Goslings and Sharpe, Fleet Street 1650-1896

Scope and Content


  • Partnership agreements, memoranda and associated papers 1719-1896
  • Amalgamation papers: auditor's profit and loss analysis and schedules of loans etc., balance sheet; amalgamation agreement with Barclays, Gurneys and Backhouses; sale agreement for Fleet Street premises, declaration of trust, copy of draft constitution for intended new joint stock company (Barclay & Co.), circular to customers of merging banks, circulars from Barclays to constituent banks re new practices and procedures, newspaper articles discussing this and possible further amalgamations, schedule of premises deeds etc. 1891-97

Partners' banking, business and family papers

  • Abraham Fowler & Co: receipted order for gold rings and interest on South Sea Stock 1733
  • Correspondence, bonds, accounts, receipts, agreements and other papers of Robert Gosling, stationer and bookseller (d1741): inventory of his house in Fleet Street; records of his publishing business inc publication of new edition of Statutes at Large and other works; papers re management of his properties in London, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire (including letters from female tenants); letters from his sisters early 1700s; legal bills 1676-1759
  • Papers of Samuel Bennet, partner: detailed bill of John Channing, apothecary; letters from business associates in India inc report on military situation (1742), 1741-69
  • Papers of Sir Francis Gosling (d.1768) inc executorship accounts, contract and specifications for the building of a house at Fulham by Henry Holland for Sir Francis 1768-69; Robert Gosling (stationer, bookseller, printer d.1742) inc bill of sale of household goods in a house at the sign of the Golden Key 1713, detailed inventory of house in Fleet Street leased to him 1728, papers re management of his properties at Misson 1700-36; report from William Fytche at Calcutta on Indian affairs inc campaign against French forces 1748
  • Memorandum book of William Ellis Gosling, partner, inc schedule of loans, clerks' salaries, deaths of citizens of Fleet Street 1795-1833
  • Correspondence re refusal of partners to admit son of Mrs Clive as partner 1794
  • Specimen pre-printed promissory notes signed by partners c1800
  • Stock Market published reports: 'Course of the Exchange' 1741, 1792, 1804
  • Papers re lawsuit brought against firm by Emma Ramsden over succession to partnership 1872-79
  • Genealogical notes on Gosling family, including notes on Philip Pinckney and Richard Nicholls, and on two long-serving employees
  • Genealogical notes and pedigrees of Gregg and Cawne families, intermarried with Goslings
  • Proof printing plates signed by John Harris for engraving plates of English cathedrals 1725-26
  • Agreement between widow of Thomas Madox, 'his late majesty's historiographer', and Robert Gosling, 'bookseller', for publication of Firma Burgi and Baronia Anglicana 1729
  • Deeds, settlements, probates etc. 1743-1929
  • Executorship accounts for the business of John Walsh the younger, music publisher and instrument dealer 1770-79
  • Letters and papers relating to Rev Edward Gosling and his incumbency of the living at Hawsted (Suffolk) with notes from memorandum book of Sir John Cullum (rector 1762-83) inc notes on glebe, tithe, tithe disputes, woodlands with dates of felling, Easter offerings, parish customs, fees 1790-1852
  • Newspaper cutting re will of Herbert Gosling c1929
  • Photographs of partners and directors including Francis Gosling IV, Francis Gosling V, Herbert Gosling, unidentified 19th-20th centuries

Accounting records

  • Cash balance books (includes customer balances), signed twice yearly by partners 1742-1896
  • Published balance sheets 1891-95
  • Profit and loss ledgers inc wages for named clerks and employees 1727-1845
  • Profit and loss accounts 1891-1913
  • Country bank ledgers 1787-1834
  • Bill register 1864-77
  • Investment ledger 1892-1913
  • Subscriptions account book inc donations to charities 1858-61
  • Ledger, loans and overdrafts not accepted by Barclay & Co. 1896-1910


  • Wages accounts for named clerks and employees (in profit and loss ledgers above) 1727-1845

Other records

  • Memorandum book comprising medical and anatomical descriptions of the eye and its functions, early 19th century
  • Minutes, accounts and lists of members of Company of Stationers (photostat copies of originals formerly held at Goslings branch) 1696-98

Administrative / Biographical History

One of the oldest City banks, the partnership originated c1650 with Henry Pinckney, a goldsmith trading in Fleet Street from 'the sign of the three squirrels over against St. Dunstan's church'. At his death in 1683 the firm was headed by one Chambers. The earliest surviving partnership agreement is between George Wanley, Richard Nicholls and Abraham Fowler in 1719. Subsequent partners included James Rocke (d1738). Fowler died in 1737, and in 1742 his surviving partner Thomas Ward (d1743) took Francis Gosling into the firm.

From an early date the firm was favoured by the English and Irish aristocracy in looking after their wealth. Likewise the nearby Inns of Courts furnished the partners with a succession of customers. The Church provided another main source of custom in the 1700s.

Francis Gosling took over the lease of The Three Squirrels and thereafter the Gosling name predominated in the partnership. The Gosling family's original trade was that of stationer, in modern terms publisher and bookseller. Francis's father Robert Gosling (1684-1741) had established this publishing business near the Old Bailey, cornering the market in the publication of the Statutes of the Realm and many other legal works, but he also performed banking services for his clients, and it was this banking business that his son brought to The Three Squirrels. Francis was appointed Master of the Stationer's Company in 1756, but by then banking was his main business. He was knighted by George III in 1760 and was in line to be Lord Mayor of London at his death in 1768.

Another valuable connection was brought to the firm when Samuel Bennet succeeded Ward as Gosling's partner in 1743. He was already a wealthy East India merchant, dealing in, among other commodities, diamonds. He brought fellow India merchants and traders with him as customers, and over the next century the names of Clive of India, Warren Hastings, Lord Ellenborough and others entered the books of the Bank.

When Bennet retired in 1762 he was succeeded as partner, on the latter's return from India where he had been an army agent, by George Clive (d1779). Clive's entry to the firm began a long connection of that family with the Bank, though it is interesting to note that the senior Gosling partners later declined to admit George's son as a partner. The Three Squirrels and adjoining properties were rebuilt at this time, leaving the Georgian frontage seen in photographs taken just before the final rebuilding of 1898-1900.

In 1794 Benjamin Sharpe was promoted from his clerkship to a junior partnership (in reality more of a managing clerk), and from that date the customary name of the business was Goslings and Sharpe, the Sharpes remaining as junior partners with no right to nominate their successors. Interestingly the partners in the 1794 agreement were still described as 'bankers and goldsmiths', though the latter term had become largely ornamental by this period. Benjamin's grandson John Charles Sharpe (d1913), entered service in 1836, was promoted partner in 1847 (succeeding his father), and served as such for 50 years. A keen Churchman, he published a number of Anglo-Catholic works and was a liberal benefactor to many missionary causes.

The firm became the subject of a lengthy Chancery lawsuit, almost Dickensian in its complexity, between 1872 and 1879, when Emma Ramsden (formerly Gosling), mother of Ellis Duncombe Gosling (b1861), challenged the terms of the partnership deed of 1870 that had excluded her son (then still a minor), from the firm, even demanding the partnership be dissolved and a receiver appointed in order to settle her side of the family's claim. The claim was eventually settled and the firm continued into the last decades of private City banking.

The bank is notable for having preserved one of the handful of surviving continuous customer ledger series for UK banks, starting in 1717 and almost complete to 1896. Goslings' customers were drawn initially from the aristocracy, landed gentry, clergy, army, and the professional, political, and artistic classes, but by the mid-1800s the ledgers also included accounts for business customers.

Goslings was one of 20 banks (all but one being private partnerships) that merged in 1896 to create the new joint stock bank of Barclay & Company Limited, the biggest banking amalgamation seen in Britain up to that time. Two of the senior Goslings partners joined the board of Barclays as directors, and all but one became local directors. The ancient banking house at 19, Fleet Street was designated as one of the original local head offices of the new company.


Records are arranged to reflect the history of the partnership.

Access Information

Barclays Group Archives is open to access for research visitors throughout the year, by appointment. E-mail: grouparchives@barclays.com Full contact details: Barclays Group Archives, Dallimore Road, Wythenshawe, Manchester M23 9JA. Telephone 0330 1510159

Customer records are subject to extended closure/access conditions

Acquisition Information

The historic records of Goslings partnership, including the ledgers, were kept at 19 Fleet Street until 1990, since when several transfers to Group Archives have been made. In 2015 a gift of additional papers was received from the family of a former manager (awaiting cataloguing)

Other Finding Aids

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

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction or publication of records is subject to the written permission of an archivist.

Custodial History

Barclays had a historical records section in its head office from at least the 1960s, managed by an officer with the title of archivist. In 1989 the first professionally trained archivist was appointed, with the remit of centralising historical records and collecting additional material deemed worthy of permanent preservation.


Records have been added to the original accessions from the branch and local head office, for example from the family of a former manager (Acc 1977)

Related Material

The important series of customer ledgers, almost complete from 1717 to 1896 with a few beyond, are classified as branch records and are described in a separate Hub listing: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb2044-cfleetstreet19(goslings)


The official published histories of Barclays, especially the most recent volume, are based largely upon the archives:

  • M Ackrill & L Hannah, Barclays: the business of banking 1690-1996 (Cambridge: University Press 2001); this volume won the Wadsworth Prize for business history
  • P W Matthews & A W Tuke, History of Barclays Bank Limited: including the many private and joint stock banks amalgamated and affiliated with it (Blades, East & Blades 1926)
  • The History of Gosling's Branch 1650-1982 (Barclays Bank 1982)
  • Barclays Bank Limited Gosling's Branch 1650-1950 (Barclays Bank 1950)
  • F T Melton, 'Robert and Sir Francis Gosling: Eighteenth Century Bankers and Stationers', typescript of conference paper 'The Economics of the Book Trade' 1984, published subsequently in R Myers & M Harris eds. Economics of the British Book Trade 1605-1939 (University of London 1985)