British Linen Bank

Scope and Content

Collection includes:

Founding and Constitutional Documents, 1746-1914: charters, bye-laws, regulations etc.

Shareholder Records, 1746-1920: stock journals, stock ledgers, share transfer ledgers, dividend payments, register of confirmations.

Corporate Records, 1746-1971: agendas, directors' attendance books, directors' and shareholders' minutes, indexes to minutes, governors' and directors' obligations [oaths], record of use of seal.

Executive Records (mainly correspondence), 1746-1937: directors', managers' and secretaries' letter books, indexes to letter books, instructions to officers and agents, correspondents, papers re banking legislation, papers re relations with other banks, general managers' papers.

Financial Records, 1746-1971: ledgers, investment ledgers, journals, day books, cash books, balance books, closing entry books, waste books, capital and stock accounts, securities registers, balance sheets and profit and loss accounts.

Customer Records, 1765-1934: includes cash account and cash credit records (Head Office and branches), bad and doubtful debts, bonds and memorials, deposit receipts, reports on branch cash credits.

Banknote Records, 1761-1971: banknote registers, banknotes printed, circulation records, notes for cancellation, banknote balances, banknotes, banknote design and production.

Staff Records, 1808-1974: salary and staff report Books (Head Office and branches), Widows' Fund records, pension fund records, Officers' Guarantee Fund records etc.

Head Office Branch Records, 1789-1970: records relating to the administration of branches by Head Office, such as procedure books (multiple branches), individual branch procedure books, circular letters to branches, Inspector's Department Letter Books.

Branch Records, 1770-1971: including cash account ledgers, cash books, general ledgers, interest ledgers, letter books etc.

Property Records, 1863-1918: general and particular register of sasines, statements on Bank's premises and rent yielding property.

Legal Records, 1796-1940: Law Department papers and other legal records.

Miscellaneous Records, 1763-1965.

Administrative / Biographical History

The British Linen Company (later the British Linen Bank) was established in Edinburgh by a royal charter from George II, in 1746. The Company was empowered to carry on the Linen Manufactory in all its branches" and was granted limited liability. The word 'British' in its title was an attempt to deflect the suspicion aroused by all things Scottish, after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.

The Company's key promoters were the 3rd Duke of Argyll; Lord Milton; the Earl of Panmure; and George Middleton, a London banker. Its nominal capital was £100,000. This sum was not increased until 1806, when it was doubled.

Although its initial aim was to promote the linen industry, the Company moved into banking in the late 1760s, and began issuing its own notes. In 1765, it was formally accepted as a bank by the Royal Bank of Scotland. But recognition from Bank of Scotland was only achieved in 1771.

The great strength of the British Linen was its spread of agents throughout the country. This was the result of its earlier involvement in the linen trade. By 1780, it had a total of nine agencies, or branches.

In 1837, the Company acquired the business of the Paisley Banking Company (the only bank ever taken over by the British Linen Company). The Cashier of the Paisley Banking Company, Arthur Welsh, became the Paisley agent of the British Linen Company and his brother, David Welsh of Collin, W.S., later went on to become a director. The Paisley Bank's three remaining branches (in Glasgow, Irvine and Stranraer) were taken over or merged with existing British Linen Company branches.

The Company moved to a new head office at the turn of the 19th century. In 1808, it acquired the Dalhousie mansion at No. 38 St. Andrew Square. Seventeen years later, numbers 39 and 40 were also purchased, a reflection of the increase in business and staff numbers. Although the depression of 1837 brought a temporary halt to prosperity, the British Linen did not suffer as much as other banks.

The bank continued to grow throughout the 19th century. In fact, other than a temporary trade paralysis in the late 1850s (following the collapse of the Western Bank), the British Linen Company survived relatively unscathed. On 11th June 1906, it formally changed its name to the British Linen Bank.

By the early 20th century, Scotland had become over-banked: eight different companies, each with extensive branch networks, served only 4.8 million people. A series of amalgamations between Scottish and English banks took place between 1917 and 1926. In 1919, the British Linen became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Barclays Bank. This gave the British Linen increased foreign connections, and its total assets leapt from £29 million to £36 million in two years. As with all the Anglo-Scottish banking 'affiliations', the British Linen Bank retained its board of directors in Edinburgh, its own separate structure and its note issue.

The 1950s and '60s saw another wave of Scottish bank mergers. On 9th May 1969, Bank of Scotland struck a deal with Barclays to take over the British Linen Bank. The merger was concluded on 1st March 1971.

The amalgamation document, however, secured the legal continuance of the British Linen Bank as a separate Scottish company. In 1977, permission was granted for its resumption as the merchant banking arm of Bank of Scotland. It continued as such until September 1999.


The collection has been arranged under the following sections:

  • BLB1/1: Founding and Constitutional Documents
  • BLB1/2: Shareholder Records
  • BLB1/3: Corporate Records
  • BLB1/4: Executive Records (mainly correspondence)
  • BLB1/5: Financial records
  • BLB1/6: Customer Records
  • BLB1/7: Banknote Records
  • BLB1/8: Staff Records
  • BLB1/9: Head Office Branch Records
  • BLB1/10: Branch Records
  • BLB1/11: Property Records
  • BLB1/12: Legal Records
  • BLB1/13: Miscellaneous Records.

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 e-mail for further details.

Please note that this catalogue replaces the NRAS survey of the British Linen Bank records undertaken in the 1970s (NRAS945).

Conditions Governing Use

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


Further accruals expected.

Related Material

  • GB1830 ELC: Edinburgh Linen Co-partnery (forerunner of British Linen Company), 1745-1767
  • GB1830 ESY: Edinburgh Stapleary of Yarn, 1750-1766
  • GB1830 SAL: Saltoun Bleachfield, 1756-1773
  • GB1830 MCC: Ebenezer McCulloch and Company, Merchants, 1764-1767
  • GB1830 PBC: records of the Paisley Banking Company, 1783-1837

See also Fletcher of Saltoun papers at the National Library of Scotland, which contain correspondence with British Linen Company (ref: MSS.16501-17600, Ch.14879-14883 passim).

There may be records relating to the British Linen Bank for the period 1919-1971 in Barclays Bank Archives.


  • Alan Cameron, Bank of Scotland 1695-1995 A Very Singular Institution, (Edinburgh, 1995)
  • S. G. Checkland, Scottish Banking; A History, 1695-1973, (Glasgow, 1975)
  • Alastair James Durie, 'The Scottish Linen Industry 1707-1775 with Particular Reference to the Early History of the British Linen Company' (Edinburgh University Thesis, 1972)
  • Alastair J. Durie (ed.) 'The British Linen Company 1745-1775' ( Scottish History Society, Fifth Series, Volume 9, Edinburgh, 1996)
  • Charles A. Malcolm, The History of the British Linen Bank, 1746-1946, (Edinburgh, 1950)
  • Richard Saville, Bank of Scotland A History, 1695-1995, (Edinburgh, 1996)

Geographical Names