Banking in Bletchley

Aylesbury Street, Fenny Stratford, withTown Hall in the distance
Aylesbury Street, Fenny Stratford, withTown Hall in the distance

EXCEPT as a Stringfellows’s talent scout, career wise I’ve never had much idea of what I’ve wanted to do.

And so along life’s thorny path there have been a number of jobs, from slick and streamlined operations to those which can best be described as a bumble of amusing dysfunction.

And the latter seem to be either Government funded, or blessed with a captive customer base, whereby a guaranteed income creates such a cushion of complacency that, since the buffoonery are rarely discarded but merely elbowed to one side, the inept not only thrive but multiply.

And today rewarding failure is nowhere more apparent than in the world of banking, which until recently seemed a profession of staid and responsible repute. Even towards the end of the 19th century Bletchley and Fenny Stratford did not have a bank and people had to go to Bassetts Son and Harris in Leighton Buzzard.

Then in 1887 the firm opened an office each Thursday in a room on the ground floor of the Town Hall, Fenny Stratford, extended to twice a week and eventually every day.

In time the bank merged with Barclays Bank, for which a branch (now a dental suite) was built near the Council Offices in 1912, with another at the corner of Park Street and Bletchley Road (now Queensway) around 1921. As for the old accommodation in the Town Hall, here in late June 1916 Thomas Best opened offices for his business as certified accountants and public auditors, having for the past 15 or 16 years been involved in such aspects with his namesake late father.

Normally the bank dealt with the usual transactions of the local residents, farmers and traders, but in 1921 they were entrusted with most of the £1,000 ‘Derby’ sweepstake of the National Federation of Discharged Soldiers and Sailors (forerunner of the British Legion) won by 23 year old Bert Garrett. He was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Garrett, with whom he lived in a little cottage in Aylesbury Street. Another who had seen service during World War One, winning the MC as a Lieutenant in the South Wales Borderers, was Mr Hart, a Cambridgeshire man, who in August, 1937, moved with his wife, Jean, from Ampthill to take over from Frank Caton (a native of Shefford) as Barclay’s manager at Bletchley.

Wisely during World War Two they sent their children to the Isle of Man and on Mr. Hart’s eventual retirement in July, 1950, the couple moved to ‘The Cheverals’, Bow Brickhill, where Mr. Hart died a few years later, leaving a widow, a son and two daughters.

With the post war expansion of Bletchley, Frederick Gibberd, the architect of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, designed a new Bletchley branch of Barclay’s Bank which opened on Monday, November 30 1964, at 25, Bletchley Road.

This was on the site of the old sub branch, with the original main branch, at 259, Bletchley Road, now becoming the sub branch.

Apart from Barclays, Lloyds Bank have also been prominent in the town and perhaps some residents still have memories of Terry Harrison. He came from their employment at Market Harborough to be the manager at Bletchley and in his leisure pursuits he was well known as a banjo player, performing not only in local concerts but also in several BBC radio broadcasts.

Apart from his musical skills he was also an expert model maker and after his death at the early age of 59 in 1945, at his home ‘Bowden’, in Denbigh Road, his son, John, would complete some of his work for entry at the exhibitions of the Bletchley Model Making Club. In fact he had been a model bank manager, unlike some of the more recent specimens who have reduced their profession to a semblance of the wild west.

And on the subject of cowboy outfits, well from my experience they’ve always been those where the Chiefs outnumber the Indians.