Kingston upon Hull

Kingston upon Hull is a city in England. NatWest traces its presence there back to 1784.

Abel Smith & Sons

NatWest's first branch in Hull started out in 1784 as a new banking firm established in the town by merchant Abel Smith and his sons Robert and Samuel. Smith was no newcomer to banking. He already part-owned three other Smith family banks in Nottingham, London and Lincoln.

Hull was a major international port with a substantial whaling industry, and at the start of the 19th century the town had a population of over 22,000. The new bank, Abel Smith & Sons, was initially known as Custom House Bank and later traded as Samuel Smith, Brothers & Co. The Smiths needed to bring to bear all their banking acumen, for competition was fierce. By 1800 there were five banks in Hull.

Hull continued to grow throughout the 19th century as new industries were established and it became home to a large fishing fleet. Samuel Smith, Brothers & Co also prospered, opening additional offices in the town. Hull’s own importance was reflected in the granting of city status in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.

More branches

Other banks that went on to become part of NatWest also opened up in Hull. In 1790 the prominent local landowner Sir Christopher Sykes formed a banking company which was soon known as East Riding Bank. One of its offices was in Hull. In 1883 London & Yorkshire Bank opened its first office in Hull, and in 1893, National Provincial Bank of England began trading there. District Bank opened its first Hull branch in 1961.

Consolidation begins

In the early decades of the 20th century increasing competition meant that smaller banks found it harder to compete, leading to a series of bank amalgamations. By 1918 National Provincial Bank - one of the emerging ‘big five’ high street banks - had taken over both Samuel Smith, Brothers & Co and London & Yorkshire Bank, giving it a total of 9 offices in Hull.

The First World War had brought controls on lending and staff shortages for banks. To fill the gaps left by male staff joining up, they employed women in large numbers for the first time. Nine men from National Provincial’s Hull branches died on active service.

During the Second World War Hull’s importance and location resulted in it suffering very severe bomb damage. Much of the city centre was destroyed, and National Provincial Bank’s principal office in Silver Street was badly affected.

National Westminster Bank

In 1970 National Provincial Bank merged with Westminster Bank to form National Westminster Bank. Westminster was also well-represented in Hull, having previously acquired York & East Riding Bank. NatWest gradually consolidated its presence in Hull, culminating in the creation of a new City Centre branch in 1995, trading from new premises at 34 King Edward Street.