Newry is a town in Northern Ireland. Ulster Bank traces its heritage there back to 1919.
Newry had first come to prominence in 1742 with the opening of Newry canal, the first major canal in the British Isles. In the 1840s the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray visited the town, calling it ‘the busiest and most thriving that I have yet seen in Ireland.'
By the early 20th century Ulster Bank was engaged in an active programme of branch expansion. The period immediately after its acquisition in 1917 by London County & Westminster Bank (later a founding constituent of NatWest) was particularly busy, with 16 new branches opening in 1918-1919. Newry, which had remained prosperous despite the relative decline in the importance of its port, was a key candidate. Its thriving industries included textiles, shipping, coal and trade in timber and iron. It was also an important market town serving a wide hinterland.
Ulster Bank's new branch
Ulster Bank's Newry branch opened on 1 October 1919 in prominent corner premises at 86 Hill Street, formerly the Victoria Hotel. The branch, under the management of James McConnell, was an immediate success.
Ulster Bank’s growth was constrained after 1929 by the effects of the world depression and the collapse of the Belfast linen and shipbuilding industries. Newry’s economy particularly suffered and unemployment was rife in the town. The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 caused further disruption in Newry, as Eire remained neutral while the UK entered the war. Newry was garrisoned and fortified with gun emplacements and blockades. The border was sealed.
By 1965, although Newry was still the fourth largest port in Northern Ireland, the commercial focus of the town was moving away from the port and towards industry and retail. In 1969 a new sub-office to Newry was opened at Warrenpoint.
Refurbished and rebuilt
In 1971 Newry branch was extensively refurbished and modernised to improve facilities for customers. Two decades later, the whole building was demolished in two phases and completely rebuilt on the same site. Externally the design replicated the exterior of the original historic building, while internally a modern, fit-for-purpose branch bank was created. The completed building was fully reoccupied in early 1993.
In 2006 a property redevelopment project reopened the original double access to the branch from both Hill Street and The Mall.