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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these obligations put him in constant communication with Mr. Coutts of Edinburgh,
and Mr. Campbell of London. So well did Mr. Carr carry out the commission
entrusted to his charge, that after the country had been restored to quietness, Mr.
Campbell suggested to him the suitability of his forming a bank in Newcastle,
which he subsequently accomphshed.

There was no friendly banker to take charge of the plate chest. The Wardens
of All Saints' Church, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, were possessed of some very valuable
plate. In 1745 (when the town was in great alarm from fear of the Pretender),
their books show a payment of 5s. to the gravedigger for concealing the plate.

Only a few years before the establishment of the first bank in Newcastle we
read (January 2nd, 1749), "This day the Duke of Newcastle's grand service of
plate, valued at ;^400,ooo, was brought in a keel to the Custom House in
Newcastle, properly guarded from Shields, it having arrived there a few days
before in a vessel from Holland. The next day a waggon loaded with it set
forward for London escorted by a party of dragoons."




Ralph Carr forms first Provincial Bank, 1755 — Mail guarded — Coiners at work —
Lottery Tickets issued — Subscriptions received — Difficulties of Postage —
Exchequer Bills — Foreign Gold — Newcastle Forgery — " Exchange " Bank
— " Bogus " Notes — Robbery of Mail Bags — Hazlet hung in chains on
Gateshead Fell — Clement, first Banker of Darlington — First Panic, 1772 —
Notes guaranteed — List of Names — Coaches will not carry Money — Roberts,
the Coiner, executed — Small Paper Money — J. & J. Backhouse's " Banking
Shop " started — Light Gold — Smugglers clear the country of it — Increase of
Small Notes.

A CTING upon the suggestion made by Mr. Campbell, as related in the last
XjL chapter, Mr. Carr, with three other gentlemen, formed the bank of
Bell, Cookson, Carr, and Airey. When other firms started, the
pioneers were accorded the title of the " Old Bank," and were afterwards known
as " Sir Matthew White Ridley & Co." The exact date of their commencing
business is uncertain ; but it was not later than August, 1755, as in that month
they issued their own notes.* This I claim to be the first regularly constituted
country bank in England. f The reasons for the same will be seen in the account
of the firm. They adopted all the branches of a regular banking business —
opened drawing accounts, received money on deposit, discounted bills, and
issued drafts on their London agents.

So far as we know at present, the first banking house was situated in Pilgrim
Street, near the end of Silver Street, the ancient name of which was " Jews' Gate,"
probably pointing to a time when the Hebrew resided in that locality, and was the
banker of his day, afterwards giving place to the Silver Smith, who, in his turn
made way for the modern banker.

* la some places the introduction of private bank notes met with opposition. In " A Century of Banliing
in Dundee," Mr. Boase says—" On the 16th August, 1768, the heritors in Haddington resolved not to receive in
payments the notes of any other bank tlian the two banks established by public authority, except at a discount
of Id. each £1, being the rate charged by Johnston & Smith for such notes in Edinburgh. And, on the 4th
October, the freeholders of Berwick resolved not to receive any notes, except those of the two Edinburgh Banks,
without being endorsed by the party giving them ; and this only till 10th January next. After that date they
will not, on any consideration whatever, receive such notes in payments, or otherwise."

+ Since writing the above, I have been in correspondence with Mr. F. C. Smith of Nottingham, who
challenges my assertion, and kindly favours me with some interesting information regarding the foundation of
the well-known banking house of Samuel Smith & Co., Nottingham. (See " Old Bank.")


Confidence was soon established regarding the notes of the new bank. In
February, 1757, it was announced that the Collector of Excise would accept the
same in pa}'Tnent or give cash for them. How the bank obtained its treasure we
have no record, but it must have been a difficult and dangerous matter. Two
years after it commenced, "the South Mail came guarded by a person on

horseback with a sword drawn, and behind
by another with a charged blunderbuss, which
precaution is now taken on all the principal
roads to prevent it being robbed." Thanks
to the preserving hand of Alderman Cail (since
deceased), we are able to give a representation
of the identical blunderbuss that was carried.

At this time coiners of base money were
at work. One, John Heslop by name, was in
custody at Morpeth, and there detained while
the authorities advertise for "all persons who
can give evidence against him."

Announcements early appeared in the local

papers stating that " Lotter}^ Tickets can be

obtained at the bank ; " the trade pre\iously

having been in the hands of the stationers.

The practice of receiving money at the banks

for public purposes was also soon instituted.

Prior to this date the coffee houses and circulating libraries were the depots for the

subscription lists. The new banks required interest tables, which were supplied by

"John Payne of the Bank of England," each copy being signed by the author.

Originally, all the notes issued by each bank were from one plate ; the
amount, and the name of the person to whom they were issued being filled in by
hand. For sums above £1, the practice of inserting the name of the first holder
(or an assumed name for all notes) was retained for many years.

The difficulties of postage would astonish the modem banker with his
numerous local branches. The Newcastle Courant of March ist, 1760, says : —

*' Notice is hereby given, ' That the Post Master of Newcastle, upon the resignation of Mrs. Bewley,
Post Mistress of North Shields, has appointed Henry Dixon of the same place to be his deputy whose
fidelity he will be answerable for. At whose office in the Fish Market in North Shields all letters are
taken in at one half -penny each letter, and will be carefully forwarded from thence, Sundays,
Tuesdays, and Fridays, at 6 o'clock on the same evenings. N.B. — All letters directed on board the
Ships, pays the postage on putting in also all foreign letters.' "


In 1760, Exchequer Bills were likely to press out bank notes. The Newcastle
Courant says : —

" It may be necessary to observe that, as many Exchequer Bills are now issued for circulation, that
they bear a daily interest of two pence for every £100, and one penny for every £50 and so on, as there
are days elapsed since there being signed, so that on negotiating them so many days Interest is
transferable and by which they are preferable to Bank Notes which never grow better by keeping,
whereas these daily improve."

An Exchequer Bill, though issued at a much earlier date, is here produced.
It bears interest at one farthing per day.




The endorsements on the back are also shown.

. y i ay. ; ^,U,(|.' y.^|^.;v.~.^g»r-f'~-^T;.

I have previously spoken of the practice resorted to by some of the Scotch
bankers when pressed for the payment of their notes, of cashing the same in
sixpences, each coin being deliberately handled so as to gain as much time as
possible. There is every appearance of the following announcement referring to
some such event. Newcastle Journal, February 21st, 1761 : —

" By a letter from Berwick we are advised, that a few days ago a Post Chaise passed through that place
from Edinburgh with upwards of £3,000 in silver, mostly sixpences, which the Old Bank of Scotland
has paid for their Notes to Sundry Tradesmen from England. This method of payment, as also of
bringing cash by land and sea from London (from whence 1500 in Silver for the Bank was taken,
wrecked in a ship lost near Dundee) is supposed to be taken to keep up the present high Exchange on
Bills, which for some time past has borne the extravagant Premium of one, and one and a quarter per

[J7] .

cent., at 30 days. These practices may enrich individuals but they greatly distress the Trade of that
City in general."

A great deal of foreign gold appears to have been in circulation, some of which
was spurious. The public were often warned against taking " thirty-six shilling
pieces or Johannas, twenty-seven shilling pieces or moidores, and three pound
twelve shilling pieces."

In 1765 the bank was troubled with the first forger}' of notes. It occasioned
a visit of two of the partners to Edinburgh, but eventually the forger proved to be
a Newcastle engraver, who escaped b}' the false swearing of a female friend. She
was subsequently pilloried for her crime.

In 1768 the second bank was opened in Newcastle under the name of the
"Exchange Bank," the partners being Aubone Surtees and Rowland Burdon,
gentlemen long known in the town and district as merchants of high standing and
great wealth. Their premises were at the corner of Silver Street and Pilgrim
Street. We have every reason to believe that they obtained a good share of
public support. A £1 note of theirs dated November 8th, 1770, is the first that
has come under my notice.

"Bogus" notes were issued as early as 1770.

" Certain false notes of hand resembling bank notes of copper plate print on thin paper, with a number,
letter, and shepherdess (instead of Britannia) at the corner, and the sum in white letters on black spots
at the bottom in smaller strokes than in real bank notes, were circulating round the town."

The dangers in fomier days to which bankers and merchants were exposed,
when sending remittances by post, are illustrated by the following : —

"In 1770 Miss Margaret Banson, sister of the wTiting master of the Free
Grammar School, Newcastle,* was returning in a post chaise from Durham to
Newcastle on August 6th, about 9 o'clock in the evening. On Gateshead Fell she
was attacked by a highwayman and robbed of half-a-guinea. When Miss Banson
got near Gateshead she met the postman, whom she informed of her adventure
and advised to return to Newcastle for a guard. This advice he refused. When a
few miles along the road, he was joined by a countryman whom he told of the
robbery of Miss Banson. They travelled a little way in company when the
stranger showed his true colours and demanded the mail bags on pain of death.
The bags contained a £20 bank note and some bills. The highwayman proved to
be Robert Hazlet. He was subsequently taken, tried at Durham, and sentenced to
death. He was executed near that city, and after hanging some time, the body
was cut down and carried in a cart to a gibbet twenty-five feet high. It was

♦ " The complete Exchange Tables of Exchange for ready and exact computation of any sum of money
remitted from Great Britain to Holland. By Wm. Banson, 1717, dedicated to the Right Worshipful Richard
Ridley, Esq., Merchant Adventurer, sold by the Author, Master of the Free Writing School, Newcastle upon-Tyne."


erected about three miles from Gateshead on the east side of the road, and here
for many years the ghastly sight might be seen as a supposed warning to all evil

The newspapers of the time have paragraphs on the matter : —

August 25th, 1770. " The mail that Hazlet robbed on the Gth inst. was found on Saturday last,
by his directions, in a Corn Field about a mile from the Eoad."

September 8th. " The Warrant for the execution of Hazlet on Tuesday the 18th is come to
the Sheriff of the County of Durham, and we hear chains are ordered for his being gibbetted."

September 15th. " The place where the Gibbet is to be fixed for Hazlet, who is to be hanged at
Durham on Tuesday is a considerable Distance on the East Side of the Road where the Robbery of
the Mail was committed.

" The following affecting scene happened last week : — A Person advanced in years, was observed
several Days to go and kneel before the Gibbet on Gateshead Pell where he staid a considerable Time
regardless of the Wetness of the Weather. The last Day in particular, he prostrated himself on his bare
knees for upwards of an hour and became so enfeebled that he could not rise till some People gave him
Assistance, after which he drew out of his Pocket a Hatband and putting it on said ' He then was
easy ' and took his Leave of the melancholy Spectacle before him. Who he is was not known."

On November 17th, 1771, an extraordinary inundation occurred. All the
bridges over the Tyne, except that of Corbridge, were swept away. The damage
to property and the sacrifice of human life were very great. On January 25th of
the following year, "Subscriptions for the Relief of sufferers in the late inundation"
were received at the " Exchange " and the " Old " banks.

About this time a third banker appeared in the field. In 1772, "J. Clement,
Banker, of Darlington," advertised to give " Guineas or drafts at one month on
London in exchange for Portugal Gold." Ere the year closed, the existing firms
experienced their first difficulties. So far, confidence (which is everything) in the
notes of the country banker was unbounded. Upon this subject a writer says : —

" The credit given to the circulation of country bankers' notes must owe its maintenance to the
spontaneous confidence of the public, for credit is a consequence, not a cause ; the effect of a substance,
not a substance ; 'tis the sunshine, not the sun ; the quickening that gives life to trade, gives being to
the branches and moisture to the root : it is the oil of the wheel, the marrow in the bones, the blood
in the veins, and the spirit in the heart, of all negotiations of trade, cash, and commerce."

In 1772 this confidence received its first rude check. In June a panic occurred
in London. Sir Richard Glyn and Hallifax, Bankers, stopped payment, and general
consternation followed, which in time spread to the provinces. Of what really
took place in Newcastle I have slight account, as the local newspapers do
not refer to it. My only information is gained from an Edinburgh paper of
July 3rd, which has the following announcement : —

" We whose names are hereunto subscribed, do hereby agree, in support of
the credit of Messrs. Bell, Cookson, Carr, Widdrington, and Saint, proprietors of


the Newcastle Bank, and of Messrs. Surtees and Burdon, proprietors of the
Exchange Bank in Newcastle, to take the notes of the said banks respectively in
payment, or to give promissorj^ notes for the value of such Bank Notes payable
one month after date ; and which promissor\^ notes we have authorised, and do
hereby authorise Mr. Joseph Paxton, and Mr. John Graham, of Newcastle-upon-
Tyne, or either of them to sign on our joint account : And we agree hereby to
pay the several sums for which such notes shall be given. Witness our hands,
this 29th day of June, 1772."

Thomas Lyon, for the Earl of

Walter Blackett.
Matthew Ridley.
John Simpson.
Joseph Reay.
Giles Alcock.
Cristopher Fawcett.
Edward Mosley.
John Hedley.
Matthew Scaife.
Richard Lambert.
Percival Clennell.
Thomas Riddell.
Alexander Adams.
Nicholas Walton.
George Stevenson.
Nicholas Walton, jun.
Henry Colliugwood.
Henry Airey.
Langdale Sunderland.
Jonathan Airey.
Aitkinson and Hall.
Monkhouse and Hopper.
John S. Ker.
Benjamin Gibson.

Landell and Chambers.
Richard Brown.
Barker and Wolfall.
James Clarke.
Jonathan Sorsbie, jun.
Thomas Ismay.
Jonathan Skelton.
William Nisbitt.
Stodart Rutherford.
Ormston and Lamb.
William Scurfield.
John Erasmus Blackett.
John Kirsop.
Thomas Swainston.
Middleton Hewitson.
Richard Burdus.
Williajn Coulson.
Thomas Hindmarsh.
Davidson Richd. Grieve.
Richard Lacy.
Thomas Maude.
John Kirkup.
Shaftoe Coulter & Co.
William Darnell.
William Harbottle.

Thompson and Reay.
William Gibson.
William Cuthbert.
Joseph Whiteby.
Matthew Reed.
John Graham.
Benjamin Emmerson.
Blagdon and Cramlington.
John Bell.
William Peareth.
William Johnson.
Robert Lisle.
Cristopher Wilkinson.
Matthew Bell, jun.
Robert Greenwell.
Cornelius Charleton.
George Anderson.
Matthew Waters.
Henry Ellison.
Charles Brandling.
William Lowes.
Joseph Ord.
Henry Gibson.
Ralph Stodart.
Thomas Hawdon.
Edward Anderson.

Robert Young.

N.B. — The original undertaking is deposited with the Town Clerk of Newcastle. Mr. Joseph
Paxton will give attendance at the usual hours at Messrs. Bell, Cookson, Carr, Widdrington, and
Saint's bank, and Mr. John Graham at Messrs. Surtees and Burdon's bank."

Public confidence would be further strengthened by the following announce-
ment that appeared in the Newcastle Journal of July 4th, 1772 : —

" The Old and New Bank at Newcastle.

Whereas divers persons who are obliged to pay me several considerable sums of money at stated
and short times, may imagine that I expect to have the same paid in specie.

Now I hereby declare that I will in any event whatever accept from such persons for payment
thereof, notes from either or both of the said Banks, in their common foma, and with their usual
signatures, as witness my hand— Alnwick, July 2, 1772, Coll Foster."


It would appear that the panic of 1772 arose from stock exchange speculations,
if we may judge from a paragraph that appeared in the Newcastle Chronicle,
July 25th:—

" So great are the losses and inconveniences sustained by many individuals from a late
bankruptcy, that a great number of eminent merchants and gentlemen of fortune at a meeting held
for that purpose, have come to a resolution not to keep their cash at any Banker who jointly or
separately by themselves or agents, are known to sport in the alley in what are called bulls or bears,
since by one unlucky stroke in this illegal traffic, usually called speculation, hundreds of their creditors
may be ruined ; a species of gaming that can no more be justified in persons so largely intrusted with
the property of others, than that of gambling at the hazard tables."

It is probable that the extra transit of money throughout the country at this
time, may have rendered travelling by coach more dangerous from the temptation
offered to the numerous highwaymen that infested the roads. An advertisement
of the coach from Newcastle to London that appeared in the Darli7igto7i Pamphlet,
shows that the owners were declining to cany money. It concludes, "The
Proprietors of this Machine beg leave to acquaint the Public, that they are
determined not to carry Money, Plate, Jewels, or Watches, upon any consideration
whatever : And that the said Proprietors do hereby give notice, they will not be
answerable for any such Articles, sent by the said Machine after the date hereof.

Sam. Wilkinson, Clerk."

The same newspaper informs us that bad silver was very plentiful. The
notorious Samuel Roberts was putting up base coin into convenient parcels of £^^0
or ^100, sorted into qualities and sold at fairs by pretended horse dealers. He
was also an expert "clipper" and milled the tampered coins again with special
machinery, the same as that in use at the Mint. On June 6th, his execution
cut short his further exploits.

About this time silver was so scarce that paper money was given instead. The
Scots Magazine for July 25, 1774, says: —

" Tickets of three, five, and seven shilling pieces, payable at sight the same as bank notes, are
issued by a capital person of most towns in England, which pass current, and are a great relief at this
time to tradesmen, especially when gold, particularly quarter guineas, is so much scrupled by the
farmers and country people."

In 1774 another bank was added to the list, Darlington being the field of its
operations. The Quaker family of Backhouse, who had long been mill-owners and
manufacturers of huckaback, opened a " Banking Shop." The partners were James
Backhouse and his son Jonathan. Little did the founders dream of the extent
to which the business then started would grow ! After a life of 120 years it
still flourishes, and by a network of branches covers the whole county of
Durham. It has the longest record of any north-country bank, and has always
retained the same name.


In 1773 the Government took up the question of hght gold, and eventually a
proclamation was issued stating that all light guineas and half guineas could be
exchanged for good from the 15th to the 31st August, 1774, the date and weight
to be the following : —

dwts. grs.

Guineas prior to George III 5 3

Half Guineas 2 13

Guineas of George III. to and with 1771 5 6
Half „ „ 2 14

dwts. grs.
Quarter Guineas of George III. to and

with 1771 1 7

All of George III. of 1772 and since . . 5 8
Half „ „ .. 2 16

After the 81st August no guineas of less weight than 5 dwts. 8 grs. to pass current.

The exchangers appointed by the Government for the north were Messrs.
Bell, Cookson, Carr, and Co., Newcastle, and Messrs. George and Matthew
Atkinson, of Temple Sowerby. The following extracts will give some idea of the
difficulty that existed in disposing of light gold prior to the appointment of the
official exchange.

A letter from Newcastle, dated Oct. i6, 1773, says : — " Thomas Charles Bigge,
of Little Benton, Esq., at the receipt of his rents on Tuesday last, generously took
from his tenants their light gold at nominal value." An announcement to the same
purport is made regarding Robert Shafto, Esq., of Whitworth, the Right Hon.
Lord Ravensworth, and the Collector of Customs. A \NTiter to a Yorkshire
paper gives us an idea of the state of things in that county : —

"There is no vocation or calling, within a great many miles distant from Yorkshire Coast, that
is so attentively executed as that of smuggling and more in particular since light gold was refused ;
that a great many, who could not purchase the Price of the Pegg (half an anker) before the Gold Act
took place, are now provided with both money and a Horse at their call, which are furnished by those
who have quantities of light money by them, as the Smuggling Cutters refuse none, but it is thought
by their increasing Trade and innumerable Customers, they will vend their Goods as quick as it is
possible for the Smugglers to procure them ; that if there is no Stop or Hinderance put to this pernicious
Practice, soon Yorkshire will have little of either light or heavy Gold, for by a moderate computation
what is disposed of on the Yorkshire coast in one year, amounts at least to the sum of £15,000.

We have every reason to believe that the issue of notes increased verj'^ rapidly,
and became a general medium of exchange for small sums. Lawson says,
"Previous to the year 1774, there was no legislative restriction to the issue of
small notes, which were circulated freely in various parts of the country, but
more especially in the Northern Counties." The legislation introduced in the
following year will be duly noted in the next chapter.




Acts restraining the issue of Notes under £^ — Tyne Bank commenced — Early Forgery
of their Notes — Robert Knowles, Postman, executed— Several new firms start
at Whitby, Darlington, and Stockton-on-Tees — Commercial Bank opened in
Newcastle — Simpson & Chapman, Whitby — Meeting of Bankers at York to
oppose Tax on Receipts, &c. — Mr. Carr retires from the Old Bank — Formation
of Davison-Bland & Co.— The "Nabob's Bank"— R. J. Lambton & Co.—
Newcastle Bankers' Association — Records of their Meetings — Bad State of
the Copper Coinage — Quantity of Base Copper — Notices in the Newspapers
regarding Counterfeit Half-pence — Scale-de-Cross Bank — Official Instructions
as to sending Notes by Post— Gordon Riots — Bank of England in danger —
Note Circulation in Yorkshire — Risks of Travelling.

IN the year 1775, an Act was passed to "restrain the negotiation of
promissory notes, and inland letters of exchange, for any sum less than
twenty shiUings." I have not found any instance of a banker in the
district under review having ever issued a note for sums under ;^i, so that the
act would not affect the North of England. A few of the Scotch banks were
issuing notes for five shillings, and possibly some English bankers may have done
the same. Tw^o years later came another Act " for further restraining the
negotiation of promissory notes and inland bills of exchange for any sum less than
five pounds." In 1787 this act was made perpetual.

We may naturally infer that it would be badly received in the north, as it

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 5 of 57)