history of the British noun ‘hole in the wall’ (ATM)

In British English, the noun hole in the wall is colloquially used to designate an automated teller machine (ATM) installed in the wall of a bank or other building, which dispenses cash or performs other banking services when the user inserts a bank card and keys in a personal identification number (PIN).

The earliest occurrences that I have found indicate that:
– this noun was first used attributively;
– the first holes in the wall were operated by Lloyds Bank.

The earliest instance of hole in the wall that I have found is from They are no better but much the same, an article about the facilities that banks offered to students, by Tom Tickell, published in The Guardian (London and Manchester, England) of Saturday 27th September 1980:

All the big four—National Westminster, Barclays, the Midland, and Lloyds—will offer you banking without bank charges at least while you are getting full-time education. If you pay in your first grant cheque, other goodies may appear. National Westminster and the Midland will provide a cheque guarantee card immediately, backing each cheque you write for up to £50, and though Lloyds may make you sweat for it, the card should appear within three to six months.
Getting shops to take cheques without the guarantee is not easy, but Lloyds will usually provide a cash card which you can insert in one of those hole in the wall computers which will spit out money—in limited helpings.

The second-earliest occurrence that I have found is also from an article by Tom Tickell, Citibank credit lead followed by Lloyds, published in The Guardian (London and Manchester, England) of Thursday 30th October 1980:

A new form of cheque account where the bank will pay interest on deposits has been launched by Lloyds Bank, one of the four giants who dominate British banking. The group announced the new scheme—christened Cashflow yesterday, based on the principle that people pay in a regular sum into the account each month and then have the right to borrow up to 30 times their monthly deposit, on the lines of a plan introduced by the American Citibank recently.
[…] What the bank provides in interest on this form of account, it may take away in the bank charges which are attached to the new plan.
[…] The scheme will offer people the right to cash card which they can use to draw money out of the electronic hole in the wall dispensers which the bank operates. But once again charges for each transaction are considerably higher than usual.

The following is from NatWest to cut loan charges, by Tom Tickell, published in The Guardian (London and Manchester, England) of Wednesday 31st December 1980:

National Westminster, Britain’s biggest bank, is to cut the cost of its personal loans in the new year—but is also taking the chance to put up its bank charges.
The big change on the bank charges front lies in the cost of putting a debt item through the system. NatWest will raise the levy from 15p to 18p for most items, but is actually lowering the rate for withdrawals from the hole-in-the-wall cash points and for direct debits; the bank will now charge 12p rather than 15p for them. Officials want to encourage personal customers to use them, because neither of them involves sending paper through the banking system.

The earliest occurrences that I have found of hole in the wall as an independent noun (i.e., not used in an attributive relation to another noun) are from this advertisement for Midland Bank, published in The Observer (London, England) of Sunday 26th June 1983:

The easiest way to get money out of the Midland is through a hole in the wall.
When you’re desperate to get cash out of the bank, what could be easier than a hole in the wall—and a Midland AutoBank card.
It’s by far the most convenient way to withdraw your money.
Just pop it into the slot and out comes the cash. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. That means Saturdays, Sundays, Bank Holidays—in fact any time at all.

'hole in the wall' Midland Bank - The Observer (London, England) - 26 June 1983

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.