Banking in Essex before the coming of Barclays

The origin of banking in Essex is very difficult to trace. In London banking began on something like modern lines early in the eighteenth century. In Essex as in other country districts the system began to grow up somewhat later with records earlier than the beginning of the nineteenth centre extremely meagre.

Baileys British Directory for 1784 gives a list of banks then existing in the Eastern Counties but there is not a single Essex bank amongst them although the list mentions eight banks in Norfolk, five in Suffolk, One in Cambridgeshire, two in Kent and one in Surrey.

The lack of mention of any Essex Banks was probably an oversights sue to the fact that, in the case of all early country banks, it is practically impossible to assign any definite year of foundation. None of them was organised or came into existence as a bank but all grew by degrees out of the ordinary business operations of some leading country tradesman or merchant ( such as a brewer , a tea dealer or a wool stapler) who was obliged, in the ordinary course of his business, to maintain correspondence with a banker or some sort of financial agent in London. Such a man was often asked by his friends and smaller tradesmen to oblige then by negotiating their bills and drafts along with his own, through his London agent and thus by degrees he became in fact a country banker, though still carrying out his original business also. In the course of time the latter generally declined and the banking business grew in importance til the man or business became a banker solely. For this reason it is generally impossible to fix upon any precise date as that of the change.

Twinnings and Mills at Colchester

The earliest Essex bank was that of Twinnings and Mills established at Colchester by Richard and John Twinning who were well known tea dealers of the Strand, London (founded 1710) and John Mills, tea dealer and leading tradesman  who lived and traded in High Street, Colchester. The bank was established between 1769 and 1770. Later the Twinings retired from this Bank although they continued to trade as both a Teas business and Bank in the Strand , London.

After the Twinnings retired , John Bawtree of Colchester joined the Bank which became Mills, Bawtree and co. Mills died at the age of 87 in 1822 and was succeeded by his son, John Fletcher Mills. Later his son in law , G H Errington became a partner and the firms was known as Mills, Bawtree, Errington and co.

In 1883  Mr E H Dawnay and R L Curzon became partners.

Crickitt and Co at Chelmsford, Maldon and Colchester

Another early Essex bank was that of Crickitt and co of Chelmsford, Maldon and Colchester.

The bank probably originated in Colchester but ledgers for the firm show that it was carrying on a regular banking business as early as 1774.

The ledgers were written with extraordinary care and neatness.

In 1774 the partners were Messrs R Crickitt and Bank House, Colchester , Mr George Round of Lexden House, Colchester and Mr William Green of Stanway Hall, Colchester.

In 1793 the firm became Crickitt, Truelove, Kerridge and Crickitt but sound after the name was changed again to Crickitt, Round and Co.

The Chelmsford Office was known as Crickitt, Menish and Crickitt although it called itself the Chelmsford Bank and opened an office from 9 am to 5pm on weekdays.

old cheque chelmsford bank

Copies of 1 and 10 notes as well a cheque books survive from the Chelmsford Bank.

Anthony Cox at Harwich and Manningtree

Before the end of the eighteenth century Harwich had it's own banking form. Claims have been made that the bank was founded in 1780 but probably it's inception took place 10 years later.

In the early days the bank belonged to a man called Anthony Cox and the probability is that the business grew from Messrs Cobbold and Sons who were Brewers and agents for the packet boats.

Anthony Cox was still listed as Head in 1811 when for which year banking ledgers are available.

After 1812 amalgamation with other banks took place  and the firm became Bridges, Cox and Godfrey with branches in Manningtree, Harwich and Hadleigh, Suffolk. In 1815  , owing possibly to the death of Mr Bridges) a new partnership was arranged between Mr Cox and Mr Nunn who represented the Manningtree Branch. Mr Godfrey and the Hadleigh Branch left the firm possibly to join the firm of Mills, Bawtree who became involved in banking at Hadleigh around this time.

In 1823 the bank became Cox and Knocker once again reverting to banking at Harwich with the bank at Manningtree going alone again.

In 1840 the bank became Cox , Cobbold and Co while trading as The Harwich Bank.

Sparrow and Co , Braintree and Chelmsford

The earliest years of the nineteenth century saw the formation of Sparrow and Co which was established at Braintree in 1803 by James Goodeve Sparrow of Halstead who had married a Miss Crowe who was the daughter of a banker at Bury.

The firm was at first Crowe, Sparrow and Brown but the name of Crowe was soon dropped.

Almost at once the bank extended it's operation to Chelmsford where it began business in 1806. At this time the partners were J G Sparrow ,George Brown, Charles Hanbury ( of Halstead) and Joseph Savill. Thomas Simpson joined soon afterwards.

Two old bank notes for 10 each  issued by the firm trading as Essex and Suffolk Bank dates 1814 and 1823 still exist.

By 1830 Sparrow and Co were trading as the Essex Bank with the word Suffolk dropped from its title.

In 1838 Mr W M Tuffnell joined the firm and was connected with it until his death in 1905.

The partnership in 1840 was Sparrow,Walford,Nottage,Greenwood and Tuffnell

During the next forty years there were many slight changes - Sparrow,Walford,Nottage and Day ; Sparrow,Walford,Greenwood,Tufnell and Walford; Sparrow, Walford, Round, Green, Tufnell and Round; Sparrow,Tufnell ,Round and Co.

In 1852 the partners were Basil Sparrow, George Round ( Colchester) J W Eggerton-Green ( Colchester) W M Tufnell ( Chelmsford) and Edmund Round ( Springfield).

About this time Mr Woodhouse and the late Mr John Oxley Parker joined the firm.

The later remained a partner until his death when his son Christopher W Parker succeeded him.

In 1881 the title of the bank became Sparrow, Tufnell and Co.

Billericay and Rochford

At Billericay a firm called Crisp and Butler was at work by 1808.

At a similar time The Rochford Hundred and Billericay Bank was being run by John Whittle Harvey of Hadleigh Hall, Leigh and Matthew Bernard Harvey.

Also involved in this business were Messrs J and W New and then Messrs William and George Jackson.

The firm ran into difficulty in May 1814 when John Harvey became bankrupt and much litigation followed.


Fincham and Co traded in Epping describing themselves as bankers, dealers and chapmen although they ran into financial difficulties and became bankrupt on 8 April 1816. The partners at this time were Benjamin Senior, Benjamin Junior and William Fincham.

The business was probably taken over by the firm of Joyner and Co.

The Great Bank Panic of 1825 and 1826

The most important Essex firm in 1825 was Sparrow, Brown, Hanbury, Savil and Simpson of Chelmsford which drew upon Barclay and Co.. This firm had branches in Chelmsford, Billericay, Braintree,Coggeshall, Halstead and Witham .

Next in importance came Crickitt, Ruffel and Co at Chelmsford and Maldon where the partners were Sarah Crickitt, Robert Alexander Crickitt and Samuel Hunt Ruffell,  whilst they  were called Crickit, Round and Co at Colchester.

There was a firm at Colchester called Mills,Bawtree and Co and a connected firm called Nunn, Mills and Co at Manningtree.

At Romford and Epping were banks belonging to Joyner,Surridge and Joyner who traded as Romford Agricultural Bank.

Smaller firms were Searle,Son & Co at Saffron Walden, Cox & Knocker at Quay Street, Harwich, Mortlock & Co ( from Cambridge) at Saffron Walden and Alexander and Co ( from Ipswich) at Manningtree.

In April 1825 a chain of events began that was to change the face of Essex banking.

Following the end of the Napoleonic wars Britain had entered a boom economy which coincided with the opening of investments in South America.

Such was the popularity of these investments coupled with a lack of knowledge that many investors were encouraged to invest in the imaginary country of  Poyais. When the fraud was uncovered the scale of losses were so great that the stock market crashed.

Mark bank account holders were so alarmed that they queued to take their savings out of the banks which resulted in some banks becoming insolvent. Three of the Essex firms collapsed within a week and several others came close to closure.

The crisis was eventually solved by a large loan from the old enemies at the Banque de France.

The first Essex Bank to collapse was Cricket and Co of Chelmsford who stopped payment on 24 December 1825.

Sparrow and Co took over the Chelmsford branch but the Colchester branch of Crickit, Round and Co managed to survive the crisis although this seems to be mainly due to the efforts of a loyal customer called Rev William Marsh if the below extract from a Round family diary is correct.

One one occasion during a commercial crisis in the country, a panic occurred on a market day at Colchester, which seemed likely to prove ruinous for a highly respectable banking house in the town. The framers and many other depositers, who had assembled for the market, rushed to draw out their money and the run on the bank was great. Doctor Marsh having in his house a considerable sum of money in cash , at once put it into a bag, took it across to the bank and paid it in, in spite of the bystanders protesting that the bank was breaking. taking heart, one by one, they went away. Mr Marsh remained till the closing hour; confidence was restored; and the bank was saved.

Dr Jonas Asplin also recorded concern in his diary  for Jan 1 1826 as recorded in Essex people 1750-1900 by A F J Brown.

In th Dengie Hundred I am told it's is dreadful for there Crickett's notes chiefly circulated,

The Cricket members of the bank retired and it was reorganised to become Round, Green, Green and Pattison.

On the 27th December 1825 came the suspension of Searle and Co of Saffron Walden.

Their place was taken by a new firm called Gibson, Catlin and Co who were owned by Atkinson Francis Gibson , Wyatt George Gibson , Jabez Gibson and Thomas Catlin. These men were respected members of the community , three of which were Quakers with the Gibson's running a brewery. They were approached by several citizens asking them to start a bank to replace the recently failed Searle and Co.

The new bank fared so well that the Gibson's were able to sell the brewery a few years later.

The third firm to fail that week was Joyner, Surridge and Joyner of Romford and Epping who stopped payments on 2 January 1826.

Their business was taken over by Thomas  Johnson and Co which later became Johnson, Johnson and Mann.

Two months later on 27 February 1826 when the banks thought that the worst of the panic was over the largest bank of all , Sparrow and Co were obliged to suspend payments.

A creditors meeting held on 7th March 1826 found that the banks assets were 312,019 whilst their liabilities were 294,343 providing a surplus of nearly 18,000 which when added to the wealth of Mr Sparrow which was reported to be 12,000 per year and Mr Walford reported at 45,000 was more then enough for the bank to continue trading.

On 7 February 1827 a fourth firm failed, although not directly connected with the Bank Crisis, when William Jackson of Rochford became bankrupt. Rochford was left without a banker until Mr J Giles started a new bank in 1830.

Hill and Sons at Romford

In 1825 Charles Hill formerly a banking clerk in the banking house at Sharp and Sons began a banking business at 17 West Smithfield, London with an office at Romford.

The Romford office only opened on Wednesdays when the great weekly cattle market was held.

Charles Hills and his sons George and John, and  then John's son also called John carried on this business for many years acting as an agent to cattle salesmen.

Charles Hill died in 1846 , John Hill senior died in 1867 and George Hill Died in 1879.

On the death of John the partners were George Hill , John Hill jnr, Henry Meakins Hill and Herbert Hill.

Since then three of the sons of John Hill ( Charles Hill, John Norman Hill and Richard Alexander Hill) as well as two nephews ( Montague Henry Hill and Leonard George Hill) have been taken into the partnership.

By 1882 Hills opened their bank daily to cater for the many local farmers who sold stock or received money for stock sales via Hills.

Absorbtion of the Private Banks

In 1840 signs were detectable that the smaller private banks were being absorbed by the larger banks often from nearby London.

The first move was by the London and County Bank which opened branches in Braintree , Chelmsford , Maldon,Halstead,Romford ,Coggeshall, Chipping Ongar,Saffron Walden and Colchester between 1839 and 1852.

In 1853 Sparrow and Co absorbed Giles Rochford Bank and soon after Nunn, Mills and Co were taken over by the London and Country Bank.

At this time the partners of Nunn,Mills and Co were Thomas W Nunn of Lawford House and Mr Carrington Nunn of Little Bromley Hall.

In 1863 Gibson and Co tried to resist the tide taking on new partners William Murray Tuke, Edmund Birch Gibson and George Stacey Gibson to become Gibson,Tuke and Gibson.

The London and Provincial Bank were the next to move in with thirteen branches in Essex followed by the London and South Western bank with 7 branches , The London Joint Stock Bank with 6 branches , Parr's Bank with four branches and the Capital and Counties Bank with five branches.

In July 1891 Round, Green,Hoare and Co of Colchester amalgamated with many other small banks to become Gurney and Co based at Norwich.

On 8 December 1891 Mills,Bawtree,Dawnay,Curzon and Co of Colchester which had branches at Clacton, Witham, Walton, Kelvedon and Hadleigh in Suffolk failed and was taken over by Gurney who were able to offer 10 shillings for the pound.

On 1 January 1893 the old firm of Cox,Cobbold and Co of Harwich trading as the Harwich Bank amalgamated with Bacon, Cobbold, Tollemache and co of Ipswich to be called Bacon, Cobbold and Co.

In 1896 Barclay and Co  of Lombard Street absorbed three Essex Banks - Sparrow, Tufnell and Co , Gurneys and Co and Gibson , Tuke and Gibson of Saffron Walden making it the largest banker in Essex with thirty six branches.

The disappearance of our private banks became practically complete on 2 January 1905 when the Capital and Counties Bank absorbed the bank of Bacon, Cobbold and Co at Harwich and Dovercourt and that of Foster and Co at Saffron Walden.


The primary source for the above article was The History of Banks and Banking in Essex  by the Essex Historian Miller Christie  which he published in 1906

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