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Martins Bank 1928+

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1930 is quite a busy year for Martins Bank which opens a total of six new Branches – four of which are in the South of England, three of those being established in the Capital itself.

In Service: 17 December 1930 until 21 July 1962

Extract from Martins Bank Limited Annual Report and Accounts for 1930 © Barclays

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Image © BT 1932

It is something of a coup for the Bank to have set up shop at No.213 Baker Street London, only a few doors down from a certain Mr Sherlock Holmes!  We would be most obliged if a modern-day detective were able unearth a picture of this branch.  There are no visits to Baker Street by Martins Bank Magazine, and no records of any staff retirements from this Branch. However, as a special treat we offer below “Sherlock Holmes and the Bankers” written by Harold Blundell (of Manchester City office pictured below right), who in the 1950s and 60s wrote many successful novels under the name of George Bellairs.  In 1954 he writes an article for Martins Bank Magazine in which he examines several references to Banks and Bank Managers within Arthur Conan Doyle’s series of Sherlock Holmes Adventures, and points out – of course – the proximity of Martins Bank’s Baker Street Branch to the home of the great detective himself…

{SHERLOCK HOLMES was born in 1854, and thus celebrates his hundredth birthday this year. I use the present tense because since his resurrection from the watery death forced upon him at Meiringen by Professor Moriarty, there have been no indications in The Times obituary column concerning his second decease. We can, therefore, assume that he is somewhere in Sussex keeping bees, and we wish him a very happy birthday and many more years of active existence. To those who already begin to smile at my statements, I can only answer in Holmes' own words: “You know my methods, Watson”, and urge them to search the records and find the truth. Better men than I have written in praise of this or that aspect of Sherlock Holmes, but perhaps you will agree that we ought to honour him in our Magazine by an excursion into his banking connections. These are peculiar and sometimes spectacular, to say the least of them.

Before getting down to brass tacks, however, I would like to say that I have done my best to keep the flag of our bank flying in Baker Street; Holmes lived at 22Ib, a site now occupied by the Abbey Road Building Society. Various experts ranging from Mr. S. C. Roberts, Master of Pembroke College and a former Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, to the eminent American scholar, Dr. Gray C. Briggs, of St. Louis, have challenged the correctness of the address, basing their objections on geographical details contained in the recorded cases of Sherlock Holmes. In spite of their enthusiasm for the sacred spot on which they live, the Abbey Road people have come rather badly out of it. Gavin Brand, in his book My Dear Holmes, states almost positively that Mrs. Hudson's rooms were at No. 61, whilst J. E. Holroyd is all for 109. It therefore looks as if the American Holmes Society, which is anxious to place a plaque on the authentic dwelling-place, is going to have to wait a bit. I rushed into the fray eagerly, in the hope that we might claim the memorial tablet for 213, Baker Street, but my case was a very thin one. I am, therefore, compelled to fall back on supporting the Building Society! You will remember that Holmes rebuked Watson a time or two for slipshod methods in setting out the cases. For instance, in The Blanched Soldier: " I have often had occasion to point out to him how superficial are his own accounts and to accuse him of pandering to popular taste instead of confining himself rigidly to facts and figures." All the squabbling is probably Watson's fault. He gives the correct address, but messes up the details of the street itself through trusting too much to his memory and imagination. 221 b, Baker Street is now enveloped in the mass of the Abbey Road Building Society covering 219-223. Our own branch is almost cheek by jowl, at No. 213, which is as near as we can get to it.  “Holmes” said I, as I stood one morning in our bow-window looking down the street, " here is a madman coming along. It seems rather sad that his relatives should allow him to come out alone."

This strange client was a banker, Mr. Alexander Holder, of the firm of Holder & Stevenson, of Threadneedle Street, the second largest private banking concern in the City. He was a typical comic-opera banker, " a man of about 50, tall, portly, and imposing, with a massive, strongly marked face and a commanding figure. He was dressed in a sombre yet rich style, in black frock-coat, shining hat, neat brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-grey trousers." Yet, when Mr. Holder arrived in the Baker Street chambers, he tore his hair and beat his head against the wall with such force that Holmes and Watson had to rush upon him and bear him to the centre of the room where he could do himself no harm.

The trouble was that Mr. Holder had lost some security in the shape of a beryl coronet, in a transaction which rings more of a pawnshop than a bank. " One of the highest, noblest, most exalted names in England" had come to borrow £50,000, and left as security "one of the most precious public possessions of the Empire." Instead of behaving normally and placing the heirloom in the vault under dual control, Mr. Holder took it home to Streatham to play with it: "I felt it would be imprudence to leave so precious a thing in the office behind me. Bankers' safes have been forced before now, and why should not mine be? “So he locked it in his desk overnight! Of course, it was gone in the morning, or rather, one of the gold corners with three of the beryls in it was missing. " My God, what shall I do! " shouted Mr. Holder: " 1 have lost my honour, my gems, and my son in one night”.  You can read in The Beryl Coronet how Sherlock Holmes helped Mr. Holder to rescue all three and to hug his recovered gems to his bosom.

The banker in The Red Headed League is rather a different cup of tea. He is a director of the City & Suburban Bank, and seems to carry the keys of all the branches about with him and to be exempt from routine control precautions, for he is able to open up the vaults of the Coburg Branch of his Bank without any effort at all. In the middle of all the excitement, " this fellow Merry weather," as Holmes calls the banker, keeps complaining about missing his game of cards. " It is the first Saturday night for seven-and-twenty years that I have not had my rubber." He is " a long, thin, sad-faced man, with a very shiny hat (as usual) and oppressively respectable frock-coat." Whilst the melancholy director is bothering about his card-game, John Clay, the cracksman, is tunnelling under the street into the strongroom of the City & Suburban, which has accumulated reserves of gold from France to strengthen its resources. They do not seem to have been very meticulous about the floors of their treasury at Mr. Merry-weather's bank, for in due course a stone is raised from beneath and the head of the burglar appears in the hole. It speaks well for Mr. Merryweather that he remains unperturbed, even when the emerging crook spots him and says he'll swing for him. " I do not know how the Bank can thank you or repay you," says Merryweather as the curtain falls. " I have been at some small expense over this matter which I shall expect the bank to refund," replies Holmes in a very matter-of-fact way, and somewhere in the archives of whoever took over the City & Suburban in the amalgamation scramble, there must be an interesting entry in General Expenses.

That is as far as we go in full-blown bank cases in which Holmes operated. There is an interesting episode in Black Peter which deals in part with the failure of the West Country bankers, Dawson & Neligan, who went smash for a million and ruined half the county families of Cornwall. Mr. Dawson having retired, Mr. Neligan was responsible. In his belief that if he were given time in which to realise all the securities every creditor would be paid in full, Mr. Neligan, for some unearthly reason, set off alone in his yacht for Norway carrying all the bank's investments in a bag! On the way, yacht and banker vanished. Then, to the amazement of all concerned, the vanished securities began to be peddled in the London market. ... I can recommend the story to you.

We even know where Sherlock Holmes kept his banking account. In “The Priory School”, after denouncing the Duke of Holdernesse for causing him a lot of trouble, he called upon him to pay his fees. " I fancy that I see your Grace's cheque book upon the table; I should be glad if you would make me out a cheque for £6,000. It would be as well, perhaps, for you to cross it. The Capital & Counties Bank, Oxford Street Branch, are my agents." Now here is an opportunity for Lloyds Bank to rise to the occasion and publish, as a centenary gesture, and with the approval of Sherlock Holmes, of course, details of his account in the days when he was engaged in active criminal investigation. He must have had a high opinion of his bankers. In the case of Lady Frances Carfax, he remarked: " There is one correspondent who is a sure draw, Watson. That is the bank. . . . Single ladies must live, and their passbooks are compressed diaries. She banks at Silvester's." The last-mentioned name seems to have a familiar ring in connection with 213 Baker Street!

Other odd references to banks in the stories are very frustrating. Watson, in the way he frequently adopts before getting down to the main case, throws out some groundbait in the shape of intriguing titles, and then says he cannot disclose the facts lest serious repercussions result. In The Golden Pince Nez he dangles " the repulsive story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby the banker." Search as I will, 1 cannot find out who Crosby was, or what he did, or whether the red leech was connected with his activities or is a horror of its own. And then, of course, there is the Conk-Singleton forgery case, details of which never come to light. It is very exasperating not to know something more of a man with a name like Conk!

Lloyds Bank seems to have all the luck! When they absorbed Cox & Co. in 1923 they also presumably absorbed, as well, " a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch-box with my name, John H. Watson, M.D., late Indian Army, painted upon the lid. It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine." Watson is quick to assure us that " the discretion and high sense of professional honour," which distinguished him and his eminent friend, " are still at work in the choice of memoirs, and no confidence will be abused," He goes on to say, however, " I deprecate in the strongest way the attempts which have been made lately to get at and to destroy these papers. The source of these outrages is known, and if they are repeated, I have Mr. Holmes's authority for saying that the whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse and the trained cormorant will be given to the public. There is at least one reader who will understand." The awful thought enters one's mind that the second Mrs. Watson, whom Holmes disliked, and who doubtless resented the time her husband spent at 22Ib, might, on the death of Dr. Watson, have got at the papers from Cox's and made a bonfire of them. This is a disaster too awful to contemplate. Should the documents eventually become available, there might be a resulting commotion among the politicians and lighthouses of Liverpool, for the trained Cormorant is none other than the Liver Bird which figures in the Coat of Arms of Martins Bank! In closing, and wishing Sherlock Holmes many happy returns, 1 also make an appeal to Lloyds Bank to investigate the case of the missing records and let us know the truth about them without delay. Should they still be in existence, what a scoop for our contemporary, " The Dark Horse "!}

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HAROLD BLUNDELL

Manager, Manchester City Office, (and George Bellairs to a wider public)

We also have images of several of the staff who work at Baker Street up to the point at which the business is transferred to Castrol House, Marylebone Road in 1962, and these can be seen in the staff gallery below. It must be possible that there are former staff with memories of this branch who might be able to tell us what it was like being positioned so close to one of the world’s most famous addresses!  If you can help, please do get in touch at the usual address – martinsbankarchive@btinternet.com.

1932 to 1933 Mr E Norman-Butler MBM-Sp49P05.jpg

1936 to 1941 and 1946 to 1950 Mr J R Brown Manager MBM-Au65P57.jpg

1946 to 1948 Mr J F Clark MBM-Wi65P03.jpg

1949 to 1951 Mr A V Hayes-Allen MBM-Su64P03.jpg

1950 Mr J B Astbury MBM-Wi50P52.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Edward Norman-Butler

On the Staff

1932 to 1933

Mr J R Brown

On Staff 1936 to 1941

Manager 1946 to 1950

Mr S E Pearman

Manager

1941 to 1941

Mr J F Clark

On the Staff

1946 to 1948

Mr A V Hayes-Allen

On the Staff

1949 to 1951

Mr J B Astbury

On the Staff

1950

 

 

 

 

 

1950 to 1960 Mr H G Silvester Manager MBM-Au61P51.jpg

1956 to 1959 Mr R A C Sleap Joined the Bank here MBM-Wi63P11.jpg

1959 to 1961 Mr B V Brehout joined tghe bank here MBM-Au62P26.jpg

1960 to 1961 Mr D D Coleman joined the bank here MBM-Au62P26.jpg

1960 to 1961 Mr M H Middleton joined the bank here MBM-Au62P26.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Mr H G Silvester

Manager

1950 to 1960

Mr R A C Sleap

Joined the Bank Here

1956 to 1959

Mr B V Brehout

Joined the Bank Here

1959 to 1961

Mr D D Coleman

Joined the Bank Here

1960 to 1961

Mr M H Middleton

Joined the Bank Here

1960 to 1961

 

 

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Title:

Type:

Address:

index Number and District:

Hours:

 

Telephone:

Services:

Manager:

11-12 London Baker Street

Full Branch

213 Baker Street London NW1

427 London

Mon to Fri 1000-1500

Saturday 0900-1130 

WELbeck 9109

Nightsafe Installed 

Mr H G Silvester Manager

 

London 95 Wigmore Street

17 December 1930

21 July 1962

Opened by Martins Bank Limited

Business transfers to Castrol House Marylebone Road

London Ealing

 

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