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The United Kingdom Government want all Banks to be fully computerised in time for the introduction of decimal currency on the 15 February 1971.  Plans for decimalisation are being honed from about 1962 onwards, and Martins - although it does not survive to see in the new currency - plays a key part in the changeover, and you can read more about this in our decimalisation feature.  In 1966 the Bank’s London Computer Centre opens in part of Bucklersbury House, Walbrook. Staff are brought together from branches all over the country, and learning from its experiments with Feranti’s Pegasus Computer, Martins brings in the services of N C R, in a collaberation that sees staff from the Bank and N C R working side by side to create a Branch Accounting computer program that will meet the demands of Government, the Bank, and its Customers – present AND future. 

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WHY NOT ALSO VISIT THESE PAGES

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Liverpool Computer Centre.jpg

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Liverpool Computer Centre.jpg

Image © Architect and Building News 1959

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At the same time, work is under way at London Automation Department in the basement of Clements House, Gresham Street, to write the programs that will be used by the computers at Bucklersbury House, and to automate most of Martins’ London Branches to the stage where their daily work will all be handled by computer.

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This is a fascinating time in the Bank’shistory, for as WE know, Martins Bank itself will not be around for much longer.  Perhaps the most surprising legacy of this work is the continual use of parts of the original Martins Branch Accounting program by Barclays in the twenty-first century! – Martins writes into the program a feature that refers accounts in danger of exceeding their overdraft limits to managers at the start of each working day, a clever routine that will help the control of accounts for decades to come… 

 

The staff group image below, looking like a scene from the TV series “Mad Men” was originally exposed and developed on a large glass plate.  It was scanned for Martins Bank Archive and Barclays Group Archives in July 2012 and then restored by Martins Bank Archive.  The photo is so detailed, it was possible to extract from it a view into the print room, seen through the windows behind the staff seated on the right, and this is shown in the article below.

 

 

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1966 Computer Centre Staff RTD BGA Ref 33-847

Image © Barclays Ref 33/847 Restored by Martins Bank Archive

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LCC Multi

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Winter 66 SpTemple of MithrasWhen the site in Walbrook, E.C.4, was being excavated in 1954 for the building which would become Bucklersbury House, the remains of a Mithraic temple were discovered eighteen feet below ground level. Carefully removed and reassembled in the courtyard of Bucklersbury House, they can be seen from the windows of the second floor, an area 29,000 square feet which will house the General Clearing and Credit Clearing Departments in one wing and which, beyond the connecting passage, is now the home of the London Computer Centre.  So far as the visitor can see there is no possible connection between Mithras and computers, which made their appearance 1,600 years after the Romans left Britain, but to those who soldier on in this vast expanse of steel, concrete  and  glass  it  may  be of interest to know that the worship of Mithras flourished between 67B.C. and 378 A.D. when he was considered to be the god of light and of wisdom and moral purity.

 

The Computer Centre reflects the culmination of a long period of investigation and planning. The first problem was to find premises of sufficient size and adequate design to house not only the computers but the complicated ancillary equipment such as air condi­tioning, motor alternators, stand-by power generator and electrical installations. The premises had to be close to the Clearing House in view of the daily cheque clearings in the City of London.Bucklersbury House proved ideal, both in location and size, for the allied working of the clearings and the computer system and in the spring of 1966 orders were placed with the National Cash Register Company Limited for computer equipment comprising three cheque reader/sorters, two Model 315 computers which could each be used to control sorters and act as satellite printers, and an extremely fast-working Model 315 R.M.C. (rod memory core) computer. Delivery dates for computer equipment of this nature are usually pro­tracted but N.C.R. co-operated enthusiastically, promis­ing delivery of our cheque reader/sorters and two Model 315 computers in October 1966, and the third computer in about March 1967.

 

1963 Valerie Blunden demonstrates IBM Reader Sorter at Lombard Street RHThe Bank, knowing that the new accommodation would not be available until June, made complex arrangements with specialists in air conditioning, flooring, electrical installation, ceiling and sound proofing, partitioning – and of course general contracting – to  ensure a swift transformation. By early November the task was virtually complete and credit for this is due to everyone concerned, particularly the architect Mr George West, London Premises Department, Mr W. S. M. Wilson, and N.C.R. whose technical, engineering and advisory service could not have been bettered.  A computer requires a carefully controlled environ­ment if it is to work properly, so a large air-conditioning plant was installed to deal with heat output from the computer equipment and maintain a steady temperature, a relative humidity and filter the air circulation. Lighting is of a high standard and a false floor ensures a level platform, giving a plenum for the air-conditioning and permitting hundreds of cables to cross the floor. The existing ceiling has been fitted with sound-deadening panels and a false ceiling installed underneath.  Minerva smoke probes for fire detection are on the false ceiling, between this and the real ceiling, underneath the false floor and in the ducting for the air filtration. In addition, partitioning provides a reception area, a work assembly area, a computer engineer's room, a tape library, and offices for management and staff.

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http://www.martinsbank.co.uk/London%20Computer%20Centre_files/image068.jpg

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Each computer has a 40,000 character memory, with a paper tape-reader and paper tape-punch. The cheque sorter/readers each have eighteen pockets, one machine being controlled by each computer with the third machine available for use 'off line' or to be switched into either computer should a sorter break down. Each computer has a cluster of three magnetic tape decks and by means of an inter-switching device all six handlers can be placed under the control of either computer at will. Finally there are three high-speed printers; one computer can control two at once and the middle unit can be switched to either computer as required through the same inter-switching device.

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1966 NCR 315 Computer at London CC MBM-Wi66P12

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The 315 R.M.C. computer will be twice as large as the other two and approximately twenty times as fast: where the 315's have a cycle time of two millionths of a second, the R.M.C. model has a cycle time of 800 nanoseconds (a nanosecond equals 10~9 seconds or an American billionth). A communications controller for future use in teleprocessing is incorporated in the machine which will have a paper tape reader/punch, a high speed printer, eight tape handlers and a Mark 3 CRAM, a random access device which will be used for holding the programme.

 

The initial projects for the Centre will consist of an automated General Clearing, and also accounting for the Bank's travellers' cheques, and branch accounting for the London branches. Further projects will include data transmission to extend branch accounting to provin­cial centres, and taking certain specialised departments onto computer application.

 

The clearing project, beginning in January, is almost certain to provide the first impact on branches, the notable change being that automated clearings will have been balanced before dispatch by the Clearing Depart­ment, arriving at branches complete with a listing and total.

 

During March the automated procedure for travel­lers' cheques will be introduced and it is hoped that later in 1967 it will be possible to apply the first London branch to computer operation. Once this system has been proved the loading onto computer operation of further London branches will follow. As the work increases the staff of the Centre will move into a cycle of two-shift and ultimately three-shift 'round the clock' working.

NCR 315 RMC from www.unplggd.com

The NCR 315 Rod Memory Computer

Image: www.unplggd.com

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Wiped from memory…

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It came as a huge disappointment to us, to learn of the demolition of Bucklersbury House, home of Martins London Computer Centre, and where the UK’s first Bank Branch Accounting computer program, written at Automation Department in nearby Clements House, was used to record everyday banking transactions. Our modern day Banking systems owe much to these pioneers.  It is even more of an irony that Clements House is located in Gresham Street – Sir Thomas Gresham having traded in 1563 at the Sign of the Grasshopper. Exactly four hundred years later, whilst marking the Bank’s Anniversary, Martins’ Chairman Sir John Nicholson announced Martins Bank’s COMPUTER FIRST to the World… The original records of the purchase of Bucklersbury House, and the fixtures and fittings ordered by the Bank have been provided to us by our friends at Barclays.  We will add a summary of these quite considerable costs, to this feature in due course.

2012 Bucklersbury House just before demolition 1 Mark Hilary

Image © Mark Hilary

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Staff Gallery (Plain)Sep 1.jpg

1966 Mr AV Langton Assistant Manager MBM-Wi66P04.jpg

1966 Mr MC Pettit Assistant Manager MBM-Wi66P04.jpg

1966 Mr WSM Wilson Manager MBM-Au66P06.jpg

1966 Barbara Bennett BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

1966 Christine Hadman BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

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Mr A V Langton

Assistant Manager

1966

Mr M C Pettit

Assistant Manager

1966

Mr W S M Wilson

Manager

1966

Barbara Bennett

On the Staff

1966

Christine Hadman

On the Staff

1966

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1966 Mr C Stirret BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

1966 Deirdre McMahon BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

1966 Mr J Drewitt BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

1966 Jane Taylor BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

1966 Janet Honeyman BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

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Mr C Stirret

On the Staff

1966

Deirdre McMahon

On the Staff

1966

Mr J Drewitt

On the Staff

1966

Jane Taylor

On the Staff

1966

Janet Honeyman

On the Staff

1966

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1966 Pat Smith BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

1966 Sandra Harding BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

1966 Susan Doughty BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

1966 to 1969 Mr B Dowie BGA Ref 33-847.jpg

1967 Cathy Simpson Staff Member MBM-Sp67P40.jpg

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Pat Smith

On the Staff

1966

Sandra Harding

On the Staff

1966

Susan Doughty

On the Staff

1966

Mr B Dowie

On the Staff

1966

Cathy Simpson

On the Staff

1966

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1967 Mr KB Lee pro Manager MBM-Sp67P07.jpg

1967 Mr NR Leigh pro Manager MBM-Sp67P06.jpg

1968 Mr DR Green Assistant Manager MBM-Au68P15.jpg

1968 MR IEK Jones pro Chief Accountant London Computer Centre MBM-Sp68P03.jpg

1969 Mr D G Hill Assistant Manager MBM-Su69P14.jpg

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Mr K B Lee

Pro Manager

1967

Mr N R Leigh

Pro Manager

1967

Mr G R Green

Assistant Manager

1968

Mr I E K Jones

Pro Chief Accountant

1968

Mr D G Hill

Assistant Manager

1969

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Information (Plain)

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Name:

Type:

Address:

Hours:

Telephone:

Manager:

Martins Bank London Computer Centre

Head Office OR&D Department

Bucklersbury House 11 Walbrook London EC4

Not open to the public

01 626 1296/9

Mr W S M Wilson

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