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Martins Bank 1928+

Martins Bank sets sale for Portsmouth arriving in July 1950, to open a Branch in a rather unusual vessel. This particular ship negotiates the minefield of merger and sails on under the flag of Barclays, even changing its address without moving an inch!  In the 1970s, rebuilding was still taking place in the City of Portsmouth due to the extensive bombing of the Second World War, and also to the need to clear several slum areas.  That part of Commercial Road which includes the Bank was redesignated Guildhall walk, and the number 70 above the door was replaced with a number 3, as you will see later, in an image from 1981.

In Service: 6 July 1950 until closure date unknown


Branch Images © Barclays Ref: 0030-2332 and 0033-0462

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A branch, a bomb, and a lack of “hope”?

We were delighted to be contacted by Malcolm Willis, who worked at Portmouth Branch in the early 1960s. He recalls for us how he and his colleagued worked year after year, only a few feet away from what could have been at any moment a deadly assasin! – Deadly enough it would seem, to have caused a visit to the City from one of ther World’s top entertainers, to be cancelled…

{“I joined Portsmouth Branch in 1962 and worked there until 1966. On the right, as you look at the photo, (above) was the bombed site of a former cinema, with a sloping floor, later used as a makeshift carpark. That area, being near the Dockyard, had lots of bombed sites and it wasn't until years after I left that developers started work and discovered an unexploded bomb, right next to the wall of the Branch where we had all been happily working! The centre of the city was closed off and I recall reading that Bob Hope's show at the Guildhall was cancelled!”}


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“Southern and Midland Outposts…”

Despite the Bank expanding its national network of branches, even during the War Years, Martins Bank Magazine takes a rather parochial or even pehaps colonial approach to outlets south of Liverpool and Manchester, by calling them “outposts” and referring to the staff as “pioneers”. At the end of 1951, within two years of the opening of Portsmouth Branch, the Magazine visits a number of these “outposts” – Lilliput (Poole), Bournemouth, Southampton, Cheltenham, Worcester and of course Portsmouth, where their report begins with a reminder of how important a target the town had been for the Germans in the Second World War. Six years on from the end of the conflict, it was still necessary to obtain written permission to take photographs in certain parts of town…

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There is pride in Ports­mouth, too, and tradition, but it is altogether different from the feeling one ex­periences at Southampton. This is the home of the Royal Navy and as such was a top priority target of the German bombers in the last war. Here, following sabotage in the Dockyard, security mea­sures are strict and one's business is of interest to all kinds of people if one goes near the Dock area. We wanted to take the photograph of the staff in front of Nelson's Victory, but to do so application in writing would have had to be made to the Admiral Superintendent and there wasn't time. Mr. Gilbert opened the branch in 1950 and he still has the staff who were with him then, Mr. R. C. Burton, his excellent second man; Mr. G. D. Abrams and Miss E. R. Jones, New Zealand born but English reared. Also present on the day of our visit, September 3rd, was Mr. R. W. G. Harvey, of London District Office Relief Staff.


1960 s Portsmouth Interior 3 BGA Ref 30-2332.jpgMiss Jones was on holiday but came in for the photograph, by special request. Mr. Gilbert entered the Bank in 1928 at 68, Lombard Street and his first appointment was as Manager of Holloway Road branch in 1946. It has been quite a job making out at Portsmouth but our branch there is now getting nicely on its feet.   After taking the photograph of the staff we went down to the Dockyard and boarded the Victory. It is, indeed, a moving experience to gaze on the spot where Nelson fell and to stand in the cockpit where he died.  One needs to go on board the Victory after seeing the luxury of the Queen Mary, and to stand in front of the little swinging cot, with its replicas of the curtains made by Lady Hamilton, in which he slept when at sea brings a lump to the throat. What a little man he was, yet what a big one! No one should miss seeing the Victory. There is so much more to see than seems to find its way into the guide books: for example, the deck of the cockpit is painted red to disguise to some extent the sight of blood as the wounded were laid there for treatment by the surgeons. The light by which the doctors worked was obtained from dim oil lanterns, which makes one marvel that they could see at all for such delicate work.


1952 Portsmouth Staff MBM-Wi52P13.jpgA case of surgeons' knives of Nelson's time make one shudder, and the sight of a cat o' nine tails reminds one startlingly of the disciplinary methods which were in force in those days. In the dockyard museum nearby is the state barge of Charles II which was used to bring the body of the great Admiral up the Thames and here one may see many other relics, from the log book describing the action as the Battle of Trafalgar proceeded, to the various personal letters from Nelson to different friends. Our branch stands opposite the impressive Guildhall, now, alas, just an empty shell, though still impressive, and we felt that the Bank's own ancient tradition harmonised most effectively with the local and national tradition of Portsmouth, home of seafaring men, home of so much that makes us proud of our heritage. We felt that our staff were proud of their branch and proud of the Bank and glad to work for it in Portsmouth.

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All change…

Times have changed, but even though 3 Guildhall Walk – originally 70 Commercial Road – is now a betting shop, there is still a banking service, courtesy of the Barclays Cash Machine and WiFi booths outside the front door! This is very much a  sign of the times in the twenty-first century, with the tempation to indulge in gambling made even easier by access to instant cash on the doorstep.  What Martins Bank Portsmouth’s original Manager Mr Gilbert would have made of it all, we shall never know, but we can of course guess with a degree of accuracy!  In his day a member of the bank’s staff could be dismissed for gambling, one of a long line of regulations for both male and female clerks. You can read more about this in our feature A CAREER WITH MARTINS BANK.

Image © Barclays Ref: 0030-2332

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Image © Barclays Ref: 0033-0462

2015 Portsmouth as 3 Guildhall Walk - GISV MBA

Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections


1950 to 1954 Mr R Gilbert Manager MBM-Su67P02.jpg

1950 Mr R C Burton Branch Second MBM-Wi65P58.jpg

1952 Miss E R Jones MBM-Wi52P13.jpg

1952 Mr G D Abrams MBM-Wi52P13.jpg

1954 to 1965 Mr TW Hedges Manager MBM-Su65P04.jpg

1965 to 1968 Mr E B Sanderson Manager MBM-Su65P03.jpg






Mr R Gilbert


1950 to 1954

Mr R C Burton

Branch Second

1950 to ?

Miss E R Jones

On the Staff

1950 to ?

Mr G D Abrams

On the Staff

1950 to ?

Mr T W Hedges


1954 to 1965

Mr E B Sanderson


1965 to 1968

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1968 Mr JN Driver pro Manager MBM-Au68P08.jpg

1968 Mr SW Street Manager MBM-Wi68P09.jpg






Mr J N Driver

Pro Manager


Mr S W Street


1968 onwards









Index Number and District:






11-89-60 Portsmouth

Full Branch

70 Commercial Road Portsmouth Hampshire

459 London

Mon to Fri 1000-1500

Saturday 0900-1130

Portsmouth 27331/2

Nightsafe Installed

Mr S W Street Manager


6 July 1950

15 December 1969



opened by Martins Bank Lmited

Barclays Bank 20-69-33 Portsmouth 70 Commercial Road

Address changes to 3 Guildhall Walk