Staff and customers at NatWest's branch in Port Talbot got together to celebrate the bank's 100th anniversary in the town.
05 Oct 2011
To mark the day, staff at the branch in Station Road got in the party spirit as they served up a celebration cake for their customers dressed in period costume.
The branch first opened in summer 1911 as an office of National Provincial Bank of England. This bank had been founded in 1833 and by the end of 1910 it had around 350 branch offices, including over 90 in Wales. The bank was rapidly expanding its branch network and actively seeking new locations in which to trade.
During the early nineteenth century the small port and market town of Aberavon had been transformed by the opening of its first dock and the establishment of a new iron industry. The new dock, and later the adjoining town, were named after the Talbot family, local landowners and entrepreneurs.
The opening of new floating docks in 1898 and an associated local railway system were designed to attract business away from Cardiff and Swansea, and by the end of the century over 500,000 tons of coal were being exported annually through the docks. Given this spectacular growth, when on 20 July 1911 the manager of the National Provincial's Bute Docks branch asked the bank's directors for permission to take an option on a lease of potential premises in Port Talbot, they immediately gave their approval.
Within a few weeks, on 9 August 1911, the bank's new Port Talbot branch opened for business at 35 Station Road with a single clerk, F. Evans, under the management of E W M Cowtan of the bank's Bute Docks office. It was one of nine new Welsh offices established by the bank in that year.
By the early decades of the twentieth century banks faced increasing competition and were forced to grow in order to compete. In 1918 National Provincial Bank of England merged with Union of London & Smiths Bank, later trading as National Provincial Bank. Meanwhile, in 1923, Port Talbot had been incorporated as a borough, encompassing Margam, Cwmafan and the older town of Aberavon.
During the Second World War, severe staff shortages meant that many bank offices had to be closed, and Port Talbot branch itself closed on 4 November 1941. Following the war, in 1952, the Abbey Works opened as one of the largest steel works in Europe, employing 18,000 staff, but it was not until 10 December 1953 that National Provincial re-opened in Port Talbot. During the following decade BP established a chemical plant at Baglan Bay and the first stretch of motorway in Wales, the M4 through Port Talbot, was opened to traffic. In 1970 the town's port capabilities were dramatically transformed by the opening of a new deep-water harbour.
Following the merger in 1970 of National Provincial Bank with Westminster Bank, Port Talbot branch began to trade under the new National Westminster Bank name. During the 1980s the original Station Road premises were extended, enhancing facilities for both staff and customers.
Branch manager Abbie Morris said: "Thank you so much to our customers for helping us to mark the occasion. This is a big milestone for us and it's important to look back, but at the same time we are looking forward and ensuring that we adapt to meet what our customers tell us they want from us. Staff at the branch have over 70 years' combined banking experience, so we're well on the way to a significant milestone ourselves!"