This private bank's origins date back to 1792 when Roger Cunliffe and William Brooks began a calico merchant business in Blackburn. The partners began to offer banking services to their customers. The banking side of the business grew rapidly and soon separated from the calico business. The business continued to expand and in 1819 Samuel, the son of William Brooks, opened the bank's first branch in Manchester.
A Run on the Bank
The bank managed to survive the numerous financial crises that hit the country throughout the first half of the 19th century. According to an account of a run on the Manchester branch in 1825, the rush to change paper money into gold led to a severe shortage of gold reserves. This, in turn, increased customers’ concerns over the safety of their money. Samuel Brooks did not have enough ready gold reserves to cover all deposits. Knowing the importance of gaining customer confidence, he proceeded to open several sacks of flour and then cover the tops of the sacks with gold sovereigns. The sacks were then displayed in the branch. Customers were reassured, thinking that the bank had a plentiful supply of gold.
1846 saw the bank move its head office to Manchester. This was a response to the increased business that the Manchester branch was generating. Following the death of William Brooks that same year, his son Samuel became the leading partner in the business. Deposits grew throughout his tenure, so much so that a concerned Samuel remarked that he was worried as 'I don't like to be owing people so much.' By the time the bank was purchased by Lloyds in 1900, it had opened three further offices in addition to those in Blackburn and Manchester.
Although successful, the business always had remained relatively small and could not survive in an age where banks were becoming larger and fewer in number. Cunliffe, Brooks & Co. was to prove no exception to the trend of small private banks being taken over by their larger competitors. The business was acquired by Lloyds in 1900. The managing partner at the time of purchase, John Brooks, was retained by Lloyds as managing director of the Manchester region, later becoming a director of the bank.