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Martins Bank 1928+

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For the first four years of its life, Martins Bank’s Watford Branch is situated at Dudley’s Corner, Clarendon Road, but in 1963 the call of the new sees the relocation of the branch to the new angular, concrete and brick High Street.   The new Branch appears to be sharing its building with “Gilda” fashions whose sign seems to fit in somewhat awkwardly below the Martins Coat of Arms and signage. (We shall learn just exactly why the Bank has a new bedfellow later on this page). 

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Maybe all this is too much for Barclays, who close the branch in 1970, less than a year after the merger.  However, in more optimistic times, the branch is heralded as another bold move for Martins Bank, and colour images are taken of the interior to whet the appetite of the readers of Martins Bank Magazine, who must surely wish that their own elderly North of England branches might one day be quite so hip and trendy. 

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In Service: 1963 until 30 October 1970

Image © Barclays Ref 0030-3092

Whilst some of Martins branches may have come and gone, Watford included, the coat of arms is nevertheless still visible to this day on the exterior brickwork. (See foot of this page). The psychedelic writing desks and bright colour schemes of the interior, will have to be left both to memory and photographic record. Later we have part of an article printed by The Architect and Building News Magazine in September 1962 – it shows in fine detail just what goes into building and fitting out a new Branch from scratch, but the story has an expensive twist. First of all we go back to the Spring 1963 issue of Martins Bank Magazine, to learn how customers and staff are enjoying life at their shiny new Branch at Watford…

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1963 02 MBM.jpgWe know from our own observations and after talking to Mr. Beeby who opened our branch there in temporary premises in 1959 that Watford is a thriving and active town. After talking to both Mr. Beeby and his new second-in-command Mr. Catchpole we also know that property prices are alarmingly high: whether this is due to an appreciation that Watford is near enough to London for both work and play or whether it is due to the apparent rigidity of the green belt which in other areas is proving to be so dis­turbingly compressible we cannot say.

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A further three things we know.  Our branch is every bit as striking outside as inside. Secondly, Mr. Harry Beeby is not in the least dismayed at having fourteen branch banks in Watford the largest of which has more than fifty on the staff. Thirdly, we actually visited the branch thus convincing ourselves there is no jinx. Were Mr. Beeby anything but a hard-headed son of the Manchester District he might have suspected that the cancelled visits in the past four years were due to supernatural causes, but early days at Waterfoot branch are not conducive to flights of fancy and valuable experience over six years at Manchester District Office on a variety of duties prior to becoming Clerk-in-Charge at Moss Side in 1956 have given him an outlook and tenacity which enable him to overcome the disappointments and frustrations of pioneering and to face facts.

1962 Watford Interior MBM-Wi62P20.jpg

Image © Martins Bank Archive Collection

1963 Watford Staff MBM-Su63P23.jpgHis time both inside and outside the office is fully occupied and we were very sorry that Mrs. Beeby was unable to join us for lunch at short notice owing to the current production by the Women's Institute of a play in which Mrs. Beeby was called upon to wear a beard! Mr. R. Catchpole had been at the branch for only three weeks and was looking forward to the day when he could bring his family from Southampton to join him, for he spent most of last winter away from them in London on the Domestic Training Scheme. He entered the Bank in 1944 and worked at Sittingbourne until called for National Service. On his return he had a period on relief, returning to Sittingbourne in 1949 and going to Southampton in 1955. The second position at a new branch can never be a sinecure and Mr. Catchpole's experience and his approach to his new duties were most encouraging.

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1962 Watford Manager's Office MBM-Wi62P21.jpg

Image © Martins Bank Archive Collection

1960 s Watford Interior 6 BGA Ref 30-3092

Image © Barclays Ref 0030/3092


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Mr. I. T. Mather is yet another 'displaced person', his home being in Brighton where he entered the Bank in 1957. He has adapted himself quickly to his new surroundings and duties and from what we saw and heard at the counter we think he will soon have his own clientele among the customers—a good pointer to the future.

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The two most fortunate members of the staff, whose homes are already close by and who therefore have no wish to join the London rush hour battle, are the young ladies—Miss S. Randolfi who entered the Bank in January 1962 and Miss J. M. Guy who joined the staff in February this year.

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As we left for London we knew that our visit had delayed the work of these girls but there was no hint of this in their farewell. By train or road one tends to by-pass or go through Watford on the way to somewhere else. We are glad we called there and we can assure anybody who takes the trouble to make a detour that they will receive an equally warm welcome.

1960 s Watford Interior 9 BGA Ref 30-3092

Image © Barclays Ref 0030/3092

1969 02 MBM.jpgAssessing liquidity?

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A fluid situation arose at Watford F.C. on January 28 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.

Building for the future?

The following extracts are from The Architect and Building News, 5 September 1962. Many such articles are written about new branches of many high street banks at this time. What makes this one historically valuable is that it includes a complete cost analysis of the building and equipping of Martins Bank’s Watford Branch, and that when these figures are calculated at today’s prices, we see the enormous costs of setting up business in Watford – which is actually compared with London’s Oxford Street in terms of congestion and expense(!)  In a novel approach to building a Branch (for the 2017 equivalent of more than £812,000), Martins Bank decided to share its new building with a shop and an upstairs showroom, as well as a flat.  With a tenant or two, the Bank can make the building start to pay for itself. If you are wondering how the Bank itself is accessed, all is revealed in the following article…

      bank at Watford

            Martins Bank Ltd., client.

            Bryan & Norman Westwood & Partners, architects.

            Hugh Smart, associate partner.

            Leon & Westwood, quantity surveyors.

            Charles Brightman & Son Ltd., general contractors

            Tender date:              11 February 1960
            Work started:               1 April 1960
            Work completed:      September 1961

The site in Watford High Street, one of the most congested suburban shopping centres comparable with, say, Kingston-on-Thames or even Oxford Street, London, was exceptionally expensive.  The bank, therefore, decided that,  if possible, the frontage should be let as a shop and the rear part of the site developed for the bank with an entrance which could readily be seen from the road.  This has been achieved by exploiting a narrow lane at the side of the bank and obtaining permission to pave it over, thus forming a small courtyard off the main street.  There appears to be no disadvantage in this; the pavement is so crowded at this point that this widening out is very welcome to customers.  The materials used for the exterior are Hybroom silver-grey facing bricks with riven Westmorland slate fascia and polished slate on the wall lining of the entrance vestibule.  The light- coloured panels on the main façade are precast slabs surfaced with rustic marble strip. The same material has been used to cover the free-standing columns.  The gilt lettering was engraved by the sculptor, Eric Peskett. The windows are permanently finished in anodized black and satin silver aluminium.  In designing the banking hall itself, the value of contrast in light and shade was exploited and materials gave interest at no great cost.  The public space is comparatively dimly lit, with a black ceiling, slate floor and dark-coloured sculptural panels by Eric Peskett placed in echelon so that as you go into the bank the wall appears to be quite solid, but on leaving you see the street through the windows set between the slabs.  The space over the counter and for the clerks behind is brilliantly lit from a laylight which also incorporates artificial lighting. 

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The dark colours of the public space give a quality of richness, and the writing tables on the sculptured wall are individually illuminated. Finishes were chosen which would give a comfortable, welcoming feel to the public space. The front of the counter is covered with Vyanide fabric, olive green in colour, with a padded backing, neatly edged in aluminium.  The counter top is a solid piece of Afromosia.  The floor is of riven Delabole slate.  The sculptured slabs between the writing desks have in parts a very smooth shining surface obtained by casting against glass and the insets are rough and dark.  They were cast in rubber moulds.  The ceiling is roughly textured Pyrok, dark grey in colour and intensely sound-absorbing.  Behind the main counter, the clerks’ desks and drawers are finished in black bean. The under bench fittings are movable and follow experience gained from planning laboratories. This brightly lighted area has on the back wall rich dark brown bean panel and black bean in random lengths.


The images here are more than fifty years apart, but there is of course one precious constant - Martins’ Bank’s coat of Arms; but how many Twenty-First Century passers-by will know the significance of this carving or indeed the other special features that were incorporated into the design of this building at a cost in today’s money of more than £85,000?


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Image © Barclays Ref 0030-3092

Image © 2010 Google Street View®



High Street          Parade

Junction               Watford North


Watford High Street

Garston Park Parade

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High Street


King St – Exor&Ttee           St Albans Road

High Street

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High Street


High Street                           Watford North

Cross Roads                          Leavesden Hospital

Watford Junction


1959 to 1966 Mr H Beeby Manager MBM-Su66P03.jpg

1963 Miss J M Guy MBM-Su63P23.jpg

1963 Mr I T Mather MBM-Su63P23.jpg

1963 Mr R H Catchpole MBM-Su63P23.jpg

1963 Miss S Randolphi MBM-Su63P23.jpg

1966 Mr ELJ Press Manager MBM-Su66P06.jpg






Mr H Beeby


1963 to 1966

Miss J M Guy

On the staff


Mr I T Mather

On the staff


Mr R H Catchpole

On the staff


Miss S Randolphi

On the staff


Mr E L J Press


1966 onwards





Index Number and District:






Martins Bank Limited 11-08-90 Watford

Main Branch

36 High Street Watford Hertfordshire

478 London

Mon to Fri 1000-1500

Saturday 0900-1130

Watford 29035 / 43910

Nightsafe Installed

E L J Press Manager

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Watford Dudley’s Corner


15 December 1969

30 October 1970

Relocated from Dudley’s Corner, Watford

Barclays Bank Limited 20-91-81 Watford 36 High Street