Here is a short piece of history attached to the now demolished Mariner House at Pepys Street, London EC3.

May 9th 2011

In late 1972 I was working for NatWest Bank in Leicester and as Access cards were being launched, the Bank called for volunteers to help handle the expected deluge of paperwork associated with this first real alternative to the Barclaycard. This was a joint project by Natwest, Midland, Lloyds and RBS. Being 18 at that time and up for anything and despite the time-honoured maxim of "Never volunteer for nothing", I volunteered.

A group of about 30 of us were housed at the London Park Hotel at the Elephant and Castle and we tubed in daily to Mariner House (51.510798 / -0.078056 or What3Words). At the time owned by Midland Bank, it was offered as joint premises for this project.

As for the 'expected paperwork' - deluge didn't begin to describe it ... nowadays we'd call it a tsunami, about 5,000 applications a day poured in and we rapidly drafted in more volunteers, progressively cutting corners off the application process.

Although it was frantic work, we all thoroughly enjoyed being let loose on London at the Bank's expense, for most of us this was a totally new experience. I was sorry when the project wrapped up in early 1973.

I have some photos of some of the people I worked with - these are in the following section.

Mariner House was a good place to work, being at the time relatively new. I dropped by to see it again in May 2006 - as the photos here show - but was astonished to see on Google Earth Street view today that it's gone.

Probably of no interest to anyone except those who knew it!

But the building played a very important role in the launch of Access cards, and it was a good experience to have been there.


From Alan Martin, Director, Pepys Street RTM Company Limited :

"Thanks for the info Rob. I’ve lived at 1 Pepys Street for nearly six years now and I have to say that I was not sorry to see Mariner House go because it was somewhat of an eye sore from our flat.

The new Mint Hotel provides a much better view! Also, Savage Gardens has been made into a pedestrian area with cherry trees and an oak tree so all very nice.

However, it was fascinating to watch the demolition and build process of the hotel for which I have a photographic record showing each stage.

Best wishes, Alan Martin Director.

Photo : Google Earth

The preferred watering-hole for the "Access London" team was the Tiger Tavern on Tower Hill, a short walk from Pepys Street; but sadly also now demolished. This is how I remember it; we spent many a happy evening in the "T.T."
This is the London Park Hotel before it was demolished. GPS location is 51.492826 / -0.103020, visible on Google Earth Street View with the Historical Imagery set to 2006 (photo, Lars Ploughman)

The following series of photos are a small selection of the colour and monochrome prints which I took in November and December 1972, either at the London Park Hotel at the Elephant and Castle, or at Mariner House. They are very informal snapshots of the people who had all volunteered to help launch the Access Card, and were working under Alan Smith. I hope some of you can recognise yourselves - if so, do get in touch and update me on what happened to you afterwards. You can email me here - remove the extra 'z' from the email address.

So if any other of the Access London gang want to meet up and talk over those mad days - do contact me!

Astonishingly, on February 20th 2015, some 43 years after these photos were taken, I received an email totally out of the blue from Simon Howell, now enjoying early retirement. He says "What an amazing amazing collection of pictures - especially the ones of me! It's wonderful that you made this record - it was a fantastic, slightly mad time I think for us all, in our early 20s away from home week by week in Hotels and on expenses - but fun certainly. I never saw anyone ever again, although I ran into Dave Bestwick years later in London - fleetingly - but that's it. Best to you and thanks again for doing this memorable (in all senses) piece."

Simon and I are still in touch and we would very much like to hear from fellow "Access London" volunteers, just a few of whom are shown in the below photos.

Peter Brown, John Saxby and Mervyn Wagstaff

Penny Jackson

Lesley Travis and Ann Watson

Ann Watson and Lesley Travis

Standing L-R : Simon (the waiter), Steve Threlgall, Peter Brown

Seated L-R : Lesley Travis, Ann Watson, Stephen Butler, Andy Frazer, Cathy Wright

Kneeling front : Peter Flower

Mac Richardson and Anne Fountain


Romance blossomed for Simon Howell and Penny Jackson

Sue Bouttens

Seated L-R : Steve Butler, Anne Watson, John Saxby, Andy Frazer, Cathy Wright, Lesley Travis, Steve Threlgall

Front : Peter Flower

Cathy Wright and Dave Blackledge

L-R : Simon Howell, Penny Jackson, Mac Richardson, Dave Bestwick, Jill Montgomery, Anne Fountain

Simon Howell and Penny Jackson

Simon Howell and Penny Jackson

Simon : "Taxi!!"

Simon Howell

Gosh, Batman ... how did you climb the wall?

Jill Montgomery and Dave Bestwick

Jill : "Get out of that without moving!"

Pete Dewsbury

Penny Jackson

John Saxby's Flying Circus

Pete Dewsbury and Ruth

Steve Butler making me an offer I can't refuse

Ouija boards were a popular evening past-time!

Cathy Wright and Andy Frazer


L-R : Peter Flower, Ann Watson, Cathy Wright

"Is there anybody there?"

Alan Smith, Orange Section leader

Ouija board aftermath in the hotel corridor. L- R : Lesley Travis, Andy Frazer, Cathy Wright, Pete Dewsbury (sitting), Pete Flower

Steve Threlgall, Pat, Ruth, unknown, unknown

L-R : Pete Dewsbury, Pete Brown, Pat, Ruth ("Big Al" Whittington in the rear left). Notice the huge 'Hermes' typewriter - a now vanished piece of office equipment

Pete Brown and unknown

Ruth and Pat

Steve Butler and Sue Bouttens

Pete Dewsbury and Dave Bestwick

Dave : "I give up. What's the code for an unskilled manual?"

Peter Brown and Dave Bestwick

Peter : "What does the application form say?" Dave (reading) "First Name : Elizabeth. Surname : Windsor."

Sue Bouttens