FORTY years ago, the first 800 people started work inside a building that had come to dominate the skyline of Poole.

Barclays had chosen to transfer more of its work outside London into a huge and bold building in Poole's town centre.

Of the 800 people employed on day one, 500 were recruited locally, while another 1,200 would be recruited locally the following year, senior general manager Julian Wathen said at the opening ceremony.

The work force would be gradually built up to 2,500, the Echo reported then. For generations of bright school leavers in Dorset, Barclays would be one of the key places to seek a career.

The Barclays building had been taking shape for several years, through the economic problems of the time including the three-day week of 1974.

In the late 1960s, Poole had been picked as the only town of 16 selected by the board that fully met the requirements of the then Barclays Bank DCO (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas).

A public inquiry led to planning permission being given for the distinctive three-tower, nine-storey building in August 1971. The cost of the project was estimated at £5million.

The bank spent four years transferring its work out of London, intending to minimise the effect of an influx of people into Poole's housing and employment market, Mr Wathen said at the opening.

Barclays chairman Anthony Tuke unveiled a plaque at the building’s opening ceremony on January 27, 1976.

Abba’s Mamma Mia was number one, Harold Wilson was in his last months as Prime Minister and the first commercial flight of Concorde has taken plays just days before.

“I know that aesthetically it has not pleased everyone,” Mr Tuke said of the building, which ran to half a million square feet of office space.

“But I have never known any building in London or elsewhere that did please everybody. However, it does work extremely well and the conditions of work could not be bettered.

“It was completed on time despite problems that arose with three three-day week in the middle of the contract.

“It does represent to us a very important decision which will mean that many of the jobs that up to now have been done in London will be transferred to Poole and quite a number of the staff will move down too.

“We have no doubt they will appreciate the improvement in what is now called the quality of life. This includes much easier and cheaper travelling and less pressure in their daily lives. There is plenty of evidence from the people who have moved down already.”

The mayor of Poole, Cllr Dennis Gooding, noted at the time that the Barclays operation had already stimulated trade at the Arndale Centre. Over the coming years, Barclays’ staff wages would help sustain a host of local businesses, from Poole Sports Centre to the George pub next door to the site.

The scale of Barclays’ operation in the building is much smaller today. The 21st century brought several rounds of job losses, and in 2007 the bank announced that more than half the 1,900 permanent roles there would go by 2010.

At the time, Barclays announced it would be moving to a custom-built building near Asda in West Quay Road, with the move pencilled in for 2010. But that plan was scrapped, with the bank citing the rising costs of construction.

Speculation about the future of Barclays House continued, although the bank insisted it was committed to Poole. But this week, Barclays announced it would be spending millions of pounds on a refurbishment at Barclays House to create a “fit for purpose” working environment.

Mick McDaid, Barclays’ senior team leader, global payments, has worked at Barclays House since it opened.

“Barclays and banking has changed significantly over the past four decades,” said Mr McDaid, from Hamworthy.

“When Barclays House opened it provided state of the art office space, although even up to 1992 there was limited technology and only one personal computer in the whole of my department at Barclays House.

“Today, everyone interacts online, including their banking, and technology continues to move at pace. We now have ‘Digital Eagles’ whose role is to support colleagues and customers in becoming more tech-savvy in such a fast moving digital world.”

He added: “The culture has changed too and is more inclusive, I often work alongside interns, apprentices, people with disabilities and ex-military personnel through our AFTER programme and in doing so it enables Barclays to understand and reflect the needs of our customers and the local community.”

Locals still debate the merits of Barclays House as architecture, but Barclays itself looks set to remain a key part of the town’s economy.