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Southern Pioneers…

1967 Mr AF Hill MBM-Su67P06Amongst the many items donated to our archive in the W Noël Townson bequest is an unassuming A4 Pamphlet entitled “Martins Bank Branches in Sussex”.  It is written in 1984 by Mr A F Hill, who at that time is Manager of Barclays in Brighton.  Prompted by the closure of the former Martins Branch at 26 North Street Brighton, Mr Hill contacts his friends and colleagues for information that will enable him to tell the story of Martins Bank’s involvement with the south coast of England.  The result is a treasure trove of facts and figures for future archivists, and a glimpse at life in Martins including the contribution each of the Sussex branches make to the profitability of the bank.  Wherever possible, we will add Mr Hill’s comments to each of the pages for the relevant Sussex branches.  Below we reproduce the introduction to the pamphlet, and links to the branches he mentions…

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{“With the recent closure of 26 North Street, Brighton Branch, the final link with Martins Bank in the county of Sussex has been severed.  As a Martinsman of some 18 years standing, I felt some record should be made, before memories fade, and the remaining records are "lost to view". Some views expressed within the introduction may be thought to be contentious, but were given to {me} in good faith and it is felt should be expressed. May I thank all retired and current staff for their forbearance and help in recalling dates, individuals and items of interest to enable this record of events to be completed.

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Martins Bank moved into the Sussex Coast in the late 1930's when five Branches were opened in the space of three years, with any further expansion being curtailed by the start of the Second World War. 

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1962 Bexhill on Sea Interior MBM-Au62P20

1961 – Bexhill-on-Sea branch re-opens,

defining Martins Bank’s new look for the 1960s

The move to the South Coast was part of a vigorous expansion programme undertaken by the General Manager at that time John M Furniss,  supported from London by Mr G R Tarn, Superintendent of Branches. In fact over a period of nine years in the 1930's some 70 Branches were opened to widen the Bank's representation throughout England. The 1939 - 1945 War did cause some contraction of representation in the County with the closure of Bexhill-On-Sea for the duration of the War,  but that office re-opened again in 1946. Other offices were opened in the 1960s, Hastings 1961, Trust Company at Worthing 1967, Chichester 1968 and a sub-Branch at Goring-By-Sea 1968, with other sites being sought after in Brighton (a second office) Crawley, Hailsham, Horsham and Lewes. Business in the Post-War period and beyond continued to flourish and as at merger day the 13th December 1969 the Sussex Branches had grown to the following size;

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                Current and Deposit accounts                         9,230

                Money Lodged                                                    £3,650,000

                Money Lent                                                          £1,920,000

                Served by staff of 76

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Confidentiality prohibits giving the individual Branch statistics, and the figures mentioned above have been very difficult to establish especially Money Lodged and Lent for the Branches that closed on merger day and in 1970. 

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No local record remains and from what I can establish no Group record remains either.  I have therefore had to rely on the memories of Managers and to delving into Branches records to obtain my figures. The take-over was a cultural shock for all, staff had to re-train on routine work and cope with the mass of merger circulars and other regulations.  Our merger bonus was certainly hard earned! For customers the benefits of the merger were not at first obvious, apart from a locally based Advances Control at Brighton L.H.O., with the benefit of local knowledge and conditions.  Other customer and branch support services varied, but on the whole were of the same standard. The integration of the Martins Branches into the Barclays network started straight away, for in towns in Sussex our representation was duplicated, with former competitors now trading in the same High Street.  The rationalisation of the Branch system was inevitable and by the end of 1972 all Martins Bank Branches bar 26 North Street, Brighton had been closed. Generally upon the closure of a Martins Branch business tended to follow the Manager, especially if he moved locally.  In Worthing, Hastings and Hove the majority of the business both private and commercial loyally followed the Martins man to his new Branch.  With other closures, business was absorbed locally, with few problems considering that a large section of the Martins' business on the Sussex Coast was private accounts of the socio economic type A and B who had grown used to a very high standard of service and customer care.

Hove Branch pictured in 1969

Image © Barclays Ref 0030-1366

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1959 Eastbourne Exterior MBM-Sp59P23

Eastbourne Branch 1959

Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections

With the takeover of Martins Bank an era of service ended in provincial Branch banking and with the pressures on cost control and staffing levels over the past 15 years one wonders how long Martins could have continued that standard of service unrivalled by our competitors in which all staff prided themselves, trying to live up to the Martins Bank slogan of that time that we “went to extremes to be helpful”…  I have tried to outline the development of each of the following Offices, which I hope gives a true record of each Branch:”}


You can click on the links above to visit these Sussex branches.