The Devon & Cornwall Bank was established in 1832 as the Plymouth & Devonport Banking Company. Local businessmen set up the joint-stock company in order to purchase the struggling private bank of Hingston & Prideaux. From its inception, the Company's board pursued a vigorous policy of expansion.
Its aim was to establish the bank as one of the largest in the south-west. The name was later changed to the Devon & Cornwall Banking Company, to reflect its wider regional representation.
The bank expanded from its original Plymouth base within a year of its formation, opening its first branch in St Austell. The directors decreed that the bank should ‘seek opportunities in the centre of agricultural and mining districts and commercial metropolises being destitute of a regular bank’. By the end of the decade, it was operating a branch network of 15 offices. This was impressive growth for a company that had only been in existence for eight years.
Local tradesmen were recruited as managers in the early days, on the grounds that they best understood the community and its business needs. The bank’s rapid expansion came to a halt in 1839, when the board announced that it had no plans to further extend the branch network. This was a prudent move. As a result, the company survived the various financial crises that followed, unlike many other banks. Expansion began again in earnest in 1847. By the turn of the century, 55 branches had been opened. It had fulfilled the ambition of its founders, becoming one of the largest banks in the south-west.
In 1906, the Devon & Cornwall Bank was taken over by Lloyds. This acquisition gave Lloyds a strong presence in a region where, previously, it had little representation.