FORMER bank vaults in Leeds which have remained untouched for almost 40 years are to be brought back to life.
St James Safe Deposit, which was founded in Manchester in 1912, is to open its second branch in the basement of the Greek Street Chambers building on Park Row in Leeds at the end of the year.
It is thought to be the city’s first private safe deposit business in 60 years following the closure of the Leeds Safe Deposit Company in 1954.
The company looks after valuables for jewellers, museums, stamp, watch and coin dealers as well as families moving elderly relatives into care homes.
A large proportion of its customers are Asian families whose homes are often targeted by thieves looking for high quality gold jewellery.
The company was acquired by managing director Nigel Kay MBE in 1991. He now runs the business with his daughter Amanda Williams.
Mrs Williams said: “We have 80 existing customers who travel to Manchester from Leeds and Bradford so we’ve been looking at opening another branch in Yorkshire but it’s a huge thing setting up a safety deposit business.”
Finding the right building was the main challenge.
No. 31-32 Park Row, designed by London’s Natural History Museum architect Alfred Waterhouse, was originally built as a private bank for William Williams Brown and Company in 1898.
The basement, which is over 3,000 sq ft, has remained empty since Lloyds Bank moved out of the building in 1976 and across the road into new premises.
Mrs Williams said: “Disused banks are ideal because they are built with thick, well-constructed walls that modern buildings don’t have.
“We looked at a lot of ex-bank basements but a lot of them weren’t big enough. The vaults in this building are large, well-built with quality vault doors.”
She added: “I think we felt at home in the vaults at 31-32 Park Row because they are not dissimilar to the purpose-built facility that we occupy in Manchester.”
Work has already started on the renovation of the basement and St James, which is investing around £400,000 in the new branch, hopes to open in Leeds after Christmas and create four new jobs.
The Manchester branch holds around 3,000 safe deposit boxes with prices starting from 35p a day. Leeds will have the capacity to store 4,500 boxes.