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Barclays’ head office was originally in Lombard Street. From very early times Lombard Street seems to have been associated with the world of finance.

The Elizabethan historian, Stow, suggested that it was named after Italian financiers from Lombardy who were granted land in London in 1318 to establish gold and silversmithing shops. From the goldsmiths' trade developed early banking practices.

Lombard Street

Lombard Street, where Barclays was first identified with the sign of the Spread Eagle

The whole of Lombard Street was destroyed together with a large portion of the city by the Great Fire which swept through London on 2 September 1666. An eyewitness of the disaster, the Earl of Clarendon, described the scene thus:

The Royal Exchange, Lombard Street, Cheapside, Paternoster Row, St Paul’s Church and almost all the other churches in the city and the greatest part of Fleet Street, were all burned without one house remaining.

Barclays' first connection with the site dates from quite soon after the fire. John Freame, from whom our history is usually traced, traded as a goldsmith in Lombard Street from 1690, with Thomas Gould. The partners moved to the sign of the Black Spread Eagle in 1728, which later came to be numbered as 54 Lombard Street.

Signs were used to identify buildings in an age when few people could read, and, as buildings changed hands, the sign would remain. Barclays, who continued to trade from the site in Lombard Street, became identified with the Spread Eagle which was adopted as the official coat of arms for the bank in 1937. The Barclay name entered the business in 1736 when James Barclay, who had married one of John Freame's daughters, was taken into the partnership by his brother-in-law Joseph.

By the early 1900s the Barclays site comprised 49-56 Lombard Street and 1-2 George Yard, which housed the Lombard Street local head office. In 1912 the frontage to Lombard Street was extended by the purchase of numbers 46, 47 and 48, and in 1914 numbers 42, 44 and 45 were acquired with number 43 being added in 1919 and numbers 57 and 58 in 1920.

By 1931 the bank owned the greater part of a site bounded by Lombard Street, Gracechurch Street, George Yard and Ball Alley. All Hallows church and churchyard occupied a large area within this site but the ecclesiastical commissioners had some years earlier included the church in a number of properties which they proposed to sell. In 1933 the bank began negotiations for the purchase of the church and the properties adjoining it on Gracechurch Street.

However, the negotiations were protracted and it was not until 1939 that a private bill was finally passed by Parliament to make the purchase possible. The church was then demolished although its tower was re-erected as part of a new church at Twickenham. Part of the site was cleared, but the outbreak of war in 1939 delayed further demolition work and planned reconstruction.

It was not until 1956 that all the necessary approval and sanctions for rebuilding were obtained. The architects responsible for the work were Sir Herbert Baker and Scott. The rebuilding was planned in three phases and the foundation stone of the new head office was laid in January 1959. The building covered nearly an acre and provided a floor area of 400,000 square feet. The external walls were faced with Portland Stone. Inside, the Lombard Street branch and local head office occupied the ground floor and the first to fifth floors accommodated head office departments.

The offices of the Chairman and directors were on the sixth floor and the board rooms and library were on the seventh. The three lower floors housed the engineering services, strong rooms, stores and car park. The building was completed in 1969, although alterations continued to be made for several years.

Technical and organisational changes in banking, coupled with the low office density meant that the building, though liked by staff, became unsuitable for head office after only twenty years of use and it was therefore decided to rebuild once again. Demolition began in 1990. During the rebuilding head office departments were relocated to temporary quarters in various other bank premises. They began to return to Lombard Street on completion of the present building in 1994, but in 2001 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. By May, all departments had relocated, and Barclays’ registered office address formally changed from 54 Lombard Street to 1 Churchill Place on 31 May 2005. 

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