Rushden is a town in England. NatWest traces its heritage there back to 1888.
Northamptonshire Union Bank
NatWest’s Rushden branch first opened as a branch of Northamptonshire Union Bank in 1888. This joint stock bank was already an important local institution. It had been founded some five decades earlier, and had itself grown out of an older private bank, which dated back as far as the 1790s. By the mid-1880s the bank had six offices, all in Northamptonshire.
At this time Rushden was beginning its rapid transformation from a large village into a thriving town. At the start of the 1880s, with a population of just over 3,600 people, its economy was dominated by farming, lace-making and brick-making. A decade later, it was home to over 7,400 residents and was already known for its growing number of boot and shoe factories.
This dramatic growth attracted the attention of the directors of Northamptonshire Union Bank. In 1886 they opened an office in Higham Ferrers, trading on Fridays only and known as the Higham Ferrers and Rushden agency. By January 1888, however, the agency had so many customers in Rushden that a separate presence there was clearly required. The bank arranged for a Rushden agency to operate one day a week from part of the house of local chemist William Wilkerson. It was under the supervision of William Alfred Rubbra, the bank’s Wellingborough manager.
The new office was an immediate success. By April 1888 the bank was already considering the purchase of land in Rushden in order to build a branch office there. By November that year it had obtained a suitable site with a High Street frontage.
In January 1889, around a year after the agency's opening, Rushden was upgraded to a full-time independent branch, managed by Joseph Wykes Ashdowne.
In May 1889 the builder James Thomas Wingrove of Northampton was appointed to build the bank's new premises. A local newspaper commented that ‘a sign of the importance of Rushden is to be seen in the fact that Northamptonshire Union Bank are now erecting there a palatial branch establishment’. Designed by the Northampton architect Matthew Henry Holding, the new premises at 43 High Street were opened in late 1889 or early 1890.
Into the 20th century
In July 1901 the branch building narrowly escaped destruction when the nearby premises of Cave & Sons, one of the largest boot factories in Northamptonshire, caught fire. The factory was burnt to the ground and around 30 neighbouring shops and houses were partially or completely destroyed. The branch premises only survived because the adjoining property was demolished to prevent the fire spreading any further.
In the early decades of the 20th century banks faced increasing competition. It became much harder for relatively small regional banks to compete effectively, and in 1920 Northamptonshire Union Bank, with its 25 offices, agreed to be acquired by National Provincial & Union Bank of England. This bank, one of the emerging ‘big five’ high street banks, had over 700 branches and from 1924 was known as National Provincial Bank.