is one of the fifteen “Grasshopper” branches that Martin’s Private Bank
operates at the time of its amalgamation with the Bank of Liverpool in 1918. These
are situated mainly on the London-Kentish Border. Originally opened by Messrs Vallance and
Payne in the 1880s, Sittingbourne is a lovely old building with treasures
within that include tudor murals – more of which in our feature - the 1967 visit to the Branch by Martins
Old and New at Sittingbourne…
our Sittingbourne branch began life in
October 1889 when the banking firm of Vallance & Payne, established in
1800, was dissolved and Henry Payne persuaded Martin & Company to open a
branch with himself as manager.
Service: 1880 until December 1979
But see also history at
foot of this page
Branch Images © Martins Bank Archive Collections
It thus became the fifth office of the Bank to open and by the end of the year was the leading branch outside London. One year later Martin's moved across the street into the centre portion of Sittingbourne's 'oldest house for the entertainment of man and beast', the Lion Hotel, whose history goes back nearly 600 years. There is a record to show that Henry V was entertained at the inn on his return from Agincourt in 1415, his whole reckoning amounting to 9s. 9d. as wine was then only a penny a pint. Many other famous travellers stayed at the inn, for Sittingbourne stands in direct line between London and Dover and was thus one of the overnight stages on journeys to the Continent besides being on the route of the Canterbury pilgrims.
Part of the original murals are still to be seen on the
wall of the kitchen of the bank flat which, before conversion, was the first
floor banqueting hall of the inn. The style of the painting is late Tudor or
early Jacobean, and our photograph shows some of the laths over the wooden
battens put on by a builder to protect the murals when they were first
covered by plaster walls. A recently
retired member of the staff, Mr J. L. Cook, has the distinction of having
served under every manager that the branch has had so far, beginning his
career in 1920, two years before the retirement of Henry Payne. He can recall
that his first duty in the morning was to buy a bottle of whisky which Mr
Payne proceeded to consume during the day.
The recent death of Miss Payne, daughter to Henry, has now
broken the last link between the old firm of Vallance & Payne and
Martins. Some interesting old accounts of 1890 show that salaries paid for
the year were £360
8s. 8d., while Henry Payne received £214 15s.1d.—a quarter of the profits. The old specimen signature books
are still preserved, number four being kept in the manager's room, and
customers who have banked with us for fifty years are congratulated on their
anniversary. One such, when replying, referred to his father having helped to
persuade Martin's to open the branch at Sittingbourne.
Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections
section of the late Tudor murals that can still be seen on the walls of the
kitchen in the bank flat at Sittingbourne branch.
The High Street is a mixture of ancient and modern
buildings and our branch is one of the most outstanding with its
white-painted early Victorian frontage. Inside, the banking hall retains the
dignity of its historic past and in the manager's room, with its elegant blue
desk and chairs, is a wooden cabinet which was part of the original fittings.
warm welcome awaits the visitor and nobody could feel themselves a stranger
there. Mr Goodband is a perfect host, keen golfer and deckchair
gardener. He claims to be the last of
the clerks engaged by the Bank of Liverpool & Martins before it became
Martins Bank in 1928. Pro Manager is Mr Cooper, an expatriate from Brighton
who finds living in Sittingbourne rather more peaceful. We met Miss Turvey,
charming and friendly, who is the manager's indispensable aide. She has been at Sittingbourne
since she started in the Bank and consequently knows all the regional
connections, being herself chairman and secretary of various local groups.
She has on occasion been able to warn her boss of police speed traps—a super-efficient
secretary indeed. At the
counter Mr Carter presides majestically over the first till, inspiring
confidence in the most timid of old ladies; Richard Hyde charms the younger
ones, while Ann Giles and Averill Wood cope with everybody most efficiently.
The workers at the rear of the office are machinists Hazel Grant and
Christine McLaughlin, beavering away at the application of current account
charges at the time of our visit, with Ronald Smith dealing with the rest of
the routine duties.
Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections
accompanied Mr Goodband on a trip to the sub branch at Milton Regis, once a
separate community but now incorporated with Sittingbourne as one town.
Martins is the only bank in this thriving new development area where in four
years over twenty new factories have been established at Trinity Trading
Estate, others being planned for the future. Unlike its aged parent our
branch is modern and exciting, squares of fluorescent lighting in the ceiling
and walls of corrugated afrormosia wood creating an unusual and attractive
decor. The two tills are manned by John Port, an enthusiastic and expert
Scottish dancer, and Ronald Young, an equally enthusiastic footballer and
swimmer. On our way back to Sittingbourne High Street we saw the new police
station, assembly hall, revenue offices and town hall, all completed only a
On the wall by the entrance to the town hall the coat of
arms depicts branches of cherry trees—cherries, apples and pears being the main products of the
region, though the chief industry at Sittingbourne is paper. Inside the town
hall we bowed the knee before the portrait of Henry Payne, j.p., c.c., who was Chairman of
Sittingbourne U.D.C. from 1903 to 1910. There have been close connections
between the Bank and the Town Council since its formation in 1895 and we
were shown plans for the new development area, including a pedestrian
shopping centre with adjacent multi-story car park from which a connecting
passage will run through to the High Street past Martins Bank. The consequent
possibilities of extending business will not be overlooked by our
enterprising manager or his staff.