The End of an Era: Remembering Bideford’s NatWest Bank


The closure of the Nat West Bank in Bideford in 2018 marked the end of an era for the iconic building and the local area too.

Bideford’s First Bank

The bank became known as ‘Bideford Old Bank’ and was the first such establishment in the town.

The bank, which was formerly National Provincial, has a long and rich history dating back to around 1790 when four men established the first bank in town.

James Ley, a prominent merchant, Stephen Willcock, a wine merchant, John Glubb, a lawyer, and Charles Cutcliffe, a Barnstaple banker, set up their new venture in Ley’s house on the N.E. corner of High Street.

In 1843, it was taken over by the National Provincial Bank, which had been founded in London a decade earlier.

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A Modernization Project

The bank continued to provide banking services to Bideford, and in 1930, plans were submitted to modernize the building.

These saw a new doorway at the eastern end with the old entrance being closed up, along with a reinforced strong room. The work was carried out by John Cock, a Bideford builder and one-time Mayor of the town.

The Unique Architecture of the Old Nat West Bank Building

Over the years, various changes were made to meet modern requirements, such as an ATM and bullet-proof glass screens (yes even a consideration to coastal towns too, not just big cities).

The old Nat West Bank building has a unique architecture.

  • It is a large house, now a bank, from the mid-19th century.
  • The building has solid rendered walls, with a part of the rear wall built directly on top of the old harbor wall.
  • The roof is hipped slate, with rendered chimneys with molded cornices just below the top.
  • It has three storeys and an asymmetrical 7-window front, possibly disguising at least one earlier building.
  • To the left is a square 3-window projection, to the right, a slightly less prominent 3-window canted bay, and a 1-window recessed center containing the main entrance.
  • There is a 3-window return front to the right, facing Cooper Street, with uniform detail across both fronts.
  • The building’s ground storey has horizontally-channelled detail, and the second-storey windows have molded architraves, with cornices on consoles (except for the 2 outer windows on the return front) and bracketed sills imposed on a continuous raised band.
  • The third-storey window is plain with a raised sill-band, and there are 6-paned sashes throughout, except for the third storey, where the upper sashes have only 3 panes.
  • The building has a bracketed eaves cornice, and the rear elevation to King Street has barred sashes matching those at the front.

The End of an Era

Sadly, the gradual movement to online banking led the Natwest directors to decide to close the Bideford branch, which was a significant loss to the town.

There is a very interesting account from a former employee at the bank that can be read here.

Author Matt Ogborne
Matt Ogborne
About the Author

Welcome to! I’m Matt, a seasoned explorer and avid fan of Bideford and the broader North Devon area. With over a decade of consistent family visits, virtually every weekend, I’ve immersed myself in the rich history and vibrant culture Bideford & North Devon.

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