Martin's Bank Limited (1563-1918)

Scope and Content

This archive documents a good example of an early City private banking partnership, comparable with that of Barclay, Bevan & Co., a co-eval goldsmith banking firm that occupied a nearby shop on Lombard Street.

There are good sets of accounting records for the partnership (including customer balances), from 1729 to the mid-1800s; and for the joint stock company from 1891 onwards.

The letter-book series, comprising rough copies of letters written by the partners and manager to their customers and others, is a largely untapped source. The early ones mention the South Sea Bubble and other financial events. From 1891 the letters were written by the directors of the newly converted company.

In 1773 one of the partners, Richard Stone, was appointed as an assignee for creditors of the liquidation of the estate of Messrs Dreyer and Dreyer, merchants based in London. The records from this operation, which have survived in the Bank's archives, document the firm's customers between the 1760s and 1780s. Most of these bear Dutch names. This series of records harks back to the close connection of Sir Thomas Gresham (nominal founder of The Grasshopper) with the Low Countries. Clients' papers also include personal and office papers of John Thornhill, a director of the East India Company in the early 1800s, for whom one of the partners acted as executor.

There is an unusually detailed set of accounts documenting the rebuilding of the firm's banking house at the sign of the grasshopper (68 Lombard Street) in the mid-1790s, an undertaking overseen and designed by the City of London's architect, George Dance the younger. There are also deeds and papers concerning two of the Lombard Street coffee houses and their absorption by Martins, including a published pamphlet describing Baker's (by then a chop house) in the early 1900s.

Staff items include records of The Grasshopper Society, set up in 1900-01 to hold meetings about natural history, antiquities, history and related subjects.

Items of non-banking interest include one of the partners' accounts as a member of the Board of Green Cloth, collecting property tax revenues as Receiver-General for the palaces of Whitehall and St. James in the early 1800s. The same partner - George Stone - has also left a detailed note book of his travels to seaside resorts in Kent and Sussex in the same period. There are papers concerning one of the Martin partners' candidature for parliament in the Gladstone era, including a local petition for women's suffrage in 1881. Other organisations in which the partners had interests and which are documented here include the British North Borneo Company, a Freemasons' Lodge in London, and the Railway Travellers' Protection Society and Association, of which Richard Biddulph Martin was a founder in 1873.

Partnership and Company

  • Partnership agreements 1714, 1748-59, 1770, 1777, 1782
  • Circular and papers re incorporation of firm under Companies Act 1891
  • Memorandum & Articles of Association of Martin's Bank Limited, with agreements for incorporation of partnership 1891-1918
  • Papers re stock exchange listing 1906
  • Partners' and directors' out-letter books 1714-21, 1726-31, 1749-57, 1778-80, 1793, 1795-97, 1800, 1820-21, 1836-37, 1855-56, 1876-1916
  • Letter from R B Martin to R B Martin senior re Bank's profits 1888
  • Letter from unnamed bank suggesting amalgamation 1908
  • Papers of Richard Stone as trustee of The Million Bank inc extracts from statutes, minutes, legal opinions, published lists of members 1695-1793
  • MS. and proofs of The Grasshopper,....the Banking House at 68 Lombard Street, with an Introductory Sketch of the History of Money-Lending by John Biddulph Martin 1873
  • Papers of J B Martin produced and collected in course of research for The Grasshopper in Lombard Street inc plan of Langborn and Candlewick ward 1755, photographs of 68 Lombard Street and adjacent premises prior to rebuilding, photographs of portraits for publication, arms of partners' families, proofs of book, list of presentation copies 1718-1903
  • Deeds and papers re properties of the partnership families (Martin, Stone, Blackwell, Foote) inc marriage settlements, and probates of partners' wills: Andrew Stone 1712, Richard Stone 1763, Ebenezer Blackwell 1782, John Foote 1798, John Martin 1832, James Martin 1879, John Martin 1880, Robert and John Biddulph Martin 1897
  • Share certificates of the partners in Bank of the United States 1824-29
  • Records re ownership and management of sugar estates in British Guiana 1850-1913
  • Partners' papers re the bank's interests in investments, public companies etc. 1872-1940
  • Amalgamation agreements and papers re merger with Bank of Liverpool 1918

Board and Directors

  • Agenda books for board meetings, inc record of voting items 1891-1918
  • Board minutes (indexed) 1891-1918
  • Half-yearly published reports and accounts 1891-1918

Accounting records

  • Balance books (daily cash) 1729-37, 1745-64, 1771-75, 1789-92, 1796-99, 1847-59
  • Balance books (annual) 1731-52, 1755-67, 1787-97, 1803-06, 1811-15, 1820-25, 1834-42
  • Profit & Loss accounts and statements 1731-52, 1755-70, 1891-1915
  • Daily position books (ledger, note, discount) 1754-68, 1778-82, 1796-1800, 1805-09, 1816-22, 1836-43, 1845-48, 1859-73
  • Balance sheet and former partners' accounts 1891-1900
  • Bills paid and Stock ledger, with house expenses 1731-35
  • Receipt books of partners for brokerage, commissions, notarial transactions, building and tradesmen's work, supplies etc. 1745-94
  • Respondentia bonds for loans secured on shipping cargoes 1756-85
  • Bill of sale to bank for share in ship 'Lord Mansfield' 1773
  • Bills discounted 1802-15
  • Sundry Old Debts ledgers 1850-1918
  • Head Office ledger 1891-1913
  • Accounting papers for report and accounts 1891-1918
  • Half-yearly published statements of assets and liabilities under Companies Acts 1902-18
  • Statistical summaries of balances, investments, loans, liabilities, profit & loss, dividends 1891-1908
  • Loan securities ledger 1897-1904
  • Statements of account with foreign and overseas banks 1898-99
  • Bills discounted book 1911-14
  • Foreign exchange ledgers 1911-13, 1915-18


  • Agenda book for general meetings 1891-1918
  • Minutes of general meetings 1891-1918
  • Proceedings (verbatim transcripts) of general meetings 1892-1918
  • Return of shareholders living abroad under Trading with the Enemy Act 1915
  • Letter announcing amalgamation with Bank of Liverpool 1918


  • Customer balances, annual 1731-52, 1755-67, 1787-97, 1803-06, 1811-15, 1820-25, 1834-42 [as above]
  • Weekly balances, customers A-F 1847-71
  • Christmas balances and discounts 1873
  • Stocks and shares purchased for customers 1891-1904
  • Probates, accounts and papers of customers, retained by bank as creditor, executor, trustee, inc bankruptcies etc. c1700-19th cent
  • Accounts and letter-books for the liquidation of the business of Maurice and John Daniel Dreyer 1759-84
  • Administrator's accounts of the estate of Giovanna Baccelli, principal ballerina at Haymarket Theatre 1789-1824
  • Papers re Chancery case between Martins and Sir Robert Burton 1800-07
  • Deeds re mortgage of a plantation in Demerara 1800-02
  • Executor's accounts inc personal papers, diaries etc. of John Thornhill, East India Company director, inc his East India Patronage book, and first edition of Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop published in numbers of Master Humphrey's Clock 1815-41
  • Correspondence and related papers re the Duchess de Berri's property and custody of her art collection 1831-39
  • Correspondence and related papers re financing of ships built for Ottoman government 1850-56
  • Deeds and papers re Millwall Iron Works and Ship Yard inc detailed inventories of works contained in lease (1858), sale to Overend Gurney (1865) and subsequent legal actions 1866-70
  • Schedule of deeds and papers of public houses and other properties of Henty & Constable, Sussex brewers c1921

Staff records

  • Guarantee bonds for clerks entering the service of the Bank 1769-1895
  • Signed receipts of clerks for board and salary 1744-94, 1799-1870
  • Staff registers 1882-1925
  • Grasshopper Society minutes, accounts and papers 1900-23

Premises records

  • Decree of judicature for Edward Backwell to build houses after Great Fire 1670
  • Leases of 'The Grasshopper and exchange' 1678-98
  • Deeds re 67-68 Lombard Street 1700-1832
  • Deeds and papers re Garraway's Coffee House (inc sketch plan of 'coffee room' 1845), and its acquisition by Martins 1700-1891
  • Abstracts of title of James Martin to 67-68 Lombard Street (inc 'The Plough') inc extract from will of John Martin of Overbury 1705-97
  • Deeds, papers and photographs re Baker's Coffee House, Exchange Alley, and its acquisition by Martins 1784-1917
  • Published plan of premises affected by Lombard Street fire 1748, published plan of Langborn and Candlewick wards 1755, plan of Great Fire of Bishopsgate 1765
  • Print of perspective view of Bank of England 1756
  • Accounts and plans for rebuilding of The Grasshopper (68 Lombard Street) and adjacent premises, inc ground layout of banking shops 1791-94
  • Deeds and papers re 69 Lombard Street and its acquisition by Martins 1890
  • Papers inc correspondence with R Norman Shaw, architect, re rebuilding of The Grasshopper 1875-76
  • Requisitions on title for 68-69 Lombard Street 1891
  • Papers inc sketch plans re extent, rateable value, fire precautions, purchase, insurance etc. of premises at 68-70 Lombard Street early 1900s
  • Papers re sale of 70 Lombard Street to Lloyd's Bank 1913-18
  • Photographs of 67-70 Lombard Street c1890-1900s
  • Deeds and papers re premises of branches opened in Kent 1870-1925

Miscellaneous and non-banking records including political, travel and historical

  • War loan bond certificate 1694-1742
  • MS of play Esther by unknown author (possibly translation of Racine) c1740
  • Deeds of grant, admission and resignation for writers and keeper of registers and muniments of Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and agreement for division of its profits 1749-54, with accounts for distribution of profits 1776-94
  • Draft petition contesting the return of James Martin as M.P. for Tewkesbury c1794
  • Travel accounts and notes of George Stone in Kent and Sussex 1803-22
  • Accounts of George Stone as collector for the Board of Green Cloth 1805-22
  • Papers of R B Martin re St. Mark's Hospital 1870-1913
  • Papers of R B Martin as director and chairman of and banker to British North Borneo Company 1872-1913
  • Memorandum & Articles of Palestine Exploration Fund c1879
  • Papers re R B Martin's candidature and election as M.P. for Tewkesbury inc Liberal manifesto and petition from Tewkesbury citizens in favour of women's suffrage 1879-82
  • Papers re establishment and progress of Railway Travellers' Protection Society 1872-92
  • Papers re dispute between Richard Biddulph Martin and Financial Times over flotation of London White Lead Company 1878-89
  • Rules, reports, notices and other papers of Corporation of Foreign Bondholders 1878-1913
  • R B Martin's copy of Tales of the Bank of England 1882
  • Print of lithographic portrait of R B Martin 1882
  • R B Martin's copy of report on legality of issuing shares in public companies at a discount 1888
  • Papers of R B Martin as treasurer of Westminster & Keystone Lodge, No.10 1897-1901
  • Letter re James Martin as a surviving subscriber to a tontine issued at time of American War of Independence 1900
  • Arbitration award of R B Martin in Greffulhe Concessions, Zanzibar 1893
  • Letters to R B Martin petitioning for preferment to benefice of St. Edmund the King (Lombard St.) 1910
  • Papers of R Holland-Martin re history of Lombard Street, its shop signs, and decoration of the street for the coronation of George V 1886-1911
  • Papers re Fishmongers' Company 1902-13
  • Papers re Gresham's School, Norfolk 1907-13
  • Papers re London Chamber of Commerce 1911-13
  • Papers re Gresham windows at Great Ilford, and inscriptions at Titsey churches 1910-11
  • Papers re activities of the Institute of Bankers 1910-13
  • Minutes (printed) of City and Guilds of London Institute committees 1911, 1913
  • Specimen notes of the Northern Russian Provisional Government, with correspondece 1918-19

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1963 Martins Bank (the corporate apostrophe - 'Martin's Bank' - was used only briefly between 1891 and 1918), asserted its claim to a history of 400 years, tracing a direct line from Sir Thomas Gresham, Elizabeth I's financial agent, and celebrated this in style with a grand dinner at Goldsmiths' Hall. The board also commissioned a modern company history, based on original sources, from the respected librarian George Chandler, which was duly published and remains the standard work on Martins (see bibliography below). To support the claim further, Martins bought at auction in 1965 a letter to Gresham from the Queen dated 1567, and one of his gold signet rings, both of which are still held in the bank's archives today. This was a step further from the detailed published history by John Biddulph Martin (partner 1864-1891), issued in 1892, where the author referred to Gresham as, if not exactly the eponymic hero of the banking business, is yet associated with it by the sign of the Grasshopper, his family crest, which the premises bear to this day.

The 1963 celebration was no doubt prompted, in part at least, by the banking politics of the time. Martins had embarked on a modernization programme in order to compete with the Big Five clearing banks, but came to realise it would need more capital as banking computerization progressed. The 1960s also saw a relaxation by the Treasury of its long-standing presumption against banking mergers: National Provincial acquired the District Bank in 1962 and subsequently merged with Westminster. Martins became the next obvious candidate for acquisition, and after an initial proposal for the creation of a 'superbank' involving Lloyds and Barclays was rejected by the government, Martins was absorbed into the Barclays Group at the end of 1969.

1563 is the date by which Gresham's business is said to have been established 'at the sign of the grasshopper', later numbered as 68 Lombard Street. Gresham himself is recognized as one of the first English bankers. The line from Gresham's business to that of the 18th century partners at The Grasshopper is tenuous, but in 1963 it was claimed that Sir Richard Martin, a goldsmith and Master of the Mint, who had dealings with Gresham, could well have been the beginning of the Martin family's association with the Grasshopper which has continued to this day.

A continuous banking business at The Grasshopper can be traced from a succession of goldsmiths, tradesmen and bankers there in the 1600s: Clement Pung, Edward Backwell (described as 'a father of English banking'), Charles Duncombe, Richard Smith, Andrew Stone, and thence to Thomas Martin, who was made a partner in the firm in 1703 and is described as probably the first at the Grasshopper to be exclusively a banker. The surviving banking records of the firm date from 1714, although some relevant deeds and other documents date from the 1690s.

Thomas (c1680-1765), eldest surviving son of William Martin, coroner and mayor of Evesham, had come to London and by 1699 was a clerk to goldsmith banker Richard Smith (Smythe), with whom there is supposed to have been a family connection. Thomas was followed to London by two of his younger brothers, John and James. On the death of senior partner Andrew Stone (who described himself as a clock maker in his will) in 1711, Thomas was able to buy his share in the firm, costing some £9,000. In 1714 he brought brother James into partnership. This was a difficult period in the City, dominated as it was by the effects of the South Sea Bubble. Thomas retired from banking in 1726 and entered parliament, by which time the banking business had become firmly established and very profitable.

Under James Martin (c1693-1744), who remained senior partner until 1743, the bank expanded its business and reputation and built up a clientele drawn from the aristocracy and gentry. According to historian Iain Black in his DNB entry for the Martin family, Caution was the watchword....and with its emphasis on private deposit banking, the style and conduct of the Grasshopper was more akin to the aristocratic West End banks than the more aggressive commercial houses of the City.

The freehold of The Grasshopper was acquired some time after 1740, by which time the family had also established their principal country seat at Overbury, Worcestershire.

Under Joseph Martin (c1726-c1776), the firm was involved in the creation of the London clearing house in 1773, which became in due course essential for the settlement of balances between bankers. Joseph followed his father John (c1692-1767) as M.P. for Tewkesbury, had a house in Downing Street, and bequeathed great wealth that included lands in several counties.

Under Joseph's younger brother James Martin II (1738-1810), the bank again had to weather turbulent times during the French wars, and continued to pursue a cautious policy. Unlike banks such as Goslings and Barclays, Martins steered clear of acting as agents for country banks and investing heavily in early industrial schemes. Succeeding his brother as the third Martin to sit as M.P. for Tewkesbury, James held the seat between 1776 and 1807. Like Joseph he too lived in Downing Street, next door to William Pitt the younger, and though opposed politically he and Pitt were apparently personal friends.

The firm undertook a branch of marine finance in the mid-1700s through the use of respondentia bonds, securing loans on ships' cargoes. Many of these ships were working the East India trade. According to J B Martin's detailed published history (1892), Captain James Cook was one such master who borrowed from Martins. The partners seem also to have owned vessels or shares in vessels. The maritime connection is also documented through an account held by The Marine Society, now known as the world's first charity for seafarers. The bank also financed early turnpike schemes.

Other notable customers in this period included Barings, The Million Bank, the bishops of Derry, Bath & Wells and Lincoln, the dean and chapter of Worcester, Gonville & Caius College, Lord Howe (commander-in-chief during the American War of Independence), at least one duke of Marlborough, The London Hospital, The Foundling Hospital, Addenbrooks Hospital, River Dee Company, York Buildings Company, and an account for 'subscriptions for the redemption of British subjects, slaves at Algiers'.

In 1793-94 The Grasshopper was rebuilt in extended premises around Exchange ('Change) Alley, to the design of City architect George Dance.

Under James's son John Martin III (1774-1832), the bank weathered the trade depression following the peace in 1815, and the financial crisis of 1825-26. John became the fourth Martin to represent Tewkesbury in the Commons, holding the seat from 1812 to his death, being followed in turn by his son John IV who held the seat from 1837 to 1859. John III's offspring continued to supply a succession of partners in the firm for the rest of the 19th century, culminating in (Sir) Richard Biddulph Martin (1838-1916), who, as senior partner from 1878 onwards, became the first chairman of the newly converted joint stock bank in 1891. He also continued the Martin tradition as Liberal MP for Tewkesbury between 1880 and 1885, subsequently joining the Liberal Unionist cause as MP for Droitwich 1892-1905. He was one of the founders of the Institute of Bankers and shaped its early activities and syllabus.

Richard's brother John Biddulph Martin (d.1897) retired as managing director at the time of the incorporation to research and write the first detailed history of the Bank. He had surprised the family in 1883 by marrying Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927), the American campaigner for women's suffrage and social and labour reform, whose third marriage this was.

Meanwhile the Stones, descendants of the original Andrew (see above), also continued to provide junior partners, including the two Richards (father and son) in the 18th century, and George (d.1844) acting as senior partner in the 1830s until John Martin IV took over. As Iain Black has said in his DNB article on Andrew Stone, the fortunes of the two families were closely linked, shaping the growth of the firm into one of the foremost London private banking houses over the eighteenth century. Ebenezer Blackwell (partner c1747-1780) was also a significant figure in the firm, having started as a clerk in 1732.

Notable customers in the mid-1800s included the banking houses of Barings and Cocks Biddulph, the Austro-Hungarian Bank, brewers Boddington & Co., Charrington & Co. and Samuel Whitbread, sugar merchants Czarnikow, Guardian Assurance, aristocrats Lord Lilford, Marquis of Londonderry, Countess of Clare, bishop of Bangor, Managers of The Stock Exchange, and the British Meteorological Society. There is evidence of greater investment in overseas business by the late-1800s, for example in French infrastructure projects. One of many enterprises financed by Martins in this period was the Millwall Iron Works and Shipyards, the liability of which contributed subsequently to the Overend Gurney crash of 1866. In 1825 Martins were appointed bankers to the Stock Exchange.

In 1890 Baring Brothers, a leading old-established City merchant bank, was threatened with insolvency, owing to unwise lending in the Argentine. The Grasshopper was one of its principal funders, being linked also by family ties between the Barings and the Martins. In the wake of the Barings panic a run began on Martins, which however was soon stopped. Following the crisis the partners thought it prudent to convert their firm into a joint stock company, thereby creating Martin's Bank Limited in 1891. However, this did not signal a great change in policy or any attempt to become one of the big clearing banks (as happened following Barclays' conversion in 1896), and the shares remained largely in the hands of the Martin family. The business prospered during the golden Edwardian years, the balance sheet growing from £2.2m to £6.3m by 1918, and a dozen or so branches and agencies were opened in some of the towns and suburbs of north-west Kent close to London. The Kent connection goes back at least to the mid-1700s, when the bank held an account for 'The Kentish Turnpikes'.

Nonetheless these were the last years of the old privately owned banks, and in 1918 the firm concluded what seemed on paper an unlikely amalgamation with the Bank of Liverpool, with its very different clientele in shipping, overseas trade and local industry. The deal made sense, however, as the Liverpool bank wanted to exchange its five London agents for a seat in the London Clearing House, and Martin's recognised that its days as an independent house were over. The resulting combine in due course became a relatively small but significant competitor to the Big Five clearing banks.

The existing board of Martin's became the London management board of the new company, with the addition of one director from the Liverpool bank, plus its general manager. The unwieldy title of Bank of Liverpool and Martins Limited adopted in 1918 was somewhat confusingly shortened a decade later to Martins Bank Limited, thus concealing the fact that the business was head-quartered at Liverpool.


Records are arranged to reflect the history of the partnership.

Access Information

Barclays Group Archives is open to access for research visitors throughout the year, by appointment. E-mail: Full contact details: Barclays Group Archives, Dallimore Road, Wythenshawe, Manchester M23 9JA. Telephone 0330 1510159

Customer records are subject to extended closure/access conditions

Acquisition Information

Former historical records section of company secretary's office.

Records transferred subsequently from Liverpool Regional Office, City Office, Barclays Records Services.

Other Finding Aids

Searchable catalogue available locally on BGA's 'Archives' database; bespoke lists may be generated for specific research requests

'Catalogue of Archives of Martins Bank Limited, 68 Lombard Street....': paper catalogue, probably compiled by Martins' archivist Miss K Bryon in the 1960s, and acknowledged and annotated by Barclays' archivist A N Harrison in 1969; with full index of names, subjects and places. The numbering of items in this list was adopted by BGA in its own database entries

Typescript calendar of records held at Liverpool District Office c1970s

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction or publication of records is subject to the written permission of an archivist.

Custodial History

Barclays had a historical records section in head office from at least the 1960s, managed by an official with the title of archivist. The bulk of the Martins records seems to have been under the care of this section following the merger in 1969. In 1989 the first professionally trained archivist was appointed, with the remit of centralising historical records and collecting additional material deemed worthy of permanent preservation.

Related Material

Records and artefacts classified as 'branch' (including customer ledgers, mainly from 68 Lombard Street, a rare original wooden Grasshopper shop sign probably from the post-Great Fire period, and an early-19th century watchman's clock by Barraud) will be described in separate collection level descriptions.

Records held elsewhere:

Royal Bank of Scotland Archives
Ledgers etc. of Edward Backwell

see also G. Chandler, Four Centuries of Banking (Batsford 1964) vol. I p.525


  • Wilson's Description of the New Royal Exchange, including...a brief memoir of Sir Thomas Gresham (Effingham Wilson 1844)
  • F G Hilton Price, A Handbook of London Bankers, with some account of their predecessors, the early goldsmiths (Chatto & Windus 1876)
  • F G Hilton Price, The Signs of Old Lombard Street (Leadenhall Press 1887 onwards)
  • J B Martin, The Grasshopper, being an account of the banking house at 68, Lombard Street, with an introductory sketch of the history of money-lending (Blades, East & Blades 1873)
  • J B Martin, The Grasshopper in Lombard Street (Leadenhall Press 1892)
  • A E W Mason, The Royal Exchange: a note on the occasion of the bicentenary of the Royal Exchange Assurance (privately printed c1920)
  • At the Sign of the Grasshopper (privately printed, Martins Bank 1930, rev. 1963)
  • Martins Bank Limited: a short account of over a century and a quarter of progress and development (privately printed, Martins Bank 1962)
  • G Chandler, Four Centuries of Banking; as illustrated by the Bankers, Customers and Staff associated with the constituent banks of Martins Bank Limited (Batsford 2 vols. 1964, 1968)
  • M Ackrill & L Hannah, Barclays: the business of banking 1690-1996 (Cambridge: University Press 2001)

Personal Names

Corporate Names