Martins Bank

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Martins Bank Limited
Former typeJoint-stock
IndustryBanking
FateAcquired by Barclays Bank
Successor(s)Barclays Bank Limited
Founded1831
Defunct1969
Headquarters4 Water Street, Liverpool 2
SubsidiariesLewis's Bank Limited
 
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Martins Bank Limited
Former typeJoint-stock
IndustryBanking
FateAcquired by Barclays Bank
Successor(s)Barclays Bank Limited
Founded1831
Defunct1969
Headquarters4 Water Street, Liverpool 2
SubsidiariesLewis's Bank Limited

Trading for much of its time under the name of “The Grasshopper”, Martins Bank was a London private bank that could trace its origins back to the London goldsmiths. Martins agreed to its acquisition by the Bank of Liverpool in 1914. The Bank of Liverpool wanted Martins to give it a London presence and a seat on the London Clearing House; the Martins name was retained in the title of the enlarged bank and the title was actually shortened to just Martins in 1928; however, the head office and managerial control remained firmly in Liverpool.[1]

Contents

History[edit]

The history of Martins Bank is intertwined with the Grasshopper, the sign under which the Bank traded and was known in its early years. Tradition has it that Thomas Gresham founded the bank in 1563.[2] Although he is believed to be the first to use the sign of the Grasshopper in Lombard Street but does not appear to have had any connection with the Martins. Chandler states that there are differences of opinion as to when the Grasshopper became a bank and John Martin did not purchase the freehold of the Grasshopper until 1741.[1]

The Martin family were among the early London Goldsmiths. In 1558 Richard Martin was elected a liveryman of the Goldsmiths Company and later a Master of the Mint and Lord Mayor of the City of London. Successive generations of Martins ran the bank that was popularly referred to as “The Grasshopper” but the partnership went through various incarnations, including Martins, Stone and Blackwell, and Martin Stone and Foote in the eighteenth century; and Martin and Company in 1844. [1]

The London private bankers typically confined themselves to their one office, although Martins did have the occasional branch where individual partners lived. It meant that, compared to the joint stock banks, Martins' growth was limited. Following the panic that followed the collapse of Barings Bank in 1890, Martins finally decided to become a limited company (1891). This prompted a more expansionist approach but the bank “thought only of amalgamations with other private banks”. There was an unsuccessful approach to Cocks, Biddulph, with which there were family links, but the realisation that “expansion to the provinces was now essential” led to the bank agreeing, in 1914, to its acquisition by the Bank of Liverpool. The Martins name had valuable prestige and a seat on the London Clearing House; when the delayed “merger” was consummated after the First World War, the family name was retained in the title Bank of Liverpool and Martins. [1]

In 1918, the bank was acquired by the Bank of Liverpool, which had been founded in 1831 in Liverpool, England, and the name of the merged bank became the Bank of Liverpool and Martins Ltd. However, the name was shortened to Martins Bank Ltd in 1928. The change of name was at the insistence of the directors of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank, whose former HQ at 43 Spring Gardens Manchester became Martins' Manchester district office. By 1928, the bank had expanded to some 560 branches and had a logo featuring a grasshopper, which was the crest of Sir Thomas Gresham, and a liver bird, the logo of the Bank of Liverpool. The combined coat of arms was duly registered by the College of Heralds. The heraldic description of the coat of arms is as follows: "Or, a Liver Bird (or Cormorant) Sable, holding in the beak a branch of Laver (or Seaweed) Vert, on a Chief of the third a Grasshopper of the first."

Between 1958 and 1967 Martins Bank owned and operated Lewis's Bank which had branches in each of the Lewis's Department Stores (not to be confused with John Lewis) and also in Selfridges in London. Lewis's Bank was sold to Lloyds Bank in 1967 and lasted until at least the 1980s. The last Lewis's department store (in Liverpool) closed in May 2010.

A new headquarters building for Martins Bank Ltd was designed by the architect Herbert James Rowse in the Classical Revival style and constructed in 1932 in Water Street, Liverpool. [1]

Martins Bank Building, Liverpool.

The bank was bought by Barclays Bank in 1969, when all of its 700 branches became branches of Barclays. Around 30 branches closed immediately, and 10 were downgraded to sub-branches. Some, such as the sub-branch at Eaton, Norwich, Norfolk were brand new and handed over to Barclays on the day appointed by Act of Parliament for the merger of the two banks, 15 December 1969. The Martins grasshopper logo was retained for part of the combined business until the early 1980s, with "Martins Branch" and a small grasshopper appearing first on both statements and cheque books, later cheques only (see the Martins Bank Archive Project link below). Martins numbered among its customers a football pools company, a major airline and a world renowned shipping line. When these customers wanted to borrow large sums, Martins was known to have borrowed from other banks on a number of occasions to fulfil these requests. Even so, many who worked for the bank believed that Martins could have survived on its own, as at the time of takeover it was expanding its UK banking operation, and continuing a run of "firsts" which included:

Women were contractually obliged to leave the bank upon marriage, and as late as 1965, men were not allowed to get married until their salary reached a prescribed level. Many of Martins' forms, and some procedures, were retained or later adopted by Barclays as being more advanced than their own.

Martins Bank Archive[edit]

Martins Bank Archive has been collecting images and items relating to Martins Bank since 1989. Since 2009 the collection has been accessible online, with interested parties emailing requests for (or donations of) information or images, via the archive website. Since 2011 Martins Bank Archive has carried the newsletter of the Grasshopper Pensioners' Club, a group of former Martins Staff whose activities are funded partly through subscription, and partly by Barclays. The site is run is association with, but independently of Barclays, who provide several thousand images of the Bank's branches as they were between the 1930s and 1969. At 24 June 2013 the Archive website comprises 1116 pages of information and images relating to more than 900 known branches and former branches of Martins Bank. The Archive has pieced together a staff database of more than 100,000 entries, from existing paper records, and can provide limited information to family tree researchers. Career details are available dating back to the late 1800s for some staff, but in the main the records cover the period 1946 to 1969. The database also covers New Entrants, Staff Transfers and Promotions, Marriages, Retirements and Deaths. Martins Bank Archive is also home to a separate archive for Lewis's Bank, covering the period 1958 to 1967. A staff database for this period is also maintained.

[3]

Martins bank plaque Liverpool.jpg

Liverpool Head Office[edit]

The Liverpool Head Office of Martins Bank is a Grade II* listed building designed by Herbert Rowse and opened in 1932. It has been described as Rowse's "masterpiece... and among the very best interwar classical buildings in the country." [4] During the Second World War, the bulk of England's gold was moved to the bank's vault, the complete operation overseen by the bank's then Chief Inspector, Donald Devonport Lynch FCIB (1893-1982). This was dramatised in the film The Bullion Boys.[5]

Popular culture[edit]

The 1971 film version of Dad's Army featured the fictional Walmington-on-Sea branch of Martins Bank, actually the Crown pub in Chalfont St Giles.[6][7]

Martins Bank worked in association with the Kiddicraft Toy Company and Metcalfe Models to provide toys with the Bank's logo on them. These included miniature cheque and paying in books, and cardboard construction kits for model railway enthusiasts. In 1968, whilst already part of the Barclays Group of Companies, Martins issued what became a commemorative grasshopper money box in clear yellow plastic. this was given to children who opened savings accounts, along with a gilt brooch. [8]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

George Chandler, Four Centuries of Banking, Vol I: The Grasshopper and the Liver Bird (1964); Vol II: The Northern Constituent Banks (1968)

John Biddulph Martin, The Grasshopper in Lombard Street (1892)


References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d George Chandler, Four Centuries of Banking, Vol I, (1964)
  2. ^ The Banks that built Martins - Martins Bank 68 Lombard Street Retrieved 2013-01-09.
  3. ^ www.martinsbank.co.uk
  4. ^ Pevsner Architectural Guides Liverpool, Joseph Sharples, 2004, p168
  5. ^ Synopses
  6. ^ "Chalfont St Giles on Film". The Chalfont St Giles village website. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Chalfont St Giles". The Crown Pub & Dining Room. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  8. ^ www.http://www.martinsbank.co.uk/Children's%20Savings.htm

External links[edit]