Enfield Town bank boasting ‘world first’ given listed status

The 126-year-old bank went down in history when it unveiled the world’s first cash machine in 1967

Barclays Bank, Enfield Town
Barclays Bank, Enfield Town (credit Historic England)

Barclays Bank in Enfield Town has been given a Grade 2 heritage listing – thanks in part to its claim of a world first.

The bank launched the world’s first automated teller machine (ATM) on 27th June 1967 and boasts a blue plaque celebrating its place in history as a result. Comedian Reg Varney, an Enfield resident at the time, was the first person to use it.

This week it was announced by Historic England that the Barclays Bank building in The Town has now been listed and added to the National Heritage List, protecting it from future development.

Sarah Gibson, listing team leader at Historic England, said: “Cash machines are now such a normal part of our daily lives, but it was in this elegant bank building in a North London suburb that this new, ground-breaking technology was tested and went on to change the world.

“It’s extraordinary to think how much has changed since 1967 when it comes to everyday banking. While our use of cash has fallen in recent years, as contactless technology dominates, it still remains a lifeline to many, and I’m glad to see this building recognised for its contribution to that story of evolution.”

The bank building’s entry on the National Heritage List for England recognises both its historic and architectural significance. The purpose-built bank, originally a branch of the London and Provincial, is a strong work of late 19th Century commercial architecture. Built in 1897, it stands on a prominent corner of Enfield Charter Market and its exterior remains largely unaltered.

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The bank was designed by William Gilbee Scott in a style described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “exuberant Flemish renaissance”. Made of red brick with stone dressings and prominent gables, it is topped by a decorative cupola and small spire.

Barclays Bank blue plaque (credit Historic England)
The blue plaque commemorating the world’s first cash machine (credit Historic England)

Although the original cash machine at the bank has long since been replaced, a blue plaque was unveiled in 2017 at the spot where it was installed, to mark the 50th anniversary. Barclays also turned one of its current cash machines gold.

The prototype first used in Enfield functioned differently to today’s cash machines. The customer inserted a special paper voucher like a cheque that was punched with dots corresponding to the customer’s four-digit PIN. Both a signature and PIN was needed for authentication and, if they matched, a £10 note was issued.

This was a major technological development in both banking practice and the growing use of automation within modern society.

The Enfield branch was chosen for the ATM because of its mix of customers, its good pavement access, high windows and for being close to the Barclays head office.

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