Grand designs legacy of architect partners in Morecambe

Two men who formed a relatively short-lived architectural design partnership in Morecambe on the eve of the 20th century, and went on to highly successful design careers as they went their separate ways in Canada and the USA , created an enduring legacy still highly visible in the resort today.

Thursday, 4th June 2020, 12:46 pm
Barclays Bank building in Morecambe.
Barclays Bank building in Morecambe.

For it has emerged that architects Charles Cressey and William Keighley designed two of the most iconic structures in Morecambe – the five-storey Barclays Bank in Euston Road and the Clock Tower on the promenade, both grade-11 listed.

Barclays Bank closed its doors in April for the final time, ending nearly 130 years of continuous banking in the five-storey building, acknowledged as possibly the finest in Morecambe.

The building was commissioned in 1890 by the then Kendal Bank of Messrs Wakefield Crewdson.

The Clock Tower in Morecambe.

After completion, the bank was taken over by the Bank of Liverpool, then became the Bank of Liverpool and Martins, before transforming into Martins Bank alone. Barclays took over in 1969.

Thanks to the efforts of Jonathan Snowden, owner-operator of the Martins Bank Archive, more information about the real stars of the show, the architects, has come to light.
Cressey and Keighley, instructed by the Bank of Kendal, produced the design for the sandstone building in a Bavarian style, complete with prominent spire, and occupying a corner position looking down to the sea.

Jonathan says that a framed copy of the architects’ plans, which was displayed in the bank, has been despatched to the Barclay Group archives at Wythenshawe.

The Clock Tower was built in 1905, a gift to his home town by John Robert Birkett, Mayor from 1903 to 1906.

The Cressey Keighley partnership was forged in 1899 but it seems that by 1909 the team was struggling and both men decided to seek new independent opportunities in the Americas.

Cressey emigrated to the USA aboard the Carmania, arriving on Ellis Island on May 19, 1909, before settling in California where he was to design many prominent buildings, including theatres, apartments, factories, 
meeting halls, fire stations and homes.

He married Alice Augusta Livesey in 1906, their first child, Arthur Richmond Cressey, being born in Morecambe when the family were living in Thornton Road. Charles Cressey died in 1966.

Keighley, a Yorkshireman, was initially articled with Lawson, Roper and Procter in Lancaster from 1895-1898. He then worked for Marshall Bros of Morecambe, 1898-1899, before entering into partnership with Cressey.

When he emigrated to Canada in 1910 he was employed in the architectural department of the Grand Trunk Railway in Montreal before opening his own office in 
Toronto.

During World War 2 he was Superintendent of Buildings for the Royal Canadian Air Force. He died in Toronto in 1952.

Two young men who could never have imagined that two of their visionary projects would make such a lasting and greatly admired impression on Morecambe.