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Here's what became of the buildings that were once Kent branches of banks such as HSBC and NatWest

Over the last few years, more and more banks have been deserting their prominent positions on high streets as fewer customers venture inside.

However, just because the buildings are no longer being used to cash in cheques doesn't mean their grand designs have gone to waste. Here we look at what some of Kent's old banks are now.

Old bank buildings across the county have been transformed into new pubs, restaurants and some may be transformed into homes
Old bank buildings across the county have been transformed into new pubs, restaurants and some may be transformed into homes


Known for its popular beer garden and fancy interior, The Brenchley in Maidstone is a hotspot for pub goers across the county.

However, the watering hole used to be a large NatWest which was home to a stunning, huge glass ceiling dome, with solid oak columns and panelling.

In 2013, the premises had been empty for around a year, but a deal to buy the lease was struck by the Wilson family.

And as a result, it was transformed, with its original features restored, into Maidstone town centre's first independent freehouse to open for more than two decades.

Five years after The Brenchley first welcomed punters, Harry's Bar opened on the venue's rooftop.

The Grade II-listed building was designed by Frederick Charles Palmer who was also architect to the National Provincial Bank between 1920 and 1932.

It was built in 1927 as the home of the Kentish Bank before later becoming a NatWest branch.

Ade Rowswell, operations manager at The Brenchley, said: "It would have been criminal to change the building, it was so beautiful.

"We tried to keep the original features but also adapt them to our clientele.

Ade Rowswell, operations manager at The Brenchley. Picture: Andy Jones
Ade Rowswell, operations manager at The Brenchley. Picture: Andy Jones

"I think the history of The Brenchley's building is part of the reason why people come here.

"It sat empty for several years and it was such a shame, so when we came across the venue it seemed like the right choice."

The name Brenchley has a long-standing history in Maidstone.

It includes the formation of the Kentish Bank, Maidstone Breweries, the building of Maidstone Alms Houses, Maidstone mayors and the benefactor to West Kent General Hospital.

It is also the name of the famous 19th century explorer, naturalist and author Julius Lucius Brenchley.


Another bank's closure has left a historical building with an uncertain future.

The HSBC in Sandwich closed its doors to customers in 2016 and since then the building has been the subject of multiple planning applications.

Although the council refused to support plans to convert the building into flats in 2019, plans were put forward again in July for the building's change of use and conversion. It is still awaiting a decision.

The property, in Cattle Market, has been part of town's history for hundreds of years.

In 1677, it became a pub known as The Mermaid Inn or The Mermaid.

At this time, inns were not only used by travellers and residents for entertainment, but also as official meeting places.

The Mermaid Inn hasn't been changed very much externally from the time it was leased by St John's Hospital to Mr Bradley, a brewer, for £4 per annum in the late 18th century.

However, in 1891 Mr Bradley took his own life after arranging a sing-song at The Mermaid Inn and speaking with a regular visitor about money problems.

His body was found by the coastguard in the Sandhills after he had shot himself. His death caused much sadness in Sandwich and Deal, where he was well known as a former resident.

The Mermaid Inn, Sandwich on May 6,1910. Picture: Roy Moore, Kent Photo Archives, Proclamation of King George V
The Mermaid Inn, Sandwich on May 6,1910. Picture: Roy Moore, Kent Photo Archives, Proclamation of King George V

Today, beside the old HSBC building is The Mermaid's Locker, a restaurant and pub.

The Mermaid’s Locker began in 1962 when Vivienne Docker bought number 8 Cattle Market in Sandwich which was a former shoe shop.

As the building next door at the time was the old Mermaid Inn and her name was Docker, Vivienne decided to call it The Mermaid's Locker.

The Mermaid's Locker was erected in 1601, the same century as the old HSBC.

It is on the site of a previous building probably destroyed by fire after a raid by the French laid waste to the town in 1457.

The Mermaid Inn, 1910. Picture: Bob Audley
The Mermaid Inn, 1910. Picture: Bob Audley


A building that was once home to a couple of historic banks became Sittingbourne's first Italian restaurant.

Although it is temporarily closed following the pandemic, the Amalfi Restaurant opened in 2019.

Before the restaurant took pride of place on the high street, the building was home to the now discontinued Woolwich, which was previously Martin's Bank.

The site had been empty for around eight years before it was converted into an eatery.

As part of the project, the inside of the Grade II-listed building’s first floor was redesigned and refurbished.

There are also exposed beams upstairs, impressive lighting and a large room for private functions and parties.

As part of its transformation, the upstairs seating area was also redesigned and refurbished.

It was the brain-child of Musa Kivrak, who is also responsible for creating Sittingbourne’s first Mexican-themed restaurant, nearby Tacos Locos, in the former Bull Inn pub.

Mr Kivrak said: “I like the fact I’m able to breathe new life into an old building that has been empty for some time."

Musa Kivrak outside Amalfi in Sittingbourne High Street
Musa Kivrak outside Amalfi in Sittingbourne High Street

Number 60, High Street, Sittingbourne has been various banks over the years.

It was a Woolwich from around 2000 and archives show that it closed around 2007. It is thought it remained empty from 2007 until it became the Italian.

Before this, between 1889 and 1969 it is was called Martin’s Bank which was absorbed into Barclays between 1969 and1979.

The building was originally part of the next door pub and hotel, The Lion Hotel, which has been in existence from at least since 1415.

It is currently closed but, on Facebook, the Amalfi Restaurant said: "Due to unforeseen circumstances we won’t be opening, however keep an eye out and we will update our page for a date."

Martins Bank in Sittingbourne. Picture: Branch Images © Martins Bank Archive Collection
Martins Bank in Sittingbourne. Picture: Branch Images © Martins Bank Archive Collection


Another NatWest branch that closed in Kent was in Westerham.

After it shut, the premises stayed vacant for a few years, however, at the end of 2018 a fine dinning restaurant, fittingly named, The Old Bank, opened its doors.

The Old Bank is owned and run by chef Adam Turley and his wife Emma, who both grew up in Sevenoaks and have long family connections to the area.

The restaurant offers contemporary, seasonal British cuisine, influenced by French techniques, using ingredients locally available.

Adam was named Kent Life Magazine’s 2020 Chef of the Year and explained how he cooks his award winning food to KMTV.

Utilising the former bank's structure, the old NatWest basement vault has been transformed into a wine cellar.

Food cooked at The Old Bank in Westerham
Food cooked at The Old Bank in Westerham


Back in 2017, the NatWest bank in Whitstable closed its doors for good.

However, a year later plans were submitted for it to become a restaurant called Dirties, offering the chance for private functions in the former bank vaults.

It became available after NatWest shut the branch as part of a nationwide closure programme sparked by an increasing move to online banking services by customers.

Dirties Whitstable, that has a successful flagship branch in Hertford, sadly is no longer open.

In September of 2019, Dirties announced on Instagram that it was closing following a tough year for the family who ran the business.

Thanks to Paul Skelton of dover-kent.com, Roy Moore of Kent Photo Archives and Theresa Emmett from the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne, who let us use photos and facts from their giant databases.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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