Luton is a town in England. NatWest traces its heritage there back to 1839.
London & County Banking Co
NatWest’s history in Luton dates back to the opening of an office of London & County Banking Co there in 1839. Founded in 1836 as Surrey, Kent & Sussex Banking Co, this bank had immediately set about establishing a network of branches in London and the south east, and in March 1839 took on the London & County name to reflect its expanding geographical reach. Luton, which was then growing rapidly, was chosen as an ideal location for a new branch.
By the early 19th century Luton was known for the manufacturing of straw and felt hats. The strength of this industry caused the town to grow quickly, its population rising from 3,095 in 1801 to more than 10,000 by the middle of the century.
In April 1839 the directors of London & County Banking Co engaged a Mr Burness for six months to open their new branch in Luton, and in the following month appointed Mr J G Law to act as his clerk. Despite the fact that there was already another bank in the town, by October 1839 the branch was thriving and was by that time under the charge of Mr Law, who was assisted by a clerk.
The arrival of the railway in Luton in 1858 provided a further stimulus to growth, but it was the relocation of most of the production of the Vauxhall Iron Works, later Vauxhall Motors, from London to Luton in 1905 which was to have a major impact on the town’s future.
National Provincial & Union Bank of England
In November 1919 another of NatWest’s constituent banks, National Provincial & Union Bank of England, opened its own branch in Luton, at 61 George Street, relocating in 1936 to premises at 59 George Street. The new building was noted for its impressive brass doors which featured motifs of English and ancient Greek coins.
In 1909 London & County Banking Co merged with the expanding London & Westminster Bank to form London County & Westminster Bank, which from 1924 traded as Westminster Bank. Luton was relatively little affected by the 1930s depression, thanks to its links with London and strong motor industry, and had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Luton Airport opened in 1938, but the town suffered heavily from air raids during the Second World War.
In 1963 Westminster Bank’s Luton branch moved to temporary premises nearby. The existing branch building, which it had occupied since at least the start of the century, was demolished and replaced with brand new premises which could better accommodate the bank's expanding business. The branch moved into the completed building in 1965.
Around this time District Bank, which was also later to become part of NatWest, opened an office in Luton, at 13 King Street. District Bank was acquired by National Provincial in 1962, but continued to trade separately under its own name.
National Westminster Bank
When National Provincial Bank, District Bank and Westminster Bank merged, trading from 1970 as National Westminster Bank, the new bank had three branches within a few minutes’ walk of each other in Luton town centre. In 1973 the bank’s business in the town was brought together under one roof in the former Westminster Bank premises at 31 George Street, where the branch remains today.