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Martins Bank 1928+

Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections

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In Service: 3 March 1966 until 23 October 1970

Exterior Images © Barclays Ref 0030-1978

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Martins Bank’s thirty year long connection with Berkshire, begins in 1939, in what was always intended to be temporary premises at READING STATION ROAD.  The Second World War puts paid to plans to move to larger premises, and it is not until 1960 that a second, purpose built branch arrives in Reading, at  FRIAR STREET. Newbury, on the other hand, is a brand new branch, and opens in 1966. Until now only Reading has flown the flag for Martins in Berkshire, and whilst Newbury is the second, it is also the last, surviving only until the end of 1970. Branches in the home counties are likely to be the first casualties of Barclays’ reorganisation following the 1969 merger, because Barclays already has a huge presence in these areas. Martins Bank’s tradition of adding local “flavour” to the design and/or décor of a new branch continues at Newbury with a series of beuatiful wood carvings along the front face of the counter.  These depict Weaving. Farming Bewing and “Chasing” (i.e. hunting with hounds).  These wood panels are amongst several artworks that we are trying to trace.  You can read more about this in our MOST WANTED feature.  In 1966, Martins Bank Magazine visits the new branch to meet the staff, and to provide its customary take on the local area…

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Weaving, Farming, Brewing and Chasing at Newbury…

1966 02 MBM.jpgBerkshire does not boast, it has no need, and consequently some people only know it vaguely as being 'over that way'. As for Newbury, unless they follow the horses, it is 'somewhere beyond Reading', 'the A4 goes by it, I think' and 'weren't there a couple of battles?' Having just returned we can confirm that Berkshire is indeed 'over that way'; Newbury lies 17 miles west of Reading and 27 miles south of Oxford, the London to Bath A4 skirts the top of the town and two Royalist v Roundhead battles were fought in 1643 and 1644.  Newbury today does very nicely indeed as a country market town and does not seek fame. Its recent reaction to the planners was so effective that ominous terms like 'overspill', 'new town' and 'development' were promptly switched to Swindon 25 miles to the north-west in Wiltshire. One cannot blame Newbury at all. Already there are 200 factories listed within the Borough including a marine engineering company whose founder, William Plenty, invented the first lifeboat. This was tried out on the River Kennet, which runs through the town, before being exhibited to the Elder Brethren of Trinity House, and in 1824 eleven of the fourteen lifeboats in use around the English coast were built in Newbury. The town is also involved in manufacturing paper and cardboard, diesel engines, gears and light aircraft.

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1966 Newbury Interior MBM-Su66P09

1966 Newbury Intrior 2 BGA Ref 33-400.jpg

Images © Barclays Ref 0033/0400

Some of the richest race-horse training establishments are nearby, the racecourse brings money to the town both over the sticks and on the flat, and agriculture completes a healthy economic picture. Newbury does not require a trading estate and those with leisure can fish, hunt or just walk. The town was world famous in the 15th century for its weaving, and the northern part, Speenhamland, became famous in the 17th century for its coaching inns, some of which survive. Weaving declined in the 18th century as the northern factories gained ascendancy but in 1811 Sir John Throckmorton made a bold bid to rescue it. He wagered 1,000 guineas that he would sit down to dinner at 8 p.m. wearing a coat made from wool still on the back of the sheep at 5 a.m. The whole process of shearing, weaving, dyeing, cutting and making up was accomplished by 6.20 p.m. and the damson-coloured coat is still in existence. Sir John won his bet, the sheep were roasted and distributed to the people along with 120 gallons of strong ale and although the event failed to revive a dying trade, the coming of the canal helped the town's revival through its corn and malt mills and its breweries. That then is the background to a town which wel­comed us with torrential rain, lowering clouds and a mid-April temperature so low that even the fruit blossom looked furtive: a week earlier there had been six inches of snow on the racecourse. Partly protected by an umbrella we snooped around the town finding a remarkable mixture of buildings ranging from modern down to mediaeval in the half-mile from north to south.  Our new branch is well sited in Market Square where it cannot be missed and this may explain why the 'walk-in-and-see' passers-by had swelled the number of customers beyond the hundred prior to our call. The interior layout reminded us greatly of Ashford branch with plenty of space though less colourful in that here white and brown predominate.


The car park at the rear will be a big attraction for customers since the busy main streets are old and, with one exception, narrow.  Mr D. G. Hill, is happy about the prospects and has no regrets for having deserted local government for banking ten years ago, particularly as he met his wife, Pat Grimsey, at South Audley Street branch. Mr R. S. Cooper who came to Newbury after twelve years at Reading will be familiar to those who have followed the inter-District rugby games in past years. A former county player, he will be turning out for Newbury next season and has already made appropriate contacts in the town.  Mr J. M. Brown, after eight months' service at Plymouth branch, was looking forward to his family's arrival in the area to release him from bed-sitter life, but Miss Anne Russell, a recent entrant from commerce, had no such problems. Living at Inkpen, south of Hungerford, she can enjoy the country at its best— gibbet and all! Someone in the office had mentioned a claim that the sun always shines at Newbury and certainly it has shone brightly on the new business so far. The solar lapse in April involved us in the hasty purchase of an editorial umbrella, but the cost was probably small in relation to the expenses of Dan Quin who was inspired to write of a local hostelry, the George and Pelican: “The famous inn at Speenhamland, that stands below the hill, may well be called 'The Pelican',  from its enormous bill”...

Newbury’s new branch is in the news…

The following quite lavish spread, of which the Directors of Martins Bank will no doubt have been both pleased and proud is published in the Reading Evening Post of 2 March 1966. It sets just the right tone for the still independent Bank’s policy of expansion through the addition of branches in every major town and city.


Image © Trinity Mirror 

Image created courtesy of 


Image reproduced with 

kind permission of 

The British Newspaper Archive


AN impressive new branch Martins Bank opens its doors to customers at 20 Market Place. It is the latest move in the programme of extending the network of branches throughout the country. With the use of computers and other modern equipment the Bank is able to provide the quick and efficient service needed by the increasing number of customers who are discovering the advantages of using a cheque book. Contemporary and bright in design, the Newbury branch represents a break from the traditional styles of bank architecture. Mr D G Hill, manager of the new branch, commented “Newbury is expanding rapidly, and our branch will play an important part in this expansion. The new branch is very attractive, and I am sure that our customers in this area will be completely satisfied with the up-to-date services that we can provide”.

Mr. Hill is a native of Claygate, Surrey, and he was educated at Epsom Grammar School After having worked for a time in local government, he joined the bank in 1956 at the South Audley Street Branch in London, after which he served in 68 Lombard Street. London, office until 1962 when be moved to Cambridge.  A keen sportsman, Mr Hill is interested in swimming, tennis, cricket and soccer, and one day hopes to master the “intricacies” of golf.  He is married and has a daughter aged three and a one-year-old son. 

The new branch has a distinctive appearance. The front hat stainless steel-framed windows over green slate panels all set in Bath stone on a grey granite plinth. Inside, the bright, clean lines and modern design have been planned to give an atmosphere of friendliness and comfort as well as of efficiency. The counter, with its teak top, has a black front with four superimposed marquetry panels. Each of them illustrates one characteristic of the locality. One panel depicts agriculture, another brewing, the third steeplechasing and the fourth the wool industry. An interview waiting room has been provided to give the customer complete privacy when required. The manager’s room has modern teak furniture and colourful furnishings. A car park has been provided at the rear of the branch for the exclusive use of customers.

Martins Bank, according to tradition, was founded in 1563 by Sir Thomas Gresham, a man of great influence in the sixteenth century who acted as Royal Agent to Queen Elizabeth I in the Low Countries. He made a large fortune out of wool and gave the first Royal Exchange to the City of London, where his family symbol, the Grasshopper, still appears on the weather vane. In the mid-sixteenth century he started a goldsmith's business in Lombard Street. Gresham used the Grasshopper as his sign, and it hung above the entrance to his business premises on the site of the present "banking parlour" —as the office of the general management on the ground floor of 68 Lombard Street is traditionally called.






Mr D G Hill


1966 Onwards

Mr R S Cooper

On the Staff


Miss A Russell

On the Staff


Mr J M Brown

On the Staff






Market Place

Northbrook Street



5 Bridge Street

The Broadway


20 Market Place










1 Mansion House Street


1 Bridge Street


30 Market Place

4 Northbrook Street









133 Bartholomew Street









Index No and District:






11-32-60 Newbury

Full Branch

20 Market Place Newbury Berkshire

488 London

Mon to Fri 1000-1500

Saturday 0900-1130

Newbury 1347

Nightsafe Installed

Mr D G Hill Manager


Throckley Allendale House

3 March 1966

15 December 1969

23 October 1970

Opened by Martins Bank Limited

Barclays Bank Limited 20-59-15 Newbury 20 Market Place