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ness in the Banking and Exchange Way will be transacted as in London.' This announcement has hitherto been held as proclaiming the opening of the first bank in Newcastle, but as it was recorded on August 23rd that the bank was then issuing notes, I think the announcement of November 22nd simply speaks of a change of premises, so that we are not yet certain of the precise time or place that saw the birth of the first bank in our town.
Assuming August, 1755, to be the date of opening, we claim this to have been the first provincial bank founded in the kingdom. Lawson, in his History of Banking, asserts that the notes of this date were the first ever issued by a country banker. The Woods of Gloucester, Smiths of Nottingham, and many others, were transacting business of a banking nature in conjunction with their other business, but the Newcastle bank had a fixed capital and a deed of partnership for banking business pure and simple.
In 1762 or 1763, Mr. Joseph Saint became a partner, and the firm was then Bell, Cookson, Carr, Airey, & Saint. Mr. Airey died near the end of the year 1770, and his place was taken by Mr. John Widdrington (a nephew of Mr. Carr's) on January 2nd, 1771 : the firm then being Bell, Cookson, Carr, Widdrington, & Saint. The capital was divided into eighteen parts, the three old partners holding four shares each, and the two new partners three shares each. Messrs. Widdrington & Saint had to attend to the daily business of the bank without extra remuneration.'
In 1772 there occurred in the metropolis a terrible money panic, which was not long in spreading to the provinces. Only one other bank was in existence in Newcastle, and both required public support. On June 29th, a meeting was held and a resolution passed to accept the notes of the banks.
In 1775 another deed of partnership was entered into, under which Mr. Airey (probably son of the late partner) took Mr. Widdrington's place, the capital being divided into thirty-two shares : Messrs. Bell, Cookson, Carr, and Airey, each held seven, and Mr. Saint four, the latter to attend gratis to the business of the firm. In the directory of 1778, the bank is described as "The Old Bank,' and occupying premises near the end of Silver street, probably the same that they moved to in 1755.
'JOHN WIDDRINGTON AND CARLYLE OF INVERESK.'
Mr. Cookson and Mr. Saint both died in 1783. On January 1st, 1784, a new partnership was entered into between Messrs. Bell, Carr, Cookson (Isaac, son of John, the late partner), Widdrington, James Wilkinson, and Thomas Gibson, Mr. Cookson taking the place of his father, Messrs. Wilkinson and Gibson being admitted in Mr. Saint's room. * Each of the first three partners held four shares out of eighteen, Widdrington held three, while the two last named held three half shares each, and were bound to attend daily without remuneration. The style of the bank was to be Messrs. Bell, Carr, Cookson, Widdrington, & Co.
Vol. X. of our Archaeologia Aeliana contains a charming paper by the late James Clephan, entitled 'John Widdrington of the Old Bank, and Carlyle of Inveresk.' It gives an interesting account of the times, and shows how useful it was for the traveller to be on good terms with the few country bankers that then existed. The reverend doctor and three notable friends were returning from the south. Ere they reached Durham, says Mr. Clephan :
They found their purse was failing, and that they must put themselves severely on short commons. 'I was sensible,' says Carlyle, (the appointed treasurer of the band,) 'that we should run out before we came to Newcastle.' It was expedient that they should push forward, and cross the Tyne early in the day to secure supplies. This they might have accomplished, ' had we not been seduced by a horse-race we met near Chester-le-Street, which we could not resist, as some of us had never seen John Bull at his favourite amusement. There was a great crowd, and the Mrs. and Misses Bull made a favourite part of the scene, their equipages being single and double horses, sometimes triple, and many of them ill-mounted ;' the equestrian members of the illustrious family of Bull utterly unconscious that they were sitting for their portraits! The riders, well-mounted or ill, hastened on their headlong way, with a keenness, eagerness, violence of motion, and loudness of vociferation, that appeared like madness to us; for we thought them in extreme danger, by their crossing and jostling in all directions, at the full gallop ; and yet none of them fell. Having tired our horses with this diversion (continues Carlyle) we were obliged to halt at an inn to give them a little corn, for we had been four hours on horse-back, and we had nine miles to Newcastle. Besides corn to four horses, and a bottle of Porter to our man Anthony, I had just two shillings remaining, but I could only spare one of them, for we had turnpikes to pay, and we called for a pint of port, which mixed with a quart of water, made a good drink for each of us. Our horses and their riders being both jaded, it was ten o'clock before we arrived in Newcastle. There we got an excellent supper, etc., and a good night's sleep. I sent for Jack Widdrington when at breakfast, who immediately gave us what we wanted; and we, who had been so penurious for three days, became suddenly extrava
gant. Adam bought a £20 horse, and the rest of us what trinkets we wanted : Robertson for his wife and children at Gladsmuir, and Home and I for the children at Polwarth manse.'
Mr. Carr retired from the bank on 31st December, 1787, but he has left letters and papers that afford a full and most interesting record of the bank's transactions.3
The balance sheets for the early years of their trading are still in existence, and from them it appears that at the end of the first year the note issue was £13,523 188. 4d., “the odd money may be from the cost of production being included.' The deposits exceeded £10,000, £11,502 2s. 7d. was in the hands of Messrs. Vere, Glyn, & Hallifax, London, and £505 with Coutts & Co.; cash in hand, £3,000; discounts, £13,000. There was one overdraft of about £1,000. The profit for the year was £1,017 19s. 7d. Lord Ravensworth, Robert Ellison, jun., the Newcastle Infirmary, and Marine Society were amongst the depositors. In the year 1758, the profit was £3,522, which constituted the first dividend. There was difficulty in employing the deposits profitably in genuine banking business in the neighbourhood,' and on April 18th the following resolution was passed :
Whereas the sums advanced by us on notes and accepted bills are found insufficient to employ the cash in our hands, we have agreed that any sum or sums of money not exceeding £7,000 be lent out.
A letter of September 15th, 1767, to Mr. John Moses of Hull, shows how the note circulation was increased.
Our bank remits for many of the large estates in these counties at the two terms in bills at 40 days at 5 per cent., which in fact is receiving and remitting their money for nothing, as it always happens in May, that bills are } per cent. premium, and we are then obliged to send many thousand pounds by land carriage to London. Our only advantage is, that the gentlemen in Northumberland order their tenants to take payment for their corn in our notes, but no trade of this kind is carry'd on in the county of Durham. Our Gentlemen have formerly suffered greatly by their agents taking bad bills.
The manner in which overdrafts were negociated is shown by a letter (March 15th, 1768) to Messrs. Charles and Robert Falls, of Dunbar :
• From which much of my information is derived, and my best thanks are due for the courtesy I have received from the present representatives of the family.
TURNOVER OF THE BANK IN 1776.
Our bank at the closing of their books last year resolved to keep stricktly to their original rates, which they find absolutely necessary, one of which was that all single Merchants or Houses having cash accounts sho give a bond to the bank with some other person as a security for the re-payment of all money that may be due to the extent agreed upon, and this is accordingly comply'd with by the first people in this country, and therefore no possibility that any can take it amiss being an established practice at all banks.
The balance sheet for 1771 gives a total of £141,340 ; discounts, £53,202; bills of exchange, £43,660 ; 20 overdrafts ; 42 depositors ; note issue, close on £82,000; profit, £3,705. During the year 1772 occurred a serious panic. In 1773 the business fell to £140,000; note issue, £102,000 ; and a profit of only £3,000 remained.
Business revived in the next year, the balance sheet showing £234,660; the capital had been increased to £8,000; and the note circulation had risen to £170,000.
In 1776 the turnover was £278,708 ; cash in the bank, £53,853 ; bills of exchange, £49,744; with Hallifax, Mills, Glyn, & Co., £36,093 ; Castell, Whately, & Powell (bankers, London), £11,767 ; navy bills, £14,609 ; bank stock, £8,500; 3 per cent. annuities, £1,799 ; at the Bank of England, £443; overdrafts, about £38,000; the note issue was £180,000; the capital, £8,000; 52 depositors, £85,000 in amount; profit, £5,712. Amongst the names of the customers are Bigge, Riddell, Williamson, Collingwood, Askew, Isaacson, Ravensworth, Headlam, Loraine, Clennell, Ellison, Fawcett, Dockwray, and others.
In the next year there was a great falling off, probably from other banks starting ; total, £183,037; deposits were £48,000 less; and notes less by £52,000. From a letter that was lost in the post, containing two bills, which were advertised for in the Newcastle paper, March, 1778, we find that one of the missing documents was drawn at thirty days after date upon Castell, Whately, & Powell, bankers, London (who failed about 1802). "Signed for Bell, Cookson, Carr, Widdrington, and self, Jos. Saint.'
A meeting of country bankers was held at the ‘York Tavern,' in York, on June 6th, 1783, to protest and agitate against a tax on bills of exchange, promissory notes, bank notes,' etc., for which Lord John Cavendish had carried a motion in the House of Commons. Twelve conntry bankers are named, and at the head of the list are Messrs. Bell, Cookson, Carr, and Widdrington.
Mr. Carr’s reasons for quitting the bank are shown by the following accounts left by himself:
Too often I have lost many thousand pounds by having large sums in their (the bank's) hands, and wanted to buy stocks or other advantageous purposes. They could not pay me on the peace with America of which I had early intelligence. This prevented my buying stock to the amount of 12 to £15,000, by which I evidently lost, as I showed to them circa £6,800, for, on examining their discounts then in 1785 with Mr. Gibson, we found discounts of near a hundred thousand pounds Intirely locked up and they could not pay me and the same has repeatedly happen'd. I always bad large sums in the bank, and Messrs.
were generally greatly in debt to the bank, and were in fact the cause of my loss. I also lost by Mr. .. upwards of £5,000, for when I bought
of him at £17,000, I ordered the bank to sell out £12,000 3 per cent. stock, then at 97 per cent., and they got the licences from the Bank of England for that purpose, and it is in their hands to this day, but Mr.
could not make a title for me till 1793, when stock had fallen £48, and I still have that stock to my great loss.
On December 31st, 1787, Mr. Carr writes :
Having from this time quitted the bank, and turned over my share to Sir John Eden and Sir Mathew Ridley, for if I had continued a banker it should have been on such terms so as to have taken in no other Partners, por were they necessary, as my fortune alone of near a Hundred Thousand Pounds, was a sufficient security to the Publick as not being under settlements. The annual settlements of our Banking Accounts are in Small Books to which I refer, as I always placed my Bank Profits out to Interest with other savings. I calculate I have at this day made more than Forty Thousand Pounds by my concern in the bank, but now that so many Banks are begun here and everywhere, the business is spoiled and must be attended with daily hazard, and their competitions disgraceful. I wish my nephew J. W. was clear of it.
We know that in 1787, there were three other banks in Newcastle, and as the population of the town was only about 15,000, and the commerce of the district insignificant in comparison with its present volume, the competition must indeed have been keen. Doubtless Messrs. Davison-Bland & Co. (now Lambton & Co.) was one of the banks referred to in the remark, ‘so many banks are begun here,' as they were forming their establishment at this very date (December, 1787).
In 1786 Mr. Bell died, and the names of Sir John Eden and Sir Matthew White Ridley, barts., were added, they being trustees for Matthew Bell, grandson of the late partner. When Mr. Carr retired, the firm was Sir John Eden, Sir Matthew White Ridley, Cookson, Widdrington, & Co.