Puzzled In London: 2



And after…

This depressingly blank facade on the Strand was built to protect the original frontage of Coutts Bank which, from 1692 until the mid-1970s, was the grandest-looking of all London’s private banks. Not any more. It looks like a provincial insurance office now.

At the height of the British Empire Queen Victoria stashed her lolly in Coutts, and until its seventies redevelopment it was still staffed by gentlemen in formal frock coats who offered you Victorian dip pens to sign your Coutts cheques with.

Anyone know what address the bank put on their cheques? The answer is rather charming.

14 comments on “Puzzled In London: 2”

  1. Wayne Mook says:

    Not sure of the address but in the Revenue we still refer to cheques as Payable Orders (which include banker’s drafts and postal orders, yes you can pay your tax bill with them if you so desire.)


  2. Jo W says:

    Is it still 440 Strand, W.C.2 ?

  3. admin says:


  4. snowy says:

    It’s a bit of an odd question, since they have branches.

    Before Lucan went a bit murder-y his Coutts cheques bore the address given by Jo.

    When Charlie D was still knocking out Xmas crowd pleasers, unrepentant miser plagued by ghosts etc. his Coutts cheques listed the address as 59 Strand.

    Are you fishing for the branch at ‘2 and A Half, Devonshire Square’?

  5. Martin Tolley says:

    Was it “Three Crowns”, Strand ?

  6. Peter Tromans says:

    Coutts, London

  7. Jeanette says:

    Duncannon ?

  8. admin says:

    I used as reference the flagship mentioned in the piece, Queen Victoria’s bank.
    Its cheque address was:
    ‘At the sign of The Three Crowns in the Strand, next door to the Globe Tavern’.
    I think all addresses should be like that:
    ‘Mr Christopher Fowler, next to the Council Squat by the Drug Dealers on the Corner by the local Drag Pub.’

  9. Richard says:

    ‘At the Sign of the Three Crowns in the Strand next door to the Globe Tavern’ – which got knocked down to make way for Charing X station.

  10. Ken Mann says:

    I used to work with a man who had been one of the frock-coated gentlemen. He said the hours were fantastic and they used to flagrantly walk past other banks so that the people working there could see that Coutts had already knocked off for the day.

  11. eggsy says:

    We (alright, I used to) think of “at the sign of the…” indicates all business in former times was carried out in the back room of a pub, but often these location signs were set up by the well-to-do to advertise their presence in the absence of house numbering (hence commonly heraldic nature, or quasi-heraldic if you weren’t armigerous). Of course, did not stop them becoming pubs later….
    See John Camden Hotten, a History of Signs and Signboards.

  12. snowy says:

    Oh, er… OK. That would be sometime between 20 June 1837 when she got her sitting parts on the throne and up until the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post on 10 January 1840, when everybody suddenly realised that numbering buildings would be a rather good idea given that there were now hundreds of very confused Postmen wandering about clutching belated Christmas cards addressed to “Auntie Joan, three doors up from the Butcher in the High Street that makes the nice sausages, but not the one opposite whose horrid sausages are full of snouts and bits of unmentionables”.

    [Those with an overwhelming curiosity about how the postal system started from an exclusive tool of the state to spy on those with seditious intent, became a route for scams and fiddles, facilitated illicit romances and finally evolved into a system for delivering slightly worn fivers to irritating children you feel obliged to give presents to but have no intention of ever visiting. [At least until they have grown-up and stopped being annoying.] Could lend an ear to Dominic Sandbrook’s wonderful series called ‘The People’s Post’: A Narrative History of the Post Office. It is really much, much more fun than I make it sound.]

    [Available from the audiobook tentacle of an online company seeking to dominate the book market, probably free to Subscribers. And nobody should look up “The Peoples Post Dominic Sandbrook Mixcloud” because that would be very, very naughty!]

  13. Ian Luck says:

    The Royal Mail started so well – and it’s now down to the point of a scruffy postman furtively trying to post a ‘There’s something for you’ chit through your door, and you opening the door as he tries. On asking him why he didn’t knock, and displaying the fully operational doorknocker, or door bell, and asking him for your parcel, you might get the sheepish reply that he hadn’t actually got it, as usually, at this time of day, people are out. I was not at all surprised to be told this by a workmate.

  14. Wayne Mook says:

    Privatisation has made the post office lean and stream lined, who could think anything less. Next you’ll want to renationalise all the NHS.


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