The original “bank on wheels”?

Whilst this somewhat novel type of banking service is not strictly a FIRST for Martins, Mobile Branches are used by the Bank consistently from their introduction in 1948 until the Summer show season of 1969, and are seen at all manner of events and shows throughout the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. This is a collosal undertaking for the largest of the “small six” banks, and each year the Bank manages to attend events in parts of the UK that do not yet have their own branch of Martins - an excellent excuse to seek out new locations for the bank’s expansion plans! 

As an indication of just how big a task this is for the Bank, the leaflet opposite opens up to reveal a list of no less than 82 Agricultural Shows and other Shows and events that will be attended in 1956 by one of Martins Bank’s mobile Branches.  In additon, three trade fairs are listed on the back of the leaflet, making this a mammoth piece of organisation by the Bank’s show and Exhibitions Branches Department based at 68 Lombard Street, London.

Scan No676A total of SIX mobile Branches will travel the length and bredth of the united Kingdom for six months of the year to showcase the Bank and its services to the many thousands of Businesses and their customers that will attend these shows and exhibitions. 

As we shall see later on in this feature, Martins’ fleet of caravans will also be used in the way that we understand the mobile bank branches of today – for example NatWest’s “Bank on Wheels” to bring banking facilities to towns and large estates that do not have their own bank branches.

It does seem strange to us today, that back in the 1940s, these vehicles were being sent out on the road when you could find at least one bank operating in nearly every town and village in the land!  We are also given an insight into the intricate organisation and sheer manpower that goes into making these events a success for the Bank, which prides itself on presentation to the point of competing with other trade stands for “best in show” prizes!

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Our “Out and About” (feature see top of this page) looks in details at which events were attended in two particular years, 1956 and 1969. Stand by now for a whistlestop tour, as our feature investigates the phenomenon of Martins’ Mobile Branches – several tons of steel, pulled everywhere by land rover type vehicles to spread the news that Martins really do go to EXTREMES to be helpful...



Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections

At last – the 1948 show!

1965 Mobile Branch at an Agricultural Show MBM-Sp65P32

Images © Martins Bank Archive Collections

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Prefab Branch in use at Litherland 1969 MBM-Sp69P42For twenty-one years, Martins Bank’s fleet of Mobile Branches brings the Bank to estates and remote villages where customers might otherwise have nowhere else to do their banking. There is also Martins’ Pre-Fabricated branch (pictured, right) which proves invaluable as a temporary service whilst a new branch of Martins is being built, or an old one renovated. In the Spring of 1969, the pre-fab pitches up at Litherland, Liverpool 21 to provide a continuation of service during the knock-down and rebuild of that particular Branch.  We now have images of the pre-fabricated Branch both inside and out, on our LITHERLAND page. There is also the “portable branch” depicted in the first two images below which is designed in 1930 by Herbert J Rowse, Architect of the Bank’s Head Office at Liverpool. The third image is a later open counter version which will probably have been used at indoor events such as the “Fresher Fairs” at Universities.

Images © Martins Bank Archive Collections

Image © Barclays Ref 0030-1673

At trade fairs, Martins usually MBLW 1.jpgcommissions a stand in keeping with the event. You can see a selection of Martins’ trade stands by clicking HERE. Launched as “both dignified and impressive”, Martins Mobile Bank makes its debut during the “Silver Lining Savings Week” promotion, which runs from 28 Feb to 6 March 1948.


Several banks are experimenting with the idea of mobile branches, and with the idea expected to catch on quickly Martins chooses Coventry Steel Caravans Ltd of Warwick to build the first of what be a whole fleet of mobile bank branches. 


These will become a familiar sight in towns and villages across the land, and at numerous agricultural shows over the next twenty years.  The new service is greeted in a fairly modest article in the Summer 1948 edition of Martins Bank Magazine.  Little do they know at this time, that the mobile bank will disappear without a trace in the 1970s and then triumphantly re-appear in the twenty-first century…

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1948 02 MBM.jpgThe Mobile Bank is dignified and impressive – an excellent advertisement for the bank.  it contains a customers’ space, complete with table and chairs; a counter with room for two cashiers if necessary; a small office space; and a manager’s room with table and three chairs and a telephone.  Illumination is provided by calor gas.  There is also a heating system, while in hot weather the roof can be thrown open.  Entrance for the staff is through the manager’s room at the front; that for the public being at the rear.  Fittings throughout are in the best banking tradition, expensive wood being used for furniture and panelling…



1950 s Mobile Branch at Agricultural Shows ad MBA.jpg

1950 s The Good Earth MBA

Images © Martins Bank Archive Collections

1949 – Out and About at Agricultural Shows

1949 Mobile Branch at Penrith Show MBM-Sp49P54.jpg

1949 Mobile Branch at Tunbridge Wells MBM-Sp49P53.jpg

1949 Mobile Branch in Kelso MBM-Sp49P53.jpg


Tunbridge Wells



1957 – Coming to an estate near you, the original “bank on wheels”!

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In an attempt to “get closer to the working classes” as Martins top Management rather condescendingly has it, Mobile Branches are deployed on housing estates where families manage their affairs in cash only – the hope is that they will see how easy it is to have a bank acccount, and how regular savings can be made safer, and earn interest by being deposited with the Bank.  Martins takes this experiment a stage further with a special sub branch on a housing estate at ERNESETTLE, Plymouth in 1958.  Friend of the Archive Sir Brian Pearse, was in 1957 one of the staff chosen to help run the mobile service on housing estates in Liverpool.  We asked him to recall for us how the service came about, and what it was like in practice…


{During the war, large parts of central Liverpool were bombed. Very many houses were old anyway and few had inside toilets and so it was decided to build new towns in Kirkby and Croxteth. The remnants of the houses in Liverpool were demolished. Huge numbers of houses were built and also schools and, surprisingly, churches but hardly any shops.


Martins decided that a mobile service was the answer until permanent branches could be built and so we started the Kirkby and Croxteth arrangement, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings in Kirkby and afternoons in Croxteth. Platforms were built on both sites with appropriate notices. “Head Office” for us was Clubmoor Branch and with a clerk (Tom Gilkes who now lives near me) and a driver, we commenced operations. When the driver was on holiday, I had to drive the vehicle which frightened the life out of me!


The police had a sweepstake to see who could guess the date when we would be raided but that never happened.  I then moved to Liverpool District Office, and over the next couple of years, Kirkby branch was opened and both services were withdrawn. }


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On the road with the Mobile Branch Team…

MMB 1961

Wolsingham Show


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The Wolsingham and Wear Valley Agricultural Show is one of 79 events in 1961 at which Martins will be represented by its fleet of Mobile Branches. Teams of staff are poised to drive to the venues, set up the caravan and even decorate the plot on which is stands, with flowers and plants.  Martins Bank prints a 23-page itinerary to show each of the Mobile Banking Teams when and where they have to be, and where they will be staying overnight.  They are also provided with the name of a local florist who will help the mobile branch live up to its prizewinning reputation!


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1961 I Wolsingham show preparations IMG

1961 K Wolsingham Show Last minute trim.IMG_0001

1961 M Wolsingham Show Malcolm Humble (C-in-C) IMG

Preparation of the pitch and finishing touches

Clerk in charge: Malcolm Humble

1961 N Wolsingham Show Julian Taylor (Cashier)   IMG

1961 O Wolsingham Show  Jack Craven (Messenger)  IMG

1961 P Tidying up. Bank Land Rover in background. IMG_0003

Cashier: Julian Taylor

Messenger: Jack Craven

Tidying up before moving on…


Images © Martins Bank Archive Collections - Julian Taylor 1961 to date

 The Garstang Show

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In this fabulous image, donated by friend of the archive Ken Weights, one of the Bank’s Mobile Branches wins the cup for best stand at the Garstang Show in 1966.  Our thanks go not only to Ken, but also to Jack Adams and one or two others who helped - either by identification or elimination - to name most of the people in the line up: (L to R) possibly Mr Howarth, former Manager at Garstang, Chris Dash, Keith Hammond and Ken Weights.

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1966 Unknown show location Ken Weights.jpg

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Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections - Ken Weights 1966 to date


Treasures from “a life on the road”…

When someone contacts the Archive with their memories of life at Martins Bank, it is always a moment that reveals some aspect of the job we have wanted to know more about. Memories themselves are precious enough, but when they come ready illustrated not only by photographs, but  as vibrant COLOUR images, we and our visitors feel as if we have struck gold. So it was that Graham Nicholls (pictured, right) contacted us to tell us about his time working for Martins Bank’s Mobile Branch and Shows programme in the mid to late 1960s, and bringing it vividly to life by adding a rich seam of colour photos from his own collection.  Known by former colleagues as a keen amateur photographer, Graham manages to capture those brief “off-guard” moments when staff at the show and mobile branches were able to let their hair down for just a minute or two in the midst of what was the very hard work involved in pitching up at events across the land. Graham’s memories and photos show a Bank that is at the height of its success, in an optimistic decade where no-one would even think for a moment that the future would be any different…

“Prior to my joining in early 1964 we had 3 mobile branches on the road during the show season which also attended other events, such as the International Air Fair at Biggin Hill and various golf tournaments like the Open Golf and the Ryder Cup. We had at that time No. 2 Mobile Branch as a reserve unit and No. 4 Articulated Branch which was laid up in Watsons Garage in Birkenhead being used to attend site No 1 in Kirkby and another site on the outskirts of Liverpool. Messenger John Holywell drove and looked after this Branch, but the need largely disappeared when permanent premises were built.

Each of the travelling mobiles had a staff of three - a Clerk in Charge, who also shared the driving and towing, a Cashier, and a Messenger/Driver.  All the clerical staff did a one season stint but one of the Clerks in Charge was invited to stay on at the end of their season to prepare the next seasons programme assisted by Miss Joan Hall who was the secretary of the Mobile Branches programme. Bearing in mind there were no mobile phones, no texting and no computers, this was a mammoth task involving literally hundreds of hotel bookings, site bookings, floral displays extra staff most of which required the use of snail mail.

In addition to organising the programme, I also had to arrange to take each of the Mobile Branches down to the manufacturer, Coventry Steel Caravans at Newport Pagnall, for an annual overhaul and making good of any minor damage which had occurred during the season. They were then taken on from there to a factory in Hayes where the electric braking system was overhauled. Since this involved a four-day trip for delivery and recovery of the Mobile Branch, it involved me and one of the messengers. Naturally a trip to London was quite an attraction!  After completing my second year on Mobiles the Bank decided to buy a new moveable Show Pavilion which was commissioned from Beck and Pollitzer who were exhibition contractors. They designed and built it, transported and erected it at four or five of the larger shows. At this point I made noises about my extra responsibilities and it was agreed that I would be given Pro Manager status and signing authority. From then on, I signed my own expenses!

Later on in my period in mobiles the Bank decided to scrap the dismountable pavilion, which had been used at the Royal Show for several years because it was reaching the end of its useful life and it was decided to build a permanent pavilion at the Royal Show Ground. This was designed by the Bank Staff Architect, David Silcott and I liaised with him on the final practicalities etc. I was very happy doing this job and carried on until the time of the merger.  After the proposed merger was announced I had telescopic flag poles attached to each end of the mobile branches, and we flew the Martins Bank flag at one end and the Barclays flag at the other during that year between the announcement of the merger and integration day. They would extend to a height of about 25 feet.

The joint programme worked well but after integration day it was made clear that we, the Martins section, was going to disappear and I found myself doing odd jobs around Head Office and was unable to supervise the dismantling of the mobile section so a lot of the archives were lost, professional publicity photos and all the old records were I suppose disposed of, my Secretary had also been whisked off elsewhere... 

I eventually moved to Luton district of Barclays and had to obviously relearn banking having been out of banking for 6 years and had to learn the Barclays system. A week after I arrived, I got a request to go to Harrogate where Barclays contractors had made a complete mess of trying to site the mobile branch at the Spring Flower Show and had burnt out the clutch on the Land Rover. I drove over to Harrogate and sited it for them. The contractors were about to depart when I pointed out it had not been cleaned. All the exterior bright work, beadings, footwells etc. were aluminium which had to be polished and cleaned for every show. They finally left when we finished in the evening, then I retired to a hotel. That was my final contact with Mobiles.

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Number 6 Mobile Branch used 1964-1969

Number 7 Mobile Branch

Permanent Branch at the Great Yorkshire Showground

Pavillion at the Royal show ca. 1969

Harveys of Bristol who were customers of the Bank and as you probably are aware made excellent Sherry. The Bank commissioned its own brand from Harveys which was named Harveys Bank Sherry and was drunk only in the board room at Head Office.  We got a special supply to use on the mobile branches, but when the Harvey's account went to another Bank the Martins Directors decided no more Harvey Sherry would be drunk in the board room, so all their Sherries were disposed of by being given to the Mobile Branch Section. This caused some embarrassment in the Mobile store in the sub-basement, since there were quite a few cases to store, so I decided the best solution was to consume some of it. For a few days we had informal drink sessions in the basement which some fairly senior managers got wind of and partook”.

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Keith Hammond at the Great Yorkshire Showground Branch

John Shelly and Rex Abbott – setting up shop

John Holywell and Mobile Branch at Daybreak

Norman Bond and Rex Abbott and a flat tyre

No 7 Mobile Branch and Staff

Staff in the upstairs lounge, Royal Show Pavillion

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The fleet of mobile branches is co-ordinated from the Bank’s Liverpool Head Office.  This involves deployment of staff and messengers/guards, the hiring of seasonal staff, and planning the complicated itinerary that ensures the caravans turn up to the right events on the right days. In the spring 1965 edition of Martins Bank Magazine, Joan Hall of Premises Department, Head Office, writes about the ups and downs of organising the Mobile Branch Fleet.

Show Season - The background story

of the mobile branch programme…

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1965 01 MBM.jpgwhen the first of our mobile branches sets out from Liverpool on April 5th it will signify the beginning of another season of agricultural shows, sporting fixtures and other events at which the Bank is represented through this post-war development which provides banking services to customers, exhibitors and the public.  The 'season' lasts from April to mid-October and the appearance of our three mobile branches on time on each showground is largely the result of the work carried on at Head Office during the remaining months of the year.  Planning begins in October for the senior clerk-in-charge from the season just finished and for myself—the permanent link with the crews when on tour. Information on the next season's shows has to be obtained from agricultural societies and our own branches so that a programme can be drafted and approved by the General Management in December. Then follows the application for sites, consideration of their suitability, and reservation of both site and hotel accommoda­tion for the staff: in some cases it is necessary to make arrangements two years in advance. Consideration must also be given to the type and size of floral displays and surrounding layout. and to arrangements for telephone service, marquee floorings and garaging where necessary, together with cash arrangements in conjunction with the local branch.

1967: Cooling down on a hot day!

Arthur Jackson of the Mobile Branch Staff relaxing briefly at a show in the North East.

Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections – Barbie Jamieson

1960: At the Royal National Eisteddfod

(Centre 1965 – the Urdd National Eisteddfod Cup in safe keeping at Cardiff St Mary Street Branch)

Images © Martins Bank Archive Collections



In addition there are the intricacies of servicing and renewals for the mobile branches, towing vehicles, tents and equipment and sometimes, as this year, additional work connected with the construction of a new mobile branch. Towards the end of March the detailed itinerary is completed, with particulars of hotels, floral displays, controlling branches and the many features which vary from show to show.

1961 Conservative Party Conference

The new clerks-in-charge will have joined us, the drivers will be making their final check of their vehicles and the cashiers will join their crews a week before the departure to help with the loading of equipment and to familiarise themselves with the type of work they will undertake during the season.This is a hectic time with seemingly endless queries, parcels of equipment and stationery arriving daily, and five or six people trying not to fall over each other.

It is understandable that I see them safely on their way with considerable relief for I can then settle down to clearing up, establishing a system for the summer months and coping with any minor points which may have been overlooked. The respective show files, admission tickets, and so on, have to be for­warded by registered post in advance of each show, the files being returned later, with details of the show, for inclusion in the report which is made at the end of the season.

Apart from our representation at these shows by means of the mobile branches, elaborate stands are set up at national exhibitions in London.These are dealt with by our Premises Department, London, but the arrangements for the Bank to be represented at many smaller exhibitions, fairs and conferences in other parts of the country have to be made by the mobile section at Head Office.  One never knows what the next telephone call will bring. It may be news of a breakdown which can involve the dispatch of the reserve unit or even an alteration in the programme, but it is a matter of pride that we have never yet failed to attend a show, although there have been times when it was touch and go.

1964: Out and about

Occasionally, however, shows have to be cancelled owing to adverse weather or outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, with consequent amendments to the schedule. In one startling phone message the clerk-in-charge of a mobile branch calmly announced that they had just been in collision with an aeroplane. In fact the mobile branch and an aircraft transporter had come face to face in a narrow lane and the damage had been done in the endeavour to squeeze past, nevertheless we can perhaps claim the distinction of being the only Bank to experience a brush with an aircraft.  On another occasion a clerk-in-charge informed us that he had been called up and was already absent without leave! This was perfectly true. He was an Army Reservist and during the Suez troubles his call-up papers had followed him round the shows for a week and had only just caught up with him. He had however been granted a 24-hour reprieve by the police to 'get rid of his mobile branch: a former member of a crew took over immediately and saw the pro­gramme through.


MB Cockermouth.jpg

1951: Cockermouth Show

MB City of Leicester.jpg

1955: City of Leicester Show

MB Liverpool Show.jpg

1956: Liverpool Show


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It might seem that the office end of the mobile branch section is the least attractive but to me it is one of the most interesting jobs in the Bank. My only regret is that just as I am getting to know the staff, they leave; their replacements arrive and I have to start again getting to know them and explaining the work and the procedure. But on the occasions when I visit the shows it is with a sense of pride that I see the results of what I have helped to achieve as the permanent link in the mobile chain.

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Down your way…

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Following an article about our Archive which featured in the pages of the Sunderland Echo, we are delighted to have received the images shown below, which were taken at various shows and events during Martins’ 1968 Show Season.  It is clear that whilst life on the road makes a welcome change from life inside a branch, the work is not as easy as you might think.  David J Watson, who very kindly sent us the images, also recalls for us the chaotic end to the 1968 season, in what he refers to as -

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In the summer of 1968 I was selected as a cashier for the Mobile Branches which visited the various agricultural shows around the country. With Clerk in Charge Adrian Morrell and messenger/driver Norman Bond we towed the caravan with a Land Rover around the north of England. After the  programme had got underway, we were advised that another show had been added to our list.  The Frome Show (Somerset) was way off our patch and came between the Westmorland County Show, at Kendal, and the Bellingham Show (Northumberland).  Apparently, the previous year the caravan at the Frome Show had not been well attended so it had been removed from the 1968 programme.  However, Colonel Roberts, a member of the Bank’s local board of directors, was the President (?) of the show that year and he felt it looked bad if his bank was not represented, hence the late inclusion.  My memories of that summer are mainly of sunny days and only very occasional rain - except for the Westmorland Show - when it rained heavily for at least a day before the show and most of the next morning.  There was a bottleneck on the show ground through which most of the traffic (pedestrian and motorised) had to pass and the ground churned up terribly.  This morass was close to our stand and customers coming in and out of the caravan left it in a filthy condition. 

1968 Norman Bond at Westmorland Show DJW MBA.jpg


Messenger Norman Bond in uniform and wellies

at the very muddy Westmorland Show

Image © David J Watson 1968

The mud was so bad that Norman and I had to take the Land Rover to cross the show ground to get to the restaurant tent for lunch.  At the start of the programme I was told to take a pair of Wellington boots with me for use when cleaning and setting up the caravan for each show but Kendal was the first time, I actually wore them when serving customers and wearing a suit. When the show ended, we did a basic clean up but had to wait until we arrived at Frome before we could clean the caravan from top to bottom - a task we did not relish as the season was almost over. Luckily, we had a few days between shows to complete our task.  In the end everything was ready in time and I even got to meet Colonel Roberts. I recall the show was on a Thursday and a mad dash followed when we had to get to the other end of the country for the Bellingham Show at the weekend. We made it!


1968 Norman Bond at Westmorland Show DJW MBA.jpg

1968 Norman Bond at Westmorland Show DJW MBA.jpg

1968 Norman Bond at Westmorland Show DJW MBA.jpg

David Watson ready to serve from

behind the counter at

the 1968 Bury Show

Adrian Morrell and Norman Bond beside the  Land Rover and caravan at Pannal Golf Club 

(Dunlop Masters Golf)

Adrian and Norman beside the caravan

 set up for the Northumberland

County Show


Mobile Branches Staff Gallery

1964 Mr T Blossom Clerk in Charge Show and Exhibition Branches MBM-Su64P26





John V Eastwood

1948 -

Mr N E Gibbons

1948 to 1952

Mr C D Mudd

1950 to 1952

Mr D Fielden


Mr Tom Blossom


Mr P D Dyson

1956/7 and 1959




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1964 Mr BG Pearse Inspector Leeds District Office MBM-Wi64P09






Mr Brian Pearse


Mr Mike P M Brown

1957 to 1958

Mr S E Palk

1957 to 1958

Mr E H Griffiths

1958 to 1959

Mr A Pigdon

1959 to 1960

Mr N A Pritchard

1959 to 1960




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1956 to 1961 D Julian Taylor DJT

1950 to 1952 Mr M L Humble joined the bank here MBM-Au64P06

1956 Mr C J T Dash MBM-Sp69P05






Mr Julian Taylor

1959 to 1960

Mr Malcolm Humble


Mr Alan Atkin

1960 to 1962

Mr P Little

1962 to 1963

Mr R B Dixon

1963 to 1964

Mr C J T Dash





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1966 Mr K Weights - Ken Weights MBA

1964 Mr David J Watson






Mr K Weights


Mr A J Morrell

1967 to 1968

Mr G Nicholls


Mr Norman  Bond


Mr David J Watson


Mr Rex H Abbott


Wait a minute, isn’t that one of our caravans?

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In the early part of the twenty-first century, some seventy years after Martins Mobile Bank took to the road for the first time, the revival of the Mobile Bank is a wonderful tribute to the pioneers of this service.  Trade stands have never really gone away, and now that you can once more pop into a mobile branch once a week in many towns and villages, it’s like the whole idea has come full circle. Sadly though the “bank on wheels” does not hold the same romantic appeal at its predecessor.  What goes around, truly DOES come around– but wait a minute, wind back to 1969, and with the merger barely a few minutes old - isn’t this one of OUR caravans?


Images © Barclays Ref 0003-4810-0012

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