Middleton’s Bank: The “world’s local bank” in Loughborough
27 October 2015
Situated prominently next to the Loughborough Town Hall, the HSBC Bank in Loughborough Market Place is a most architecturally stunning building, designed by the partnership Goddard, Paget and Goddard, of Leicester. Plans were created around 1893 and the building erected in about 1894 by the local building firm of Moss. Today it is registered as a Grade II listed building, having been added to the register in 1984 (1). The main entrance has part-fluted columns with engraved plaques with the dates 1829 and 1893 on them, and in common with many other buildings in the town, local materials such as Swithland slate and Mountsorrel granite have been used in the construction. As with many of the older buildings in town, the building has a story to tell.
From as early as the 1630s there had been attempts to make the River Soar more navigable, and around 1775 work began in earnest, and by 1780, the canal connected Loughborough to towns in the south and towns to the north. In around 1778, the area around Loughborough Wharf started to become a commercial centre, and it was in about 1790 that Loughborough’s first bank, Middleton’s, opened up at the wharf. (2) The exact location of the enterprise is not known, but a report by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services on the archaeological evaluation of land at Loughborough Canal Basin, (3) on behalf of a developer, identified a possible late eighteenth-early nineteenth century building. It is remotely possible – and appealing to think – that this might be the remnants of Middleton’s bank, but it could equally well be what was left of any of the commercial buildings that were in the area during that time.
As commercial traffic on the waterways continued to increase, so did Middleton’s Bank flourish and grow, and in around 1828 the business moved to the Market Place, (4) to the site that is now occupied by the HSBC Bank. As a private country bank with only a couple of partners, Middleton’s (5) were able to issue their own bank notes and the bank was regularly referred to as “The Loughborough Bank”.
In 1843 William Middleton, one of the founders of the bank, died, and his son, Edward Chatterton Middleton, became the senior partner. Under his watch, the bank continued to flourish and Edward took on many responsibilities in the town, being, amongst other things, a Justice of the Peace, a High Sheriff of Leicestershire, Paymaster General to the Leicestershire Yeomanry (6), Treasurer of the Subscription News Room (housed in the Town Hall) (7), and, along with members of his family, attended local fetes, and contributed to local good causes.
By 1849 there were five banks listed in the Post Office Directory (8): Middleton & Cradock (Market Place); Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Banking Company (High Street); Pagets & Kirby (High Street); Pares’ Leicestershire Banking Company (Market Place); and Loughborough Savings Bank (Fennel Street). The premises occupied by Middleton & Cradock was a three-storey building, with a verandah running across the middle level and, as apparently Mr Middleton was a keen horticulturist, there were often plants and flowers adorning this verandah. (9)
When Mr Middleton died in 1878, the town mourned and a series of unfortunate events (not the subject of this article) unfolded. So when the doors of the bank closed this caused a “paroxysm of general panic and excitement” (10) in the town. Mr Middleton’s colleagues were anxious that on “the day of Mr Middleton’s funeral … that the bank should he kept as a Loughborough institution, and that the old house [The Grove, Ashby Road] and even the geraniums might remain in their glory as heretofore.” (11).
In the event, the bank was taken over by the Leicestershire Banking Company, and indeed, some of the staff from Middleton’s Bank became employees of the new bank. Business continued to be brisk, and eventually, in 1892, it was decided that Mr Middleton’s building was no longer fit for purpose, so architects were brought in to design a new, more appropriate building. (12). Goddard, Paget and Goddard – as they were called at the time – designed many public buildings in Leicester, and other parts of the Midlands, so this firm would have been a good choice for designing a bank for Loughborough town centre. Testament to Victorian architecture is that this building has survived many residents – including the London City and Midland Bank Ltd, the Midland Bank, and now the HSBC bank – and is still fit for purpose, continuing the banking tradition on the same site in Market Place for over 180 years.
Read an article published by Loughborough Archaeological & Historical Society in 1990 about the Midland Bank, the company which went on to occupy the Middleton Bank building.
(4) Bygone Loughborough in photographs. (1974). Researched and selected by Donald H.C. Wix, et al. Leicester: Leicestershire Libraries and Information Service, image 35
(5) Over the period of nearly 80 years, partners in the bank have included: William Middleton, John Bass Oliver, Thomas Thorp[e], Thomas Barfoot Bass Oliver, Thomas Crad[dock], Edward Chatterton Middleton and Edward William Craddock Middleton
(6) Leicester Chronicle or Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, Sat Sept 21, 1844, iss 1764
(7) White’s Directory, 1877, p. 12-14
(8) Post Office Directory, 1849, p. 2580
(9) Green, Edwin (s.d.). Midland Bank, Loughborough: Two centuries of banking, 1790-1990. Bulletin of the Loughborough Archaeological Society, [s.d.], pp. 18-21
(10) Crick, W.F. & Wadsworth, J.E. (1936) One hundred years of joint stock banking. London: Hodder & Stoughton. p. 267
(11) The stoppage of the Loughborough Bank: Important meeting of creditors. Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, Saturday August 24, 1878, p.11, iss 3591
(12) Images of Loughborough (1999). Derby: Breedon Books. p. 46