Maberly Phillips.

A history of banks, bankers, & banking in Northumberland, Durham, and North Yorkshire, illustrating the commercial development of the north of England, from 1755 to 1894, with numerous portraits, facsimiles of notes, signatures, documents, &c online

. (page 18 of 57)
Online LibraryMaberly PhillipsA history of banks, bankers, & banking in Northumberland, Durham, and North Yorkshire, illustrating the commercial development of the north of England, from 1755 to 1894, with numerous portraits, facsimiles of notes, signatures, documents, &c → online text (page 18 of 57)
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The proof of the public confidence was as follows : —

" We, the undersigned, declare that the Bank of Messrs. Backhouse & Co. do uninterruptedly continue to
carry on business as usual, and as we believe they are entitled to the fullest confidence of the Public
we shall continue to take and pay their notes as usual." The declaration bears 112 signatures.

In July of the following year (181 6) the public of Newcastle were much
astonished by the sudden retirement from business of Sir Chas. Loraine,
Baker, & Co. (Tyne Bank). In Sunderland the distress and inconvenience caused
by the failure of Messrs. Cook still continued, but a local paper announced that
" some relief is expected to be experienced from a bank having been opened there
within these few days by Messrs. Backhouse of Darlington." Three years


afterwards another rumour was maliciously set on foot regarding the bank, which
was met by issuing a quarto hand-bill to the following effect : —


*' WHEREAS, there are strong grounds to believe, that certain evil-disposed
Persons have maliciously conspired to prejudice the Public against the Firm of
JONATHAN BACKHOUSE & CO., with an evident Intention to injure their
Credit as Bankees, a REWARD of

Three Hundred Guineas
is hereby offered, to be paid to any Person or Persons who will give such
Information of said Conspiracy, as shall convict the Authors and Promoters

Daelington Bank,

lidlh of 6th month, 1819.

To meet any special or sudden demand, gold could only be procured by some
of the partners posting to London, but great precautions had to be used, or alarm
would have been created. The custom of Messrs. Backhouse was to drive quietly
off in a gig as if attending some meeting in a local town, and then to proceed to
Scotch Corner, a noted place on the North Road, where a post-chaise and four
would be in readiness. The accompanying vignette is from the pen of Mr. S. T.
Richardson, of Darlington.

The failure (1815) of Messrs. Mowbray, Holhngsworth, & Co., the principal
bankers in Durham, had left that city indifferently supplied with banking accom-
modation. Messrs. Backhouse & Co. saw their opportunity and opened a
branch there on September i6th, 1815. The first manager appears to have
been Mr. Thomas Salter ; at the same time his son Thomas was with the firm at
their Sunderland branch. Constant correspondence passed between the two
branches ; important letters were from the pen of Mr. E. Backhouse, others
written by Thomas Salter, jun., and commence — " Dear Father."


The first current account at Durham was opened by Gilbert Henderson who
paid in ^"58 14s., and the first deposit that is entered in the ledger headed
" Lodgements on Interest" was made by Mary Kirby for ^"155, on 23rd September,
18 1 5. The form of cheque used at Durham at this period is here produced; it
is accepted by the manager, Thomas Salter.


At this time Richard Counsellor was acting as Agent for Messrs. Back-
house & Co. at Chester-le-Street. Several of his letters are before me, addressed to
the Durham branch. I record one that shows the scarcity of silver at this time.

" Dear Sir, — I have sent John for the Bag of Larger Pieces — he having brought the Bag of

Sixpences yesterday — if you could allow me to give change to any of my customers who are laying out

5 or 6 Shillings for goods it would perhaps do me good in Trade as I am scarce of change of my own

and I dare say 9 or Ten Pounds would be the outside of what I should want. With kind respects,

Chester, 2 mo., 28th, 1816."

In 1823 a doubt existed in the mind of the country banker regarding his
liability to pay in gold. A letter passed from the Sunderland to the Durham
Branch in which Mr. E. Backhouse says : —

♦' Dear Thos., — I should like to know what the views of the Citizens of Durham may be with respect
to cash payments. Hast thou any expectation that the 1st of 5 mo.* will produce any demand for
gold. As we have no doubt but that Country Bankers have 2 years beyond the Bank of England,
according to the declaration of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, we conceive it to he optional on our
part to pay in either Bank (Notes) or Gold. However the payments in Gold when the parties holding our
Notes insist upon it, is perhaps best yielded to ; stating at the same time that we do it optionally as a
matter of indifference and not worth contending about. This will render the Public less particular
and certainly they have no right to demand it, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer is wrong."

» The day on which " the current gold coin of the realm might be demanded in payment for the Notes of the
Bank of England."


The resumption of cash payments by the Bank of England is thus
announced : —

London May 8, 1828.

" Esteemed Friends, — We beg leave to inform you that the Bank have commenced to pay.

Sovereigns to-day.

We are your assured Friends,

Messrs. Backhouse & Co., BARCLAY, TRITTON, BEVAN, & Co.


It was the custom, even at this time, to remit valuable packets of notes by
post. In November, 1821, a letter from their London Agent to Backhouse & Co.,
Durham, was lost, containing notes to the value of ;^5,ooo. Hand-bills were
circulated in London and throughout the country offering a reward of ;^ioo.

It appears that some malicious rumours regarding the stability of the bank
caused a slight run upon it in 1823. It will best be explained by the following
letters from Mr. E. Backhouse, of Sunderland, to Thomas Salter, at Durham : —

Sunderland Bank, Sl/lO mo., 1823.
" Dr. Friend T. Salter, — H. Armstrong would yesterday inform thee of a rumour at Newcastle of a
pretended run upon us here. I have the satisfaction to inform thee that there is not the slightest truth in
that rumour. He says that he understands it originated with a man who had a Dishond. Bill at one
of our establishments, and not being accommodated to his necessities adopted this mode of revenge at
the Fair, But there were other rumours about other Banks than at Newcastle likewise in circulation
all of which having no foundation must speedily die. Bo sure to communicate both to Darlington and
to us here anything that affects you, and whether any such rumours have reached Durham."

The run gave rather more trouble than was at first expected ; a letter dated
three days after from the same to the same says : —

Sunderland, Sjll mo., 1823.
"Dr. Thos., — Having got our Bank Notes from London we send thee herewith Two thousand pounds,
which with the Stock in thy possession and 200 of Gold per Bearer I hope will be found more than
sufficient, for I do fully calculate upon the run subsiding very speedily. On 7th day, I believe it was
at its height, and I expect we shall have much less to do to- day and that it will afterwards die.
However whether or not we are so prepared with regular and successive daily supplies that we will tire
them all out. Therefore keep up thy spirits. Don't be imposed upon by those who hold Deposits, but
pay them in Bills. We have therefore sent over about 500 for this purpose and thou will keep the
more respectable Bills taken at Durham for this purpose besides.

Q If the crowd be large and there are many applicants, it is best to pay very slowly and be always

.w s.:, sure that every transaction is right and duly entered on pai^er- -this is the way to keep the thing
^1^ at arm's length. The bearer will bring us a receipt for the notes and an account of your

§ ^ proceedings. I don't want many words, but take the trouble to write a line or two.

^ Thine affectionately, E. B."

I have no record as to the time that Mr. Salter remained at Durham. A
humorous picture entitled "A Peep into the Durham Bank Middle Office,

[ 145 ]

Feeding Time," will give some idea of the bank and its manager. The sketch is
endorsed on the back, " Thomas Salter, drawn by Jonathan Backhouse, 1829."

Mr. Salter was succeeded in the management by Mr. Henry Taylor. Mr.
John Allison followed, and after him came Mr. Barnes, who for many years was
held in the greatest respect.

By the year 1825 the trade of Newcastle had much increased and outgrown
its banking accommodation ; Messrs. Backhouse therefore in April of that year
opened a branch in Newcastle, under the management of Mr. Jonathan Richardson ;
Mr. William Backhouse, one of the partners, taking an active part. The premises
were situated at 18, Dean Street (on the east side, a little above the stairs). About
the same time they opened a branch at Stockton, and soon afterw-ards extended
their borders to South Shields. In December, 1825, trouble again came upon the
Durham bankers. Gold was very scarce, and the difficulty of procuring it will be
seen in the account of Skinner & Co., of Stockton and Darlington. Doubtless the
notes of Backhouse & Co., like those of all other bankers, would be returned upon
them more quickly than usual, especially in Sunderland where they had only been
established for a few years, but during that time they must have gained the


confidence and good will of the trading community, who deemed it advisable to
issue the following manifesto : —

"Apprehensive of the distress that must be brought upon this town and neighbour-
hood by a total withdrawal of the local circulating medium, and being well aware
that the known prudence of Messrs. Backhouse & Co.'s Bank will in the present
crisis restrain them from giving that accommodation which the public so
imperiously requires, and knowing also that they are in no way connected with
any of the recent failures of the Banking Houses in London, We, the undersigned,
fully impressed with the injury that must result from the withdrawing of the
circulating medium, do declare our perfect and complete confidence in the
stability of Messrs. Backhouse & Co.'s Bank, and do solicit them to continue this
necessary accommodation to the Public by the Re-issue of their local notes to
such an extent as their prudence may dictate, and we pledge ourselves to receive
and pay the same in the regular course of business. — Sunderland, 17ih
December, 1825." The document bears about three hundred signatures.

The correspondence of the Durham branch gives evidence of a slight run
there, and shows the kindly expressions that were sent to the proprietors of the
bank by some of their clients. Cuthbert Rippon writes from Stanhope Castle,
December 14th, 1825 : —

" When I wrote yesterday, I was surprised that the mere failure of Wentworth's bank (York) should
have created such ridiculous and unreasonable panic — for the sake of public credit and quiet I trust it
may soon subside. Whenever you feel satisfaction in issuing your notes again, will you send me a
bill on London payable to B. Oorbett for £66 19s., and send the remaining balance out of £150— say
£83 Is. — to me by Watson the carrier, this wiU equally suit me."

Christopher Rymer writes from Wolsingham, December i8th, 1825: — "I
hope you have had few from this quarter with notes. I flatter myself I have
prevented many."

The following offer of assistance deserves to be chronicled : —

Chester-le-Steeet, 14th December, 1825.

"Sir,— The notes that I have by me of your Firm I mean to hold for the present, hoping I shall

not come to any harm. I have near 100 Sovereigns, if they will (be) serviceable to you at this time

you may have them immediately."

I am. Sir, your most obedient Servant,

Mr. Salter, Banker, Durham. RALPH RIDLEY, Chester-le-Street, Stone Mason.

A run looked imminent at Darlington also. A gentleman now resident in
Newcastle informs me that he was then at school in Darlington, and resided with
a relative, Mr. Almond, who kept the " Green Tree " Inn. The panic was impressed
upon his youthful mind by the fact of the Richmond carrier Hudson, locally
known as " Jyneck," sleeping at the inn, and announcing his intention to be first at
the bank door when opened in the morning. Early in the day the carrier took
his place long before the bank was opened, my informant swelling the crowd of
bystanders who congregated on the High Row. Eventually the door was unlocked ;


one at a time the customers were to be admitted — the carrier being the first to
enter. When he reached the counter his fears were allayed — bushel measures were
standing heaped up with sovereigns — the carrier retired, and from the bank steps
shouted — " Lads, there's no fear — there's bushels of gold." The windows were
thrown up that through the iron railings the anxious applicants might see that the
carrier's statement was correct, and confidence was soon restored. A view of the
bank premises will be found in the account of Messrs. Richardson, Mowbray, & Co.;
it confirms the probability of this story. The following hand-bill was published
at this time : —




SOME evil disposed Persons continue industriously to propagate a



J. Backhouse & Co.
To any person or persons who will give such evidence as shall convict
the authors of the above malicious Report.

Evidence has already been obtained of three persons who have taken
an active part in circulating the Report, against whom legal proceedings
will be immediately instituted, upon the evidence which has been obtained.

Darlington, 1st Mo. (January) 4th, 1826.

In 1836 the Newcastle business of the firm was disposed of to the Northumber-
land and Durham District Bank, who, on June ist of that year, commenced
business in the premises then occupied by Messrs. Backhouse at the south-east
corner of Grey Street, Mr. Jonathan Richardson becoming manager, and Mr.
Thomas Backhouse, of York, being made a director. Shortly afterwards the
firm's branches at Sunderland and South Shields were also transferred to the
District Bank.

The immense increase of trade in the Darlington district during the last half
century, must have led to great demands for banking accommodation, and Messrs.
Backhouse have ever been ready to meet the requirements of the public. A short
time ago the partners, like some other private banks in the neighbourhood,
commenced the issue of an annual balance sheet ; a perusal of the last will show
the extensive nature of their transactions. It will be found at the end of this
account of the bank.


The centenary of the bank M'^as celebrated in 1874, when a bonus of 10 per
cent, upon their salaries was presented to all the employes of the establishment.

No account of the firm would be complete without mentioning the story of
Lord Darlington trying to break the bank. The Darlingtonians state that early in
the present century some dispute arose between the Earl and the Quaker Banker.
The former gave notice to his tenants that they were to pay their rents in
Backhouse's notes, intending to allow them to accumulate until he had collected a
greater number than the banker could pay in gold upon sudden demand.

This project of the nobleman became known to Jonathan Backhouse, who
immediately posted to London, obtained a large supply of bullion, with which he
hastened back to Darlington. It is reported that when passing through Croft, one
of the fore wheels came off the chaise and rather than wait to have the wheel
replaced, the banker piled the gold at the back part of the chaise, so " balancing
the cash," and driving into Darlington upon three wheels. By this sudden cojip
the bank was so well provided with specie that when Lord Darlington's agent
presented a very large parcel of notes, they were all promptly cashed, the Quaker
quietly remarking : — " Now, tell thy master that if he will sell Raby, I will pay
for it with the same metal." The incident has been well illustrated by Mr. Samuel
T. Richardson in a spirited sketch here produced.

HOfi^ J B ACK HOUS E & Co. B y1 L^ NCED T (1 E CASH


The same gentleman has immortalised the story in verse, but want of space
prevents my inserting it. Hitherto the incident of the wheel coming off upon Croft


Bridge has been looked upon as traditional, but an inspection of the books for 1819
shows the following entries : —

" 1819, 6 m., 25th. To Bank and Cash to London, ^32,000," and on 31 of
7th mo.. Profit and Loss Account is debited " £2. 3s. — Wheel demolished."
These entries lead us to believe that the incidents related did occur, and that the
surplus cash was returned to London.

It is stated that a run upon the bank was caused by their closing on a certain
occasion at one instead of three o'clock. A farmer from the dales, during a time
of panic, came into Stockton in the afternoon and found the bank doors shut. He
returned home but did not neglect to tell everyone he met that Messrs. Backhouse's
bank was closed. This led to a run upon them.

The general panic of 1847 was also felt in Darlington. In one day the firm
was drawn upon by depositors and note holders to the extent of ;^2o,ooo.

An interesting and amusing story of Mr. Backhouse and a " Commercial "
was told of the late Jonathan Backhouse by Joshua Monkhouse of Barnard Castle,
and vouched for by him as having actually taken place.

" Before the time of railways, near the beginning of the century, the commercial traveller of that day
made his visits to the towns of the County of Durham cither by mail coach or other conveyance, and
sojourned for some days in each town, where he was an important person, especially at the head hotel
or hostelry of the place. It so happened that one of those gentlemen, after having dined freely at
the " King's Head," Barnard Castle, was boasting to a company present in the commercial room of his
own importance and wealth, and exhibiting in proof a sheaf of bank notes taken on his journey.
Jonathan Backhouse, attired in the usual dress of the Society of Friends, unknown to the rest of the
company, was in the room quietly reading his newspaper, when he was attacked by the wealthy
commercial, and by a series of sarcastic remarks held up to ridicule as a man out of harmony with the
spirit of the time and place. Following up this raillery the commercial, displaying his handful of
notes, offered to bet the Quaker £5 or any sum, that he could not produce as much money as he was
exhibiting. Mr. Backhouse after a great deal of banter said //C did not bet, but to show his indifference
to money offered to put a £5 note in the fire if the commercial would do the same. Suiting the action
to the word Mr. Backhouse took out a £5 note and put it into the fire. The commercial, not wishing
to be behind, did the same. Mr. Backhouse offered to repeat the process, but the commercial,
considerably cowed, declined ; when Mr. Backhouse quietly thanked him for having burned one of his
(Mr. Backhouse's) bank notes for which he had received £5, while the note he (Mr. Backhouse) had
burned was on his own bank, and had only cost him the paper.

Since the formation of the bank there have been seventeen partners, sixteen
of whom have borne the surname of the founder, and the one exception, the
present Mr. Edward Backhouse Mounsey, is the son of a daughter of the house.
Personally and as a firm, their long standing, private merit, and great general
interest in every movement for the good of Darlington or its people, have been for
















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years so well known that it is unnecessary to enlarge upon it here. The county
histories, " The Durham Thirteen," and many other publications contain interesting
records of various members of the family. I show in Pedigree form the names of
the partners. A most voluminous and exhaustive ^.mily history has very recently
been published, entitled " The Descendants of John Backhouse, Yeoman, of Moss
Side, near Yealand Redman, Lancashire." It is compiled by Joseph Foster, Hon.
M.A., Oxon. Its pages contain much interesting matter. The Backhouses have
been members of the Society of Friends from its foundation, and suffered much for
conscience' sake, accounts of which will be found in " Besse's Sufferings of the

As previously stated, the firm was founded in 1774 by James Backhouse and
his son Jonathan. James, second son of James the founder, came of age in June,
1778, when he was most probably admitted to the firm, as on the 5th September
of that year they state that their notes were signed for " James and Jonathan
Backhouse atid Company!' In the Books of Messrs. Davison-Bland & Co., in
December, 1787, they are recorded as " James, Jonathan, and James Backhouse."
The youngest partner, James, died in 1804 ; he left a family of four sons and six
daughters, but none of his descendants entered the bank.

James, the founder, died in 1798, when the style of the firm became
"Jonathan Backhouse & Co.," which title it has since retained. Jonathan
(son of James), one of the original partners, married in 1774 Ann Pease. He
died in 1826. In due course he was succeeded by his five sons, Jonathan,
William, Edward, James, and John. Jonathan was born 1779, married April
23rd, 181 1, Hannah Chapman, daughter of Joseph Gurney of Norwich. He was
a shrewd business man, and to his foresight and boldness of action, Darlington and
indeed the whole north of England are under lasting obligation. In 1818 two
schemes for connecting Stockton with the Auckland coal-fields, were under the
consideration of the good people of Darlington. On November r3th, a
meeting was held in the Town Hall for "taking into consideration the Committee's
report of the survey, taken a few years ago by Mr. Rennie for a canal, and lately
by Mr. Overton for a railway." Before me is a full report of the proceedings, and
a careful perusal of it shows the position which Mr. Jonathan Backhouse took.
He was greatly in favour of the Railway Scheme, and in a long speech in which

Online LibraryMaberly PhillipsA history of banks, bankers, & banking in Northumberland, Durham, and North Yorkshire, illustrating the commercial development of the north of England, from 1755 to 1894, with numerous portraits, facsimiles of notes, signatures, documents, &c → online text (page 18 of 57)