The last family to live at Lloyds Bank, Coleshill returned for a final visit to their old home on the day the bank closed its doors for the last time. There were poignant memories for Christine Jones, 90, widow of John Jones, the last bank manager to ‘live over the shop’, as the bank’s staff welcomed her and her daughter Sally to look round the Bank House where they lived from 1962-64. The bank has been based at 121 High Street, an imposing Georgian house, since 1878, but the decision was recently made to shut it because of the rise in online banking and the corresponding fall in customers visiting the branch in person.
“We loved living in this big house when we first moved to Coleshill,” said Mrs Jones. “It had 7 bedrooms, though we mostly only used two. It also had a wonderful walled garden, which has since been built on, but at the time it had two lawns where the children played for hours, a large vegetable patch, summer house, apple trees and a huge pear tree, which produced armfuls of pears each year. Mr Mann, the previous bank manager had tilled the garden assiduously and when we arrived, I carried on, growing some good crops of vegetables.”
“As a 7-year-old I loved playing gymkanas with my friends in the back garden, using cricket stumps and bamboo canes for jumps. ,” remembered journalist and broadcaster Sally Jones. “I also enjoyed roller skating on the polished floor of the banking hall at crack of dawn. One Sunday morning about 6am I pressed a button that turned out to be the alarm for cashiers in case of a hold-up. It shrieked piercingly for about 20 minutes and my dad was furious, saying the police would come and arrest us. In fact absolutely no one came to investigate at all, which was a bit worrying. As a school leaver, I worked at the Coleshill branch for 6 months to earn some money to play in the summer tennis tournaments and was probably the worst bank clerk they ever had; I could even burn water when making tea. Several of our family have made their careers in Lloyds Bank though, including my brother Edward, father, uncle, aunt, grandfather and great-grandfather. We are very grateful that the Lloyds staff gave us the chance to look round the house that held so many happy memories for us.”
Scores of the bank’s local customers enjoyed Buck’s Fizz and canapes as they said their farewells to the branch. Former Town Mayor Susan Wallace, of Gascoigne’s Funeral Directors, a longstanding Coleshill resident and councillor enjoyed reminiscing about her family’s banking history at the Coleshill branch and about the local organisations such as Father Hudson’s Homes and the Royal British Legion which also used it.
“My grandfather Sidney Gascoigne moved from Moseley to Coleshill in 1929,” she explained, “after he took over an existing undertaker’s business at 100, High Street where our firm is still based. The interesting thing was learning more about local history through seeing the names of local organisations, community groups and committees that I’d never heard of, such as the Coleshill and District Handicraft Committee and groups from Over Whitacre and Lea Marston which were raising money for a Victory Hall after the War I. It made me realise it was local people who instigated these things.
I was also interested to hear about the early days of the Coleshill Drama Group which I’m closely involved with. It was founded by Joyce and Ernest Pickering, who lived in a bungalow called The Woodlands in Coventry Road, Coleshill and started a drama group there initially linked to the Methodist Church in the late 20s. It was first called the Woodlanders but probably became Coleshill Drama Group in 1933. The first production they did was called ‘Paddy, the Next Best Thing’ and the Group is still going strong. We are putting on a powerful play called ‘Entertaining Angels’ by Richard Everett at the Town Hall, from November 22nd to 24th . So much local history has been connected to Lloyds Bank, Coleshill, over the years, this is very much the end of an era.”