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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Goodbye Yorkshire Bank - Welcome to Virgin Money

A long familiar banking name has occupied the key corner of Abingdon Street and Church Street. Yorkshire Penny Bank as it was set up shop here in the 1920s, if not before. Its premises and branding have of course changed over the decades with the latest incarnation yet to show itself in the form of 'Virgin Money' a financial services and banking business acquired by the Yorkshire Bank and its sister entity - Clydesdale in 2019.

The days of penny banks have long gone with the dilution of value in coinage and fiat currency more broadly. Now we speak about money in the broadest sense, knowing that its value in whatever denomination is forever subject to a reducing purchase power. Where once a shilling was acceptable pocket money (a twelth of a pound) now even a Five Pound note is at the bottom of acceptable scale for children of minor ages.

This sudden metamorphis of a long familiar banking venue in Blackpool's town centre was brought to my attention when further government policy ordained changes required transfer of the very modest banking account held at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to an alternative provider of which a short list of acceptable operators was thoughtfully proposed. I opted for Yorkshire Bank given its longstanding proximity to a tram stop on Abingdon Street next to the Market! The tram stop in question served trams running out of the town centre - then a thriving commercial district, outbound on Church Street to Devonshire Square and thence along tree lined Whitegate Drive to Marton. Many are the photographs taken in my youth of this very spot understandably facing outwards to the tramway tracks and road - with my back to the banking premises referenced.

RBS has tactfully removed itself from Blackpool with all of its branches being quietly eliminated. Much in the way of other banking entities and Building Societies - many given over to usually loud and obtrusive drinking establishments. However in this case Yorkshire's presence in Blackpool's central district is to be rebranded in the bright red colours of the Virgin Money business. Ironic that as Virgin's branding is removed from its trains on the West Coast Mainline (and to Blackpool) its financial services are being introduced (albeit under different ownership of the Yorkshire and Clydesdale entities) to replace what is a venerable banking name from across the Pennines.

The image taken by John Woodman is shows an English Electric railcoach on the service to Talbot Square rounding the corner into Abingdon Street during single line working. The Yorkshire Penny Bank commands the backdrop, whilst work on building the new 'Timothy Whites - The Chemists' stores is evident behind the tram.

Perhaps the days of local or regional financing entities are already circumscribed by today's online and digital world. The need to be subsumed within a national brand being paramount to remaining in business. Likewise once lauded retail outlets find their days in the sun (and profit) being massively impacted by market forces aided by technology. The importance of Marks and Spencer (another great brand originating in Yorkshire) now sadly diminished and finding its food halls far more thronged and busy than its apparel offer. WH Smith being a traversty of its originating news and periodical counters and turned into a corporate asset held by anonymous funding principals and 'institutional investors' - with little concern or regard for the actual business of retailing news media. Debenhams - another survivor (just) in the department store sector is grappling with its own set of ownership and financing problems and remains for the moment at least an important anchor for the Hounds Hill Shopping Centre. The latter having been eminently successful in draining commercial and retailing vitality from much of Blackpool's town centre. So much so that once vibrant shopping streets are now held together (just about) by an ever encroaching army of 'charity shops', betting 'shops', coffee branded outlets, tattooists and hairdressers or nail 'salons'. Oh and the ever present bar/pub usually with usually loud noxious patrons.

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