Eastbourne is a town in England. NatWest traces its heritage there back to 1880.
London & County Bank
NatWest’s first presence in Eastbourne was an office of London & County Bank, originally opened on 6 September 1880 at the corner of Ashford Road and Terminus Road. A few years later, in 1898, this same bank - at the request of local residents - opened an additional branch in Meads to serve customers at a distance from the town centre.
Eastbourne had developed as a seaside resort during the 19th century, particularly after the opening of the London, Brighton and South Coast railway line in 1849. The sea front was extended from the 1860s and the pier and winter garden opened in the 1870s. The population of the town grew rapidly, from less than 4,000 in 1851 to nearly 43,000 by 1900. This sustained growth, along with requests from customers in the district for a branch to be opened there, inevitably attracted the attention of more banks.
Union of London & Smiths Bank
In 1902 two banks - Smith, Payne & Smiths and Union Bank of London - merged to form Union of London & Smiths Bank. The much-expanded bank was keen to extend its representation outside London, and on 19 August 1913 it opened an Eastbourne branch, in brand new premises at 15 Cornfield Road.
National Provincial Bank
Before long, the new branch - like all banks in Eastbourne and elsewhere - was dealing with bigger challenges. Between 1914 and 1918, the First World War meant new restrictions and responsibilities for banks, as well as severe staff shortages as trained men went away to fight. At the same time, the banking sector was undergoing a transformation, with smaller banks being forced to grow or merge in order to remain competitive. In 1918 Union of London & Smiths Bank merged with National Provincial Bank of England to form National Provincial & Union Bank of England, known more simply as National Provincial Bank from 1924.
By the late 1920s National Provincial's Eastbourne branch had grown so busy that new, larger premises were required. In 1929 the bank bought the Royal Hotel at the corner of Terminus Road and Cornfield Road, with a view to demolishing the existing building and erecting a new branch on the site. Plans were drawn up by the bank’s architect FCR Palmer, in conjunction with local architect Peter Stonham, and were quickly approved. The new premises were completed in 1931. A four-storey Georgian-style building in red brick and Portland stone, with attractive interior ceilings (possibly by Charles Godfrey Garrard), the bank remains a prominent feature of the town centre landscape today.
In the interwar years Eastbourne's reputation as a resort continued to grow. The Towner Art Gallery opened; the Grand Parade, Princes Park, Holywell Gardens and the town bandstand were laid out; and early measures were taken to preserve the attractive downland close to the town at Beachy Head.
For the banks, this expansion meant growing demand for their services. In 1927 Westminster Bank - as London & County Bank had become - opened a new branch on Seaside. Four years later, National Provincial Bank also opened a branch on Seaside, and another in Old Town.
Like the First World War a generation earlier, the Second World War brought staff shortages as well as controls on lending and foreign exchange. Eastbourne also suffered extensive bombing raids and over 1,400 buildings in the town were damaged. National Provincial Bank’s own Terminus Road building suffered minor damage in a raid in 1943 which completely destroyed the Barclays Bank branch opposite.
In the post-war years, peace and prosperity returned to the town, and the banks looked once more towards expansion. In 1956 District Bank opened a branch in Eastbourne. Six years later this bank merged with National Provincial, but the two banks continued trading under their own names, with separate Eastbourne branches. In 1963 Westminster Bank added to its Eastbourne representation with a new branch in Hampden Park.
National Westminster Bank
In 1970 Westminster Bank and National Provincial Bank (including District Bank) merged to form National Westminster Bank. The Eastbourne branches of all three banks became part of the new NatWest.
In 1975 the former National Provincial branch on Terminus Road was extensively refurbished. From 1987 it was known as Eastbourne Town Centre branch, to distinguish it from the other NatWest branches in the town.
In the 1990s Town Centre branch absorbed the businesses of the Old Town and 46 Terminus Road branches. The branch interior was entirely remodelled at this time and a new banking hall unveiled in 1994. Today, NatWest continues to trade from its long-established home at 96 Terminus Road.