The Last Bank

47 Front Street, Shotley Bridge was to many local residents simply known as “The Bank”, but it has had many names….

It opened its doors on the 10th December 1883 as the North Eastern Banking Company. Shotley Bridge at the time was a thriving expanding village, though the swordmakers were long gone. The Flour Mill, Paper Mill and Gasworks combined employed many more people than ever before. This was the ideal time to set up a new Bank Office and the North Eastern Banking Company took the opportunity.

The North Eastern Banking Company (NEBC) itself had only been set up in 1872 initially as a stock bank with the aim of helping the local heavy industries in the North East. It expanded rapidly and soon acquired several smaller North-eastern based banks.  As it increased in size it opened more offices throughout the North East where industries were developing.

By 1914 it needed extra capital to finance its large industrial clients; Shipbuilding, Engineering and Shipping. It merged with the Bank of Liverpool and the name above the door changed to Bank of Liverpool on 7th August 1914. This merger formed one of the largest banks in the UK outside of London. At the end of WW1, in 1918, the Bank of Liverpool merged with Martins Bank of Lombard St London and on the 18th December 1918 the name changed once again to Bank of Liverpool and Martins.

On the 3rd January 1928 the Bank of Liverpool name was dropped and the offices renamed Martins Bank. By now the Paper Mill had been closed for over 20 years and in the next few years the Flour Mill was also to close, but with new house building the population of Shotley Bridge and surrounding area increased and more people began to use Banks.

Martins Bank increased in size opening 62 branches between 1945 and 1957. By the 1960’s Martins actually expanded into the shop next door in Shotley Bridge and totally refurbished the building and offices, it became a very smart looking bank at that time in the centre of the village.

Finally in 1969 Martins, the last remaining independent regional bank, succumbed to acquisition. A proposed 3 way merger of Martins, Barclays and Lloyds was rejected by the Monopolies Commission (This could have meant the closure of Martins, Front St branch or Snows Green Rd branch of Lloyds)

However, no objection was raised to Barclays acquiring Martins by itself.

The Barclays sign remained above the door at 46/47 Front St from 1969 until 2000 when Barclays, looking to cut costs and close smaller branches, took the unpopular decision to close the last bank in Shotley Bridge.

It has been part of Harrington Brown Estate Agents ever since.

The triangular site between Front Street, Snows Green Road and Oak Street, known as Achey [Oakey] Bank Corner,  was one of the last to be built up in the village centre. The first weekly market, with covered sheds, was held there in 1842. The first Shotley Bridge ‘Hiring’ Fair was in May 1845, where servants and workers could meet employers to agree wages for the next six months or a year. Fairs were also held in November and there would be market stalls, fairground rides, theatres, music and alcohol.

The market ceased in 1860 and the site was gradually developed with houses, shops, the Spa Hotel, a Town Hall and a bank.

The Drinking Fountain [Pant] in front of the Bank was removed for road widening and rebuilt at Beamish Museum. An exact replica has been constructed in the village, opposite the Kings Head.

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