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Edward J Law.


The point at which individuals became bankers can seldom be shown with precision for it normally occurred from the making of loans as a utilisation of surplus funds arising from the principal occupation. In the next stage of development the individual proceeded to borrow money himself in order to make further loans; eventually some of these money-lenders who were located in centres of trade started to accept deposits from the public in general. There must have been many in the Huddersfield area who fell within the first category, prosperous clothiers, farmers and tradesmen, happy to lend reasonable sums to neighbours whose activities and capabilities were known to them. An example is found in the executorship accounts of John Mellor of Fleming House, a clothier, where in 1802 there is repayment of a loan of 100, with interest at 4%, by Messrs Ponteys, nurserymen, his near neighbours1. Daniel Battye of Birkby was one who fell in the second stage of banking evolution. In life he was described as a gentleman, but in 1780, shortly after his death, a commission of bankruptcy had been issued against him as a "money scrivener"2, a rather dated description of one who received money to place out at interest and supplied those who wanted to raise money on security.

The activities of the provincial bankers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries do not appear to have differed greatly from those of the present banking system; deposits were taken from the public and tradesmen, and loans made, mainly upon the security of property. The most striking difference, and the source of the eventual downfall of most of these private banks, was the issue of banknotes. However, not all those who issued monetary notes were bankers, and there is no evidence to warrant that title for any of the following who issued notes in this area:-

Joseph Sanderson, Deanhouse near Huddersfield, Guinea, December1799.
Thomas Nelson, Henry Nelson & Co., Huddersfield, 1 Guinea, circa 1800.
J & B Charlesworth & Co., Holmfirth, 1, 18--.
Robert Bellwood, Huddersfield, 5 shillings, 1800.

The same comments apply to John Downing, a grocer and tea dealer of Huddersfield, who in 1792 and 1793 issued halfpenny tokens with the inscription "payable at John Downings, Huddersfield"3, though it is interesting that several of the bankers who are to be considered originated as grocers. Downing was by no means the first person to issue tokens in this area. The third quarter of the seventeenth century must have suffered a severe shortage of copper which led to the issue of various tokens4, amongst which were a halfpenny of Edmund Walker of Huddersfield, 1666; another from Richard Kippax, a banksman at Marsden coal pit, in 1669; a penny from John Dyson of Slaithwaite, dated 1670, and, illustrative of the relative importance of our local townships at that time, three from Almondbury, amongst which would be one mentioned in Jessop's Diary5:-

17.9.1740. I gave young Joseph Woodhead a halfpenny for one of Nicholas Greaves of Almondbury's Halfpennies which was coined in 1668 when shopkeepers had liberty to coin halfpennies.

It is reputed that banknotes were first issued in Huddersfield in 1779 by Joseph Brook, though I am inclined to believe that this is a transposition of the date of a note of 1797. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1797 which prohibited the Bank of England from redeeming their notes for cash, but allowed them for the first time to issue notes under 5; it was this Act which gave the impetus to the introduction of small currency notes on a wide scale.

An early indication of banking in Huddersfield is found in a locally published book, The Prisoner, by Thomas Smart. Writing of his master, Joseph Brook, a Huddersfield printer, he records that sometime after 1793 he agreed a new salary in consequence of having to "assist him in the banking business", which would seem to imply that the banking side was newly established at that time. It has been stated that Brook was issuing bank notes in 17977 and there is a guinea note of the Huddersfield Bank dated September 1798 signed by Josh. Brook. Shortly after that Brook entered into a banking partnership with the Perfects and Seatons, two banking families from Pontefract, for there are printed cheques of 1800 for the firm Perfect, Seaton, Brook & Co., Bankers, Huddersfield. It is not clear at what date the Perfects left the partnership, but certainly by 1808 when Perfect has been struck through on notes, and possibly as early as 1804, for a deed of January 1805 gives John Seaton, Joseph Brook, John Fox Seaton, Robert Seaton and Charles Gervas Seaton, bankers and co-partners, with no mention of the Perfects. The firm were bankers for the Huddersfield Canal Company, and there are several instances where fines imposed on local townships at the Quarter Sessions are ordered to be paid into the bank8. The Seatons failed in 1810 bringing down each of their banks, including the Huddersfield partnership.

Whilst Brook's is thought to have been the first bank established in Huddersfield, a Halifax banker, William Frobisher, had been attending in Huddersfield on market days as early as 17869. It is quite possible that Brook took his inspiration from Frobisher, and it may even be that Frobisher used Brook's "large and commodious shop at the corner of Market Place",10 -he would have required respectable and central premises. In Brook's announcement of his removal to a new shop in 1795 he described himself as "Bookseller, printer, stationer and binder," a good indication that he had not then commenced the banking side of his business11.

Following Brook's bankruptcy in 1810 the name Huddersfield Bank seems to have passed to the firm of John Dobson & Sons, who were using the style as late as 1825. John Dobson is noted from 1784 to 1799 as a Huddersfield grocer, and in the latter year as a banker. At the examination subsequent to the failure of Dobson & Sons in 182512 it was recorded that Dobson senior, who died in 1818, had withdrawn 21,000 from the firm over a period of 23 years, from which we may infer that he was considered to have commenced banking activities in 1795. It has to be noted that 7,000 of the above drawings had been for the purchase of property, but even so an average of 600 per annum was no mean amount at that time. After John's death in 1818 the firm was continued by his sons, William Beevers and John; the latter married a daughter of Joseph Walker of Lascelles Hall, who was to play an important part in the development of Joint Stock banking in the West Riding. The minutes of the Churchwardens of Huddersfield Parish church13 in 1826 note:-

  • The churchwardens having in their possession received on account of the Church rates for the Township of Huddersfield seventeen pounds three shillings in Dobson & Sons and Wentworth & Co's notes they are empowered to dispose of the same to the best advantage and account for the amount thereof.
  • It seems that they managed to dispose of 9 worth of the notes for there are two further entries on the subject:-

  • 16.8.1826 Received on account of 5.2.0 in Dobsons notes @ 5/6din the pound, l-5- .
    8.1.1827 Received on account of 3-1-0 in Wentworth notes @ 9/- in the pound, 1-7- .
  • The Dobsons' bank seems to have been very well regarded in the town, and it held some prestigious appointments. In particular it was the treasurer for the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners from 1820 to its closure in December 182514.

    The other eighteenth century banker in Huddersfield was Silvester Sikes who was the signatory to the 1797 bank note issued by Joseph Brook. It seems probable that Sikes, who would then be aged seventeen, was the clerk employed by Brook in 1793; it is interesting to speculate whether the connection came about through their fathers, both of whom had been schoolmasters. Brook was the treasurer for the Huddersfield Canal Company which was to connect Huddersfield and Ashton under Lyne, no doubt a factor which led Sikes to establish a bank in the Lancashire town. He had left Brook's employ by 1798 to set up his own banks and a printing business; the earliest notes encountered for the banks are 1st May 1798, the Huddersfield bank, and 1st October 1799 the Ashton under Lyne concern. Both sets of notes were signed "for Si1vester Sikes & Co.," and it appears from bankruptcy notices15 that his partner was Abel Hyde of Ashton under Lyne, presumably a relative of Silvester's wife, Margaret Hyde, whom he had married in May 1799 at Mottram, Cheshire. Silvester was bankrupt by September 1800, but his assignees were able to pay a first dividend the following year as announced by handbill:-

  • Huddersfield, May 20, 1801. The creditors of the Huddersfield and Ashton Banks who shall have proved their debts on or before the twentyfirst instant may receive A First Dividend of the effects, at the house of Mr Abraham Beaumont, The Pack Horse Inn, in Huddersfield on Wednesday and Thursday the 10th and 11th of June next between the hours of' nine in the forenoon and six in the evening of either of the said days.
    To prevent inconvenience to distant creditors, any person, on producing the securities may receive a dividend; but no money will be paid upon either bills or notes, unless the person applying produce the same16.
  • The above dividend was for 25%, another dividend, apparently the second, for the same amount was paid in July 1802. It would appear that those payments satisfied Sikes' creditors for by July 1802 he was a partner in the banking firm of Benjamin Ingham & Joshua Ingham & Co., who took over the name, and no doubt the connections, of the Huddersfield Commercial Bank which had been used by Sikes.

    In the early days of provincial banking when communications were poor the slightest whisper could trigger rumours of imminent collapse, and in some instances the run on a bank which this could cause resulted in the downfall of the bank; even were a bank run on the best of commercial principles, sudden demands for large amounts of cash could not usually be sustained.

    The diary of Thomas Butler of Kirkstall Forge17 carries the following entry at 12th November 1799 "to Leeds - a rumour was spread that L Sikes & Co. of Hudd. had stopt payt. - however I had confidence and bot. 3 Guinea notes for 3 pounds and paid them away imm." Amusing in showing the extent of Butler's confidence, but no doubt just, the sort of incident which brought Sikes' banks down within the year! However, the banks provided a useful service to the community, and leading townsfolk often took it upon themselves to try to bolster general confidence in banks at times of crisis. Examples of this may be found in the Leeds Mercury of 13th July 1816:

  • Huddersfield Banks. At the half yearly rent audit of estates of Thomas Thornhill Esq., at Raistrick, Lindley cum Quarmby, Fixby and Longwood, the notes of Messrs Brook & Sons, Messrs John Dobson & Sons and Messrs Hirst & Sikes were all received as usual.
  • Besides. the above news item the paper carried the following advert:-

  • Huddersfield Banks. We the undersigned inhabitants of Huddersfield considering the prompt manner in which the banking concerns of Messrs John Dobson & Sons and Messrs William Brook & Sons have met their engagements … agree to receive their notes. 12th July 1816.
    [Signed by 23 firms and individuals.]
  • Sikes had left the Inghams by 1805 but continued as a banker on his own account in Kirkgate, and it seems likely that shortly bef0re his death in April 1811 the bank was transferred to his brother Shakespear Garrick Sikes, and John Hirst. Shakespear was born in, 1781 and was brought up to banking for he was the signatory of his brother's notes in 1799 and 1800, and apparently worked also for the Inghams for his signature is noted on a receipt on behalf of Ingham & Co. in1803. In 1806 he married Hannah the daughter of John Hirst of Dyke End in Huddersfield, a clothdresser and woolstapler, and by 1809 was in partnership with his father-in-law as appears from a 1 note of the Huddersfield Bank of John Hirst & Shakespear G Sikes dated 1st August 1809. The bank was probably founded in that year for it is not recorded with the other Huddersfield banks in Holden's Triennial directory of 1809-11. Much of the banking material in the extensive collection of the Tolson Memorial Museum was deposited by a descendant of the Sikeses, and the papers include two receipts which may be of some significance. They record deposits in the Kirkgate Bank by Shakespear's wife and three year old daughter, and in view of the date, 1st January. 1811, and the fact of their preservation, that may have been the date when the bank first took deposits from the public. John Hirst died in 1813 and Shakespear continued the business until his bankruptcy, in the relatively small sum of 4,000, in 183218. Shortly after that date his son, Charles William, became a clerk in the first of the local joint stock banks, the Huddersfield Banking Company; he rose in time to be the manager of the bank, and in 1881 received a knighthood in recognition of his active advocation of the scheme of Post Office Savings Banks.

    Benjamin and Joshua Ingham were originally merchants at Lockwood and seem to have first became involved in banking as the partners of Silvester Sikes on his re-emergence after bankruptcy, in 1802. Joshua was living at Blake Hall, Mirfield at that date whilst Benjamin continued to live at Lockwood until his death in 1811. It has already been noted that Silvester had ceased to be a partner by 1805, and in 1809 Benjamin and Joshua took the latter's son-in-law, John Ikin, into the firm, there are notes of that year where the printed name 'Benjamin & Joshua Ingham' has '& Co.' added by hand. After Joshua's death in January 1814 Ikin continued the bank unti1 it failed in 1816. He struggled for some time to settle the affairs of the bank19, but a commission of bankruptcy was entered against him in 1819, and he met an accidental death two years later. The case dragged on for many years with the creditors attempting to claim the benefit of some of the extensive estates of Benjamin and Joshua Ingham. However, after their executors and the creditors failed to agree a compromise in1827 it appears that the former made direct sett1ement with one or two favoured creditors but that the majority then received nothing. In early 1831 a further meeting was held which approved certain proposals, said to have involved an offer of ten shillings in the pound, but again a small minority of the creditors refused to accept and the offer lapsed. It is believed that the main body of the creditors never did receive a dividend. It is interesting to note that no mention is made of Benjamin & Joshua Ingham & Co., or of their Huddersfield Commercial Bank, in the previously quoted extracts from the Mercury, though the bank was still struggling for survival at that date. Were there still, one wonders, resentful memories of the collapse of the bank sixteen years earlier?

    Another grocer/banker in the town was John Priest who is recorded as a banker in December 1803, variously as a banker and grocer in 1808 and 1809. In a deed of 1808 he was a nominee for Joseph Brook and the Seatons, and in the same year he has been noted in partnership as a grocer with William Ness.

    A third grocer/banker was Francis Downing, recorded in the directory of 1809-11 as a grocer and tea dealer in New Street, and almost certainly related to the John Downing noted earlier. In 1816 there was a report of an attempted burglary at the bank of Mr Francis Downing of Huddersfield20, and in the previous year he is noted as a banker and grocer. He was better remembered as a grocer rather than a banker as appears from the following extract from recollections of Huddersfield21 of circa 1810:

  • I can just remember the soldiers pomading and tying each other's back hair. They wore their hair long, tied with a riband, and hanging down their, backs with a tuft of hair at the end, and plenty of powder on the back of the head. This method of dressing hair was not peculiar to the army. People generally wore queues. At that day they were fashionable. My father used to wear one. The last man in Huddersfield to retain the old fashion was, I believe, Mr Frank Downing, the grocer.
  • No doubt bankers made every effort to maintain an image of men of substance, and when Silvester Sikes obtained the annual licence for the use of hair powder in 1797 he was following the fashion of the upper classes22. Downing suffered the same fate as virtually all the early Huddersfield bankers, bankruptcy, but his assignees, a wholesale grocer and a fruit merchant, indicate the area of his main liabilities.

    Previous writers on the subject have confused the firm of William Brooke & Sons with the earlier bank of Joseph Brook; there was no connection of either bank or family. William Brooke & Sons were bankers and woolstaplers of Meltham, Huddersfield and London. The obituary of one of the sons23, another Joseph, records that early in his life (he was born in 1787) he was sent to London where he and his brother William were the town correspondents of the Huddersfield banking firm of William Brooke & Sons. There is no evidence that William Brooke senior, who died in 1806, was involved in banking. The style of the firm would be taken when they developed as woolstaplers and it would be natural that the sons on introducing the banking aspect continued in the name of their existing partnership. There were six brothers though only Joseph and three others comprised the woolstapling and banking firm. In 1810 James, William and Joseph were banking partners, James in Huddersfield and the other two in London. In the crisis of1816 the firm suspended payments, but the partners had another and lucrative interest, the firm of Jonas Brooke & Brothers of Meltham Mills, cotton and silk spinners. It is no surprise therefore to find that when the Huddersfield Banking Company was founded in 1827 four of the brothers were shareholders, and that Joseph was a director. The rules of that bank precluded from the position of director anyone who had been a bankrupt or who had compounded with his creditors; it is clear from Joseph's position as a founding director that the banking firm of William Brooke & Sons must have met all its liabilities. Joseph appears to have been instrumental in the growth of the Huddersfield Banking Company, along with Joseph Walker of Lascelles Hall, and to have been a highly respected member of the community. A plain but substantial memorial to his memory may be seen in the Huddersfield cemetery; it was erected by public subscription with an upper limit of one guinea to any donation, in order that as many as possible could indicate their regard for the man.

    The successors to William Brooke & Sons, bankers, may have been the Wilsons, a family of Mirfield bankers. They are said to have commenced as bankers in 1802, though I have not found them described as such until 1807 when Benjamin and Luke Wilson, both of Mirfield, bankers, were parties to a deed. In support of the theory that the Wilsons founded their Huddersfield bank by acquiring the connections of the Brookes, there is a deed of March 1818 which involves James and Joseph Brooke, woolstaplers and co-partners, lately bankers, Benjamin Wilson, Mirfield, banker, and Jesse Hill of Mirfield, banker's clerk. Also in 1820 Benjamin Wilson's sister married Jonas Brooke who, whilst not a partner in the banking firm, was no doubt closely involved with his brothers in raising the cash to settle the liabilities of the bank. Certainly the bank was established in Huddersfield by 1822 when Benjamin Wilson & Son, bankers, were located in New Street. By 1827 the partners were Benjamin the elder, Benjamin the younger and Thomas Wilson. The elder Benjamin died in 1829, and three years later the firm was floated as a joint stock company under the style of the Mirfield & Huddersfield District Bank.

    The last bank to be considered was in a different class to those previously covered. The Huddersfield & Upper Agbrigg Savings Bank was not a commercial bank, its specific objective being to encourage saving among the labouring classes, by pooling their small savings and investing in the safe area of Government stocks. The bank was opened in King Street in 1818, its composition admirably selected with the objective of inspiring confidence, which could not have stood too high following the chequered history of banking in the town in the previous twenty years. The president was the Earl of Dartmouth; the vice-presidents four local baronets -Sir George Armytage, Sir John Ramsden, Sir John Lister Kaye and Sir Joseph Radcliffe. The five trustees and fifty two directors included the leading business-men of the area24. From the first the rules of the bank set an upper limit on the amount which an individual could deposit in any year, and for the ten years before the introduction of the first joint stock undertakings in the town it must have been an ideal vehicle for the small saver. It is probable that the bank suffered some loss in 1825 when its banker, Dobson & Sons, failed, but any deposits with that concern should only have been in the nature of running balances. The bank retained its original style for nearly 150 years, and continues to function today under the name of the Trustee Savings Bank.

    The Tolson Memorial Museum, Ravensknowle Park, Huddersfield, hold a large collection of banking material, particularly of local banknotes; the references to banknotes relate to that collection unless otherwise stated.

    Much information on dating has been obtained from examination of the memorials of deeds held at the West Yorkshire Registry of Deeds, Wakefield. Individual references for such have not been given.

    1 West Yorkshire Record Office, C296/14.
    2 West Yorkshire Registry of Deeds, CG/714/933.
    3 Dalton & Hamer, The Provincial Token Coinage of the 18th Century.
    4 W Boyne (Editor G C Williamson) Trade Tokens Issued in the 17th Century.
    5 Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series, Vol. CXVII 'Diary of Arthur Jessop'.
    6 Huddersfield Library, Local Studies section.
    7 W C E Hartley, Banking in Yorkshire.
    8 West Yorkshire Record Office, Quarter Sessions Order Books 15.1.1801, 14.4.1806, 14.1.1808.
    9 Leeds Mercury, 26.9.1786.
    10 Ibid, 21.8.1787.
    11 Ibid, 24.1.1795.
    12 Ibid, 4.2.1826.
    13 West Yorkshire Record Office, D32/89.
    14 Huddersfield Library, Archives Department, KHT2/1.
    15 Leeds Mercury, 9.5.1801.
    16 Tolson Memorial Museum.
    17 A E, B F & H M Butler, The Diary of Thomas Butler of Kirkstall Forge, Yorkshire 1796-9.
    18 West Yorkshire Record Office, C296/149.
    19 Information drawn from a lengthy letter in the Leeds Mercury of 6.12.1828, and from 'The Failure of Ingham & Co. of Huddersfield', an article by W C E Hartley which appeared in the Bankers Magazine of March 1952.
    20 Leeds Mercury, 8.6.1816.
    21 Huddersfield Weekly Examiner, 25.5.1878 et seq., 'Huddersfield Seventy Years Ago'.
    22 Tolson Memorial Museum.
    23 Huddersfield Chronicle, 17.7.1858.
    24 West Yorkshire Record Office, QE19/45.

    I am grateful to the Curator of the Tolson Memorial Museum, Ravensknowle Park, Huddersfield, for access to the museum's collection of banking material.

    1986 Edward J Law.

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