We recently had the privilege of welcoming Iris Traigis back to our extraordinary venue along with her family.
Gibson Hall is a converted banking Hall built in 1865 and used to be the Head Office for The National Provincial Bank of England.
In 1946 at the age of 17, Iris had just finished high school and interviewed for a position working in the ledgers and statements team at the Head Office for The National Provincial Bank. Impressed with her education level they offered her a position, and due to it being her birthday the day after her interview, they decided to pay Iris three shillings more than all of the other girls, who were earning the equivalent of £3.30 per week.
The City in the late 1940s was a bomb site with rubble everywhere but for Iris it meant freedom. The war of her childhood had at last ended; she had left school and could start earning her own money for the very first time.
She would have to give some money to her mother, budget for travel, buy a smart dress for work (even though it would be covered by her overalls) and then the rest of her money each month would be spent attending a dance.
Iris went on to work for the Bank for nine very happy years and we were lucky enough to hear some of her delightful stories.
Everything had to be on point and Iris would have her work checked three times daily and if her ledgers were not accurate, she would not be allowed to leave work until they were perfect.
The City was full of American servicemen who would chat to the ladies on their lunch breaks; it was all very exciting.
Boyfriends were not allowed to visit the girls at the Bank. This was a very strict rule but Iris was courting a policeman, the man who was to become her husband and the father of her children. Because he was a policeman, a highly respected member of society, they made an exception for Iris and allowed him in to the Bank’s staffing area to wait until Iris had finished work.
Iris met her husband at a dance, even though he was a grown man and had served in the forces, policemen were expected to leave at a reasonable hour, so the dances would have to be over by 10pm.
In those days the City was filled with women working in clerical roles for the war had ended and only the senior management and professional roles could be performed by men.
One of the stories we loved was Iris’s maternity tale. Women were not allowed to be seen to be pregnant by the Bank’s customers, When Iris married and fell pregnant she had to be kept off of the banking floor and hidden away. There was no maternity leave and if Iris had wanted to return to work she would have to have reapplied for her position, for a woman’s career ended the day she became a mother.
One story that really made us laugh was the story of the fire. The cleaners had left the cleaning polish open and the sealing wax had fallen in to the bucket of polish, the procedure in place was for the girls to make sure all cheques were locked away in the event of a fire indicating that health and safety in the work place has definitely changed for the better. The girls were so scared they left the cheques out and made a run for it, needless to say they returned to burnt cheques and the management were none too happy!
It was an absolute pleasure meeting Iris, it hits home how lucky I am to be working in such a prestigious and historical venue and I feel honoured that Iris chose to share her story with me
Gibson Hall is full of history and a fantastic place to have as your wedding venue, or any other special occasion venue.
By Melissa Goldberg
Business Development Manager.