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Down the years, the Branches of Martins and Lewis’s Banks have played host to a variety of strange and famous visitors, many of whom have given the Bank a few precious moments in the limelight.  The list is extensive, and it includes a number of animals, Royalty, those from the world of comedy and pop music, sports personalities, and the armed forces.  Just what could it be that makes the two Banks so popular with the rich and famous?  It must have something to do with the extremes to which everyone goes to be helpful!

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In this feature, we trawl the 96 editions of Martins Bank Magazine to bring you evidence of these encounters.  So sit back, and choose from the galaxy of stars below, and don’t forget to visit our ADVERTISING section for more details of how Martins Bank itself features animals AND children in its 1966 advertising campaigns…

WHY NOT ALSO VISIT THESE PAGES

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Martins at War.jpg

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Martins at War.jpg

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Animals…

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ELEPHANTS

BEARS

SMALL CATS

BIG CATS

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Entertainers and Rock Stars…

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WILFRED & MABEL PICKLES

KEN DODD

KEN DODD (AGAIN)

JIMI HENDRIX

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Royalty, Sport, and a visit from the forces

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PRINCESS ALEXANDRA

SIR MATT BUSBY

CASIUS CLAY

A TANK – IN A BANK?

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You can bring an Elephant!

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In the summer of 1966, the attention of many in England is drawn towards a certain tournament at a football stadium somewhere in London - but surely by far the most exciting event of those months has to be the arrival of Rufus the Elephant, who appears in our new advertising campaign. The idea that Martins is so laid back that not even an elephant will upset proceedings is an instant winner, and further advertisements featuring a camel and a hippo show that our Bank is happy to keep its tongue firmly in its cheek.  At this point, step in Mr Ian Gibb, who as curator of York’s Flamingo Park Zoo (still loved by many these days as Flamingoland), puts Martins to the test. Ian takes his step-daughter Debbie and a young elephant from the zoo along to our branch at DavyGate in York, where onlookers are delighted, and cashiers are indeed unfazed by the whole incident. But the stunt is not without its hiccups.  Ian has kindly given us the story of that day – it is accompanied here by the original advert…

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1966 Martins Elephant Ad Retouched.jpg“{I seemed to remember an advert, where the bank said “we don't mind who you bring with you to open an account”.  Emily the elephant was a recent arrival at Flamingo Park and received special care because of her size and age.  As I had experience of rearing elephants, I spent a lot of time with her, so she was easy to handle as she would follow anywhere.

 

A newspaper photographer, took many pictures at the zoo which was obviously good publicity for us, and had done a series of Debbie with Emily in the zoo. He asked, after seeing the bank advertisement if we could do this. He wanted to do it unannounced to get the bank’s reaction. On the day he had two or three other photographers on hand, in and outside the bank.  We parked the land rover & trailer near the bank and gathered attention from a traffic warden.  At that point a neighbouring shop owner came and offered his yard to park in. 

 

We unloaded Emily and started to walk to the bank, when a security van pulled up, so we retreated to the yard. After that we entered the bank, there was little reaction from the bank staff. The newspaper had provided £2 for Debbie to open the account; the cashier repeated, word for word, the phrase used in the advert. “Who have you brought with you today”? We left the bank with no fuss and loaded Emily into the trailer and then went in the shop who had kindly let us park and had a nice glass of wine as the shop was a wine merchants. (Debbie had a soft drink).   Although no irate manager came rushing out I presume the newspaper smoothed any problem and it also cannot have harmed the Bank. Shortly after, I took up a zoo management post in Canada}”.

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In November 2009 a group of performing arts students decided to take Martins at their word, inspired by the events of 1966 to re-create them.

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Our thanks go to Colin Eccleston and his fellow students who took over 4 Water St for a day to pay homage to the original idea that Martins Staff are so helpful and laid back, that not even an elephant would faze them.  In these five images, someone plays the part of a bemused bank messenger, and the “elephant”, expertly realised by the student group, poses for the camera at various points within the iconic banking hall at Head Office.

Elephant at Water Street 4

Elephant at Water Street 5

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Elephant at Water Street 2

Elephant at Water street 1

Elephant at Water Street 3

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Bear faced cheek…

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Once upon a time, that most famous magician (and all round good bear) Sooty, went to Martins Bank GUISELEY in the faraway land of Craven, to cash his first cheque AND meet his first bank manager, Mr Jack Hardcastle. Sooty’s companion, that nice Mr Corbett, kindly gave him a hand up, so to speak, and try as we might we can’t spot Sooty’s noisy friend Sweep, anywhere

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Sooty’s twenty-first birthday

Image © David Baxter 1969

1958 Sooty cashes his first cheque! (Guiseley Branch) MBM-Su58P36.jpg

1958 Sooty visits his Bank Manager! (Guiseley Branch) MBMSu58P36.jpg

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It seems, dear reader that Sooty’s attachment to Martins Bank is indeed very strong, for here he is again with his friend Mr Corbett, and his nice NEW Bank Manager at Guiseley - Mr Ken Baxter, on the occasion of Sooty’s coming of age.  Martins really DO go to extremes to be helpful, especially to small bears!

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Kitten on the Keys…

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In 1949 this lovable moggy was often found waiting on the steps of our branch at ALSTON, Cumberland. When the doors were opened for business, the cat would slip into the branch, make its way to the typewriter, in front of which it would seat itself as shown.  This fuzzy feline friend would then tap on the space bar until the bell rang, and then look up waiting for someone to return the carriage, so that the operation could be repeated!  Perhaps this is the first case of the Manager’s Secretary wearing her fur coat all day…

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Tiger, Tiger, sitting tight…

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Ranee the Tiger.jpgMartins seems to have a certain animal attraction. It might be, that some of the real life cases of customers visiting branches unable to be parted from their animal charges was at the back of the minds of the staff of Advertising Department when they commissioned a number of newspaper adverts in the mid 1960s.  This is one of the earliest recorded cases of wildlife in the banking hall, taking place in 1956, RANEE the tigress accompanies her owner Mr James Walton.  Rather oddly – and perhaps this is a disturbing thought to a big cat – Mr Walton is actually a BUTCHER (look out, Ranee!) and a farmer. 

 

Staff at CHESTER LE STREET branch think nothing of their office being visited by both tigress and Mr Walton.  When interviewed, he commented:

 

“It has long been a common thing for me to enter the Bank at Chester Le Street accompanied by a lion or a leopard and none of the cashiers was alarmed if either placed its paws on the counter while they checked cash” 

 

We bet you never knew that tigers, lions and leopards could check cash, now did you?

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With Mabel, at the table…

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Cashing a cheque must be all the rage when you’re famous, and at LONDON WIGMORE STREET the BBC’s Wartime favourites Wilfred Pickles and his wife Mabel ‘have a go’ too. There is no sign of Violet Carson on the piano, but perhaps she is just out of shot.

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Whether or not Martins Bank Magazine uses photos such as these to inspire pride amongst the staff that their Bank is home to the rich and famous, isn’t clear.  Decades on, we are glad they were printed, as they prove that ephemeral celebrity is not just a modern phenomenon…

1960 Wilfred and Mabel Pickles cashing a cheque MBM-Wi60P39

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How tickled they are, missus, what a beautiful day!  

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1960 - King Doddy of Knotty Ash wows them all with the size of his cheque book at Martins Bank’s Branch in TORQUAY . Well used to touring the land with his wonderful brand of humour and music, Doddy is an instant favourite wherever he goes… 

 

“What a beautiful day! What a beautiful day for sticking a cucumber through

the Vicar’s letterbox and shouting THE MARTIANS ARE COMING!”

Ken Dodd Visits new branch at Blackpool 1964 MBM-Au64P13

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Blackpool night DAY out…

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On to 1964, and next stop for Doddy is  the North West  - where he once again opens a bank account under the gaze of the cameras, this time at Lewis’s Bank in Blackpool.  Both Martins and Lewis’s are used to helping celebrities make the most of their money, and it sounds like Mr Doddy could do with some common sense Martinplanning, several years before it is actually invented… We wonder which department in Lewis’s Blackpool Store will stock the famous “tickling sticks” with which our hero makes himself so instantly welcome!

 

Ken Dodd Visits new branch at Blackpool 1964 MBM-Au64P13

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All along the watchtower…

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The psychedelic sixties leave their mark on Martins Bank, when it falls to our LONDON 79 EDGWARE ROAD BRANCH to look after the affairs of one Jimi Hendrix…… and a sure sign that the Bank is “with it” is this flower-power cheque book cover.  We don’t know if these were issued with a pair of anti-glare specs, perhaps they were only given out to those wearing the COOLEST sun shades. Like, er, crazy man!  Jimi also ran up a crazy overdraft of - £572.2.6, which in 2016 was equivalent to around £9,300.00.  This “temporary embarrassment” is alleviated when his account is credited £1,000 (worth around £16,200 now!)  The image of the Bank Statement came from the Jimi Hendrix Collection before it changed hands, and we would really like to find and acknowledge the current copyright holder. If you can help, please do get in touch with us at the usual address gutinfo@btinternet.com

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1968 LU Exterior Tour by Princess Alexandra July MBM-Au68P44A Royal walkabout…

1968 - Princess Alexandra, who becomes the first and the longest serving Chancellor of LANCASTER UNIVERSITY, admires Martins Bank’s new branch building there, which is situated in the appropriately named Alexandra Square.  This historic moment is the end of a very long journey for Martins Bank and its ambitions to control a slice of the student banking Market.  A fortune (still undisclosed) is pumped into the bid for Lancaster, and Martins wins a place alongside local rivals the District Bank, who at that time are Bankers to the new University of Lancaster itself. (Read more at STUDENT BANKING).

 

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United we Stand…

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1969 02 MBM.jpgA fluid situation arose at Watford F.C. on January28 when heavy rain soaked the pitch on the eve of their match with Manchester United in the Cup replay. Eric Press, our manager at Watford and a football referee, was called in by the Football Association to examine the ground and he decided to call off the game. And the worried faces with Mr Press? Of course, Sir Matt Busby and his assistant, Mr Murphy.

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1966 Mr DG Harris Manager Meets Casius Clay (Daily Express) MBM-Au66P46Modelling with Clay…

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It is not every day that you can pose for a photo with one of the World’s most famous and loved sportsmen.  It seems even less likely that a Bank manager can achieve such a thing.  Still some years off from being known as Muhammed Ali, Casius Clay meets Mr D G Harris, the manager of Martins Bank’s Branch at GOLDERS GREEN , London.  The icing on the cake is that this occasion is the only function attended in England in 1966 by Mr Clay, and is a reception and dinner given in his honour by the Pakistani Community of London.  Stereotypes of the “typical” Bank Manager won’t help here either, as Mr Harris looks as if HE might easily go a good few rounds at boxing, himself…

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Tanks for the publicity…

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1962 04 MBM.jpgBranch during Army Recruitment Week Sept 1962 MBM-Wi62P60.jpgOf all the ways to get to the bank, going by TANK does seem to be a little drastic – or maybe this is the latest – somewhat over the top – way to protect the customers and the cash?   In 1962 the ubiquitous counter security screens of today are (thankfully) still to arrive, so just WHY does Lewis’s Bank Bristol feel the need for this amount of extra protection? Martins Bank Magazine investigates…

 

{The security precautions of Lewis’s Bank are probably no better than those of any other bank, despite this picture which, actually, was taken at the Bristol Branch during an Army recruiting week which was held in the Lewis’s Store from September 20th to 29th.  The vehicle is an armoured scout car belonging to the Royal Horse Guards}

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In popular culture…

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Martins Bank itself is also in the limelight in one or two areas of popular culture.  It is thought that Francis Durbridge, who created the detective Paul Temple, had his hero bank at Martins when in more than one of the Radio Adaptations Mr Temple referred to visits to “the Bank in SOUTH AUDLEY STREET London.  Another great detective lived just three doors from the building that became Martins Bank 213 BAKER STREET – had the historical timing been better, it may well have been “elementary” for him to have popped in for cash to feed a certain drugs habit! The best known reference to Martins Bank in popular culture is in the original TV series and the original film of the much loved Dad’s Army.  The bank is mentioned several times by Mr Mainwaring and Mr Wilson in the early episodes before the BBC decided that a change of Bank name would “prevent confusion”.  You can read what happened when Martins Bank Magazine caught up with Mr Mainwaring and his staff on our WALMINGTON ON SEA page…

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