1695-1800

Downsitting of the Scottish Parliament, 1680s. Image: Antonia Reeve.
Downsitting of the Scottish Parliament, 1680s. Image: Antonia Reeve.

1695 BANK OF SCOTLAND

A BANK FOR SCOTLAND

Bank of Scotland was founded by an Act of the Scottish Parliament, on 17th July 1695. It is Scotland's first and oldest bank.

The Bank was set up primarily to develop Scotland's trade with England and the Low Countries. It began business in February 1696, with a working capital of £120,000 Scots (£10,000 sterling). Most of its 172 shareholders (including 36 based in London) were from Scotland's political and mercantile elite. They hoped to create a stable banking system, offering long-term credit and security, for merchants and landowners alike.

Earliest surviving Scottish banknote, 1716. Image: Antonia Reeve
Earliest surviving Scottish banknote, 1716. Image: Antonia Reeve

1696 BANK OF SCOTLAND

PAPER MONEY LAUNCHED

In 1696, Bank of Scotland became the first European commercial bank to successfully issue a paper currency. Its earliest banknotes were in denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.

None of these first notes survives, but this one from 1716 gives an idea of their appearance. The value is expressed in 'pounds Scots'. Scotland had its own unit of currency until 1707, with £12 Scots equal to £1 sterling. Though abolished by the Act of Union, 'pounds Scots' continued to be used as an expression of money for many years.

The Bank's note issue continues to this day.

Bank of Scotland coat of arms, 1701.
Bank of Scotland coat of arms, 1701.

1701 BANK OF SCOTLAND

COAT OF ARMS GRANTED

Bank of Scotland was granted a coat of arms, in March 1701. It features a shield bearing the Saltire cross, supported by the twin figures of 'Justice' and 'Plenty'.

Around the cross are four gold 'bezants' representing money (coins). The motto 'Tanto Uberior ' means 'so much the more plentiful' or 'the more to prosper'. It is from these arms that the Bank's present-day logo derives.

The Bank's office was down a dark and narrow alley in Edinburgh's Old Town. The arms were used to decorate the signboard outside, identifying the business and attracting potential customers.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Antonio David. Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Antonio David. Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

1745 BANK OF SCOTLAND

BANK UNDER SIEGE

In September 1745, Edinburgh was occupied by Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite army. Alarmed by these events, Bank of Scotland transferred its cash and valuables to Edinburgh Castle for safekeeping.

In anticipation of the invasion, the Bank had already stopped lending, and destroyed a large number of its banknotes. The Jacobites occupied the city for two months, during which time the Bank ceased business entirely. But Edinburgh Castle (with the Bank's cash safely inside) was never breached by the Rebels.

The Jacobites were eventually defeated at Culloden in 1746.

Royal Charter founding British Linen Company (detail), 1746.
Royal Charter founding British Linen Company (detail), 1746.

1746 BANK OF SCOTLAND

BRITISH LINEN COMPANY

The British Linen Company (later the British Linen Bank) was established by a Royal Charter from George II, in 1746.

The Company's purpose was the promotion of the linen industry in Scotland. By the 1750s, however, the Company had moved into banking. This dismayed its two rivals, Bank of Scotland and The Royal Bank. For years, they refused even to recognise it as a bank.

In 1906, the British Linen finally changed its name from 'Company' to 'Bank'. It merged with Bank of Scotland in 1971.

Sampson Lloyd II (1699-1779), co-founder of Taylors & Lloyds.
Sampson Lloyd II (1699-1779), co-founder of Taylors & Lloyds.

1765 LLOYDS

TAYLOR & LLOYDS FOUNDED

Lloyds Bank began life as Taylors & Lloyds in Birmingham, in 1765. It was founded by Sampson Lloyd II, John Taylor and their two sons. Each invested £2,000.

Sampson Lloyd’s father had fled Wales for Birmingham at the end of the 17th century, to escape persecution for his Quaker beliefs. Sampson, also a prominent Quaker, followed his father into the iron trade. John Taylor was a Unitarian and a cabinet maker. He was also well-known for his exquisite snuff boxes. But from 1765, the men concentrated entirely on the bank. For the first 100 years, this prospered from a single Birmingham office.

Places where circular notes could be exchanged (detail), 1794.
Places where circular notes could be exchanged (detail), 1794.

1772 LLOYDS

TRAVELLER'S CHEQUE INVENTED

Robert Herries established a bank in London’s West End, in 1772. He went on to invent the 'circular note', forerunner of today’s traveller’s cheque.

Before the circular note, obtaining money while abroad could be time-consuming and expensive. Herries’ business thrived in an age when the aristocracy viewed the Grand Tour as a rite of passage for their sons. So successful was the note that other banks were soon obliged to offer the same service.

Herries, Farquhar & Co, as it was latterly known, was acquired by Lloyds in 1893.

Blunderbuss used by armed servants of the Bank, 18th century.
Blunderbuss used by armed servants of the Bank, 18th century.

1774 BANK OF SCOTLAND

BRANCHING OUT

In 1774, Bank of Scotland successfully opened its first branch offices in Dumfries and Kelso. But transporting money to and from branches could be a dangerous business.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, highwaymen posed one of the greatest threats to road travellers. The large sums of money carried by Bank messengers made them a tempting target. Deliveries to Dumfries, for example, usually consisted of £6,000 in banknotes – about £380,000 today. Small wonder then that the messengers were accompanied by armed guards. Their weapons of choice were flintlock pistols or a blunderbuss.

Entry from the minutes referring to Eleanora Hog, 5th May 1785.
Entry from the minutes referring to Eleanora Hog, 5th May 1785.

1785 BANK OF SCOTLAND

FIRST FEMALE BANK CLERK

Eleanora Hog was taken on as a 'Day Book' clerk at the British Linen Company in 1785. This is the earliest known record of a female bank clerk in Scotland.

Her appointment was unique. It was almost certainly related to the fact her father, Walter Hog, was manager of the Company. But Eleanora was good at her job - she was subsequently promoted to Ledger Clerk, and then to Book-keeper. Her salary in each case was equal to that of her male counterparts.

Eleanora retired in 1816. It was to be another 99 years before a female clerk was employed again!

Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth. Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth. Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

1786 BANK OF SCOTLAND

LINES WRITTEN ON A BANKNOTE

On the brink of financial ruin, Rabbie Burns wrote a poem lamenting his lack of money. He penned the lines on the back of a Bank of Scotland guinea note.

Almost penniless after a series of setbacks, Burns planned to emigrate to Jamaica. It was a painful decision:

'I leave this much-lov'd shore, Never, perhaps, to greet old Scotland more'.

But Burns' fortunes were about to change. A friend encouraged him to publish some poems to raise money for the trip. The resulting work, 'Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect', was an instant success.

Red-breasted parrot by Thomas Watling. © Natural History Museum, London.
Red-breasted parrot by Thomas Watling. © Natural History Museum, London.

1788 BANK OF SCOTLAND

THE ARTIST FORGER

In 1788 Thomas Watling, an art master in Dumfries, was accused of forging Bank of Scotland guinea notes. Facing the death penalty, he volunteered to be transported to Australia.

Watling was sent to the penal colony in Sydney Cove. His artistic skills, which had enabled him to produce convincing forgeries, were quickly put to use. He was assigned to Surgeon General John White, an amateur naturalist. Watling made more than 100 drawings and paintings of flora and fauna. They are considered some of the best early depictions of Australian wildlife by a European artist.