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image08031 August 2017 saw the death, at the age of ninety-three of Sir Edward du Cann. He was for many years a Conservative MP, and in 1957 with Mr A W Fowler, he created Unicorn Unit Trusts – an investment that was to prove both popular and sound in its first ten years alone, when £100 reinvested would have increased to almost £350. In today’s money, that is the same as £2,300 growing over ten years to £8,050.  Martins Bank purchased Unicorn Securities and turned it into Martins Unicorn in 1967, and following the merger of Barclays and Martins, Barclays Unicorn continued to be a good investment for decades more. Our main feature below shows the importance of the creation of Martins Unicorn, in a 1967 article from Martins Bank Magazine.  Martins’ latest venture is discussed with great excitement, as we meet the members of the staff responsible for this new arm of the Bank. We can also take a glimpse inside Unicorn House 252/6 Romford Road London, and look at some recently re-discovered advertisements for Martins Unicorn products.

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1969 Newscaster display Piccadilly Circus 1969 MBM-Sp69P51Martins Unicorn Ltd is created in 1967 by Martins’ acquisition of Unicorn Securities, and it becomes one of the major success stories of the bank. By the end of 1967 there are in excess of 250,000 unitholders in the seven Martins Unicorn Trust Funds, and the post-merger success of Barclays’ investment arm is assured for decades to come.   Martins Bank’s existing Trustee Offices around the UK give that “personal touch” to many investors.  In 1968 Martins Unicorn begins a TV advertising campaign, and has its name also displayed on the famous “newscaster” in Piccadilly Circus. 

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Unicorn Filmstrip.jpgThese five still images are all that remain of Martins’ 1968 TV Advertisement for the Martins Unicorn Assured Savings Plan.  You can read more about this from a member of Martins Unicorn staff who was there during filming, by clicking HERE. The advert might have been lost, but the Unicorn brand is so successful, it lasts until 1997, when “Barclays Unicorn” becomes (part of) “Barclays Funds”… In 1969, when Barclays takes over, continuance by change of name to Barclays Unicorn, is a measure of the true value of these products, and Barclays is widely acknowledged to have struck GOLD.  Martins Unicorn is introduced to the staff in Martins Branches by the following article in Martins Bank Magazine, in the Winter of 1967…

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…where you can put your eggs into 500 baskets

On the ground floor 

(left to right): M. B. Bailey, M. C. Ludbrook,  D.   King,   B.   Doubek,  N.  Sault,

A.   Day,   W. Sandford, W. Whitford, J. Palmer Seated: L. W. Lofts, J. W. Hankin

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Those who see Head Office circulars and the financial pages will already know that the Bank this year entered the unit trust field by acquiring control of Unicorn Securities Ltd. and Dillon Walker & Co. Ltd.  Unicorn Securities, the management company now renamed Martins Unicorn Ltd., have joint ownership with Warburg's of a registration company—Unicorn Registrar Services Ltd.—whose staff also work at Unicorn House. Dillon Walker, whose name is unchanged and who also have small offices in Edinburgh and Dublin, are primarily the dealing company and undertake the work at Unicorn House for the children's gift plan, the savings scheme and insurance.

With Mr A W Fowler (seated) are from left:

L White, Mrs M. Cook, R Hopper, Mrs E Lufflum, B Smith, S Lloyd,

Mrs M Tierney, T D Chitty, Mrs A Lewars, J Davis,

Mrs J Renn, Mrs D Longstaff,

Commander J A Burnett (Secretary of Martins Unicorn Ltd)

From left: W Turner and L Cross (standing at back)

B Parker, Mrs J Peters, Miss P Alger,  Mrs J Smith,  Mrs V Sorrell,  C Musk,

S H Steele,  K Rickard,  Miss M Chittleburgh, B Harrington, Miss C Campion,

N I Couchman, Miss J Wilkinson,  D Satchell, (seated)

Miss P Hubbard and Miss C Andrews.

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WE must start by going back a bit - about 400 years - to the time when Sir Thomas Gresham had his goldsmith's business at the sign of the grasshopper in Lombard Street. The adjoining premises, the Unicorn, were bought by him and later incorporated in what is now our office at 68 Lombard Street. Ten years ago the Right Honourable Edward du Cann, M.P., and Mr A. W. Fowler pooled their financial knowledge to start a Unit Trust with comparatively meagre resources but with a lot of courage and confidence. Unicorn Trust, born in 1957, has now been acquired by the Grasshopper's inheritors. If this second union of the Grasshopper and the Unicorn proves what is so often claimed - that history repeats itself - there is already every reason to suppose it will repeat itself yet again in the years ahead by proving this new link a sound, profitable and friendly venture.


Historically one cannot imagine a more appropriate alliance and, since an insect and a horned horse are unlikely to produce any ghastly hybrids such as Marticorns or Unihoppers, the ingenuity of the College of Arms is unlikely to be tested. And now, what is Unicorn all about? This is not the place to reprint circulars, pamphlets and leaflets but a mini-repeat is justified.

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The number of companies in which each of the seven Martins Unicorn Trusts is invested varies from 60 to 500, so one can put one's monetary eggs into all those baskets to minimise risk and provide the chance of capital growth to counter inflation.  One thus gets a steady half-yearly income with the chance of income growth and with no worries about management or bonus issues, dividends or share certificates. One can buy or sell easily and enjoy savings schemes and linked assurance. End of mini-repeat. Please note this. The ten-year-old Unicorn has been pretty shrewd. £100 invested in 1957 would now be worth £276, or £348 if the income had been ploughed back. Gross income on that £100 has risen from £4.13s.10d. to £10.13s..1d. and £50 million worth of investments and a quarter of a million unitholders are additional proof that there is a wealth of know-how at Unicorn House. 

Image © Barclays Ref 0030-3376

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Image © Barclays Ref 0030-3376

Image © Barclays Ref 0030-3376

To supplement that wealth of money sense and common sense there is a computer in the enormous display window on the ground floor.It deals with all purchases and issues of shares, with repurchasing and with all income distribution: it handles the savings accounts, life insurance policies and company registra­tions and then, with time to spare, takes on a lot of work for outside companies and business concerns. The people at Unicorn House think the world of it. It is four years old and were it a real unicorn it would no doubt justify the claim so often seen in Horse and Hound 'Absolutely reliable and free from vices. Quiet in traffic and to clip, box and shoe'.  In twelve hours it does everything that required ten working days with the old equipment. 

From left: C Ivey, DH Haylett, DJ Garwood, G Smith, J Barratt (in front),

Miss P Brownlee,  D Cahill, H Cross,  Mrs P Surridge, Mrs KJ Baldwin,

Mrs K Bottjer, Miss TK Flusk,  Mrs IC Peacock,  C Turner, Miss V Conway (seated),  Mrs JC Chapman,  C Quantick,  Miss JLM Randall, F Baynes,

Mrs J Lamper, DW Morter, H Perry, Mrs J Rogers.


From left: Mrs H Shead, S Morgan, B Quelch, M Davies, Mrs J Nevill,

Mrs J Bullard,   J Miller,   Mrs M Moore,  C Carleton, Mrs E Yager, Mrs M Flavin, J Murphy,  A Holden, T Bamford, B Apicella, G Lord

Clearly its presence and its capacity are reassuring to the staff, where the number of resignations is only 0.02 % per annum, but with all due respect to that machine a much more likely reason for this low turnover is that they are all under one roof so there is no 'communica­tions problem'.  If one seemed likely to arise it would certainly be dealt with well before it became a problem, for the Unicorn practice is to make certain the staff know what they are doing and why, and where they fit in. Before the computer was introduced the addressograph girls were told it would take over their job within a year; they were advised to take a course in punched card operating, which they did, and most of them are still there today.

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In the Punch Room (from left): Miss F Collins, Mrs K Ridge,

Miss R Dudman, Miss N Kelly,  Miss H Harding,  Mrs M Maker (in front),

Mrs P Sullivan, Mrs V Carson, Miss S Nicholson,  Mrs J Northeast,

Miss S Woodruff

Left to right: HT Potts, AR Dunkley, Miss P McKenna,

R D Cross, Miss M Poyton,  R Nimmo, Miss M Paul,

G Creedy, Mrs O Thornton, G O Hearne, T Davis.

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Despite the theories and what the books say, good staff relations have always been a blend of understanding, humour and common sense, but it may sometimes be necessary to work seven miles from a city centre to appreciate this. Most of the staff, by the way, live in the north and east of London and are thus spared the wear and tear and cost of long hours travelling.  We hope the computer won't take offence at being omitted but it just is not photogenic. It does, however, have plenty of spare capacity and as there is additional space for staff if required all that is needed now is for the Grasshopper to keep the Unicorn really busy.

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Golden Eggs…

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Unicorn products really are a golden opportunity for Martins, and in what seems like only minutes after taking over the company, the Bank wastes no time in promoting the success of the Unicorn Trust which has achieved an outstanding performance over the first ten years of its existence.  The £20 Martins Unicorn Bonds follow, as does the issue of 3,000,000 shares in the new Martins Unicorn Financial Trust.  These newspaper advertisements appear during the month of November 1967, and with £50 million invested by nearly a quarter of a million shareholders in its Unicorn range, Martins Bank has a golden goose, with a seemingly limitless supply of nest eggs on hand to help pay some of the bills!

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Birmingham Daily Post 3 November 1967

Image © Trinity Mirror Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive

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Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections - Advertisement re-mastered September 2018


Birmingham Daily Post 29 November 1967

Image © Trinity Mirror Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive