Scope and Content

The surviving records of The Bank of Liverpool constitute one of the best series of joint stock banking records held by Barclays Group Archives.

The directors' minutes and annual reports are complete for the whole life of the company. A series of volumes described as 'private minute book' also survives from 1834 to 1904. These appear to have been kept by the general manager and latterly branch managers, under the supervision of the managing directors: they contain notes on customers, the status of their accounts and comments about their business.

One of the most significant items in the collection is a series of letters written to Joseph Langton, general manager between 1831 and 1838, mostly by George Carr Glyn, senior partner of London bankers Glyn, Hallifax, Mills & Co., who acted as one of the Liverpool bank's London agents. As Michael Collins summarised in his article about the correspondence (see Bibliography below), 'The letters are interesting on a number of counts. They give details of a relationship between a large provincial banking company and its London and country agents; they illuminate some important features of the financial and commercial crisis of 1836-37 and the opinions of informed bankers on the state of the economy; and, finally, they offer an interesting insight into Bank of England policy...' In addition there is a customer reference book which, besides notes and recommendations on customer accounts, signed memoranda of directors concerning the bank's lending policy in 1837.

Reference is also made in this entry to items classified as branch records, the most significant of these being an unbroken series of numbered reference books (unique amongst BGA's archives), containing bankers' opinions about customers, principally business customers, covering the period from 1845 onwards, which continues the earlier series of similar records kept by the general manager and board from the inception of the Bank.

There is a good series of shareholders' records from the initiation of the company onwards, enabling the identity, occupations and status of stock holders to be traced over a long period.

A cash book for the 1830s-50s records detailed expenditure on the office operations of the Bank, including specific mention of the use of telegraphic messages from 1853 onwards.

A rare series of albums described as 'Out-Tellers Scrapbooks' gives a fair impression of the humour, working life and esprit de corps that existed amongst bank clerks from the late Victorian period onwards.


  • Published prospectus 1830-31
  • Deed of Settlement of Bank of Liverpool with later amendments 1831-1883
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association 1907
  • Sealing registers 1886 - onwards

Board and Directors

  • Minutes of board of directors (indexed) 1831 - onwards
  • Resolutions books 1830-33, 1838 - onwards
  • Private minutes (described latterly as managing director's or general manager's minutes) 1834-1904
  • Annual reports, accounts, proceedings of general meetings 1831 - onwards
  • Directors' shareholdings and voting entitlement 1879
  • Real estate/building committee minutes 1889 - onwards
  • Report of board committee on the inspection, management and supervision of the Bank 1893


  • Applications for shares and transfers 1830-32
  • Examples of provisional and original share certificates 1831
  • Registers of shareholders 1831 - onwards
  • Shareholders' ledger 1832-1843
  • Deeds of accession incorporating new shareholders 1835-36
  • List of shareholders eligible as directors 1860
  • Published returns of shareholders' names and addresses 1869, 1879, 1881
  • Lists of new shareholders 1883
  • Published poster listing shareholders entitled to stand as new directors 1899
  • Circular announcing reduction in dividend consequent upon Goudie fraud 1902
  • Analyses of shareholders (by occupation, social status, holding) 1880-81, 1894-1904
  • Calculation table for entitlement of Craven Bank members to new shares in Bank of Liverpool 1906
  • Published list of the shareholders 1908
  • Papers re call on shareholders, revision and division of shares 1912-13

Accounting records

  • Liabilities and Assets record books including weekly statistics 1831-1888
  • Branch and head office statistics 1904-05
  • Record of half-yearly statements 1831-1884
  • Analysis of annual reports including dividend and reserve 1832-1901
  • Petty cash book 1831-1859
  • Foreign exchange calculations and aide-memoire 1831-37
  • Brokerage accounts with Adam Hodgson of Liverpool, Hottinguer & Co. of Paris and Gogel & Co. of Frankfurt 1831-1842
  • Calculation of salaries as percentage of profits 1864-1871
  • Half-yearly record of average interest rates and commission charged and received 1862-1873
  • List and valuation of Bank's investment holdings 1879
  • Valuation and extent of Bank's premises 1889
  • Analyses of securities (by name, amount, type) 1880, 1883-85
  • Premises ledgers 1895-1916

Customer records

  • Register of securities 1833-1841
  • Examples of promissory notes 1831-33
  • Example of bill of exchange 1833
  • List of bad debts and recoveries 1880
  • Bills discounted book 1897-1900
  • Memorandum of interest rates charged for named borrowers 1900
  • Memoranda of customers' accounts 1897-1919


  • Salary lists, head office and some branches 1885-1891, 1895-1904
  • Out-tellers' scrapbooks 1888 onwards
  • Pension regulations 1905
  • Roll of honour: staff on active service 1914-15
  • Circular re war bonus scheme for staff 1918


  • Letters to Joseph Langton from London agents 1831-38
  • In-letters re directorships 1839-1857
  • Printed letters to Lord Melbourne re banking legislation 1839
  • Clerks' petition requesting monthly payment of salaries 1844
  • Letters from clerks to manager seeking and acknowledging salary increase 1853
  • Reference book inc memoranda of bank policy 1835-38
  • Reference/Opinion books 1839-1842, 1900-1910
  • Liverpool bankers' petition re monetary laws c1847
  • In-letter book, private 1890 - onwards
  • Out-letter books, private 1896-1905
  • General correspondence 1896-1914
  • Correspondence of general manager re European Bankers' Conference re cotton lading bills 1903-1916
  • Architect's floor plans of head office 1899
  • Advertising bill listing branches and managers in Liverpool and Kendal Districts 1901
  • Head Office circulars 1906-1917
  • Instructions for book-keeping following merger with Craven Bank 1906
  • Instructions re book-keeping for branches of North Eastern Bank 1914
  • Telegraphic code book 1914
  • Head Office Instructions 1917

Amalgamation papers

  • Arthur Heywood, Sons & Co. 1882-83
  • Liverpool Commercial Banking Co. 1888-89
  • Wakefield, Crewdson & Co. (Kendal Bank) 1893-95
  • Craven Bank 1906-07
  • Carlisle and Cumberland Banking Co. 1910-12
  • North Eastern Banking Co. 1913-15
  • Martins Bank 1918
  • Files re unsuccessful negotiations and proposals: Bank of Whitehaven Ltd., Beckett's Banks, Glyn & Co., Isle of Man Banking Company, Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank Ltd., Lloyds Bank Ltd., Manchester & County Bank Ltd., Union of London & Smiths Bank Ltd., West Yorkshire Bank Ltd., Williams Deacon's Bank Ltd. 1908-1919

Other records

  • Copy agreement for appointment of Joseph Langton as sub-agent of Liverpool branch of Bank of England, with later letters discussing the appointment 1827-1944
  • News cuttings and chronicle book: inc branch openings, staff appointments, banking failures, notable events 1870 - onwards
  • Framed news cutting re meeting to form Bank of Liverpool 1831
  • Framed news cutting re inaugural annual general meeting 1832
  • Liquidator's report, Liverpool Borough Bank 1867
  • News cutting re failure of Royal Bank of Liverpool 1868
  • News cuttings re Liverpool cotton frauds 1892
  • Items left on his desk by Tom Goudie 1900-01
  • Official bill announcing proclamation of Bank Holidays at start of war 1914
  • Letter from employee recalling that many colleagues had been 'ruined by drink' in Victorian times 1929

Photographs, paintings and prints

  • Print of portrait of Joseph Langton, first manager
  • Oil portrait of Isaac Cooke, founding director
  • Portrait photographs and print of Samuel Smith, manager and chairman
  • Portrait photograph of Alexander Paton, chairman
  • Portrait photograph and print of Hugh Smyth, managing director
  • Portrait photograph of James Spence (d. 1893), managing director
  • Portrait print of Charles Langton (d. 1900), Chairman
  • Portrait print of William Langton (d. 1876), Chairman
  • Portrait print of Arthur Earle, Chairman
  • Print of oil portrait of John Hope Simpson, general manager
  • Oil portrait of James Hope Simpson (1865-1924), general manager and director
  • Portrait print of Sir Hardman Earle (d. 1877), Chairman
  • Oil portrait of Adam Hodgson (1788-1862), founding director and Chairman 1837
  • Photograph of new head office premises, Water Street/Fenwick Street c1897
  • Portrait photograph of Henry Hope, chief clerk 1877
  • Portrait photograph of James Spence, managing director c1900

Administrative / Biographical History

The Bank of Liverpool was one of the early joint stock banks established following the Banking Co-partnerships Act of 1826, which had the effect of permitting the formation of banks with more than six partners, beyond the specified 65-mile radius of the City of London. Together with the Union Bank of Manchester it is the oldest of these new banks in the Barclays Group whose records survive in any quantity.

The inaugural published prospectus stated that 'The establishment of a joint-stock banking company in Liverpool is eminently calculated to promote the general interests and welfare of the town and neighbourhood. The vast extent of our commercial and maritime transactions, and the rapidly increasing wealth and trade of our town, have long rendered it matter of inquiry and regret among many of our principal merchants and tradesmen, that the formation of a joint-stock bank should have been so long delayed.' It goes on to discuss the merits of the system over that of the private banks, and the continued 'needless humiliation' that Liverpool has experienced by having branches of other banks opening in the town.

The Bank's foundation was part of the general movement for reform in Liverpool, the early chairmen and directors being important members of Liverpool's merchant class. The first chairman was William Brown (1784-1864), the Irish-American merchant and philanthropist who founded the firm of Brown, Shipley & Co. and subsequently was a Liberal M.P. and baronet. There was enthusiasm for a new bank in the city and the initial share issue was a success, enabling the company to start with a nominal capital of £2.5m of which just over £200,000 was paid up in the first year. The first directors were required to subscribe a minimum of £5,000 each in order to qualify.

In his first annual report the chairman claimed that, 'The marked success which has attended the operations of the company since its formation, must be regarded as evidence, of the most satisfactory kind, of the growing confidence of the public in the joint-stock banking system....'

The first manager was the highly respected Joseph Langton, who was previously sub-agent of the Bank of England's recently opened branch in Liverpool. At his death in office in 1855, the Bank of Charleston (one of the Bank's important correspondents in the American South), testified to Langton's 'many and important services...rendered to this Bank by his judicious management of their business entrusted to his care'. Another significant figure in the Bank's early history was Mark Wilks Collet (1816-1905), appointed a director in 1861, having been a sub-manager in the 1840s and then employed by Brown, Shipley & Co. He subsequently became Governor of the Bank of England and gained a baronetcy.

The new bank's offices were initially at Brunswick Street but soon moved to the site of the old Talbot Inn at Water Street. The Bank rode out the national financial crisis of the 1830s. It gained a reputation as a prudent lender, to become a successful and profitable bank, paying 10% dividends by mid-century, even being prepared to call upon its reserves to maintain this figure. It survived without difficulty the New York Panic of 1867 and subsequent financial crisis in Britain, the dislocation caused by the American Civil War, and Black Friday in 1866 - continuing to pay its customary dividends.By 1865 the Bank had over a thousand customer accounts. Much of the credit for this strong foundation is due to Adam Hodgson (1788-1862), the Bank's second chairman and thereafter managing director. Successful broker, reformer, and abolitionist, according to Chandler, Hodgson was extremely vigilant, as the minute books reveal, in ensuring close supervision of the bank's transactions.

The Bank's customers were typically merchants, shipping lines and tradesmen in Liverpool, but also across the industrial north, especially those trading with America, and from an early date the Bank of Liverpool established correspondent relationships with American banks. In Edwardian times the bank made large advances to the shipping lines (notably Cunard), and insurance companies.

Despite initial reluctance on the part of the board, the Bank eventually sought and obtained limited liability under the Companies Act in 1882, no doubt being influenced by the trade depression and a rash of insolvencies at that time. Previously the board had been of the opinion that 'unlimited liability encouraged the directors to exercise every care'. This change in policy was followed by a period of expansion, with the opening of suburban branches across Liverpool and in Birkenhead, and inorganic growth starting in 1883 with the acquisition of the old-established private Liverpool bank of Arthur Heywood and Co. (bankers to Liverpool Corporation), followed by Liverpool Commercial Banking Co. (1889), and the taking over of the Liverpool and American business of merchant bankers Brown, Shipley & Co. when the latter moved to London.

There followed a series of acquisitions of several northern banks further afield including the old-established Quaker firm of Wakefield, Crewdson & Co. of Kendal (1893), the Craven Bank (1906), Carlisle and Cumberland Banking Company (1911), and, on the eve of World War One, the regionally important North Eastern Banking Co. which was based at Newcastle. Finally, at the end of 1918 and after much negotiation, the Bank amalgamated with Martins of Lombard Street, an old-established City clearing bank, to form the Bank of Liverpool and Martins. The name of the combined company was shortened subsequently to Martins Bank. Both the pre-1918 records of Martins, and the post-1918 records of the combined company, will be described in separate entries on the Hub.

The policy of turning the Bank of Liverpool into a regional power and then a national bank was started by John Hope Simpson (general manager 1890-1903), and continued by his son James Hope Simpson, who succeeded his father as general manager and was later knighted by Lloyd George. The crowning achievement of the younger Simpson's work was the amalgamation with Martins, which secured the Liverpool bank a seat in the London Clearing House. A detailed report, compiled in the year of his appointment, shows that he was casting his net far and wide in the search for likely banks to merge with. It also acknowledged the Bank's seasonal financial weakness in financing cotton acceptances. The surviving amalgamation files document negotiations over a number of years with several banks that proved unsuccessful, besides the ones (above), that were.

Between 1898 and 1902 the Bank fell victim to an unusual and spectacular fraud, made famous in the subsequent glare of publicity, perpetrated by a seemingly ordinary ledger clerk at Water Street, Thomas Goudie, who stole the then staggering total of £168,000 from a customer's account in order to finance his gambling habit, though curiously he did not profit by the fraud as he was simultaneously being blackmailed by betting fraudsters. Thanks to the efforts of the bank's chief inspector nearly £100,000 of the loss was recovered, the rest coming out of reserves, but the shareholders' interim dividend for 1902 was still reduced from 10% to 8%. The case caused the bank to improve its procedures.


Records are arranged to reflect the history of the company.

Access Information

Barclays Group Archives is open to bona fide research visitors throughout the year, by appointment. E-mail: Barclays Group Archives 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.

Acquisition Information

Former historical records section of Barclays company secretary's office, records inherited following Martins Bank Limited's acquisition by and merger with Barclays in 1968-69

Records transferred subsequently from former Barclays local head office, Liverpool

Other Finding Aids

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

Liverpool District Calendar of Archives c1970s (6 spring back folders, arranged by constituent bank), available to consult in the office

G. Chandler, 'The Langton Papers', being a partial calendar of the letters, contained in vol. 1 of the above Calendar

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 head office from at least the 1960s, managed by an official 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.

Related Material

Records classified as branch provenance

Liverpool, Water Street

  • Customer reference books (opinions on standing of corporate and personal customers) 1845-1933 (76 volumes, unbroken run)
  • Current account ledgers 1831-1840
  • Daily customer balance book 1833-1879
  • Manager's diary 1922
  • Photographs of environs of head office/branch c1890-1920s


  • G Chandler, Four Centuries of Banking: as illustrated by the Bankers, Customers and Staff associated with the constituent banks of Martins Bank Limited (2 vols. Batsford 1964, 1968)
  • M Collins, 'The Langton Papers: banking and Bank of England policy in the 1830s' ( Economica, Feb 1972 pp.47-59)
  • S E Thomas, The Rise and Growth of Joint Stock Banking (vol. 1, Pitman 1934)
  • J Hughes, Liverpool Banks & Bankers 1760-1837 (Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. 1906)
  • P Chadburn, 'The Case of the Gambling Clerk: the Goudie bank forgeries' in The Most Amazing Crimes of the last 100 years, eds. J M Parrish & J R Crossland (Odhams 1936 pp.647-59)
  • D Hearn, 'The Bank of Liverpool 1831 to 1918' (Liverpool History Journal 13, 2014 pp. 113-24)
  • List of the Proprietors of the Bank of Liverpool Limited (Liverpool 1908)
  • A Williams, Historical Notes on the Bank of Liverpool (unpublished typescript c1929)