HSBC Bank Building

Grade I listed, it was built between 1727 and 1741 by John Watts, a merchant who became rich from trade to and from Portugal. The building was described by Pevsner as “amazingly stately”. Watts’ nephew, a successful clothier, inherited it in the 1770s, but for almost 100 years after 1840, under the name Commerce House, it was divided into separate retail premises, with shop front windows built out from the façade on the ground floor. Other businesses traded on the upper floors. Chettle’s and George Parsons drapers were among the businesses that traded from the left-hand ground floor before London City & Midland Bank, predecessors to HSBC, took up residence in 1917. The right-hand ground floor, then 45 Fore Street, with its doorway around the corner of the building, housed at various times a carriage and delivery company, Dyer’s chemist and druggist (later Boots), the gramophone retailer Arthur Spencer & Co., and even the Fore Street Garage. It was consolidated as a single building for Midland in the late 1930s.

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