See inside England’s oldest bank branch

Its location means hundreds of thousands of people a year go within touching distance of it – most of them without even giving it a second glance.

But in one corner of Old Market Square, sandwiched unassumingly between Burger King and Wetherspoons, is an important part of British history.

Without the Natwest Branch – full address 16 South parade, Nottingham, there might have been no current accounts, no ISAs and no debit cards.

The outlet is the site of the oldest bank branch in the country and has now been keeping cash safe for 348 years.

Its story began when Thomas Smith, a 17th century cloth merchant, became the first banker operating outside of London, and his stock books show he had been active in the embryonic industry since the early 1650s.

After he died in 1699 his son, also named Thomas Smith, developed the banking business, and it has progressed into the banking we see and use in our everyday lives.

Smith had links with bankers Edward Backwell and Gilbert Whitehall, and for several years Smith and his father took large amounts of cash deposits from a range of diverse people.

When Thomas Junior died in 1727, the business was taken over by his brothers, Samuel and Abel Smith, and their sons also joined.

Changes to the Smith’s Bank over the years

  • Samuel & Abel Smith & Co from 1727
  • Abel Smith & Sons from 1751
  • Abel Smith & Co from 1757 to 1788
  • Robert Smith & Co from 1788 to 1792
  • Samuel Smith & Co from 1793

In 1873 the bank opened a number of branches, and during the nineteenth century the Smith family became more independent.

However the five Smith banks eventually amalgamated with Union Bank of London to form Union of London & Smiths Bank.

People will now be able to visit the branch and read about how it all started on a new history panel just installed.

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Picture: An old part of the bank vaults no longer in use  

Daniel Wright, branch manager said:”It’s fantastic for the bank and also for the city, it’s a great focal point for our customers.

“Since we have been refitted last year we have made more reference to the original Smith family and the bank in general, the customers can now read about it which is good.”

The bank is an iconic building for Nottingham and always will be

Martin Savidge, who runs the Historic Nottingham Twitter account, said:”It’s interesting and exciting that Nottingham as a city had the oldest provincial bank, there is a plaque on the wall at the bank to commemorate this.

“The bank is an iconic building for Nottingham and always will be, more people should be aware of it and read the plaque outside.”

Staff at the branch have been enjoying working in the historic building with a sense of pride.

It gives you a sense of prestige when you come into work

Gareth Howells, who works in business growth at the outlet, said:”It’s good for the history of Nottingham and heritage, customers like it and you can tell when you walk in.

“It gives you a sense of prestige when you come into work, it makes you feels like banking has a long history and you feel that when you come through the door.”

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