Barclays was built over centuries. Our longevity is an extraordinary achievement, especially against the backdrop of multiple financial crises, international conflicts, and the agricultural, industrial and now technological revolutions.
This story is best told through our rich archive of photographs, ledgers, letters, minute books, equipment and a range of, in some cases unexpected, curiosities housed in the Barclays Group Archives in Manchester, UK. The material in these archives is unique, irreplaceable and priceless. They don’t just tell the story of Barclays’ businesses around the world, they also communicate the strength and depth of the Values that have underpinned Barclays from the very beginning.
And it’s not just the story of a bank – it is the story of the communities that we serve, as well as our colleagues, our buildings, and our products. The archives allow us to share those stories.
What you can expect to find in the Barclays Group Archives in Manchester
The archives in cover 1.5 miles of shelving and are held in secure, environmentally-controlled strong rooms. Our oldest artefact dates back to 1567 and new material is added every day. Every precious bit of history is listed on a searchable database which you can access when visiting the archives. A small specialist reference library of Barclays and external publications on the history of financial services is also open for daily use by appointment.
The records have come from Barclays as we know it today, and from the various banks and building societies that merged to become part of the Barclays Group. Many of these began as small family businesses, serving their local communities. In their correspondence and accounts, we can see the evolution of their business as well as the growth of local, national and international economies.
We can read about the philanthropic activities of our Gurney ancestors in East Anglia; the battles of the Backhouses in the North East to support industrial growth through the development of the railways; and the endeavours of northern businessmen in Manchester and Liverpool to create banks strong enough to support their burgeoning industries. In the records of the Woolwich, one of the few publicly available building society archives in the UK, we can trace the development of the movement that had such an impact on British home ownership.
From the 20th century, we have records charting the growth of our modern business. In the leather-bound minute books, we can see each action taken that has led us to where we are now. In the thousands of files, photographs, diaries, reports, advertisements and plans, we can unearth the reasons behind those decisions and the impact of them. This video provides a virtual tour of our archives.
Our story in Africa
You will also find more material relating to the history of Absa in South Africa in the Absa Group Archives in Johannesburg.
Past, present, future
The material in the Barclays Group Archives may be a window into our past, but they also help us map the path of our future. Looking back tells us about where we’ve come from and who we are. It reminds us of the pioneering spirit that has seen Barclays evolve from a British bank to an organisation with a global impact; a sector leader that today continues to introduce new ideas that are changing the world.