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Spend as little as possible…

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1958 COA.jpgThe history of some Martins Bank Branches runs to pages,  for others, details are sparse.  For a small number we find ourselves picking over the bones of the few facts that remain, and such is the case with a branch that exists for only a few months in 1958/9.  The City of Carlisle supports two main branches of Martins, at ENGLISH STREET and BOTCHERGATE right up to the 1969 merger with Barclays, but there have also been sub branches (two in Carlisle itself, at DALSTON and STANWIX, and one to the North East at GILSLAND)  at various points in time up to 1959 when the last one - at Gilsland - is closed.  However, by 1957/8 it appears that plans are in place to open a branch in Lowther Street in the City Centre, not too far from English Street. 


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1950 s Carlisle Temporary Branch Exterior CU BGA Ref 30-563

Branch Images © Barclays Ref 0030/0563

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We can offer two theories as to why this seems likely:

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1.    At this time, Martins Bank is conducting a number of experiments designed to bring the basic bank account to ordinary people – those who would normally have thought that banking was only for the rich.  In Plymouth, an experimental branch is opened on a post-war housing estate at ERNESETTLE.   Lowther Street is situated in a historic shopping area of Carlise, known as The Lanes.

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2.    Elsewhere in England and Wales, the Bank’s fleet of Mobile Branches, now ten years old – is used on various estates to drum up business from those the Bank wants to “educate” into running their household finances through the bank.   Whilst no details remain to indicate that Lowther Street is definitely part of these experiments, two entries in Martins records from that time do seem to provide us with some clues.  Our friends at Barclays have been looking into this for us, and have kindly provided the following details:

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“The premises ledger for Northern District has entries for ‘Temporary Premises, Lowther Street’, running from Sep 1958, which looks right for the colour photo and the green cars. This was a leased property (street number not given), and the entries include removal of fittings and safe from English Street. There is also an architect’s bill pasted into the nearby pages for English Street, showing major expenditure for an ‘abandoned scheme’ there between 1957 and 1959. The Lowther Street pages then record removal of safes etc. from there in late’59 and ’60, from which I infer it was used for just a few months during ’58-’59”.

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“… alas very few management files have survived for Martins in that period. However, there does seem to be quite a good run of general managers’ out-letters from the late 50s and early 60s,.} {I did in fact find one letter dated 3.5.58 concerning the Lowther Street scheme, but it doesn’t shed much light except for an instruction to the architect, ‘...that we should spend as little as possible and use our old fittings from English Street.’}”.

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1950 s Carlisle Temporary Branch Exterior BGA Ref 30-563The plot thickens however, when we examine the picture in detail – from the window signage (clearer in the main colour image at the top of this page) we can just make out the words “Temporary Branch”.  It seems therefore most likely that faced with the cost of refurbishing English Street, the Bank decides to close Stanwix and Gilsland Branches. In order to carry out the work quickly without having to work around customers, perhaps English Street is closed for a short period with business conducted from Lowther Street. We have one colour interior image of ENGLISH STREET, which features in the Bank’s Annual report and Accounts for 1961, showing that a major refurbshment has taken place.  It is very unusual to find a Branch photograph from the late 1950s, let alone one for an abandoned project like Lowther Street, and once again we are grateful to our friends at Barclays for finding it for us.  Incidentally, the Branch is next door to Thornthwaite’s Sweet Shop, which is fondly remembered by many in Carlisle, and features in “The Lanes Remembered” by Mary Scott-Parker (M&D Books 2010) – a fascinating photo history of a part of Carlisle that remained virtually unchanged for centuries until redevelopment in the 1980s.

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Index Number and District:





11-175 Carlisle Lowther Street

Temporary sub to 11-175 Carlisle English Street

Lowther Street Carlisle Cumberland

207 Northern

Not Known

No Telephone

Counter Service Only

Mr E Newhouse Manager (Carlisle)

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Opened and Closed by Martins Bank Limited