Blackpool is a town in England. NatWest traces its heritage there back to 1866.
A tale of two banks
Blackpool in the mid 19th century was growing rapidly. The 1860s saw the construction of the promenade, North Pier and Central Pier, and holidaymakers flocked to the town. Both they and the businesses that served them needed banking facilities, and it was in response to this need that both Lancaster Banking Co and Manchester & County Bank became keen to be represented in the town. Both branches opened within weeks of each other in July 1866, no doubt hoping to catch as much as possible of the 1866 summer season.
Lancaster Banking Co was already a well-known name in north west England. It had been founded in 1826 as England’s first true ‘joint stock’ bank – that is, a bank owned by a large number of shareholders rather than a few partners. By 1866, when Blackpool branch opened, this pioneering bank had a dozen branches in towns across the north-west.
Manchester & County Bank was a much newer arrival, only four years old when it opened its Blackpool branch. Nevertheless it was growing rapidly, and by 1866 its branch network matched that of Lancaster Banking Co.
Thriving and changing
Both banks thrived in Blackpool and further branches soon opened. In 1907 Lancaster Banking Co was acquired by Manchester & Liverpool District Banking Co, which already had its own branch in Blackpool, opened a few years earlier. Both branches remained open, serving the ever-growing financial needs of the town. It was at around this time that the present promenade between the North and South Piers was built and the first attractions on the Pleasure Beach were erected. In 1912 static illuminations were shown for the first time.
The outbreak of the First World War brought turmoil to all communities, but Blackpool itself boomed. 14,000 troops were billeted in the town and a major convalescent hospital was established. Although tourism in general was much reduced, Blackpool fared better than resorts on the south and east coasts, which were closed entirely. For banks, the war meant new regulations and responsibilities, as well as the challenge of keeping business running while men were away on military service. Many men from our Blackpool branches served, and six were killed.
The 1920s were a period of deep depression in the Lancashire cotton industry but Blackpool itself continued to prosper, with the Corporation investing in further resort amenities. Two more banks that would eventually become part of NatWest moved into Blackpool: in 1928 Westminster Bank opened a branch in part of the Town Hall buildings on Talbot Square, and in 1929 National Provincial Bank opened a branch in Clifton Street.
Westminster Bank and National Provincial Bank were two of Britain's biggest banks, and the rapid growth of their branch networks in this period was part of a major change in the banking sector. Large, nationwide banks like these were becoming dominant, making it hard for smaller regional banks to remain competitive. In consequence there were many mergers in the sector, and it was through one of these, in 1935, that our two oldest Blackpool branches and their sub-offices all became part of one bank, known as District Bank.
Blackpool remained busy throughout the Second World War. Many civil servants were stationed on the Fylde coast, and Blackpool was used as an RAF training centre. For banks, staff shortages made it impossible to keep all branches open, and some smaller offices were closed. Nevertheless growth returned after the war, and in 1952 Westminster Bank's Blackpool branch moved from Talbot Square to purpose-built new premises at 28 Corporation Street.
In 1962 District Bank was bought by National Provincial Bank, but the two banks continued to trade separately.
National Westminster Bank
In 1970 both National Provincial Bank and its subsidiary District Bank merged with Westminster Bank to create National Westminster Bank. After the merger the new NatWest gradually reorganised and rationalised its branch network. In Blackpool the changes included a move for Corporation Street branch from number 28 to number 20 Corporation Street.