National Westminster Bank

 by Janet Murphy

This article first appeared in the Chesterfield and District Local History Society Newsletter ..

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The National Westminster Bank at the junction of Glumangate and the High Street is the latest in the line of banks to exist on this site. The first was Crompton, Newton & Co., also known as the Scarsdale & High Peak Bank. In 1877 the name changed to Crompton & Evans Union Bank. This firm was absorbed into Parr’s Bank in 1914 and then into the London, County & Westminster Bank in 1918 before becoming the Westminster Bank in 1923 and the National Westminster Bank in 1968.

The original Crompton & Union Bank building and the adjacent Star Inn were demolished to make way for a new building which was opened in 1894. The description in the Derbyshire Times was euphoric.

Those who have been absent from Chesterfield for any extended period of time will notice the vast improvement which has taken place during the last couple or three years in the region of the Market Square. Pre-eminently the noblest, the most massive, and ornate pile of buildings in the town is that recently erected by the banking firm of Messrs Crompton and Evans. The exterior is of free stone which now gives a light appearance to the general fabric though this will gradually darken into sombreness, and blend into a uniformity of colour with the buildings contiguous, The exterior carving is remarkably fine, and it is a pleasure to notice that the English mason and sculptor has not been crowded out of the skilled labour marketing this instance by his more aesthetic competitor, the foreign handicrafts men. There are two public entrances, one facing the Market Hall, which forms such a striking contrast in style of design and treatment, and the other in Gluman Gate. The interior of the entire block is splendidly lighted by five very large windows, and to walk in is to lead one to pause at the threshold in absolute astonishment. The flooring is dealt with in what is called the mosaic style; there are small square settings round the edge, and then a foliated and floriated design set in a similar manner, the main area of space fronting the teller’s counters being composed, apparently of a concrete of various coloured marble chippings, the surface, while wonderously smooth, not being slippery. It is to the eye as attractive as would be the most beautifully designed carpet. The wainscoting in the public portion of the bank is of solid oak; the counters of solid brilliantly polished mahogany. There are convenient partitions for the use of customers and desks for the clerks and other officials. It would need the pen of an art designer to describe the cornice and the treatment of the ceiling, and any effort we may make in this direction will be inadequate. The cornice is of a floriated scroll design, with a series of uniform blossoms at the termination of each carved entwinements. The ceiling is of an intersected design, drawn from lines at right angles, communicating with the curvilinear form, the grooving of the projections from the flat being very effective, tinted as they are in pale pink blended with a cream tone which so suits the lily whiteness of the ground work. In the centre there is a square pillar of mottled red marble surrounded by a “cap” in alabaster beautifully handled in a leaf treatment. The directors’ room is floated throughout in oak, the inlaying of which has been manipulated with the greatest care. The carpet is of Wilton make, and indeed Messrs Eyre and Sons in undertaking the upholstery throughout have succeeded in attaining a superb uniformity and a luxury of style and convenience which is seldom surpassed even in the larger and wealthier centres of the metropolis. Nor have the other firms who have had structural departments entrusted them failed in their aim, and the builders and decorators, Messrs Ford and Co. of Derby, the architects Messrs Rollinson and Son of Chesterfield, the plasterer Mr R Simpson, and the polishers, Messrs Betts and Sons, of Derby have verily placed a monument of structural skill long to be looked upon in Chesterfield with feelings of pride. The whole place has been fitted with electric bells by Messrs Hume and Sons of Derby and Mr Haslam of Derby, constructed the strong rooms. The safes are Chubbs. The strong rooms are perfect, and it would be literally, an impossibility to enter them. They are absolutely fire and burglar proof, the rooms are perfectly ventilated on the inlet and outlet system, perfect dryness has been secured and in fact every possible precaution has been taken to secure absolute security and perfect atmospheric conditions. The manager’s room is a palatial apartment and space debars us dwelling at too great length upon the other apartments. The house keeper’s quarters, the kitchens, the bedrooms, the heating apparatus, and indubitably the finest system of drainage extant were all shown to us, and we would come to no other conclusion that the bank has few equals. Mr John Naylor was indeed kind to permit us to view his new residence and the banking premises, and we can only hope that he may still be spared very many years enjoy in his new residence the confidences of the shareholders and all those who do business with him, the real respect and loyalty of the staff, as well as the regard of his fellow townsman, which he has so consistently earned during the years that are past.

Mr Naylor was evidently the manager and his house adjoined the bank on Glumangate. It was occupied by managers of the bank until 1914. Following the demolition of the Angel Hotel in 1926, the building was extended as far as the Post Office, which was also extended.

Sadly this attractive building was demolished in 1968 to make way for a new National Westminster Bank which opened in 1970. This somewhat unattractive building does have one redeeming feature ― its first-floor windows. If you have never noticed them look up next time you pass by. Those facing the Market Hall illustrate Chatsworth House, Hardwick Hall and the industries of the town. The windows on Glumangatedepict coinage and are not so immediately attractive,but if you are interested in coins take the escalator to the first floor and view them close up when their variety, in terms of age and value, is apparent. I wonder how many of the bank’s customers notice them.

Copyright 2015 Janet Murphy All Rights Reserved