What will the future hold for iconic Morecambe bank?

Arguably the finest building in Morecambe has closed its doors for the final time, ending nearly 130 years of continuous banking.

By Michelle Blade
Monday, 4th May 2020, 10:40 am
Barclays Bank Morecambe. Picture by Tony North
Barclays Bank Morecambe. Picture by Tony North

Barclays Bank, a five-storey Grade II listed building, occupying a prominent corner position in Euston Road, has been a striking feature of the resort since 1890.

It is recognised nationally as a structure of “special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it.”

Which raises questions about what its future might hold.

Ian Atkinson has happy memories of the bank. Picture by Tony North.

It was back in 1890 that the then Kendal Bank of Messrs Wakefield Crewdson ordered work to start on what has been described as this “fabulous miniature palace”.

It was completed on time, only, subsequently, to be handed over to the Bank of Liverpool, which took over the Kendal Bank in 1893.

The famous Liver Bird can still be seen above the main entrance.

This was a period of tremendous growth as Morecambe’s holiday industry began to accelerate dramatically. In just two years, from 1896 to 1898, there was a truly remarkable building programme.

The West End Pier opened at Easter in 1896.

The Albert Hall, used mostly for concerts, opened that same year in Victoria Street.

The Victoria Pavilion and Winter Gardens opened in July 1897. The Royalty Theatre, just along from the bank building, raised its curtain in 1898, followed in the same year by the Morecambe Pier Pavilion and West End Pier extension.

And, in the course of just 12 months, between 300 and 400 large boardinghouses were completed, mostly in the West End.

The new bank, created in Bavarian style, was built of sandstone with a steep red tile roof and prominent spire.

There were three storeys and two attic storeys, home for the bank’s caretaker.

In 1918 the building became known as the Bank of Liverpool and Martins and 10 years later transformed into Martins Bank alone.

The final change came in 1969 when Barclays Bank took over, with Barclays closing its own branch in Cheapside in 1971.

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Many fond memories for Ian

The bank’s closure has revived many fond memories for Ian Atkinson, whose father, Robert, was pro manager, first with Martins and then Barclays, based in the building from 1968 until 1979.

Ian recalled how, on Saturday mornings, his father would take him to the bank, where he would often find himself bagging up threepenny bits in green paper

packets.

He came to know the building well, exploring all five floors, including the strongroom and cellar and the rooms under the eaves.

And he was an early saver, from being three or four years-old – his father opened an account for him, under the Martins name, which rewarded him with a prized orange coloured grasshopper money box, which Ian still keeps coins in today.

Those were the days when managers knew pretty well all their customers personally, forging strong relationships between bank and customer.

But not all those who entered its doors had such faith in the bank’s ability to protect their savings.

Ian said some customers actually wanted to count their money personally to make sure it was still in the bank – they would be shown to a private room and the appropriate sum would be emptied on to a table.

The customer would count and then leave, satisfied.

On one occasion a woman customer at a different bank, clearly unhappy about something, withdrew all her considerable savings, put them in a bag and walked across town to Ian’s father’s bank to open an account.

Should the bank burglar alarm sound during the night, the manager would be expected to enter the building first to check while the police waited outside.

Ian, an accountant, and a former managing director of Steamtown Railway Museum at Carnforth, said: “It is an iconic building that looks down to the sea and it is sad to see it close.

“I have many happy memories of the time my dad worked there and of when I was able to go there with him.”