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

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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 22 of 57)
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to accept the paper of Sir M. W. Ridley, Bell, & Co., Sir Wm. Loraine, Baker, & Co.,
Messrs R. J. Lambton & Co., and Messrs. Batson & Co. Several of the sheets
containing the original signatures are still in existence and two of them are shown
upon page 70. Many of these signatures will be of interest to Novocastrians, none
more so than that of Ralph Carr, the founder of the Old Bank, nearly half a
century before.

Mr. George Gibson died in 1806, and in the following year, August 17th,
Chas. Wm. Bigge of Eslington House, Northumberland, was admitted to the firm,
Mr. Bell having retired. On October 3rd of the same year, Thomas Hanway
Bigge of Benton (brother of Chas. Wm. Bigge), and Wm. Boyd of Newcastle,
were admitted into the partnership, the firm now being styled Ridley, Bigge,
Gibson, & Co. In April, 18 13, Sir M. W. Ridley died, and his son succeeded to the
title and to his father's share in the bank. The younger Sir Matthew had only
been a partner two years, when difficulties again arose in the banking world. On
July 22, 1815, a meeting was held at Mr. Forster's long room, Pilgrim Street, of
several owners of land in the counties of Durham and Northumberland, John Carr
of Dunston, Esq., in the chair, when the notes of Ridley & Co., Loraine & Co.,
Lambton & Co., and Reed & Co. were once again agi'eed to be accepted. A few
days after, a manifesto was issued by the "Merchants and tradesmen," stating
that they had the most " unlimited confidence in the solidity " of the banks just


named. In the following year Messrs. Loraine retired from banking circles, and
once again was it necessary to pledge the credit of the three existing banks. It
would be at various times during these panics that squibs and skits regarding rag-
money were issued.

The next break in the partnership was in December, 1824, when Mr. Thomas
Hanway Bigge died. On January i, 1825, Charles John Bigge, eldest son of Mr.
Charles Wm. Bigge, was admitted a partner, and on January i, 1827, Robert Boyd,
son of Mr. William Boyd, was admitted to the firm.

The branch of the Bank of England was established in Newcastle in 1828.
Messrs. Ridley & Co. soon opened an account with them. In February, 1829, the
members of the firm were : Sir M. W. Ridley, Chas. Wm. Bigge, Thomas Gibson,
Wm. Boyd, Chas. John Bigge, and Robt. Boyd.

On the 3rd of September, 1832, Thomas Gibson departed this life, and his
nephew, John Spedding, jun., was added to the firm, the style now being. Sir M.
W. Ridley, Bart., Chas. Wm. Bigge, & Co. The concluding account of the history
of the bank I copy from the interesting MS. of Mr. William Boyd : —

On Friday the 15th of July, 1836, Sir Matthew White Ridley, Bart., died of apoplexy, at Richmond
in Surrey, to which place ho had gone from his residence at Carlton Terrace, for change of air, and by
an article in the partnership deeds of the firm, his son (now Sir Matthew White Ridley, Bart.) succeeds
to his father's interest and shares in the bank, and the business is carried on without any alteration
in the style of the firm. This partnership by a special agreement was stipulated to be carried on for
three years, viz., for 1837, 1838, and 1889, when it was to cease and determine ; at the end of that time
it was understood — indeed it was the declared wish of Sir M. W. Ridley to disconnect himself with
business, and retire from the bank, which for so many years had been a source of great profit to his
father and grandfather. The other partners therefore took steps to remedy the chasm which would be
made in the establishment by the retiring of Sir M. W. Ridley, and after several schemes and
negotiations, it was determined to join a Joint Stock Bank which had been established some years in
Newcastle, under the title of The Northumberland and Durham District Bank. This was accomplished
on the 20th March, 1839. The whole weight and influence of the Old Bank were thrown into the
scale of the new establishment, around which all the old friends and customers of Ridley, Bigge, and
Company rallied, which had the effect of making the District Bank the largest establishment in the
North of England, Ridley & Co. transferring in money, bills of exchange, promissory notes, mortgages,
and customers' accounts, to the extent of upwards of £800,000.

It has been stated that all the friends of Ridley & Co. rallied round the new establishment ; to this
there were three exceptions, all of whom had been under great obligations to Ridley & Co. One of
them especially had an advance of nearly £19,000 granted during the panic of 1825-6. The house could
not pay a shilling in liquidation of this enormous debt, and it was foolishly imagined that these men
might have had some gratitude for favours received, but they were actuated by other feelings and
removed their accounts to other houses ; they certainly paid the debt after 1839, it having been
considerably reduced previously to that time, but the Old Bank was still obliged to accommodate them
and take their promissory notes, payable at distant periods, for the balance due in 1839.

Messrs. Bigge, Boyd, & Spedding became large shareholders in the District
Bank ; Mr. C. J. Bigge, Mr. Robert Boyd, and Mr. Spedding being appointed
directors. Thus ended the career of this notable firm, which had successfully
weathered the storms and gales of the banking world for 84 years.


The Old Bank had a very large note issue ; after the amalgamation this
paper was withdrawn and the circulation confined to the notes of the Bank of

I now give some miscellaneous items that I have gathered regarding the
business of the Old Bank.

One of the early transactions of the newly-fomied bank was the issue of
lottery tickets. The Newcastle Journal, September 8th, 1759, says: — "Any
person wanting tickets in the present State Lottery may be supplied at the
Newcastle Bank on the same terms as at London." Some local speculator seems
to have been fortunate, as in the balance sheet of 1774 one of the items is a lottery
ticket for ;^ 10,000 ; it was probably lodged for collection.

The practice of opening subscription lists for various public purposes at the
banks, appears to have been of early origin. The Newcastle Courant of
September, 1759, announces : —

"Whereas at this time of imminent danger the speedy recruiting of His
Majesty's forces seems most expedient for the public service.

" Resolved unanimously ' That a subscription be forthwith opened at the
Newcastle Bank for an immediate voluntary contribution to be distributed in
bounties. Each man to have £2 2s. over Government money.' "

In 1772, the question of maintaining the standard of gold coin was perplexing
the Government in the early days of banking, as it has so often done since. The
receivers of public revenue were empowered to cut and deface all unlawfully
diminished coin that should be tendered to them in payment ; and all gold coin
under the weight specified was to be considered by them as unlawfully diminished.
But, for the accommodation of the holders of light money, the receivers were
empowered to accept all such cut money in payment at the rate of ^3 i8s. per
ounce, and the Bank of England would purchase cut money at the same rate. On
July 31st, the Bank of England gave notice that any quantity of guineas, half-
guineas, and quarter-guineas (cut and defaced agreeably to the act), not less than
fifty guineas in a parcel, would be taken in on Monday, August 2nd, and every
Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, till further notice, at the rate of £'^ 17s. loJ-d.
per ounce. By an Act of Parliament made in King William's reign, and still
unrepealed, " whoever takes or pays away any milled money, not cut to pieces,
for less than it passed current when first coined, shall be deemed guilty of felony,
and suffer death accordingly."

Arrangements were subsequently made with some of the provincial banks to
clear the countrj^ of the light money, the Newcastle bank being one so engaged,


as they announced on August loth, 1774, " Messrs. Bell, Cookson, Carr,
Widdrington, & Saint, give Notice that attendance will Be given at the sign of the
Black Bull, in Wooler, on Thursday next at nine o'clock in the morning, to
exchange the light money according to His Majesty's Proclamation and
Appointment, made July 29th, 1773." The confidence in their notes was such
that within two years of their establishment it is announced, " We hear that the
Collector of Excise for the County of Northumberland will take Newcastle Bank
Notes in payment for duty or give cash for them when upon his collection."

The following letter from Matthew Bell to Ralph Carr, who was evidently in
London, is interesting, as it shows the commencement of the £\ issue. It is
dated February 6th, 1758 : —

I was desired (by the other members of the firm at their annual meeting) to send you the enclosed
to have a plate cut for twenty shilling notes, one pound in the body of the note, and the twenty shillings
at the bottom are both intended to be in the like hand that the sum is wrote in in the notes of the Bank
of England, and a scrawl in the left hand. You will hear of the man who cut the plate for the other
notes at Vere's, he lives in Wine License Court in Fleet Street, it wo'd be well you co'd bring it down
with you, if you give the engraver a short day he will oblige you, if you indulge him he will not be
punctual, you must also provide a large quantity of a strong tough paper for these notes.

I give a copy of a note (slightly reduced) which is doubtless from the plate
referred to, as it is dated in the following month, and bears out the instructions
given. It was probably one of the first one pound notes issued in the provinces.




The old banks in their early days were subject to the forgery of their notes.
Perhaps the earliest and most interesting instance occurs in 1765. Amongst the
Carr papers still exists the following letter : —


Edinburgh, November 21st, 1765.
Dear Sir, — Mr. Cookson and I are called to this place on account of our having last week
discovered a forgery of two of our five pound bank notes, and being informed that your bank as
well as the Royal and British Linen Comp's. are in the same situation, we wou'd request your
informing me if you have got already any lights and what they are in this dark affair — how many
notes you have detected, and whether you think it proper to pay them — it is thought here that the
whole forgerys have been done in Ireland — If you have the names and descriptions of any of the
accomplices please to fav"^ us with them directly to the care of John Forrest, Esq"".

We are now able to throw the hght upon these forgeries that Mr. Carr so
longed for when in Edinburgh. The forger was really a Newcastle man, and no
less a personage than the principal engraver in the town, Thomas Jameson. A
newspaper of the day says : —

Last Monday was committed to Newgate Thomas Jameson, an engraver in this town, who had a
few days before been apprehended at Edinburgh, charged with counterfeiting about a dozen of five
pound notes of the Newcastle Bank. But we hear the greater part of them are come in, and have been
paid, so that 'tis hoped a total stop is put to this pernicious fraud.

It was shown that a woman, named Jean Gre)'', had been detected in uttering
a forged note of the Newcastle Bank, value £^. Upon her examination, she
accused Jameson, an engraver, with whom she lived, as the person from whom she
got it, and said that she had seen him engrave and fill up notes, of which she made

oath of the truth and signed her examination
before a magistrate. Upon this evidence Jameson
was committed to the assizes. By the time the
trial came on there. Grey had relented. She knew
that her evidence must convict her lover, and that
his punishment would be death. She therefore

" boldly denied what she previously made oath of, upon which
the judge ordered an indictment to be drawn for perjury
with intent to take away the life of a man who had
been tried and found innocent. She was tried in an
hour, found guilty, sentenced to be pilloried and trans-
ported for seven years. On August 2, 1766, a temporary
pillory was erected upon the Sandhill, Newcastle, and
Jean Grey for the crime of perjury was exalted and stood
therein one hour at mid-day, as an example of public
shame, in the presence of many thousands of
spectators who behaved towards her with great
decency and humanity. Grey lived in the High
Bridge, and was famous for making excellent
mutton pies, to which she returned at the
expiration of her banishment, and resumed the
making of pies, for which she had a greater
demand than before."


'A View of the Pillory, made in Newcastle, December, 1812,
for Johnson Keed, a crimp.


It would appear that Jameson resumed his business, as in the Newcastle
Directory for 1788, under "Engravers" we have "Beilby and Bewick, south side
of St. Nicholas's Churchyard; Thomas Jameson, ditto." But in one of the lives
of Bewick it is stated that Jameson's business fell off, which brought the other
firm very rapidly to the front.

Another forgery was committed upon the bank in 1799, which might have
proved of very great inconvenience, had it not been nipped in the bud by the prompt
and energetic action of Mr. Boyd. He has left a most graphic account of the
chase and capture of the forger, which I copy from the MS. in his own writing : —


On Wednesday the 23rd of October, 1799, between the hours of 10 and 11 in the forenoon, a
decent, well-dressed young man entered the Newcastle Bank and presented nine twenty shilling notes
to Mr. Geo. Gibson, the cashier. On looking them over he immediately knew eight of them to be
forged, and carried them into the inner room to Mr. Wilkinson, one of the partners, who called Mr.
Marshall and myself into the room where he was, and informed us of the circumstance. The person
who presented them was then called for. On enquiring where he had got the notes then lying on
Mr. Wilkinson's desk, he answered he could not tell of whom he had received them, and on further
enquiry said his name was Lough, that he travelled for the house of Messrs. Cooperthwaite & Co., of
London, and that at present he was upon his round, that he received the notes in question in the
neighbourhood of Carlisle, and that having offered them with others at the house of Messrs. Toritus
in Carlisle for the purpose of procuring a Bill upon London to remit to his employers, Toritus told him
that eight of the notes were forged, and that they could not take them, upon which he took a seat in
the diligence and came to Newcastle to get value for them. Mr. Wilkinson informed him that he would
not give cash for them, but desired him to call in a short time, and that he should have a final answer.
Lough asked in how short a time, Mr. Wilkinson answered at any time before 3 o'clock in the
afternoon at which time the bank closed. Three o'clock arrived, but Lough returned not. He was
of course strongly suspected of being concerned in the forgery, and enquiry having been made for him
at Sunderland's Inn where the Carlisle coach comes to, it was found he had not been there since the
morning, and had left his bill unpaid, it was then determined that some person should be sent in
pursuit of him, and as it was suspected that he had taken the Carlisle road which he had come the day
before, after procuring a warrant to apprehend him I set off about six o'clock in a post chaise with
Manners the county bailiS for the purpose of pursuing him. We made several enquiries on the road,
but got no intelligence till we arrived at Heddon-on-the-Wall, when describing his dress and person to
a woman who lives in a public house in that village she thought she remembered to have seen a person
answering the description pass her house in the forenoon of that day. We then proceeded to Harlow
Hill where we found that Lough had dined, and not being able to procure a post chaise had proceeded
to Hexham on foot. We then resumed our journey, and arrived at Hexham at ten in the evening.
On enquiring for Lough we found he had been there some time ago, and that he had enquired for a
post chaise to take him forward towards Carlisle, but not being able to procure one he had hired a
horse to carry him to Glenwhelt. We found from the landlady of the Golden Lion at Hexham that
he had lived there from the Friday preceding till the Tuesday, when he went in the diligence to
Newcastle, and that before he had set ofi for Glenwhelt he had packed up a trunk and parcel, and had
given them to the Alston carrier. We found the carrier in bed, and told him we had a warrant to
apprehend the person who had left with him the trunk and parcel, and that he must deliver them to
us. After some hesitation he complied, and we found them directed to "Richard Thompson,
Milmerby, to be left at Alston till called for, carriage paid." These we committed to the charge of
Mrs. Hutchinson at the Golden Lion till we returned. On enquiring of her whether Thompson (for
he went by that name in Hexham) had discharged his bill, she said he had, and that he behaved very


decently whilst in her house, but they wondered very much what his business could be, as he never
stirred out of the house, and did not seem to be acquainted with any person ; she said he paid his
bill on Tuesday when he set out for Newcastle with a Scotch note, but that this afternoon he
had given her a 20s. Newcastle note. I immediately requested to see this last note ; Mrs. H. said she
had it not, for not having silver sufficient to change it she had sent it to a neighbour for that purpose.
The person was then sent to who returned the note by a servant to the inn, and I found it to be a
forged note. We immediately proceeded in a chaise with four horses to Glenwhelt ; the keeper of the
turnpike gate remembered to have seen a man answering Lough's description pass through the gate
on a brown horse and enquiring the road to Glenwhelt. At Haydon Bridge he had passed unobserved ;
at Haltwhistle the landlord of the inn informed us that a person such as we described had called there
on the preceding evening (it being now the morning of the 24th October) and had got a glass of spirit
without alighting and enquired how far it was to Glenwhelt. To this place we proceeded, and learnt
from the servant of the inn that the person we were in quest of was in the house and in bed. We
ordered the landlord to be called, and on being made acquainted with our business readily granted us
his assistance. We now proceeded to the bed room where Lough slept, and having entered the room
found the object of our search. The bailiff immediately arrested him, his clothes being searched wo
found a red morocco pocket book and a parcel resembling a half bound octavo book wrapped in a hand
bill, and tied with a piece of string, the pocket book contained a variety of memorandums and a letter
to Mr. Blair, White Lion Inn, Carlisle. On opening the parcel it was found to contain the engraved
plate from which the notes had been struck, and about 200 notes ready for filling up (on being counted
the parcel contained 196 notes). During our stay at Glenwhelt Lough avoided all conversation, and
only gave evasive answers to all questions put to him during our journey to Newcastle, where we
arrived at one o'clock p.m. On searching Lough's trunk 16 notes filled up and ready for circulating
were found in a small book of the roads with the following letters on its back — R. L., 1799. After
being examined by the magistrates he was fully committed to take his trial at the next assizes. Lough
remained about three months in gaol, and contrived with three other prisoners to make a hole in the
wall of the prison through which he and two others escaped. Lough's chains were found in the
plantation at Fenham ; ho proceeded to Liverpool, took shipping for America, and was never after
heard of. W. BOYD.

A local paper tells how Lough and two other prisoners effected their escape: —

" Wrenching a bar from the inside of the chimney of their cell, they forced their way up the chimney
to the roof of the prison, whence, cutting their bed-clothes and knotting the pieces together which they
tied to a sun-dial on the roof, they descended to the field adjoining Gallowgate. Another man
attempted to escape at the same time, but being rather corpulent, he stuck fast in the chimney and
could neither get out or back again till he was assisted down by the keeper." Two of the men were
recaptured, but Lough escaped.

From time to time various interesting advertisements appear regarding the loss
of the notes of this bank.

January 22, 1757. A promissory note. No. 680, dated the 16th February, 1756, for £40 payable
to Thomas Aubone or bearer, and issued by Matthew Bell, Esq., and Company, is lost, and a reward of
five guineas offered for its recovery.

March 6, 1756. Lost an old bank note for £100. As it is not yet restored, though ten guineas'
reward has been offered, it's probable the person who found it is resolved to keep it. That such
dishonesty may be brought to light 'tis earnestly entreated that such as are possessed of an old
hundred pounds note will send them to the bank office, where they will get other notes or money to the
value, or it that be inconvenient, they will please to acquaint Mr. James Spencer, Secretary to the
bank, of their names or places of abode, and the number and date of the notes they have.

Another announcement records the loss of a £20 note, " late in the possession
of William Smith, surgeon :" the owner does not know the number but offers a
reward of five guineas to anyone who has lately paid him a £2Q> note, and can give


such particulars as will lead to finding the number of the lost note — information to
be given to Mr. Henry Aiskell, attorney, in the Middle Street. These early notes
were all issued in the name of the first holder or bearer, and were afterwards
freely circulated. One of the firm, Mr. William Boyd, took a great interest in the
various methods used to prevent forgery. A letter from him to Mr. Barnes dated
May 10, 1822, has a long account regarding forged notes and paper, and says, "Mr.
Bewick spent all one afternoon examining some paper you sent," and adds, " our
notes have not been forged for twenty years," and lays claim to general good
workmanship and certain red flourishes which are very difficult to imitate.

MATTHEW BELL (i). — One of the Woolsington family, several generations
of which were closely connected with the commerce of Newcastle and district.
He married Jane, daughter of Richard Ridley of Heaton Hall. Mr. Bell was
elected Sheriff of Newcastle in 1736, and Mayor and Alderman in 1757. In 1778
he resided in the middle of Westgate Street. He died September 3rd, 1786.

MATTHEW BELL (2).— Son of Matthew Bell (i). In 1767 he married
Dulcibella, daughter of Sir John Eden of Windlestone. He was Lieut.-Col. of the
Northumberland Militia, and in the Newcastle Directory of 1778 is described as
" Fitter — foot of Ruecastle-chair — Quayside." In the Register of All Saints' Church,
Newcastle, his burial is recorded under date January 2nd, 1783, "Matthew Bell, jun.,
Col. in Northumberland Militia." He died in the life-time of his father, and his son

MATTHEW BELL (3) came of age about the end of 1791, when he joined
the bank. He married (by special license at Middleton Lodge, Yorkshire), in
1792, Sarah Frances, daughter of Chas. Brandling, Esq., Gosforth. He was High
Sheriff of Northumberland in 1797, and died April 20th, 181 1.

RALPH CARR of Newcastle and Dunston Hill (son of John Carr of Dunston
Hill,) was born September 22nd, 171 1. He was apprenticed to Matthew Bonner,
Merchant Adventurer and Boothman. At the age of 47 he
married Isabella, daughter of Rev. Henry Byne, Vicar of
Ponteland. He resided at Cross-house, Westgate, afterwards
at Hanover Square. He was a member of the Hanover
Square Chapel, and one of the trustees. He died May 7th,
1806, and was buried in the chancel of Ponteland Church.
A pedigree and account of the family is now in the press for
private circulation. I have been favoured with the proof-
sheets, and from them I have gathered much of my information
regarding the Old Bank.

JOHN COOKSON.— A son of Isaac Cookson (son of Wilham Cookson of
Penrith), who settled in Newcastle about 1700 as a Merchant Adventurer.


John Cookson purchased Whitehill, near Chester-le-Street, about 1745. He

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 22 of 57)