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Martins Bank 1928+

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Martins Bank’s original branch at 88 Wigmore Street was a lovely old corner aspect building, with a reassuring stone façade.  Quiet, and unassuming, it transacted the banking business of customers in the area from 1930 onwards.  By 1968 however, the work of a number of architects had been making itself known, and Martins Bank decides to modernise – and how!   A move across the road to 95 Wigmore Street heralds a building so new, it almost defies description…

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Branch Images © Barclays Ref 0030/3210

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This is the decade that first brought us the James Bond films, and Ernö Goldfinger (yes, REALLY) is commissioned to do away with the old and bring in only the newest of the new.  Goldfinger is well known as one of the Brutalist architects, and for trying out his own buildings having famously lived at the top of a block of flats to sample “high rise living”.  So what of the new Branch? Externally, as we can see, it is a VERY long building, and in close-up we see the name of the Bank repeated continually on the wall outside the main doors. Internally, Wigmore Street is transformed into a kind of airport lounge, and the window in the Manager’s office has to be seen to be believed. 

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1968 03 MBM.jpgSome of Britain's top architects have been commissioned to design the Bank's branches; the one responsible for our new Wigmore Street premises can be numbered among the pro­fession's most renowned and colour­ful members.  Earlier this year Ernö Goldfinger announced to the Press that he was moving into one of the top flats of a twenty-six storey block at Poplar that he had designed for the Greater London Council. For three weeks he would be experiencing at first hand the life 145 East End families were about to begin. “I feel it will be an invalu­able exercise from which I and future tentants will certainly gain a great deal”, he stated.

 

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Branch Images © Barclays Ref 30-3210

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Just what value anyone would gain from his short sojourn became the subject of some heated correspondence in the news­papers, but Mr Goldfinger was unper­turbed. He had been the centre of contro­versy before. The design of the house he built for himself in Hampstead just before the last war aroused bitter opposition at the time. Today no one would give the exterior more than a cursory glance, although a peep inside would disclose a truly remark­able dwelling. For a man with so many fine buildings to his credit, with such courage of his convictions, and with his name written so indelibly on the British architectural scene, Ernö Goldfinger works in spartan sur­roundings. His address is Piccadilly but his suite of rooms is found round the corner in Dover Street. To reach his office we climbed up four flights of narrow stairs and were shown into a small L-shaped room full, it seemed at first, of Ernö Goldfinger, broad, six feet tall and silver haired.

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Behind the scenes – Martins Bank is so pleased with Wigmore Street, it feels the need to show off the staff kitchen, the safe, and the toilets!

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Branch Images © Barclays Ref 30-3210

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After greeting us he subsided behind a plain black-topped desk and we were able to take in the rest of the room—low drawing board, table, bookshelves, a wall finished with blackboard paint and carrying some chalked calculations. A metal sculpture and a painting by his wife were its only refinements. Ernö Goldfinger was born sixty-six years ago in Budapest. At the age of 18 he settled in Paris where he studied for admission to the Beaux Arts. Within four years he was designing furniture, writing about inter­national architecture for a Hungarian newspaper and helping to create a new school or 'atelier' headed by his teacher, Auguste Ferret. One of Ferret's concepts of architecture—'mobile or immobile all that occupies space is of the realm of architect­ure'—has guided Goldfinger throughout his career. The following year, 1926, Goldfinger made his first appearance on the English scene. With his partner he designed the Helena Rubinstein salon in Grafton Street.  Five years later he married the English painter, Ursula Blackwell, and in 1934, at the age of 32, he settled in London. “I felt there was great scope in England', Goldfinger explained, 'but it has been an uphill climb. England places no value upon architecture”. However, England—and several other countries, notably France and the USA— places value upon the varied work of this Hungarian-born architect. Concurrently with designing shops, offices, schools, private houses and exhibition stands he has produced designs for furniture, fittings and even a wooden condiment set which went into mass production. To Goldfinger design and architecture are one and versa­tility a most desirable attribute. “Special­isation is old-fashioned: 20th century architects should not specialise”.

 

 

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Have a nice trip: We recommend that the

Manager’s Room window is best viewed

WITHOUT prior consumption of

halucenogenic substances.

 

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Such has been his impact on British architecture that in 1963, shortly after the completion of the Ministry of Health's Alexander Fleming House—that part of London County Council's vast Elephant and Castle project for which he was responsible — the journal Architectural Design produced a special issue devoted to his work.At the present time his biography is being written. Our new Wigmore Street office is his first bank. The accompanying photographs scarcely do justice to his creation which for him is marred only by the need for counter screens. In this he has the sympathies of many, bandits in particular. In little more than an hour we had learnt much about this charming, impressive man whose only hobby is architecture. Perhaps it is this devotion that places him in the enviable position of being able to look back on forty-five years' work and feel no dis­satisfaction with any of it. There remained one inevitable question, concerning his distinctive name. Had its immortalisation in the works of Ian Fleming made any difference to him? Ernö Goldfinger's face broke into a smile. “Now when somebody asks my name I don't have to repeat it”.

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1965 to 1969 Mr N H Harvey Assistant Manager MBM-Wi65P03.jpg

1966 to 1968 Mr J T Evans pro Manager MBM-Wi66P05.jpg

1968 Mr C Askew Manager MBM-Wi68P07.jpg

1968 Mr PR Thorogood pro Manager MBM-Wi68P06.jpg

BW Logo

BW Logo

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Mr N H Harvey

Assistant Manager

1968 to 1969

Mr J T Evans

Pro Manager

1968

Mr C Askew TD

Manager

1968 Onwards

Mr P R Thorogood

Pro Manager

1968

 

 

 

Title:

Type:

Address:

Index Number and District:

Hours:

 

Telephone:

Services:

Manager:

11-43-90 London Wigmore Street

Full Branch

PO Box 4NT 95 Wigmore Street London W1

424 London

Mon to Fri 1000-1500

Saturday 0900-1130

01 935 2301/4

Night safe Installed

Mr C Askew TD Manager

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Automated Branch

Wigmore Street is included in Martins’ London Account Number Allocation, where Branches due for automation are given “significant digits” to identify them at the London Computer Centre by account numbers issued. The Branch Customer Accounts will be identified by the significant digits 59.

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1968

12 December 1969

1983/4

2013

Currently

Opened by Martins Bank Limited

Barclays Bank Limited 20-96-39 No 95 Wigmore Street

Closed

Demolished and rebuilt

Planned homes and shops

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