In February 2016 the HSBC bank on the corner of Cheap Street and Long Street closed its doors for the final time. It is a sad sign of the changing times that we have lost a bank that has served the people of Sherborne for around ninety years. I have a vested interest in this bank as in our family it is known as ‘Grandad’s Bank’ as he helped to build it but I knew little more than this family anecdote and so I set out to learn what I could. The plaque on the side of the building states that the original building on the site was demolished in 1926 and replaced by the building we see today with the Midland Bank opening in the new building and HSBC taking over in 1999. How did my grandfather fit into this and how would I find out more?
Luckily I have had the pleasure of meeting Harry Brewer and he has told me that his late wife’s grandfather, Frederick Pippard of Montecute was the builder of the bank and that my grandfather was the Clerk of Works. It was Frederick who uncovered the timbers of the original 16th century shop front and arranged for them to be saved and re-erected at the side of the building. What a wonderful thing Frederick did and I wonder if it was because he was originally a plasterer by trade, as his father and grandfather had been before him, and they had all worked extensively in and around Montecute, including at Montecute House, over the years and so when the plaster was removed Frederick could well have realised that these old timbers warranted saving. Katherine Barker, in her book Sherborne Camera, tells us that prior to the demolition of the old building ‘C D Parsons Licensed Dealer in Game’ occupied the corner premises. I have an old postcard that shows an open window at the front minus the Parsons sign above with lots of large joints of meat hanging there. According to Alec Oxford’s book The known History of the shops in Cheap Street the photograph would be taken during the time of Walter Sawtell, butcher, who preceded Parsons and traded there circa1870-1910.
I have examined the building closely searching for stone masons’ marks but can see nothing. When I knew the bank was closing I asked if I could photograph on the inside some of the original handiwork of the local craftsmen who would have contributed to the construction but sadly this was not permitted. I have to contend myself with a close examination of the ancient restored timberwork at the far side of the building in Long Street and I can see where the hands of the craftsmen, in 1926, carefully added some new oak where the ancient timbers were in need of some sensitive repair.
Does anyone else have any memories to share I wonder?