Amidst the celebrations of the Bank’s 400TH Anniversary in April 1963, Martins Bank is keen to espouse all things modern as well as ancient. New technologies pioneered by Martins Bank have already established the cheque clearing system we still use today, and with a number of FIRSTS under its belt on customer side of things, the Bank now turns its attention to the matter of Staff Training. By 1963 four staff training centres have been established – one each in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and London – catering mainly for the lower levels of staff through a variety of non-residential courses.  In addition, Machine Schools are established in a number of branches to teach the operation of the bookkeeping machines that have not yet been replaced by computers.  Now it is the turn of the senior staff to experience a new kind of training course, a residential one.  The first of these is the 1963 Senior Domestic Training Course at Alston Hall, Lancashire.


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For its first experiment in the sphere of residential training the Bank chose Alston Hall, a Victorian house set in the Lancashire country­side about 7 miles from Preston and overlooking a picturesque stretch of the River Ribble. Built in 1876 by a St. Helens colliery owner, the Hall now belongs to Preston Education Committee and is in constant demand for residential courses. Its comfortable furnishings and thoughtful decorations combine to create a pleasant atmosphere but let no one imagine that this is a holiday home! The leader of the Course, which was of a fortnight's duration from 24th March to 6th April, was Mr. P. M. Lister (Leeds Assistant District Manager) who has had experience in the past with the organisation of Domestic Training Courses. Assisting him as leaders of the four syndicates into which the Course was divided were Mr. R. P. Gordon (Personal Assistant to the Chief General Manager), Mr. D. W. Hall (Midland District Superintendent of Branches), Mr. A. J. A. James (Inspector, Liverpool District Office) and Mr. H. Taylor (Sub Manager, Preston).

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Also on the 'staff' for the duration of the Course, acting as secretary and keeper of the records, was Mrs. Marion Massey, formerly of Preston branch. Her friends in the Liverpool District will probably remember her better as Marion Tyrer of Liverpool District Office where she worked until her marriage. But why should a Course be residential? Consideration of the syllabus and of the trainees participating provides the answer. The twenty-eight men selected for the Senior Training Course were recently-appointed managers and assistant managers, managers-designate, senior men from specialist departments and several 'second men'. They were there not for technical training (although the technical side was not over­looked) but to consider the wider aspects of banking: the relationship of bank and customer, of manager and customer; the internal workings of the Bank and the relationship of each division of control with the common object of service to the customer; dealings with other banks; the proper consideration of staff; the Bank's premises. The broader meaning of branch management and appreciation of those aspects of current affairs significant to bankers also came under discussion. It was considered that for the trainee to contribute his best to and gain the most from the studies it was essential to maintain an atmosphere of continual and progressive discussion. This only a residential course could achieve.

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Mr A Struthers speaking at a review session

The syndicate system

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Each of the four syndicates comprised seven men drawn from the widest field of educational background and banking experience.  The uni­versity graduate from the London District, the Northerner who had passed through Liverpool on his way to the South Western District, the man from the Midland District and the North Easterner whose career had been spent exclusively in that area found themselves working together. Never before had men from each of the Bank's Districts and with such varied experience met in such circumstances. 


The syndicate system was based on the pattern of the Administrative Staff College at Henley. For each study a different member of the seven was appointed chairman and briefed by his syndicate leader as to the terms of reference. It was then up to the chairman to explain the objects of the study to his fellows and set each the task of research into one or more facets of the topic so that when all seven members came to pool their findings a summary could be prepared in the form of a speech. The four chairmen made their speeches in a 'review session' before all members of the Course and, in the case of some of the studies, in the presence of the Head Office official within whose sphere the study fell. The latter commented on each syndicate's findings and then expanded upon the theme. At the time of our visit to the Course 'current affairs' were being shaped into speech form by the syndicates, each working in separate rooms and quite independently of each other.


One syndicate was discussing the effect on the Bank that the drift to the south of the country would have, a situation which, it was judged, the Beeching plan for the railways might easily aggravate. To the views collected from the press and elsewhere the member from the North East was able to add first-hand knowledge. The final review session which concerned branch management was attended by the Chairman of the Bank, Sir John Nicholson, Bart., C.I.E., and the Chief General Manager, Mr. M. Conacher.  Syndicate meetings each lasted one and a half hours: from 9.30 to 11.0 a.m. and 11.30a.m. to 1.0 p.m., and again from 5.0 to 6.30 p.m. and 8.0 to 9.30 p.m., leaving the afternoons free. On several days of the fortnight one period was set aside for a lecture by a senior official of the Bank and usually lasted one hour, leaving the remaininghalf-hour for questions. The first lecture 'How the Bank works' was delivered by Mr. D. O. Maxwell (Deputy Chief General Manager). Mr. T. I. Bond (Assistant General Manager (Admin­istration)) gave a talk on relations with banks at home. Mr. L. J. Walton (Assistant General Manager) came from London to speak on the Money Market, and Mr. A. R. W. Wetherell (Chief Overseas Manager) on relations with overseas banks. 

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Back Row (left to right):

A Atkin   A Potter   A W Denton

R N Weightman   C G S Tiffin

C Wilson   R E Pickering   J E Davies

D M J Harding   A W Wescombe

Middle Row:

J E Crowe   J R K Dean

T A Douglas   P Barwell   J W Kay

R D Batey   A Hill   C A Shuttleworth

R J Pearson   E M Farrell   R T Insull


T E Rigby   R J Halford   A Struthers

D W Hall   A J A James   P M Lister

R P Gordon   H Taylor   M W Thompson

J B Hawkins   D J Crellin   F Tunstall

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Questioning the specialists

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In addition to the lectures, four 'syndicate visitors' made themselves available at individual syndicate sessions for questioning on their particular subject. The visitors were Mr. A. J. Frost (Income Tax Manager of the Bank), Mr. D. G. Hanson (Assistant Manager, Head Office Trustee Department), Mr. R. Hindle (Manager, Organisation Research and Development De­partment), and Mr. J. L. Shenton (Superintendent of Branches (Staff)). Although the time-table specified six hours each day for study many more were, in fact, worked, the evening session, on occasion, stretching well into the night. By its very nature the syndicate system encouraged this tendency and the trainees appreciated the value of each extra minute. The afternoons, however, had beenset aside specifically to give the trainees a necessary break but these, too, were frequently spent in study, work continuing either in the Hall or during strolls in the grounds. The absence of recreational facilities in or around the Hall was possibly responsible for this. Despite the intensity of the Course, humour was not lacking (a gathering of twenty-eight men is bound to produce at least one comedian!). Neither were creature comforts overlooked for although the Hall is not licenced it had been possible to arrange for modest bar facilities to be available for a period before dinner each evening. For those who sought atmosphere and draught, however, there was the local inn once the evening session had ended at 9.30.  We gained the impression, talking to the trainees, that by the end of the Course they expected to be quite exhausted but considerably wiser, sentiments also expressed by the Course leaders. And surely to produce wiser bankers was the very object of the Course.

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