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Bank manager carried a gun - but fired it only once

PUBLISHED: 19:14 01 November 2018 | UPDATED: 19:14 01 November 2018

A rare picture of the staff at the National Provincial Bank in London Street, Norwich, of 60 years ago

A rare picture of the staff at the National Provincial Bank in London Street, Norwich, of 60 years ago

Archant

Derek James discovers and tells the story of the gun-carrying bank messenger A W Russell at the old National Provincial Bank in Norwich

The National Provincial Bank at night (later the National Westminster Bank) in London Street in August 1969The National Provincial Bank at night (later the National Westminster Bank) in London Street in August 1969

Meet the staff at the former National Provincial Bank in the heart of Norwich photographed in 1958 and now, 60 years on, this landmark building has been given the green light to become...the Cosy Club.

This photograph, which has probably not been published before, comes from Clive Everitt who worked at the bank in London Street, Norwich, before heading off to do his National Service and then spending a career around the world in the aircraft industry.

“I found it at home and just thought there may be others who would like to see it again after all these years,” he said.

At the time there were 40 men and women working in the bank where rules and regulations were the order of the day. People stood up when spoken to by the manager,” said Clive who went to Bracondale School before joining the bank and then leaving for the Royal Air Force.

AW Russell newspaper report in the Evening News in 1930AW Russell newspaper report in the Evening News in 1930

No doubt “characters” would have been frowned upon in those days but allow me to take you back further in time and introduce you to one, a certain A W Russell who was, when he retired as the bank messenger in 1930, described as a city “celebrity.”

We reported that: “With his top hat, brass-buttoned tail coat, and ‘mutton-chop’ whiskers, he was a picturesque, old-fashioned figure on the streets.”

Mind you, it wasn’t wise to take any liberties with him as: “He always carried a revolver, but he only had to use it once.”

That was while he was acting as caretaker of the old National Provincial Bank in London Street, which was pulled down in the 1920s when the new one opened.

Apparently A W – we never reported his first name - heard a noise in the basement and went down to have a look. He fired one shot at the ceiling to show the intruder he was armed and “standing no nonsense.”

We wrote in 1930: “He was holding the weapon ready to find a human target for his next bullet when out crawled a very scared bank clerk. He had intended to give the caretaker a fright, but Mr Russell had the last laugh.”

Phew!

A W had worked at the bank for 38 years and when he retired we spoke to him at his home above the St Stephen’s branch of the bank. He was a man proud of his whiskers and pointed out he had grown them ever since he started to shave and so had his father and grandfather.

He was a friend of the popular city bellman, William Childerhouse, who also sported fine whiskers. Both great celebrities of their time..

And he told our reporter how there was a time when he used to carry large sums of money all over Norfolk to the banks but was never the victim of a hold-up. I wonder why!

Mind you, he said the only mishap he could recall was when he was in St Stephen’s in the city one day going to the old Victoria Station with a large sum of gold in his care.

The weight was too great for the old horse cab he was using and the bottom fell out, and left the boxes of money in the street.

I’ll wager no-one made a grab for it with A W around.

Our report when on to say he looked younger than his 65 years. He was an award-winning bird fancier exhibiting at shows across the country and he was also chairman of the Council of the Norwich Amateur Skittles League and he said his hobbies of bird-fancying, skittles and gardening.

He looked after the gardens of the bank managers and was also married with a large family.

The sort of chap it would have been good to meet.

Meanwhile banks are closing as online banking takes over.

This wonderful building in London Street designed by F C R Palmer in 1925 which became the National Westminster, closed last year but it was announced a couple of weeks ago that permission had been granted for it to become a Cosy Club, a restaurant promising “village cricket pavilion pottiness.”

I wonder what A W would have made of that? I have a feeling he would have liked it.

If you are in the 1958 picture and have memories to share please drop me a line at derek.james2013@gmail.com

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