Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Banking Co.

When Henry Evans died, aged 83, on 1 July 1923, a large proportion of his estate was comprised of Barclays Bank B Shares. These must have been earned through a succession of Bank mergers from 1889 to 1916, when Barclays became the successor bank in a consolidation of the industry.

Banking at the beginning of the 19th century was a very different business from that a hundred years later. The early banks issued their own notes and held substantial stocks of gold coins. As they lent long and often relied on short term deposits, the big fear was a run on the bank. These runs were not infrequent. This was countered as the industry matured, by the growth via takeover of ever larger banks, new imposing buildings and eventual corporate structures with limited liability. This was the developing milieu in which Henry joined the industry as a Bank Clerk in the early 1860’s – but through his family and latterly his wife’s family he was well connected.

We know that Henry was good friends with his early banking boss and probable mentor, James Forsyth, erstwhile manager of the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Bank. For a while this bank was based in Queen’s Square in Wolverhampton, with a new building being built there in 1876. This was almost certainly where Henry Evans started his career. James Forsyth is dubbed ‘General’ on one photograph in our collection and it is supposed that, he, like Henry, was engaged in the activities of the Wolverhampton Volunteers. Others such as Henry’s young colleague at the bank, Ernest Hugh Bowring, were also probably involved.

One of the guests at Henry’s wedding in 1889 was a local MP Alexander Staveley-Hill. Henry and Alexander were clearly closely acquainted enough for the latter to give as a wedding present a fine silver jug. Alexander Staveley-Hill and his family were intricately involved with banking in the area. Alexander’s father Henry Hill was the inheritor of the Hordern family when Alexander Hordern, his brother-in-law died in 1870. One of the precursors of the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire bank was known as Hordern and Molineux and had played a significant role in financing and banking for the burgeoning iron trade in the area at the time of the Napoleonic wars. Henry Hill is also recorded as being manager of the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Banking Co in 1841.

Henry Evans career, however, progressed very slowly. In the 1891 census Henry, now married and living in Tettenhall, is still described as a Bank Cashier.

The next important snippet of information that can be gleaned is from Kelly’s Directory of Staffordshire in 1896. Here it lists Henry Evans, aged 56, as Bank Manager for the first time and for the Birmingham District and  Counties Banking Co, 109 Church Street, [Bilston]. The date for the takeover of the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Banking Co by the Birmingham and District is given as 1889.

By the time of the 1912 Kelly’s Directory, Henry is listed as Manager of the United Counties Bank Ltd in Bilston, this time the address is 8 Church Street. The building at 109 no longer exists but the one at 8  Church Street, formerly the 18th century Swan Inn is a listed building and stands today.

In 1912 Henry would have been 72 and still active. It is clear from his will papers and the itemised bill from the lawyers that they had to go ‘Barclays Bank in Bilston’ in late July 1923 to collect items from the safe box and discuss the whereabouts of share certificates. This would have been the building and where he would have been manager in the latter days of his career.

United Counties Bank Ltd, which had taken over the Birmingham and District Counties Bank in 1907 eventually merged with Barclays Bank in 1916.


Sources and Notes