Paisley Union Bank Company

Scope and Content

Collection includes:

Minutes, 1819-1838

Letter Book, 1788-1789

Miscellaneous Financial Records, 1788-1838

Banknotes and Forgeries, 1788-1828

Administrative / Biographical History

The Paisley Union Bank opened for business on 9 September 1788. There were ten founding partners: two lairds (George Houston of Johnstone and John Semple of Earnock); four Paisley merchants (John Cochran, Robert Hunter, Robert Orr and John Christie); two Glasgow merchants (James Elliot Henderson of Enoch Bank and John Duguid of Old King Street Sugar-House), Charles Addison of Woodhead (a member of the firm of Charles Addison and Son, from Bo'ness) and the cashier, David Robertson. Each subscribed £1,000 to the new company.

The Bank secured the services of Sir William Forbes, James Hunter and Company, to act as its Edinburgh agents. This bank provided the Paisley Union with a credit of £5,000.

The town already had one bank, in the shape of the Paisley Banking Company which had been set up in 1783. Officials there knew nothing about the impending competition, until just six days before the new bank opened. Understandably enough, there was some tension between the two companies, with accusations of 'note-picking' on both sides.

The new Paisley Union Bank made a dynamic start by promptly opening agencies (branches) in a variety of locations. These included towns as far apart as Brechin, Oban, Newton Stewart, Kirkcudbright and Berwick. It even ventured into England, with branches at Carlisle, Penrith and Wigton (Cumberland). However, these had all been closed by 1810.

The Bank's Agents were expected to put the company's notes into circulation and the Bank's Cashier emphasised the type of circulation desired by the bank: notes were to be given out 'in such a way as to remain some little time in the Country', and not be 'retired' too quickly. Local agents were instructed to distribute notes into the Highlands, at the Falkirk Cattle Tryst and in paying the Greenland whalers. Agents were also authorised to receive deposits, grant loans against cash credit bonds, and pay and issue drafts.

After ten months trading the Paisley Union Bank had some £60,000 of notes in circulation, having advanced £30,000 on bill discounts and £8,600 on cash accounts.

The Paisley Union Bank continued to expand its branch network. In addition to those mentioned above, agencies were also established at Ayr, Kilmarnock, Maybole, Montrose, Saltcoats, Stewarton, Alnmouth, Beith, Castle Douglas, Dumfries, Gatehouse and Greenock. One was even established at a farm near Thornhill called Tibbers.

In 1796 the Bank had a sudden change in policy and most of these branches were closed. This coincided with a change in the partners of the Bank. By 1799, only four agencies remained: Glasgow, Beith, Hamilton and Greenock. The latter two were also subsequently withdrawn. It was not until 1836 that another branch was opened at Johnstone.

The Bank went into a gradual decline from 1820 onwards, but it was the general economic difficulties affecting the west of Scotland between 1836 and 1837, that dealt the final blow. The partners decided to withdraw from business, and in 1838 they sold up to the Glasgow Union Banking Company (later the Union Bank of Scotland). At the time of its amalgamation with the Glasgow Union Bank, Paisley Union Bank branches existed at Glasgow, Beith and Johnstone.

A key event in the history of the Paisley Union Bank occurred in 1811. The Bank was hit by disaster on 13 July when the Glasgow branch at Ingram Street was robbed of almost £20,000. The alleged robbers were James Mackcoull, Harry French and Houghton (Huffy) White. Although the Bank eventually recovered some £14,000, its losses were significant. The expenses of prosecuting the case (which was not brought until May 1820) added another £2,035.


The collection is arranged as follows:

  • PUB/1: Minutes
  • PUB/2: Letter Book
  • PUB/3: Miscellaneous Financial Records
  • PUB/4: Banknotes and Forgeries

Access Information

Access is by appointment only, and at the discretion of the Archivist. Closure periods apply to some records less than 100 years old. Please e-mail for further information.

Other Finding Aids

Item level catalogue available - please email for further details.

Please note that this catalogue replaces and expands upon the NRAS survey of Paisley Union Banking Company records undertaken in the 1970s (NRAS1110).

Conditions Governing Use

Copying of material is permitted at the discretion of Lloyds Banking Group Archives.


No further accruals expected.

Related Material

Records relating to the takeover of Paisley Union Banking Company by the Union Bank of Scotland, and subsequent history, may be found in the collection of the Union Bank of Scotland (GB1830 UBS).


  • Charles F. Freebairn, An Old Banking Institution: The Paisley Union Bank (Scottish Bankers Magazine, Vol. 16, April 1924)
  • Robert Rait, The History of the Union Bank of Scotland (Glasgow, 1930)


Geographical Names