1930
  • correspondence from London managers 1897-8
  • papers re proposals for new branches 1909-37
  • London managers’ letters 1911-(1915)
  • notes re history of London office 1926

Staff records

  • discharge of salary obligations 1731     
  • account statement of Patrick Campbell, bank teller 1797     
  • branch establishment books incl staff details 1845-(1915)     
  • list of clerks c.1850s      
  • salary lists c.1858      
  • letter from William Warren’s re security as agent 1858     
  • list of agents’ bonds outstanding 1861     
  • papers re officers’ guarantee funds of Scottish bank 1871-(1915)     
  • officers’ guarantee fund cash book 1872-(1915)     
  • staff record cards 1886-(1915)     
  • papers re the officers’ benefit fund 1892-(1915), officers widows fund 1820-(1915)    
  • programme anniversary dinner for Thomas Bell 1895     
  • staff magazines: 1895, 1950-(1985)   
  • staff photographs 1904-(1985)     
  • papers re staff and sports clubs including those of The Royal Bank of Scotland 1908-(1985); Glyn, Mills & Co 1908-71; Private Banks sports club 1904-c.1976; Williams Deacon’s Bank 1935-71; Williams & Glyn’s Bank 1972-(1985) and Coutts & Co 1854-88
  • field service postcards 1916-18     
  • programme for unveiling staff war memorial 1923     
  • file re air raid precautions c.1939      
  • agents’ circulars 1939-40     
  • correspondence from staff in military service 1939-45     
  • wartime staff circulars 1940-2     
  • presscuttings re retirement of William Whyte, general manager 1944 
  • widows’ fund general meeting and actuarial reports 1947-67     
  • branch managers’ association dinner dance programmes 1953-7     
  • minute book of the managers’ association (formerly National Commercial Bank of Scotland managers’ association) 1966-9

Property records

  • deeds to bank premises 1686-(1985)
  • architectural plans and drawings 1804-(1985)
  • drawing of head office 1826
  • property ledger c.1858-62, 1905-68
  • registers of bank buildings in Edinburgh 1863-1928
  • branch establishment book 1869-74
  • registers of sasines for property transactions involving the bank 1871-2
  • branch photographs c.1900-(1985)
  • bank property and rents ledger 1908-25
  • capital expenditure ledger 1926-69
  • report on air raid shelters, Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow branch c.1939
  • premises valuations 1943-69
  • annual lists of buildings and branches 1944-51
  • contractors register 1955-68
  • premises owned and let register 1967-9

Note issue record

  • banknotes, incl collection of Irish and English provincial notes 1727-(1985)
  • note registers 1728-35, 1894-1966, 1975-(1985)
  • record of notes struck and cancelled 1742-1953
  • guardbook of damaged banknotes 1822-1903
  • correspondence re right of note issue 1845, 1881
  • correspondence re forged notes 1865-1918
  • register of notes and note paper issued and received by the bank 1927-34
  • account of notes and coins on hand with circulation 1954-8

Marketing records

  • presscuttings 1872-date
  • press office photographs 1950-(1985)
  • corporate identity handbook 1969
  • copies of promotional films re the bank and its services 1960s-70s
  • staff training and information videos, early 1980s
  • advertisement video 1981


  • file re Institute of Bankers in Scotland 1875-1969
  • minutes of meetings of Scottish bank managers 1885-90
  • Three Banks Review, economic magazine 1957-(1985)
  • law working party papers 1958-70
  • administration structure charts 1966-67

Branch records

  • selected records

Summary of archive holdings elsewhere

  • The Bank of England Archive: Governor’s files re bank mergers, incl the acquisition of Williams Deacon’s Bank by the Royal Bank of Scotland 1927-35, acquisition of Glyn, Mills & Co by the Royal Bank of Scotland 1938-39, possible sale of Williams Deacon’s Bank by the Royal Bank of Scotland to District Bank or Martins Bank 1938-43; possible merger of the Royal Bank of Scotland as part of The Three Banks Group with one of the ‘Big Five’ banks 1962, possible merger of the Royal Bank of Scotland with Bank of Scotland and others 1965-67, possible merger of the Royal Bank of Scotland as part of The Three Banks Group with National Commercial Bank of Scotland 1967, merger of the Royal Bank of Scotland with National Commercial Bank of Scotland 1967-70 (Ref: G1/10-11, 13, 490); committee of treasury files re the Royal Bank of Scotland, Williams Deacon’s Bank and Lancashire Cotton Corporation and Combined Egyptian Mills Ltd 1928-38 (Ref: G14/254-255); discount office file re the Royal Bank of Scotland 1941-68 (Ref: C48/67)
  • University of Glasgow Archive Services: Annual reports 1871-1926 (Ref: UGD 94/10/4); court minutes extracts 1727-1918; balance sheets 1866-1922; computed balance sheets 1817-64; governor's speeches to general meetings 1930-39; extracts from letters of Glasgow joint agent 1801-07 (Ref: UGD/129) Also holds copies of extracts from minutes, Glasgow agents' correspondence, balance sheets 1727-1973 (Ref: UGD 129/2/1)
  • National Records of Scotland: John Clerk: letter re directorship 1727-28, account books 1740-47 (Ref: GD8/3208; GD18/2241); warrants of charter 1727-89 (Ref: CS96/3484); papers of Innes family as officials of the bank 1733-1816 (Ref: GD113); papers of Patrick Monzie of Campbell 1750-87 (Ref: GD190/3/304); list of proprietors 1751 (Ref: GD18/5882); bonds 1768, 1777 (Ref: GD30/249, 379); correspondence of William Forbes of Callander with cashier 1785 (Ref: GD171/223); note on method of giving credit 18th cent (Ref: GD18/5884); papers and passbooks of Menzies of Shian 1843. (Ref: GD306/7)
  • The National Archives: Application by bank for charter n.d. (Ref: T1/3472)
  • National Library of Scotland: Miscellaneous papers 1696-1813; bonds in favour of bank 1729-81; papers of Lord Milton re administration, relationships with other banks, army payments, banknote circulation etc 1728-65; discharges 1728-74; receipts 1728-1800; passbooks 1728-88, 1867-68; correspondence of officials 1734-1943; officers' voting slips 1734; orders in favour of bank 1737-40; proposals to bank 1741-42; accounts with bank 1745-58; demand by Prince Charles Edward Stuart 1745; bills 1753-67; obligations 1750-54; declaration 1754; report on memorial 1792; note of bills discounted for Earl of Elgin 1835; certificate 1888. Extensive minor deposits in family and other collections. Contact the repository for further information.
  • National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive: Cinematographic promotional films: A Diabolical Liberty, re payment of wages into bank accounts 1967 (Ref: 0333), A Rare Tear, re savings stamps 1969 (Ref: 0334), A Step Ahead, re the bank’s computerisation 1979 (Ref: 0366), Portrait of The Royal Bank of Scotland 1979 (Ref: 1905)