Public Artwork on the National Provincial Bank (now the Nat West)
This very impressive building, which faces both High Street and Hertford Street, is the NatWest Bank, previously known as the National Provincial Bank. It looks like a Greek temple but it was built in the late 1920’s and opened in 1930. The building was designed by F.C.R. Palmer & W.F.C. Holden Architects. Around the building are some very interesting carved reliefs.
Above the main entrance portico, with Tuscan style columns and metopes, is a line of circular symbols based on mythological emblems and designs on coins running around the architrave. Larger roundels above the window around the building are relief sculptures of different mechanical objects that represent Coventry’s industries, done by sculptors G. & A. Brown.
A watch escapement, a spark plug, a hypoid gear on a differential, a crankshaft and piston, a screw jack, a vice and tap. Coin inspired designs around the architrave over the entrance.
The silver-coated folding entrance doors are very interesting. Each contains twenty different studded panels. Each panel has a unique coin inspired relief chased onto them. The doors were designed by the architect W.F.C. Holden and made by Mr. Pearson of the Birmingham Guild. When the doors are open they concertina and are folded back into a recess. But there are four extra panels above the doorway ceiling which can only be seen when the bank is open but then half of the door panels can not be seen or noticed. The ear of barley comes from an Ancient Greek coin. Other panels are based on Egyptian, Assyrian and Byzantine coins showing Myths, animals, birds, a crab and Gods. These include Hercules performing his labours – killing the Nemean lion and killing the serpent. There is Saint George killing the Dragon, a royal crown with lion, a King in a chariot, a musical instrument, the lyre, and the tripod of Apollo. They look wonderful and the designs are repeated in plaster reliefs inside the bank as well.