25: Williams Deacons Bank, and other stories
A Davenport history feature, written by Charlie Hulme
| For almost a century, a bank branch at
229-231 Bramhall Lane served the residents of Davenport,
until it was closed down by the Royal Bank of Scotland on 21
July 2017. This is its story, with notes about some of its
The Bank's Neighbours
To trace the history of the Bramhall Lane branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland (seen above in 2008) we need to travel back in time to the 1890s, when building development began on two fields which, according to one writer, had been donated by the Davenport estates to the Bamford Hesketh family with the intention that the rent would support Stockport Grammar School. A local builder, William Winbolt, erected two terraces facing Bramhall Lane, with larger houses at each end (one of which became his family home). The two terraces appear to be one, but the linking section can be seen if you look carefully, The story of the northerly half, 209 - 219 Bramhall Lane, and also no. 221, is told in our pages on John Williams and Sons and Davenport Post Office.
The original developers had no intention of creating the shopping street we know today; the middle-class residents of Davenport no doubt expected their necessities to be delivered to their homes, and the workers' terraces had their own 'corner shops' but as the new century dawned, so did the 'consumer society' and this part of Bramhall Lane, near the station and the junctions with Garners Lane and Kennerley Grave Lane (as it was then) became an obvious place for a retail focus. The postcard from 1914, above, shows the shops developed by John Williams, and beyond, the houses still in residential use, with the remaining examples of the gardens which originally fronted all the buildings.
The Great War would have delayed any further developments, until in 1919 the southern terrace, 223 - 231 Bramhall Lane, was purchased by Williams Deacons Bank for conversion to a bank branch and adjacent shops to made available to local businesses. The residents, who presumably rented the houses, must have been given 'notice to quit'. The bank branch appears in a 1922 telephone directory, but may have been opened a little earlier.
Most of the historic views we have of the shops are details from postcard views taken from the station bridge, which lose definition when enlarged, but are still worth examining. The one above, which is no exception, seems to date from around 1920, when the conversion was not quite complete. No. 227 stubbornly retains its front garden, and the board (sadly illegible) above the entrance to 229-231 suggests that the Bank was in business, but the characteristic portland stone frontage had yet to be applied. This may date froom 1935.
The basis of Williams Deacons was a company founded in the north-west of England, established in 1836 as the Manchester and Salford Bank. In 1890 the expanding firm took over their London agent, Williams, Deacon & Co. and moved its headquarters to London, It traded for a while as 'Williams Deacon & Manchester & Salford Bank' Ltd before adopting the simplified title in 1901. Having grown by acquiring several smaller banks over the years, the company was purchased by the Royal Bank of Scotland, keen to expand into England, in 1930, but did not initially change its trading name for another four decades.
The postcard picture above possibly dates from the late 1930s; the cars have been identified as a 1930s Rover, either a 10 or 12 HP, on the left, and almost certainly a late 1930s Lanchester 10 HP, the smallest Lanchester ever produced, would have had a preselector gearbox. No cash machine, or disabled ramp, in those days of course, and the building has a symmetrical appearance, with a door at each end. The northerly door, probably the entrance to the manager's flat above, was later removed and replaced by a window. Notice the flagpole attached to the building; a 1960s postcard shows very much the same scene. Part of what we now know as the 'green' was used as parking space in those days; a 1970s proposal to turn it completely into a 67-place car park was passed by the Council planners but abandoned after a public outcry orchestrated by the residents of the nearby Davenport park private estate.
Former employee Peter Cross has written some of his memories of the 1960s for us:
I joined the Davenport branch of Williams Deacons Bank in September 1963 from school. I started, of course, as 'office junior' and within the first few minutes I was shown the boiler room in the basement and how to stoke the coke-fired boiler -more importantly how to keep it going all day! My salary was £330 per annum (male and female staff had different pay scales both based on age).Williams Deacons Bank quietly served the community for many years, with name changes as banks merged and were sold. In 1969, The Royal Bank of Scotland merged with National Commercial Bank of Scotland, and in 1970 Williams Deacons became Williams and Glyn's Bank when owners the Royal Bank of Scotland merged it with Glyn, Mills & Co and the English and Welsh branches of The National Bank. In 1985 The Royal Bank of Scotland Groupís two major subsidiary holdings, Williams & Glyn's Bank and The Royal Bank of Scotland, were fully merged as The Royal Bank of Scotland plc.
This image is enlarged from a small part of a 35mm slide taken by the late Wallace Sutherland in 1986 and scanned at the highest resolution possible. Some of the shops are known and can be identified. Left to right: The blue facia of 209-213 'Lo-Cost', 215 Ladies' outfitter 'Judith', 217 Michelle ladies' fashions, 219 The Post Office, 221 Bowling's Butchers, 223-225 John Plant shoe shop, 227 'Fashion in Fabrics', 229-231 Royal Bank of Scotland, 233 'Candy Corner', 235 Four Yards Estates.
From 1985 onwards the branches were branded as Royal Bank of Scotland, and the full name appeared on a blue board above the window, covering up the remains of the Williams Deacons Bank name. The style can be glimpsed in the picture above, taken by Philip Bradley in 1989. The ramped access for wheelchairs was yet to be built, obscuring the cellar window.
In 2000 the company bought the National Westminster Bank (NatWest), resulting in the closure of many NatWest branches, including the one down the road at 197 Bramhall Lane, which in 2017 housed the 'Crowning Glory' hair salon.
In 2003 the company decided to re-brand itself using the initials RBS with the 'daisy wheel' symbol alongside and the full name in small letters below, but the long board could not be removed without revealing what was behind it, so the new short 'RBS' board had to fixed over the old with its letters removed. the and the 'Daisy Wheel' logo - introduced in 1969 and said to be inspired by four piles of nine coins arranged in a square - attached in the centre.
The twenty-first century saw the Royal Bank of Scotland encounter turbulent times, well-chronicled in the Media, following some unfortunate decisions by senior management, and leading to its rescue by the Government as being 'too big to be allowed to fail', but the Davenport branch carried on its daily work, enhanced by a cash machine, and in 2003 by a disabled ramp avoiding the steps at the front door.
In November 2012 a man in a grey hooded tracksuit walked casually along Bramhall Lane, past the station's CCTV camera and into the bank, where he threatened the staff with a gun (later said to be a replica) and walked back towards Bramhall with £3000 in cash. The following week, he repeated the action. Soon afterwards, a man from Bramhall was arrested and charged. From that time on, customers had to press a bell-push to request entry to the building.
The bank just after closure. The metal bracket which supported the flagpole is still in place between the upper windows. The former door space at the far end had been re-used to provide a 'night safe' where local businesses could deposit their takings outside opening hours, but this had been out of use for some years by the date of a 2008 proposal to replace it with an additional cash machine, which was initially refused by Stockport Council.
As telephone, and later internet, banking became available, the local branch was no longer many people's main contact with their bank, and over-the-counter business decreased In Summer 2017 a placard, apparently made by the staff of the branch, appeared outside warning that RBS were closing the branch, and asking people to complain to their MP. The message was repeated on paper flyers which the local 'Big Issue lady' was recruited to hand out to passers-by. The placard was later added to with a hand-written 'we did try' sticker and the branch closed on 21 July 2017. RBS produced a leaflet explaining the decision explaining that although 85 customers were still using the branch on a regular basis, the number of transactions at Davenport branch had dropped by 24% since 2011. 53% of customers at the branch were, RBS assured us, active Digital Banking users; a low figure, perhaps reflecting the age profile of the area. Others, it was suggested, could bank at the Post Office, or visit RBS branches in Stockport, Cheadle Hulme or Hazel Grove. All those branches also closed shortly afterwards.
The RBS name-board was removed, revealing traces of the old metal lettering (above), and blue bags of rubbish were dumped outside. So ended almost a century of service. Our thanks are due on behalf of Davenport residents to all the staff who worked there over the years.
The cash machine remained in service after the closure, not for long. Use of the building for non-banking purposes in the future would appear to require major alterations, and be subject to the requirements of the Cale Green Conservation Area. In 2020 when this page was revised, it was still standing empty.
Never happened (2): RBS was required by the European Union to divest a portion of its business after HM Government took an 84% stake in the group during the 2008 United Kingdom bank rescue package, which the EU classed as state aid. In 2011 it seemed that Spanish bank Santander would be taking over the bank branches, and a planning application was submitted to change the exterior signage to their red style, but this deal was never completed.
Later, it was proposed to re-brand and sell off the branch network as 'Williams and Glyn' - minus the 'apostrophe s', said to be owing to the difficulty of using an apostrophe in branding and website addresses. In 2016, they applied to Stockport Council for planning permission to change the branding of the Davenport branch; the above mock-up is from their application. However, still no buyer was found and in 2017 - in the aftermath of 'Brexit' - it was agreed that RBS would retain the branches, paying large sum into a fund intended to increase competition in the UK Banking sector. The aftermath has been the closure of many branches.
Update March 2023
There was a planning application in 2020 for 'Change of use and sub-division of ground floor from Class A2 to retail (A1) and office (A2), upper floors to 3 residential flats and associated external alterations including new entrances and restoring window with window replacements.' The proposed new entrance was a re-opening of the doorway seen in the 1930s image,
This was given permission, but it never came to pass. After a long empty period, we now have at the former bank another 'pound-shop' style business, in direct competition with the existing store 'Pound Stop' at no. 201, complete with the usual collection of products on the pavement and spelling error on the facia.
Sources used for this feature include street and Telephone Directories at Stockport Heritage Library and in our own collection; Ancestry.co.uk; and the 1939 Register on Findmypast.co.uk. The maps are from the National Library of Scotland. Details of the 1930s cars were kindly provided by Andy Stobbie and Terry Borton of the Panther Car Club. Thanks as always to Sue Bailey of Woodsmoor for her support, and access to her father's photographs; and to Peter Cross and Violet Barrow for their contributions. Thanks also to the other local residents who have added to the picture.
Written by Charlie Hulme, last updated March 2023
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