The home safe was introduced by Barclays in February 1929. Midland Bank (now part of HSBC) has traditionally been credited as the first British clearing bank to introduce the system, together with National Provincial Bank (later NatWest) who produced them for children in 1926.
There is evidence, however, of a system of home safes in use in 1916 in the East Morley and Bradford Bank, which became part of Barclays through the Union Bank of Manchester. Martins, who were taken over by Barclays in 1969, also discussed the idea in 1926 in response to the Midland's innovation and introduced them at the Daily Post and Echo Civic Exhibition. Soon, even quite small banks and building societies used the home safe system.
The Board of Barclays initially felt that the home safe account might well be a nine-day wonder. However, they ultimately decided to introduce them, so that branch managers would not be placed at a disadvantage compared with other banks through being unable to provide them. Initially, while home safes were available at any branch on application, no active steps were taken to promote their distribution. However, some three months after their introduction they had proved so popular that it was decided to introduce the system throughout the bank, and Barclays safes were issued free on an initial deposit of five shillings. Accounts could be opened by any person irrespective of age, but children under the age of seven years were not allowed to make withdrawals. Interest was allowed at 2.5% per annum on every complete ten shillings and was calculated half yearly. The depositor had to take the home safe into the bank, since the only key was held by the first cashier, and pay in the contents to his or her home safe account.
Barclays' safes were an oval shape with gold lettering on a black background and the safe number on the lid; some also had handles. Various slots on the side of the safe allowed the deposit of coins and notes. The home safe system continued with very little alteration until February 1963, when home safe accounts became savings accounts, and the issue of home safes was not to be continued except on special request.
Safes were returned to the bank where possible and the initial deposit of five shillings reimbursed. No further home safes were issued after February 1970 when a head office circular announced their demise.