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The Gurney Family and Barclays Bank.

The history of Barclays Bank in Norwich goes back over 200 years. In fact, it was May 12th, 1775 that the brothers John and Henry Gurney, famous Quakers whose "reserved, cautious and trustworthy natures" made them successful businessmen and bankers, formed a partnership and opened their first bank.

In about 1777, Bartlett Gurney joined the partnership and in 1779 he purchased Alderman Poole's Georgian house at 3 Redwell Plain, Norwich and converted it into a bank.

Poole was a wine merchant and the former wine cellars were used as bank vaults, the junior clerk having to sleep on a camp bed over the trap door until the premises were rebuilt in 1926, or so the story goes!

By 1800 the bank was well established and Redwell Plain was known as Bank Place, later Bank Plain.

In 1896, twenty banks including Gurney & Co of Norwich and Peckover & Co of Wisbech amalgamated under the name of Barclay & Co Limited. The directors were drawn from the existing bankers and they became "local directors", men who knew their districts well and built up personal relationships between banker and customer. This system of local directors based at local head offices existed until the late 1990's.

At the time of amalgamation there were six Gurney partners - Samuel Gurney Buxton, Henry Birbeck, Geoffrey Fowell Buxton, Hugh Gurney Barclay, Edward Lewis Birbeck, John Nigel Gurney.

The Bank outgrew its premises and a new building was designed in 1926 with a huge banking hall, offices and strong rooms, and the then revolutionary electric lighting which was concealed in the lofty ceiling.

Adapted from The East Anglian Monthly dated May 1979