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British Mutual Bank


Yours Mutually …


23 St James’ Street is one f two original branches of theBritish Mutual Ban, which meres with Martins Bank Limited in 1951. The building has this rather striking but almost forbidding exterior, and as we shall see from the images below, a beautifully designed interior. 

At this point, no-one knows that in  few short years a radical change will take place on this quiet corner which marks another of Martins Bank’s innovations. For now we will look at the following article from Martins Bank Magazine, where talk is still of the amalgamation with British Mutual, and of course, getting to know new colleagues…

In Service: 1950 until 28 April 1995

Image © Barclays Ref 0030-2525

1951 01 MBM.jpgIt is not often that we hear of a bank amalgamation these days, and the last fusion in Martins Bank took place as long ago as 1928, when the Bank of Liverpool and Martins Ltd. amalgamated with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank Ltd.  It was, therefore, with more than ordinary interest that we learned of the negotiations which have  resulted in the acquisition of the British Mutual Bank Ltd. The history of this bank is interesting.   In 1857 the British Mutual Investment Loan and Discount Company Limited was incorporated, its objects being to receive or borrow money and to grant loans but not to transact any business peculiar to a bank or an Assurance Office.

The Company was acquired in 1869 by a new company called British Mutual Investment Com­pany Limited, whose objects were to transact the business of a Loan, Discount and Banking Company.  The name of the company was changed both in 1875 and 1877, and in 1882 it became the British Mutual Banking Company Limited, the title being shortened to British Mutual Bank Limited in 1945.  Since the Company first transacted banking business the Prudential Assurance Company Limited have been represented on the Board of the Bank, although their shareholding has for many years been only a small percentage of the Issued Capital.

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In 1950 the Bank opened its first branch in St. James's Street and also opened the first cross-channel bank on the Dover-Calais service. The Bank has built up a reputation for the skilled personal service it gives to its customers, and the amalgamation with Martins Bank will enable this policy to be continued. We feel sure that the amalgamation is pleasing to the shareholders, the customers and the staff of British Mutual Bank and should prove a valuable acquisition to Martins Bank Limited.  We visited the St. James's Street branch on February 12th to make the acquaintance of our new colleagues and we received a most cordial and friendly welcome from them all. We were very much impressed by the beauty of the interior of this branch.


The Manager's room, which is on the first floor, is approached by a handsome oak staircase and from one of its windows the scarlet-clad sentries on duty at St. James's Palace can be seen, while half a dozen of London's most famous clubs are just across the street. The office is spacious, with a beautiful parquet floor, and several most attractive little rooms away from the main banking hall.

It was a great pleasure to meet Mr. Milne and his colleagues Mr. Adams, Mr. Gilleland and Mr. Morgan, and we were glad to meet the daughter of Mr. Marlow, until recently the General Manager of the British Mutual Bank. We are sorry that she is shortly leaving us. We were also pleased to meet Miss Cowley. On behalf of all our colleagues we would like to express our good wishes to the members of the British Mutual Bank who have now become one with us, and we shall look forward to meeting them at our various social functions from time to time.

Taking the stairs to the manager’s Room in the 1950s will

give way to something more revolutionary in the 1960s…

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Image © Barclays Ref 0030-2525

Above Images © Martins Bank Archive Collections

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By 1960 the “Martins Look” has been added to the interior, but the best is still to come…

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This is the view across London in 1964, captured in this image shot from the upper floors of Martins Bank’s newly rebuilt branch at 23 St James’ Street. Of course, much has changed on the London Skyline since then, but at this important time in its history - entering its four hundred and first year of existence - Martins Bank’s optimism is as high as some of those dystopian skyscrapers, as the Bank plans its 1960s expansion in the Capital.   With the help of this, and some other rare images from the time, we will discover that in the case of 23 St James’ Street Branch,  Martins does not so much expand outwards, as upwards. The second phase of the Bank’s computerisation comes in 1966, and St James’s Street is amongst the London Branches of the Bank that take part in the processing of the daily work by the new state of the art Computer Centre in Walbrook, EC4. 

Image © Barclays Ref 0030-2525

You can read more about this further down the page.  St James’s Street Branch has quite an exciting life.  Opened in 1950 by the British Mutual Bank, it is still a new Branch when Martins and British Mutual Merge the following. By the early sixties, the need for a bigger, more practical and purpose-built banking facility at 23 St James’s Street forces a radical re-think.  It is not possible to move outwards, so the Bank plans to take what is for them the unusual step of moving upwards, and moving the customers up with them!  This is achieved by joining forces with the builders of a new development, and the biggest change of all occurs in November 1964, when as one of three towers of the new “Economist” block, St James’ Street re-opens its doors, bringing another  first for Martins Bank – escalator banking!

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Images © Barclays Ref 0030-2525

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St James Street1965 01 MBM.jpgthe bank’s first escalator branch was opened to the public in November at 23, St James's Street, London, which at first may seem a strange place for such an innovation. In the long, wide gallery of that distinguished street leading down from Piccadilly to St James's Palace, one finds a variety of buildings most of which have absorbed the character of the area, whether they house wine merchants, grocers, gunmakers, publishers or clubs. Boodle's Club, for example, is a solid, imposing building designed by Joseph Crunden 200 years ago and no doubt typical of that period: the appearance twenty feet away of a new four-storey, irregularly shaped octagonal tower comprising a great deal of glass intersected by Portland stone should be incongruous but, surprisingly, it does not strike one in this way… For one thing this new building in which our branch is situated is not violently obtrusive, possibly due to the lack of sharp  corners. Moreover it is one of three new towers in the Economist block, separated by open spaces, from the centre of which one does not notice that the highest has 16 storeys. Only the smallest has a frontage onto St James's Street. At the ground floor entrance to our branch one has the choice of an escalator or one of two lifts which run up the centre of the building alongside an enclosed winding staircase.  The first floor is entirely devoted to the banking hall, the second floor to the machine room and management offices which, apart from their shape, are typical of the high contemporary standard we have come to expect in our re-designed branches.

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Left:  On arrival on the ‘up’ escalator

Right:  At the head of the ‘down’ escalator

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The strongroom and staff rooms are below ground. In the banking hall the biggest of the very large windows measures 150 square feet but all are fitted with electrically operated Venetian blinds and, of course, the entire building is air-conditioned, the heating being controlled from units beneath the windows. Lighting comes from a vast glass-panelled ceiling. We first visited the branch in the darkness of early evening and later set off on an unescorted tour into the highest and lowest reaches, liking everything we saw. We called again next morning because we were still puzzled. 

It is not a branch where amiable housewives dump their babies on the counter, where Wellingtons and mud cover the floor on market day, or where the window cleaner clanks in with a bucket to be filled.  It is noiseless, entirely brown or surgically white, beautifully fitted, clinically sterile and, being on the first floor and having those enormous windows, it encourages one to look down on people! Horror of horrors! When this awful thought struck us, we decided to talk to Mr George Milne  and his staff and soon realised that the impression was wrong and entirely due to the unusual situation.

The working space in the main office overlooking St James’s Street with a bay window and the side of Boodle’s Club seen through the far windows.

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And none of those to whom we spoke had any criticisms: rather were they full of praise for the lay-out and amenities and happy to work in such surroundings after the cramped conditions of the old No 23. So that was all right. The opinions of the architectural pundits on the new Economist block vary widely. 'An architectural miss, a townscape hit' said one. 'Influencing what is to come while maintaining a friendly acquaintance with the best of what will remain' wrote another: he was of course referring to the buildings, but we think it applies equally well to our branch and those who work in it.


Significant Digits…


In 1966 Martins Bank’s Boffins at the LONDON COMPUTER CENTRE and at LONDON AUTOMATION at Clements House, are busy perfecting a new banking computer program – BRANCH ACCOUNTING.  To ensure it is tested to the full limits of its capability, the program is used to process the daily work of most of the Bank’s London Branches.  So that the computer can recognise our customers’ accounts, each account is given an account number, and special machines are made available for the personalisation of existing cheques and paying in slips when these items are brought into Branches by customers.


To illustrate the “new look”, we have restored a scanned image of a used cheque issued by a customer in 1966. Below (right) you will see before and after pictures. To ensure that customers of one Branch are not debited or credited with items belonging to someone at another Branch, account numbers are allocated using a pair of “significant digits” – the first two numbers in the account number will identify the branch at which the customer has their account.  This will also ensure that vouchers can be sorted and read both by the computer equipment, and the staff.   With this new system, Martins says goodbye the the seven digit account numbers that have been in use since the late 1950s when the Bank first experimented with using a computer to process the work of Branches in Liverpool.

 Going up …

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photo 1

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Where better than on the escalator itself, for the staff of this futuristic new Branch to be featured, in this part of the Martins Bank Magazine article from 1965.  It is clear from the number of staff that St James’s Street has become a major player in local banking. There are more images of these staff members in the staff gallery below. It is a whole world away from the quaint former British Mutual Branch Building with its nine members of staff that we saw at the beginning of this page.

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Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections

1966 St James St London Automation Computerised Cheque BLANKED BLUE - MBA.jpgImage © Martins Bank Archive Collections

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1951 to 1969 Mr G Milne Manager MBM-Su65P06.jpg

1953 to 1961 Mr J R Thorogood MBM-Au67P06.jpg

1962 to 1963 Mr P A Doye Staff MBM-Sp63P36.jpg

1962 to 1965 Mr SGC Hall Ltd auth then pro Manager from 1965 MBM-Su65P04.jpg

1963 to 1967 Mr B Graham MBM-Su67P04.jpg

1964 to 1967 Mr C J Pearce MBM-Su65P06.jpg






Mr G Milne


1951 to 1969

Mr J R Thorogood

On the Staff

1953 to 1961

Mr P A Doye

On the Staff

1962 to 1963

Mr S C G Hall

Limited Authority

1962 to 1965

Mr B Graham

On the Staff

1963 to 1967

Mr C J Pearce

On the Staff

1964 to 1967

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1966 to 1968 Mr T F Smith Deputy Manager MBM-Au66P02.jpg

1967 Joan Preston Staff Member MBM-Sp67P40.jpg

1968 Mr C M Summersgill Deputy Manager MBM-Sp68P03.jpg

1969 Mr D J Webber Manager MBM-Su69P17.jpg






Mr T F Smith

Deputy Manager

1966 to 1968

Miss Pearl Hurley

Joined the Bank Here

1966 to 1967

Miss Joan Preston

On the Staff


Mr C M Summersgill

Deputy Manager


Mr D J Webber


1969 onwards




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Index Number and District:






11-41-71 London St James’ Street

Full Branch

23 St James’ Street London SW1

464 London

Mon to Fri 1000-1500

Saturday 0900-1130

01 930 0841/5 & 3832/3

Nightsafe Installed

Mr D J Webber Manager


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In 1966 St James’s Street Branch is included in Martins’ London Account Number Allocation, where Branches due for automation are given “significant digits” to identify them by account numbers issued. The Branch will be identified by the significant digits 3 6 and 3 7. Customers are encouraged to bring their cheques and paying in books to the branch to be “personalised” – the first step to the now ubiquitous allocation of account numbers.  The NCR 315 Computers at LONDON COMPUTER CENTRE will then recognise customers’ accounts and automatically process entries to them.


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London 41a South Audley Street


9 January 1951


November 1964

15 December 1969

28 April 1995

Opened by the British Mutual Bank

Merged with Martins Bank Lmited

Demolished and rebuilt

Re-opened as Martins’ first (and only?) “Escalator Bank”

Barclays Bank Limited 20-74-59 St James’ Street


London Tothill Street



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