Staff at NatWest's Portchester branch are busy celebrating a very special event - the branch's 75th birthday.
23 May 2011
As part of the celebrations, the staff are dressing as they would have 75 years ago, inviting in longstanding customers and former staff, and sharing a giant birthday cake with their customers.
NatWest's Portchester branch first opened in 1936 as an office of National Provincial Bank. In the late nineteenth century Portchester was small village, with a factory for the manufacture of clay smoking pipes, a brewery, a village school and a railway station, opened in 1848. It was only after the First World War that the village began to expand as new houses were built along the main four streets and New Town was laid out between East Street and the railway. Between 1911 and 1931 the population of the village more than doubled, from 900 to over 2,200 people. This rapid growth attracted the bank's attention, and in 1936 it decided to open an office there. Premises were purchased at 2 West Street, where the bank's new Portchester office opened on 21 May 1836 as a full agency to its Portsmouth branch, under the management of W T Read.
After the Second World War Portchester expanded considerably in all directions, the Castle Trading Estate was opened, and it became popular residential area for commuters working in Portsmouth and Southampton. In 1957, with a view to expanding the branch premises there, the bank purchased an additional property, Devonshire Cottage, on Castle Street, but this was held vacant pending redevelopment of the local area. In 1962 National Provincial Bank acquired District Bank, which continued to trade under its own name, and in 1968 it was agreed to merge with Westminster Bank. From January 1970 Portchester branch began to trade under the new National Westminster Bank name.
By the early 1970s Portchester had developed further, and in 1975 its population reached 18,000 people. In 1972 the bank had acquired further land in West Street and Castle Street in order to construct brand new premises by the newly-built roundabout at the junction of the two streets. Whilst the bank's demolition and construction work was underway, the branch traded from temporary premises at 41 West Street. At the same time Portchester's new precinct was laid out nearby. In June 1974 the bank's Portchester branch moved into the new accommodation at 2 West Street, where it remains today.
Commenting on the celebrations, Alison Ling, who job shares the Branch Manager role at NatWest's Portchester Branch with her colleague Sarah Green, said: "We are delighted to be celebrating the fact that NatWest has been operating a banking service for the people of Portchester for 75 years. We are proud of our close association with the area and look forward to celebrating this occasion with our customers, as well as continuing to provide a high quality service to the local community."