Parsons, Thomson & Company (Oxford Old Bank), private bankers: branch records including customer ledgers

Scope and Content

The most valuable records of the branch are its long run of customer ledgers (over 200 volumes, indexed within each book), from 1790 through to the amalgamation of the Bank with Barclays in 1900. There are also some early accounts of the partners' original mercery trade.

The ledgers offer scope for research in the fields of biography, academic and professional life, as there are many accounts associated with the University, its colleges and their members. Notable accounts studied so far include that of Lewis Carroll, since published in full; an account for the University (Clarendon) Press has been traced to at least 1818. A recent find is an account for Oscar Wilde during his undergraduate years at Magdalen College and for several years thereafter. A separate series of subscription ledgers starting in 1849 contains accounts for scores of charities, clubs, societies (a small example being the University Motet & Madrigal Society), and subscription funds, many of them associated with the University or city, but many also of wider origin. The ledgers may also be relevant to the history and development of Oxford. At the time of the merger with Barclays the partners had over 3,000 accounts including 20 from the colleges; credit balances totalled £522,000 and advances £94,500.

The earliest ledgers contain customer accounts from 1790, as well as trade accounts for the partners' mercery business from 1775 onwards.

  • Customer and trade ledgers 1775-1901, 1917-19, 1930-31
  • Subscription ledgers 1849-1903
  • Register of bills 1837-1853
  • Register of cheques drawn on country banks 1844-1846
  • Daily balances book 1848-1851
  • Waste book 1851

Administrative / Biographical History

The Bank was founded by William Fletcher (1739-1826), and John Parsons (1752-1814), described variously as men's mercers or woollen drapers. Both were members of Oxford Corporation: Fletcher was thrice mayor and was dubbed father of the city, apparently refusing a baronetcy, on grounds of age, when the Prince Regent visited in 1814; Parsons was twice mayor. Both were also sometime city treasurers. They had formed a partnership in their original trade by 1775, and started providing banking services soon after. This was the typical origin of country banks during the period. In 1782 John's first cousin Herbert joined the firm; his brother, Dr John Parsons, became master of Balliol in 1798 and vice-chancellor in 1809, which may have strengthened the Bank's connection with the University.

The title of Old Bank seems to have been coined in 1790 when a second bank - the University & City - was established in Oxford. The partners' names changed to Robinson, Parsons & Co. and from 1848 to Parsons, Thomson, Parsons & Co. The firm was acquired by Barclay & Company in 1900 and became a Barclays local head office.

The Old Bank survived the many financial crises and banking failures of the 19th century, the partners apparently being 'content to consolidate their business upon the University and professional connection, with some county families and a few well established commercial undertakings'. The latter included Oxford Canal, in which the partners invested during its early years, and Oxford Savings Bank, for which the partners acted as treasurers in the 1880s.

The Bank occupied the same site throughout its history, numbered later as 92-93 High Street, opposite the University Church.

Access Information

Barclays Group Archives is open to access for bona fide research visitors throughout the year, by appointment. E-mail: mailto: Full contact details: Barclays Group Archives, Dallimore Road, Wythenshawe, Manchester M23 9JA. Telephone 0330 1510159. Fax 0330 1510153


Customer records are subject to extended closure/access conditions.

Other Finding Aids

Searchable catalogue available locally on BGA's 'Archives' database; bespoke lists may be generated from specific search requests.

Custodial History

The bulk of the records were created and kept at the branch until 1991, when they were transferred to Group Archives for better preservation and access. The branch closed in 1998, when a further accession was received.

Related Material

Records classified as belonging to the partners are available by citing the code: BB05 (catalogue available on request). These include:

  • Private ledgers 1847-1900 (profit and loss, investments, reserve fund, account with Coutts)
  • Published balance sheets and accounting papers 1892-1900
  • Register of unclaimed balances 1855-1871
  • Partners' memorandum and note books 1814-1900 (inc trips to France, household notes)
  • Papers re lost bank notes 1847-1901
  • Bills and vouchers (22 bundles) 1838-1867
  • Passport for Herbert Parsons 1855
  • Circular re change in banking hours 1882
  • Examples of bank note, draft and cheque 1812-1845
  • Amalgamation papers 1900-1904


  • L F Bradburn, The Old Bank, Oxford (Oxford: Golden Head Press 1977)
  • P W Matthews & A W Tuke, History of Barclays Bank Limited: including the many private and joint stock banks amalgamated with it(Blades, East & Blades 1926)
  • M Ackrill & L Hannah, Barclays: the business of banking 1690-1996 (Cambridge: University Press 2001)

Geographical Names