Thomas Twining opened the UK’s first tea shop on The Strand, in London, in 1706. The firm later diversified into banking, offering services mainly to family and friends. This side of the business grew and, in 1824, the bank was established as a separate entity. However, it still relied heavily on the tea trade.
The first office was located in a small room adjacent to the Twinings Tea warehouse just off The Strand, at Devereux Court. It comprised a single clerk, with a desk and a safe.
Growth of the Business
Business quickly expanded and the bank relocated to premises on The Strand itself. The new building, erected in 1835, was right next to the family’s tea shop. By the 1830s, the firm no longer confined its dealings to the Twining family and its friends. The bank now counted a wide range of merchants amongst its customers. But the link to tea remained strong; cashiers continued to change cheques partly in notes and coin, with the balance being paid in tea or coffee.
The expanding tea market lent stability to this relatively small private firm. As the tea trade prospered, so the bank went from strength to strength. It was able to withstand the banking crises of the 1840s, which saw many of its rivals fail.
The bank remained a family enterprise throughout its existence, run by three successive generations of Twinings.
In the second half of the 19th century, however, Twining & Co. struggled to compete against the larger banks, which had emerged from a series of amalgamations. When Lloyds offered to purchase the firm in 1892, partners Richard and Herbert Twining agreed to sell. Richard wrote personal notes to many of the bank’s clients, advising them of the amalgamation, and thanking them for their custom.
The two partners were asked to remain in charge at The Strand. Richard went on to become a director of Lloyds. He only retired in 1897, at the age of 90.