Hidden amidst the hustle and bustle, an account of the oldest bank in Vizag

In a world where history is represented by architectural marvels, towering structures, and rusty palaces, the slight details disguised amidst the hustle and bustle of cities go unnoticed. One such hidden symbol of Vizag’s long history is the Imperial Bank building located in the ever-swarming One-Town area. John Castellas, a Vizag heritage enthusiast and aficionado, thought down a story of the port city’s oldest bank.

The first bank in Vizag was opened in the One Town area in 1865 on a site facing the Queen Victoria Statue. Based on the banks’ newly-appointed Inspector of Branches Patrick Dewar’s report and on a simultaneous report received from the Collector ofVizagapatam,the Bank of Madras decided, on 23 May 1865, to open branches at Bimlipatam (Bheemunipatnam), Coconada (Kakinada), and Vizagapatam.

Bank of Madras Building, One Town, Vizag, 1905

The Bank of Madras had its origins in its establishment as the Madras Bank in 1788 by the Governor in Council. Renamed the Bank of Madras in 1795, it was established as a joint-stock bank in 1843 and operated as the only bank in the Madras Presidency. In 1921, the Bank of Madras merged with the Bank of Bombay and Bank of Bengal to become the Imperial Bank of India.

Also read: Vizag heritage: If the ruins on Simhachalam hill could speak

A severe cyclonic storm hit Vizag in October 1923 and flattened most of the buildings in the old part of Vizag. The Imperial Bank building was totally destroyed, and a new building was erected in about 1925.

Then & Now- Imperial Bank of India, One Town, Vizag 1925

In 1955, the Imperial Bank became the State Bank of India, which, branch-wise, is today the world’s largest bank.

Imperial bank Passbook and Check Book, 1920s, of Hon Sir BN Sarma

Only very prominent citizens of Vizag and most businesses held Imperial Bank accounts. One such individual was Rao Bahadur Sir Bayya Narasimheswara Sarma KCSI, who was a young Vizag lawyer when he would have established his first Imperial Bank account. He was Chairman of Vizagapatam Municipal Council, later became a member of the Madras Council and Imperial Legislative Council, and also a member of the Governor General of India’s Council in 1920 during the formative years of India’s quest for independence.

Today, the State Bank of India boasts 172 branches in the city of Visakhapatnam, and the original One Town Branch continues to operate on the same bank site originally established in 1865.

Written by John Castellas, whose family belonged to Vizag for 5 generations. Educated at St Aloysius, migrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1966, former General Manager of Engineering at Boeing & Qantas Airways, in retirement Lecturers in Aviation Management at Swinburne University and is a Vizag fan.

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