Overend, Gurney and Company

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Collection consists of two bundles of miscellaneous documents including a list of shareholders.

Administrative / Biographical History

Overend, Gurney and Co. has its origins in a London bill brokerage firm founded by Thomas Richardson in 1802. He was joined by John Overend in 1805 when they renamed the firm Richardson, Overend & Co. In 1807 John and Samuel Gurney joined as partners, and in 1827 the business became known as Overend, Gurney and Company. By the mid-1820s it was London's leading bill brokerage firm. By 1859, its profits exceeded £500,000.

However, a change in senior partners, increasing competition and mismanagement meant the firm was in a weak position by the 1860s. The partners attempted to strengthen their position by floating the firm as a limited liability company: in 1865, the business was acquired for £5 million by Overend, Gurney and Co. Ltd, a newly-formed joint-stock company.

On 10th May 1866 this new company collapsed, after a request for an immediate advance of £400,000 was refused by the Bank of England. The Bank was not convinced of the underlying soundness of the company. It had engaged in extensive speculation, particularly in New Zealand property. A large financial crisis ensued and the company remained in receivership for thirty years.

Overend, Gurney and Co. was the major London financing house through which many Glasgow firms with investments in Australia, New Zealand and India discounted bills. When it failed, it owed £5 million, including £329,880 to Bank of Scotland. In addition, Overend, Gurney & Co. had guaranteed (directly or indirectly) the debts of a number of firms which held large advances from the Glasgow Laurieston branch of the Bank of Scotland. The principal firms involved were James Morton & Co., James Nicol Fleming, and Potter, Wilson & Co. As a result, the Bank of Scotland agreed, jointly with the Union Bank of Scotland and City of Glasgow Bank, to extend these loans to enable the Glasgow firms to avoid suspension.

The failure of Overend, Gurney and Co. came at a critical moment in the ongoing discussions between Bank of Scotland, the British Linen Bank, the Clydesdale Bank and the Union Bank of Scotland concerning the joint ownership of a new London bank in conjunction with the London private bank of Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co. The collapse led to a great deal of uncertainty about potential losses in both London and Scotland and plans for the proposed 'London and Scottish Banking Association' or 'Associated Scotch Bank of London' were shelved. As a result, Bank of Scotland went ahead with its own plans and secured London offices in August 1867.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged as follows:

  • GB1830 OGC/1 Lists of shareholders 1866
  • GB1830 OGC/2 Miscellaneous Papers 1865-1869

Conditions Governing Access

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 archives@lloydsbanking.com for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Accruals

No further accruals expected.

Related Material

NRAS 945/1/70/4: Bank of Scotland Treasurer's Reports on James Morton & Co.

NRAS 945/20/19/49: James Morton & Co. Miscellaneous Papers.

Acc.2009/020/15: News Cuttings - mainly AGM reports and balance sheets for various Scottish banks, banking related news e.g. stoppage at Overend Gurney & Co and ensuing crisis, general banking statistics (Bank of England) etc. 1865-1884.

Correspondence and papers re: failure, 1866-93 (D/HO/F65), Durham County Records Office.

Circular re interest rates 1838; prospectus 1865; circular to creditors 1866; report of provisional official liquidators 1866; auction particulars of Lombard Street, London, property 1867 - held by Royal Bank of Scotland Archives.

Papers re liquidation 1866-68 (18D67/121-7, 152, 155), Leicestershire County Records Office.

Bibliography

Anon., Report of the Committee of the Defence Association of the Shareholders of Overend Gurney & Co. Ltd. (1866).

Bagehot, W., Lombard Street: a Description of the Money Market (London, 1873).

S. G. Checkland, Scottish Banking A History 1695-1973 (Glasgow, 1975).

M. Collins, "Overend Gurney crisis, 1866", in Newman, P. (ed.), The New Palgrave Dictionary of Money and Finance (London, 1992).

Geoffrey Elliott, The Mystery of Overend & Gurney: A Financial Scandal in Victorian London (London, 2006).

WTC King, History of the London Discount Market (London, 1936).

Patterson, R.H., "The panic in the City", Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 100: 79 (1866).

Patterson, R.H., "On our home monetary drains, and the crisis of 1866", Journal of the Statistical Society of London 33 (2): 216–242 (1870).

Richard Saville, Bank of Scotland A History, 1695-1995 (Edinburgh, 1996).

Subjects

Geographical Names