The spread eagle emblem has featured prominently throughout the history of Barclays. In the late seventeenth century a goldsmith-banker called John Freame was living in the City of London. The exact date when he started his business is not known, but in 1690 he was a partner in a banking business which traded at premises in Lombard Street.
In those days very few people could read or write and business houses used pictorial signs so that their customers could find them easily. In 1728, Freame moved to the present site in Lombard Street at the sign of the Black Spread Eagle. The business expanded over the years and other properties in Lombard Street were acquired. The banking partnership chose 54 Lombard Street as their official address, but the sign of that house - the bible - was thought to be inappropriate as a sign for a Quaker business, so they adopted the Spread Eagle sign over the extended premises.
The use of street signs to identify buildings goes back to a decision of the City Council in 580 which ordered "that shopkeepers shall hang out signs at theire shopps" [sic].
In the 1930's Barclays Bank Limited sought and obtained a Grant of Arms. They naturally wanted to keep the Eagle they had used for so long, but because other ancient and royal houses carried it in various forms, the College of Arms ruled that it must be "differenced"; this was done appropriately by putting on three crowns (since numbers 43 and 55, both part of the head office site, bore the signs of the Three Crowns and the Three Kings) and the Grant of Arms was officially made in 1937.
The College of Arms having said that they had no objection, a Board Resolution in 1947 authorised the closely associated Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas) to use the arms, with the addition of "D.C.O". In practice this addition was usually placed on a scroll beneath the shield, as if it were a motto.
In May 1926, the first edition of the Barclays Staff Magazine was published which was known as "The Spread Eagle". The editorial states that "for purposes of brevity the word "black" has been omitted from the title of the magazine." [Spread Eagle, May 1926, page 3]. The Eagle was consistently used on the front covers of early editions.
In 1938, it was decided to incorporate the eagle into the design of the Bank's cheque forms to replace the monogram. "In these and many other ways it will become familiarly known in conjunction with the name of Barclays Bank. The eagle emblem first appeared on the Report and Accounts of December 1948 which was presented to the stockholders of the Bank at the Annual General Meeting held in February 1949.
In the mid-1950's the celebrated engraver Reynolds Stone was asked to produce a wood-cut version of the Eagle. As Barclays grew and expanded over the years, many different versions of the Eagle appeared so that in August 1981, the woodcut design was adapted and simplified by John York to produce one of authorised version for the whole of the Group.
This standardised design is used on branch facias and stationery to identify Barclays and promote the corporate image of the bank.
With acknowledgements to Barclays Group Archives
Copyright 2010 BBHS