Banking on time capsules staying hidden
- Credit: ALFRED YALLOPt
No qualification in architecture is required, only down-to-earth common sense, to stroll along the main section of Hall Quay in Great Yarmouth and be able accurately to pick which of its dozen or so properties were built as banks.
They have that solid, dependable and reliable look, sufficient to persuade the public to entrust their life savings or business affairs to the occupiers. Remarkably, four of eight buildings in a row were banks!
Those structures, well over a century old, are still there, unlike the banks themselves which, with one limited exception, have long-since cashed up and gone, their premises now unoccupied and for sale. They have decamped to the Market Place area we popularly called Burton’s Corner into flash modern-style properties only a few paces apart.
Yet, not too long ago, the only traditional banks near the market were the National Westminster plus the East Anglian Trustee Savings Bank (later Lloyds), but it closed and remains unoccupied. Building societies becoming banks added to the confusing mix.
Bankers’ decisions to abandon long-serving premises deprived Hall Quay of its status as the borough’s commercial hub, endowed with the added quality of river views in the many decades its quaysides were well-used and animated, in contrast to today’s inactivity.
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Footfall was augmented by the head post office on the Regent Street corner, generating activity but for years bedevilled by long queues
Umpteen name-changes in the banking sphere have made things confusing, but my 1972 Kelly’s Directory lists the Hall Quay four as Barclays, Lloyds, Midland and National Westminster. Today only the Royal Bank of Scotland remains, in the former Midland premises but limiting opening to three days a week.
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That solid and sober architecture expected of reliable institutions like banks was challenged on Hall Quay by a public house. The Yare, out of kilter because of its futuristic appearance - gleaming white stone and Art Deco cinema-style lines - opened in 1939 on the site of two demolished pubs (the Steam Packet and Crown and Anchor). But when it pulled its final pint in 1974, in stepped the Midland Bank (later, HSBC), moving along from six doors away!
HSBC has long-since vacated the building for the town centre, the ex-Yare Hotel now accommodating a firm of solicitors.
For a decade from the mid-1960s until 1975, one of the many employees on Hall Quay was Anne Barber, who now lives near Dereham and has been telling me about a memorable occurrence at the Lloyds Bank branch where she worked.
During internal work to move a big safe on the ground floor near the public area, builders discovered a time capsule concealed within a large ornate wooden-surround fireplace. Perhaps disappointingly, it contained no artefacts or valuables from the era it was secreted away but simply a list of the bank’s employees.
The staff decided to follow suit, so a list of the current employees, their jobs and the date became the solitary content of a second time capsule. Then the two were carefully hidden behind that relocated floor-to-ceiling fireplace. Perhaps they are still secreted in the empty building today...
Anne Barber worked at that Lloyds branch from 1964 when she was 18 until 1975 as secretary to the manager.
Lloyds’ premises housed the Lacon, Youell &Kemp Bank (formerly the Yarmouth, Norfolk and Suffolk Bank) as far back as 1821, later becoming the Capital & Counties Bank. Possibly the original time capsule dated back to that Lacon, Youell & Kemp era.
Despite all the many comings and goings, one pub has remained open - the Duke’s Head. Also on the plus side, it is good to know that the handsome Tudor-style Star Hotel, a Hall Quay centrepiece, has reopened.
Hall Quay actually runs from North Quay, crossing Stonecutters Way which was cut through in 1952, to Regent Street.