Barclays Bank’s history is as old as the history of the Great British banking industry as a whole. Founded back in the cobbled streeted and oil lamp lit London of the seventeenth century, Barclays has grown and progressed to be a member of the global banking fraternity, with operations spreading across all of Europe as well as North and South America, the Middle and the Far East.
The Bank was reputed to have begun its earliest trade way back in 1690 when the two founding partners, John Freame and Thomas Gould, first opened their doors in London. Their first premises were in Lombard Street, where they traded successfully for more than thirty years. One of the most significant events in the bank’s history took place in 1736, when Frame and Gould, obviously feeling that their day’s as bankers might be drawing to a close, invited Freame’s son-in-law, John Barclay, to become a partner in the bank.
The bank moved forward all the time but at a pace befitting the Victorian era. In 1864 Barclays Bank, as it was now known, moved into even larger premises, but still in Lombard Street, and as the end of the nineteenth century drew close, formed an association with nineteen other privately owned banking operations to form what was to be one of the first joint-stock banking groups, to be known as Barclay and Company Ltd. This new group operated a massive 182 branches and boasted liquid assets of £26million, a massive sum for those days. Also, in keeping with those times, many of the partners in the new banking group were both conservative and religious, and the bank soon gained the reputation of being a “Quaker Bank” Conservative or not, the bank continued to expand and began to move out of London either by acquiring other banking groups or by opening new branches.
The onset of World War One saw Barclays strongly represented as far north as the Midlands of England. In the year that the War ended, Barclays Bank announced its amalgamation with the London, Provincial, and South Western Bank, firmly staking its place to be one of the UK’s leading banking groups. By the middle of the nineteen twenties in England, Barclays had close to two thousand branches in operation in England and had begun some tentative operations overseas, particularly in the British Colonies.
Gradual expansion and consolidation were the order of the day for Barclays for the period before, during, and after World War Two. Barclays woke up from the period of austerity that followed the War with the opening of the first banking computer center situated in London. During the height of the swinging sixties, Barclays showed that they were no slouches by introducing the famous Barclaycard, the first credit card to grace our shores. The following year, Barclays again shook the banking world by unveiling the country’s first automatic teller machine, providing cash from a wall.
Today Barclays presents a mixture of a bank with a great history and rich tradition that has always reached out to the future. A mixture that finds her well prepared to weather the storm of the current financial crisis.