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Most of the Twentieth Century sees the exponential growth of branch banking in the United Kingdom, but the final decade begins to reveal the inevitable results of fifty years of computerisation, including the centralisation of back office functions and massive reductions in the numbers of those employed.  At least one generation of older customers is cut adrift by a sophisticated  - and still ongoing - campaign to make people use the internet, so that high street branches can be closed with the legitimate excuse that “customers don’t use them any more”.  That everything in twenty-first century banking is mired in scandal and the culture of blame, hides unfairly the pioneering efforts of banks such as Martins to promote high quality service as the most desirable aspect of having a bank account. 

 

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1918

North and South combine, and an apostrophe is dropped…

 

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A banking service of one kind or another has been offered on the site of 68 Lombard Street since 1563, when Sir Thomas Gresham is said to have traded “at the sign of the grasshopper”.  By 1918 on this site, Martin’s Private Bank has its London Head Office and there are fourteen branches dotted mainly around the Kentish/London border. Under the Chairmanship of Edward Norman, Martin’s Private Bank is acquired by the Bank of Liverpool and renamed the Bank of Liverpool and Martins.

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1928

The modern day Martins Bank

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The incorporation of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank leads to the shortening of the title to Martins Bank Limited.  The new Bank has several hundred branches and is easily big enough to take on the London Banks, and resist further amalgamations.  Martins Bank goes against the grain by successfully keeping its Head Office in Liverpool. Martins Bank’s Coat of Arms shows the Grasshopper of Martin’s Private Bank over the Liver Bird of the Bank of Liverpool…

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1929

Shows and Exhibitions

 

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The North East coast Exhibition of 1929 is the first opportunity for the new Martins Bank to make its presence felt.  A stand at the show is rented from May to October in the “Palace of Industries”. Even contactable by telephone, the stand runs as a mini Branch of the Bank and thereafter Martins cannot resist taking part in everything from the Annual ideal Homes Exhibition at Olympia, to the British Industries Fair, and the Shoe Trades Exhibition.  The Bank’s lavish stands often win prizes.

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1930

The Grasshopper is rebuilt

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68 Lombard Street – the site of the original “Grasshopper” – is demolished and rebuilt to accommodate the expanding business of Martins Bank in London.  Lombard Street is amongst the Capital’s narrower thoroughfares, and one of the best photographed images of this building is only achieved when one of the buildings opposite has to be demolished, and the photographer is able to move far enough away to be able to capture the entire frontage! By 1932 both Liverpool and London have purpose built premises to see Martins Bank through a new phase in the history of Banking which will include the arrival of mobile branches, computers, drive-in branches, cash machines, and decimal currency…

1932

A new Head Office

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No 4 Water Street Liverpool, the new Head Office of Martins Bank Limited is opened.  The building is a lavish affair themed around Liverpool’s maritime connections.  With three floors below ground, and eight above, customers and staff travel in high speed lifts situated in beautifully decorated rotundas at the front of the building.  The “horseshoe” counter is stunning, and along with the main building, has listed status in the twenty-first century. Innovative heating and lighting systems make the building firmly ahead of its time, and its cathedral like banking hall provides a backdrop for film makers into the twenty-first century…

1940

A golden opportunity

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The new Head Office Building is put to the test in 1940, when in May, a large part of Britain reserves of gold are brought to Liverpool and stored in the vaults of the Bank.  The Bank of England recognises that Martins Bank has one of the most sophisticated and impregnable safes in the country, and once the gold has been removed and shipped from Liverpool to Canada, the governor of the Bank of England extends his thanks and glowing praise to Martins for their “national service”…

 

1941

Keep Calm, and Carry On

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MAW Ladies

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Exeter Branch is destroyed in the famous Baedecker Air Raid in April 1941. It is one of a number of casualties suffered by the Bank around the Country during the Second World War – 32 Lowndes Street London, 19 South John Street Liverpool, and Manchester Corn Exchange are amongst those destroyed by enemy action.  Meanwhile an “army” of female members of staff is temporarily promoted to run Branches and sub-Branches whilst the male staff are away fighting in the Second World War.  Many of these women take on the responsibilities of Clerk in Charge, and maintain the vital service of providing cash for local people and businesses in the days when a bank was almost the only way to obtain it. Between 1939 and 1946, many more branches are closed either for the duration of hostilities, or permanently.

 

1948

Martins Bank goes on the road

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1948 Mobile Branch Interior MBM-Su48P17.jpg

 

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Martins Bank launches a mobile banking service in a specially converted caravan which makes its debut during “Thrift Week”.  Despite being iron framed and needing a large vehicle to tow them, the mobile branches are quite versatile and remarkably useful: They also stand in for branches that are being built or rebuilt.  In the 1950s they bring banking to ordinary people on housing estates. By the late 1960s, a fleet of six caravans attends more than 80 annual agricultural shows and other events around the country, promoting the services of the Bank. The vans are given a makeover by Barclays and used briefly in the early 1970s, but we had to wait nearly forty years before the “bank on wheels” came back into regular use…

1951

Banking from Dover to Calais

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Martins Bank’s Business is enhanced by the acquisition of the British Mutual Bank, which has two branches in London and operates a special banking service on board the UK’s first Cross-Channel Ferry. Customers can only be served whilst the ship is moving through the English Channel.  In the early days just one cashier has sole responsibility for all the cash, and the balancing of the books in several currencies! The Cross-Channel Bank operates until the early 1980s, when newer ways of spending money abroad, such as debit cards and an internationally available network of cash machines lessens the popularity of, and the need for the changing Sterling for foreign currencies and travellers’ cheques…

1955

An agricultural legacy

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Finance for Farmers and Growers is a unique collaboration between Martins Bank and the ministry of Agriculture.  It is published in 1955 shortly after food rationing in the UK is abolished. This annual summary of trends in farming, and the ways in which it can be financed, is an immediate hit, and continues to be produced by Barclays until the late 1980s.  Published for more than thirty years, Finance for Farmers and Growers now provides us with a detailed historical record of the changing face of farming in Britain.

 

1958

Banking on the Student Pound

 

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Martins Bank opens a branch at Liverpool University, to look after the finances of the lawyers, doctors and teachers of tomorrow. For the next forty years, competition amongst banks for the student market will reach fever pitch as they try to out-do each other with larger and better incentives and giveaways in order to secure new accounts.  Martins opens branches at ten University sites, losing many of them at the time of the merger with Barclays in 1969…

 

1958

Are you being served?

 

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Martins Bank acquires Lewis’s Bank Limited, a unique banking enterprise for its size, with branches inside department stores.  This briefly provides Martins Bank with its first (and only) branch in Scotland.  Lewis’s Bank opens all day Saturday, and runs a dedicated children’s counter in each of its department store branches to encourage thrift in the young.  Martins Bank owns Lewis’s for nine years, before selling it on to Lloyds Bank in 1967.  For many years Lewis’s Bank has a branch at the top London department store Selfridges, because Lewis’s Stores actually owns Selfridges during that time.

1959

Bringing the Bank to the workplace

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1959 Wilton Works Interior MBM-Wi59p18.jpg

1966 Kew Bridge Exterior 1 BGA Ref 33-301

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One of Martins Bank’s first modern “workplace” Branches opens at the I C I Wilton Works at Middlesbrough.  Over the next ten years, branches for the use of company employees will open at a number of sites around England, including a hospital in Liverpool, two RAF Stations in the North East,  a Paper Mill in Kent, and the scarily futuristic gas research station at Killingworth, Northumberland. The sub-Branch at Wilton Works remains open for FORTY years…

 

Several years later, at the British Wool Marketing Board in Kew, Surrey, banking in the workplace is one of a number of initiatives used by Martins Bank to dispel the myth that bank accounts are only for the rich…

 

1959

The Leicester Drive-In Bank

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Charles Street – Martins Bank’s second branch in the City of Leicester – includes a new drive-in banking service which is opened by the Minister for Transport, Harold Watkinson. The drive-in becomes one of the most photographed of the Bank’s innovations, but there is controversy on day one when young attractive models are used in place of local staff in some of the publicity shots. Despite drive-in banking never really taking off in Britain, the Martins Drive-in Branch at Leicester is kept on by Barclays, and operates for nearly thirty years…

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1960

The digital revolution begins

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Martins Bank becomes the first Bank in the UK to successfully demonstrate the day to day processing of its customers’ current accounts using an electronic computer. Trials of the british made “Pegasus” Computer are run in Liverpool and London, and extensive research into marrying together the processes of the Branch Counters and the Back office is undertaken by Martins’ Head of Organisation research and Development, Ron Hindle, who visits the USA and Sweden in search of the expertise and equipment that will deliver computerised banking.  Originally the size of a room, the Pegasus computer can process the details of 30,000 accounts, yet its memory capacity is less than you might find today in some children’s toys. 

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1960

Anyone for money?

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A sub-Branch is opened at the prestigious All England Lawn Tennis Club, on Wimbledon’s Centre Court.  Who knows how many World famous tennis stars will be served with cash by the staff seconded from Wimbledon High Street Branch? Hours of business run from 12 noon until close of play, so staff must expect a few eight hour shifts during the two weeks of the annual tournament.  The prize of a sub-Branch on Centre Court will be game, set, and match for Barclays when it takes over in 1969…

 

1963

Four Centuries of Banking

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The business originally founded “at the sign of the Grasshopper” the principal London office of Martins Bank celebrates its Four Hundredth Anniversary.   Martins Bank publishes part one of its “autobiography” – Four Centuries of Banking – which charts the Bank’s activities and key personnel back to 1563. Martins Bank does not simply look back at its history, it is also working hard on the future, and the Clearing Department at Lombard Street has just been equipped with an IBM Reader-Sorter Machine, capable of handling nearly 1000 cheques per minute…

1963

Beryl at the helm

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Beryl Evans becomes Martins Bank’s first female appointed member of staff.  She takes on the role of Assistant Manager of the Bank’s Advertising Department.  Beryl has been involved in all aspects of Head Office life, and has also taken part in, or planned most staff social events since the late 1940s. She leads by example, turning her hand to just about anything to help maintain the success of the Bank. Under her leadership the advertising department takes a much needed and radical step away from the staid and boring, and embraces the surreal and swinging 60s head on.

 

1965

The only way is up

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St James Street

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At 23 St James’s Street, London, the former British Mutual Bank Branch is demolished and rebuilt for a modern age. The new building becomes Martins Bank’s first “escalator Branch”, where all services are accessed by first travelling to the upper floors by escalator. St James’ Street is amongst the most modern of the Bank’s Branches, and Martins’ use of top designers, architects and craftsmen produces new branches and rebuilds that are often a radical departure from the stuffiness and claustrophobia of many of the older style bank branches.  St James’s Street Branch is retained by Barclays and stays in service until 1995…

1966

Joined up banking

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The London Computer Centre is completed at Bucklersbury House, Walbrook, London, and runs a Martins designed branch accounting program that will last into the twenty-first century.  A partnership with N C R sees the Bank’s first real steps towards computerising its Branch network.  This is partly achieved with a system linking more than 30 branches in the London area, and experiments with data transmission between London and Liverpool are well advanced by the time of the merger with Barclays.  When Bucklersbury House is demolished in 2011, all trace of the London Computer Centre is lost to history. Martins’ original plans for a new computer centre at Wythenshawe, Manchester, are however taken on and expanded by Barclays…

 

1966

Working with Animals and children

 

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The Bank’s advertising  takes on the services of a small girl, and variety of animals - an elephant, a camel, a zebra a hippo and some cows in order to appeal to the full range of potential customers!  The elephant advertisement in particular, is so popular that a Yorkshire Zoo re-creates it by taking one of its own elephants and a small girl into York Branch to open an account. From now until the merger with Barclays, Martins Advertising will be striking and innovtive, but always just a little tongue-in-cheek…

 

1966

The Epsom Drive-In Bank

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Martins Bank opens a second drive-in Branch at Epsom, Surrey, serving what the Bank refers to as “the gin and Jaguar belt”.  Epsom Branch is opened in a former police station, and stands in its own grounds with ample space for a drive-in window.  The branch is built at the insistence of one of Martins Bank’s Directors, whose wife has expressed embarrassment at not having a local Branch of the bank at which to cash her cheques!  The Epsom drive-in remains open until 1979, with the branch itself closing a couple of years later.

 

1967

The Grasshopper and the Unicorn

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The Unicorn brand is originally partly the creation of Sir Edward DuCann MP, whose “Unicorn Securities” Company is re-branded Martins Unicorn, in 1967.   Martins Bank acquires Unicorn Unit Trusts, which along with the profitable Martins Bank Trust Company branches around the country, will provide lucrative income opportunities for Barclays for decades to come.  Martins Unicorn is the subject of the Bank’s one and only television advertisement, which airs in three regions of the newly reshuffled ITV network in October 1968.

 

1967

Money round the clock

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Martins Bank unveils the first cash dispenser in the North of England at Liverpool, Church Street Branch, in October 1967.  Although Barclays opens the World’s first cash dispenser in Enfield, Middlesex some five months earlier, it requires the use of paper vouchers and a six digit personal code number.  Martins Auto-Cashier is the first dispenser of its type in the World to use the combination of a four digit pin and a plastic card that we know today.  At first these machines operate on the principle of pre-payment, something which has come back into fashion in the twenty-first Century, through prepaid debit cards.  Manufactured by the CHUBB Safe and Lock Company, the second generation of this machine wins a Prince Philip Design Award in 1969.

 

1968

The shock of the new

 

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1966 London Wigmore Street Rebuilt Exterior 1 - BGA Ref  30-3210

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Martins Bank’s original Branch at London Wigmore Street is replaced by a futuristic building designed by Ernö Goldfinger, who is well known for visiting his dystopian visions upon UK towns and cities.  The strange arrangement of blocks on the right is actually the window of the Manager’s office (seen here from the inside), and it is a RIOT of colourful glass.  Sadly however, a great deal of money has gone down the drain, as Barclays already has a branch at 95 Wigmore Street, and Martins’ bold design is scrapped…

 

1968

The beginning of the end

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By Special Act of Parliament, Martins Bank Limited and Barclays Bank Limited are merged.  Despite reassurances by Martins’ Management to their staff, it seems the name of Martins will not live on. - The name of the business will be Barclays Bank Limited, and the words “Martins Branch” will appear on the cheques of some former Martins customers, and on other items of stationery.  The merger of the main business is all but complete on 1 November 1968. The date for the full incorporation of the branches themselves is set by the Act of Parliament as 15 December 1969.

 

 

1982

Getting closer to the end

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Barclays Bank Limited becomes Barclays Bank plc, and the words “Martins Branch” disappear forever from customer stationery.  The “plc” stands for Public Limited Company, and at first companies choose either upper or lower case letters to show the acronym on their stationery…

 

2008

The end of the end

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Some thirty-nine years after merging with Barclays, Martins Bank Limited is finally wound up in the records of Companies House.  The name cannot now be reused to trade with, by anyone, unless they are recognised and licensed AS A BANK by Companies House.  This should safeguard the name of Martins, but given the twenty-first century fashion for resurrecting the names of defunct banks to create new brand loyalties, who knows if Martins Bank will make a reappearance on the high street?

2009

Bringing Martins Bank back to life

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Martins Bank Archive is established; an online and physical archive dedicated to preserving the memory of the Bank.  Started in 1989 as a collection of memorabilia, the Archive makes itself available as online exhibits for the interest of anyone who can access the internet.  Run in collaboration with, and the guidance of Barclays, the Archive is NOT

part of the Barclays Group of Companies.

2013

Looking back with pride

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Celebrating four hundred and fifty years since a banking service first began on the site of 68 Lombard Street London, more than one hundred and fifty Martins Staff gather to celebrate at London’s Royal Overseas League. A commemorative tie is produced to mark this milestone anniversary, and nearly three hundred are sold, showing the affection with which Martins Bank is still held by its former employees and customers.

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