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Building Opinions: Robert Nemeth on Newhaven HSBC

Bank

Last time that I visited Newhaven, it was to see Westminster House – the former home of NatWest Bank on the High Street. This time, I came for a tour of the old HSBC a few doors up.

Bank
When HSBC closed in September last year, it did so as the only bank in Newhaven. Unmanned counters, with a thank you note from staff, greet those entering today. Behind the front wall, bolts rise from the floor where cash machines stood. The thick steel door of the vault downstairs is now open with its elaborate workings exposed. The safe within claims to be “FIRE & THIEF RESISTANT”. But it sadly wasn’t resistant to the harsh realities of the modern town centre.


The building was bought by Mike Stimpson, one of the county’s most successful property investors, for just £155,000 two and a half years ago. The seller wasn’t the bank as one might expect but, instead, the family of the building’s original developer. HSBC (well, Midland Bank, as the lease still says) never actually owned the building.


The double-fronted four-storey property consists of commercial premises at ground and basement levels with two floors of residential above (one two-storey maisonette on each side). Each maisonette will become two one-bedroom flats.


It amazes me how often the upstairs of town centre properties are forgotten. In this case, the maisonettes haven’t been occupied for decades. The building, which I suspect is late-Victorian, underwent a 1930s refurbishment and, perhaps, another in the 1960s. Indeed, one Victorian marble fireplace has inlaid 1930s tiles with what I presume to be a 1960s electric fire in front.


Little has changed here since flares were en vogue and green, blue and pink walls de rigueur. With French investment in the port promised, the future of Newhaven will not be dull.
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robert@buildingopinions.com