Nowadays it just looks like any other bank, just like dozens of others in the city centre but the Santander branch at 84 Church Street was the sight of Liverpool’s first cash machine and the first in the North of England.
Back in 1967 the building was occupied by Martin’s Bank. It had been in use as a bank since 1884, first as the Bank of Liverpool who would merge with Martins in 1918 to form the Bank of Liverpool and Martins, later shortened in 1928 to plain Martins
The first cash machine in the country was installed by Barclays in Enfield in north London on 27th June 1967, the inaugural customer being On The Buses actor Reg Varney. On 31st October Liverpool based Martins followed suit by installing their first cash machine in Church Street.
The machine was very basic by today’s standards, with the only withdrawal option being to take out ten one pound notes and only those who banked with local branches of Martins being able to use it. Customers were given wallets of five plastic cards, each of which had a unique identifying number and was only used once. A press release by Martins said:
Martins Bank’s first 24 hour ‘auto cashier’ cash dispenser comes into operation on Tuesday 31st October at the Church Street branch, Liverpool. It is the first machine of its kind in the North of England. The dispenser is built into the outside wall of the branch. Customers at more than seventy branches in the Liverpool area will be able to use it to obtain cash at any time of the day or night. By feeding a special plastic card into the machine and recording an individual code number on a pushed button panel the customer receives a sealed packet containing £10 in £1 notes Similar machines will be installed in selected branches elsewhere.
Martins Bank magazine of that winter was still not sure it would catch on, calling it an experiment but it would hope that it could ‘take the place of one or more cashiers’ and ‘reduce counter queues in banks. The machine itself was thief proof, but there was acknowledged concern that people may be reluctant to take money out of it, speculating that it would be ‘interesting to see whether every cosh-bearing Merseyside yob takes to standing all innocent-like on the pavement hoping to pull off a snatch in multiples of £10.’
The cash machine of course did become popular, although it was not until the 1980s that their use became widespread. The one in Church Street though was no more after just two years, as Barclays took over Martins and replaced their dispensers with ‘Barclaycash’ machines. Barclays remained at 84 Church Street until 1991 and Santander have been in the building since 2012.