Days when workers banked on job for life

A technician concentrates on converting an accounting machine to decimalisation as girls work on a mass of cheque books during the conversion programme at Lloyd's Bank in the centre of Sheffield - 11th February 1971
A technician concentrates on converting an accounting machine to decimalisation as girls work on a mass of cheque books during the conversion programme at Lloyd's Bank in the centre of Sheffield - 11th February 1971
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We see all too few of them in these faceless days of internet banking and cash machines, but there are still many thousands of bank staff, the subject of our Retro A to Z of jobs.

Years ago, working in a bank meant entering a safe and unexciting world but one that offered structure and the security of a job for life.

National Provincial Bank, George Street, Sheffield - 20th November 1967

National Provincial Bank, George Street, Sheffield - 20th November 1967

That’s long gone,sadly, as companies like HSBC announce thousands of job losses that will hit the Sheffield workforce again.

In the days when customers had to queue in marbled and dark wood halls with high ceilings, banks were seen as stiffly formal.

They often felt intimidating to enter for ordinary people, although it probably also made you feel your money was safe with them.

Of course, on rare occasions working in a bank could be a scary job.

In 1970, three staff at the Co-operative Wholesale Society bank in Station Road, Doncaster spoke of their ordeal at the hands of raiders.

William Hartley, Elaine Webster and Michael Marsh from Sheffield were bound and gagged by three hooded men, who calmly walked out of the bank with £18,000.

All three cashiers were in their early 20s. They were overpowered by the trio hiding in wait for them when they arrived for work.

The robbers had broken into adjoining disused buildings and managed to dislodge floorboards in an upstairs room to drop down into the bank.

The bank staff were left lying trussed up on the floor after they had been forced to open the safe for the raiders.

Eventually William Hartley managed to trigger an alarm with a penknife held in his mouth.

Michael Marsh said: “I had a go at them. One of them belted me on the nose and blood poured from it. They really meant business.”

Wisely, he assured the raiders that there would be no more problems after that.

It must have been a terrifying time for the three bank staff.

Eventually protective glass screens were fitted in banks to protect the tellers from robbers.

Back in 1966, banks like Barclays were starting to introduce credit cards.

“Britain is moving towards a cashless society,” declared bank chairman John Thomson confidently.

We’re still not there, although most of us have trouble remembering what we did with the cheque book, once an indispensable item.

There was an initial reluctance by hotels and other traders to agree to accept the first credit cards 50 years ago, something that’s pretty hard to imagine now.

Some banks that are featured on these pages have disappeared now.

They include Martins Bank, which was swallowed by Barclays in 1969, when its famous grasshopper logo also disappeared.

The plan was to have a three-way merger with Lloyd’s as well but this was vetoed by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Not many months before that, the Westminster Bank and the National Provincial Bank had merged to form the National Westminster Bank, now known as the NatWest.

For lots of bank workers in the 1980s, keeping their jobs meant moving from down south to Sheffield as the Midland Bank moved part of its head office to the city centre.

The Star reported on the move, explaining that for bank staff one big attraction was cheaper houses.

Inevitably, the influx of a lot of people with money to spend had an affect on the city’s house prices for a time.

Sheffield City Council was trying to attract companies to relocate in the early 1980s and made a film called Your Move Next, which sought to convince staff at target companies that Sheffield wasn’t all flat caps andwhippets!