For over 300 years, Barclays’ head office, originally known as a ‘shop,’ was situated in Lombard Street in the City of London, which had been associated with the world of finance for several centuries. John Freame, from whom Barclays’ foundation is traced, traded as a goldsmith in Lombard Street from 1690 with his partner Thomas Gould.
The business moved to the sign of the black spread eagle in 1728. Most of the ‘shops’ had a trading sign by which they were identified at a time when few people could read. Although buildings changed hands and usage, the signs would often remain. Later, when properties were numbered, the Barclays address was identified as 54 Lombard Street.
The bank expanded considerably over the course of the next 200 years and by 1920, the Barclays' head office site covered numbers 42-58 Lombard Street. The Head Office building underwent a variety of facelifts and renovations, including more extensive projects such as a grand Italianate design in 1864, a partial re-build in 1916, and a major rebuild and modernisation between 1959 and 1971. On each occasion, the design sought to demonstrate the growing strength and confidence of the company. These designs also sought to complement the increasingly complex work undertaken by the bank, and included internal renovations which allowed for the increased use of mechanical and technological office equipment.
Technical and organisational changes in banking, coupled with the low office density meant that in the 1960s, the Lombard Street building, although liked by staff, became unsuitable as a head office, and after only twenty years’ use, it was decided to rebuild once again. Demolition began in 1990. During the rebuilding process, head office departments were relocated to temporary offices in other bank premises. They began to return to the new Lombard Street building in 1994. However, just seven years later, Barclays announced that head office would move to new premises in Canary Wharf in 2005.
In January 2005, the first departments from a number of sites across London began to move into 1 Churchill Place at Canary Wharf. In the process, Barclays either sold or reduced its holdings in sites in the City and in central London.
A total of 14 London buildings were closed and 5,000 Barclays staff moved during this time to a purpose-built structure comprising 33 floors and 1 million square feet, all of which was built in 30 months. By the end of the year, a wide variety of services such as Corporate Secretariat, Legal, Risk, Information and Technology, Corporate and Public Affairs, Treasury, the London-based arm of Barclaycard, and Large and Medium Business Banking had completed the transfer and were operating from Churchill Place.
Architects Larry Malcic, with the external brief, and Jack Pringle who was tasked with the interior floor space, opted for a steel framed design which created large, open spaces intended to encourage communication between staff. The building also incorporated smaller, more private spaces which served as state-of-the-art meeting or training suites and ‘break-out’ spaces where small groups could gather. The open floor plan and space management incorporated both business and environmental sustainability by reducing energy consumption and managing noise, thereby allowing a more physically comfortable working environment for staff. The glass panelled design considerably increased natural sunlight throughout the building and afforded impressive views of the London skyline. The building also included many staff amenities such as easy access to public transport links, extensive restaurant facilities, a gymnasium and a private, multi-faith prayer room. Also included in the design is a roof garden, a sustainable environmental habitat.
The new head office consolidated all aspects of the bank in one place allowing for greater co-operation and co-ordination so essential to modern success. Just as Barclays had done at the beginning of the 20th century, the new head office building reflected the increasing confidence felt in the business at the beginning of the 21st century at a time of record profits. By May 2005, all departments had relocated and Barclays’ Registered Office address formally changed from 54 Lombard Street to 1 Churchill Place on 31 May 2005.
However, not all head office functions are based in London. During the second half of the 20th century, increasing London costs, staff shortages within the City, and the need for more office accommodation forced Barclays to expand head office functions into facilities based outside the City. One of the earliest examples of this was the opening of a new branch clearing department at King’s Heath, Northampton, a move completed in 1960. The site was opened by Thomas Bland, Barclays’ Deputy Chairman and Dame Evelyn Sharp, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The building was designed with open spaces, more natural daylight and staff comfort and increased car parking in mind.
Barclays’ presence in Northampton increased when Barclaycard, Britain’s first credit card, set up operations in an abandoned shoe factory in the town. By the early 1970s, Barclaycard House, the purpose-built headquarters for the Barclaycard business was up and running. Barclaycard House served as the head office for a largely independent, specialist business which was owned and marketed by Barclays but possessed an ethos and approach largely of its own. Barclaycard House was subsequently closed, and was completely rebuilt on another site in Northampton in 1997.
The next major phase of the transition took place in the 1970s with the construction of Radbroke Hall and Barclays House. Radbroke Hall, a facility near Knutsford in Cheshire, initially played host to the Bank’s Registration, Management Services and Accounting and Statistics (Staff) Departments. In the 21st century, Radbroke Hall now serves as the major centre of IT governance, administration and support for the Bank.
In 1975, Barclays House in Poole was opened by Barclays Bank International. After 1985, when the Barclays Group reorganised and Barclays Bank Limited (the UK-based Bank) and Barclays Bank International merged into a single organisation, the role of Barclays House slowly changed. Barclays House now contains many Group-wide human resources and staff services functions, including pensions, pay and benefits, staff health, safety and well-being and staff personal development and training services.
Finally, after several years planning and development, the final head office satellite site, Westwood Park near Coventry opened in 1990. Westwood Park, built according to the most modern standards, contained the Bank’s Property Services, Personal Sector Marketing, Bank Inspection, Electronic Banking Departments and other support functions which transferred from buildings in the City. Links to the old head office building in Lombard Street have been emphasised by the siting of three of the Charles Wheeler bronze statutes from the 1960s building at Westwood Park. Since then, other services such as Premier Banking have moved to Westwood Park bringing with them a broad range of people, actively supported by Barclays' sponsored relocation schemes for staff moving into the area.