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Grand Designs…

Martins Bank’s Coat of Arms is not the product of ad-men trying to offer some kind of subliminal sales message.  It is the result of one of the more curious periods in the Bank’s history: Martin’s Private Bank is absorbed in 1918 by the Bank of Liverpool, but following pressure in 1928, from the directors of one of the later constituent banks – the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank - the Bank of Liverpool and Martins is made to shorten its name to Martins Bank Limited. The name of Martins lives on at the expense of the Bank of Liverpool. The coat of arms, first created for the Bank of Liverpool and Martins, is deemed so important, that in the personalised welcome booklet given to all new staff, the Bank explains the significance of the design in great detail on the very first page:

The Bank's Coat of Arms is a combination of the Liver Bird of Liverpool, which appears in the ancient Coat of Arms of the City, and Sir Thomas Gresham's famous Grasshopper, which is to be seen hanging outside the Bank's principal London Office at 68, Lombard Street. The Liver Bird represents the former Bank of Liverpool, the root of the Bank's family tree, which was founded in 1831 and, in 1918, absorbed the old private bank known as Martin's Bank Limited. This old private bank, with a great tradition in the City of London, had used the sign of the Grasshopper for many generations; indeed, according to tradition, this sign was displayed on the site of 68, Lombard Street as long ago as 1563. A number of other banks which were absorbed or acquired also had distinguishing symbols, but in 1928, when the name of the Bank was shortened from Bank of Liverpool and Martins Limited to Martins Bank Limited, it was decided to retain only the Liverpool and London symbols in the new Coat of Arms, which has been accepted by the College of Heralds. The heraldic description of the Coat of Arms is as follows:


Or, a Liver Bird (or Cormorant) Sable, holding in the beak a branch

of Laver (or Seaweed) Vert, on a Chief of the third a Grasshopper of the first”.


The Coat of Arms is printed in its correct colours {on the cover of this booklet}. (ABOVE, LEFT) On the Bank's stationery it is printed in black and white, {the various dots and lines representing the colours, so that it is possible to "read" the colours by having knowledge of the printer's black and white interpretation which is, of course, standard.

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There is, therefore, a great deal of history behind Martins iconic coat of arms, and of all the many mergers in Martins’ 400 year history, it is the union of the grasshopper and the liver bird that is deemed most important, and gives is Martins’ magnificent Head Office building at No 4 Water street Liverpool. Martins is the only national bank to dare to conduct its business outside London.  The coat of arms is a feature of cheques and some other stationery items and publications until the end of Martins in 1969:


Kendal Coat of Arms



1968 Martins Report - Front Cover Logo

Colour Logo - True Colours 1959

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Colour Logo Small

… well, almost…

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Bye bye Birdie…

(…or Liverpool is airbrushed out)

It’s all a bit strange really, the tale of Martins Bank begins with the sign of the grasshopper, and ends with it too – joined in between by the liver bird,  together they are a strong symbol of the Bank from 1928 onwards: - its rapid expansion, and its mission to go to extremes to be helpful.  It is however, almost as if the Liver Bird is off guard when the spread eagle of Barclays swoops down and suddenly only the grasshopper remains.  And maybe she was asleep, as Martins’ corporate image appears to drop her completely around the time of the merger talks… 

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1917 Grasshopper

1930s Centenery Liver Bird 2.jpg


Original Liver Bird.jpg

MBM Spring 68 Hopper only.jpg






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1918 Martin's Private Bank

Kendal Live Bird

1967 Worcester St John’s Grasshopper Mosaic BGA Ref 30-3285.jpg

The Emblems that came and went:

The Grasshopper and the Liver Bird in various incarnations, before making way for the Spread Eagle of Barclays:

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The (Spread) Eagle has landed…

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1968 mb and hopper only

MBE Circ

Barclays Spread Eagle Fs

1967 From Independence…

1968/9 to Subsidiary…

1970 to Memory…

1981 then Gone…


Is it perhaps an embarrassment to suitors that despite being based outside London, Martins has been such a successful bank?  Is a successful image of Liverpool perhaps too much?  As we have seen, the very word “Liverpool” is a bone of contention at the time of the merger with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank.   The Liver Bird does however have one major advantage over all future brandings – Barclays included – as she is seen more often than not carved into the stonework on many former branches up and down the land, whether or not they are nowadays still run as banks, or fulfil new roles as wine bars, betting shops  and beauty salons.  Now that’s a REAL legacy… Sep 1.jpg