Wilts & Dorset Banking Co
Wilts & Dorset Banking Company was founded in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1835. It was the first joint-stock bank to be established in the area.
When it was set up, Wilts & Dorset had 400 shareholders, or ‘proprietors’ as they were known. These included a large number of farmers and millers, as well as grocers, solicitors, merchants and surgeons.
The Bank was extremely quick to establish a branch network, opening 24 new offices within its first year. Salisbury became its head office. From the start, Wilts & Dorset was in direct competition with another newly-formed joint-stock bank, the North Wilts Banking Company. Both companies were keen to be the first to establish a foothold in towns in the area.
However, both also recognised that opening too many rival branches could harm their respective businesses. Wilts & Dorset proposed a scheme, whereby each bank would agree to only open in certain towns. However, despite lengthy negotiations, North Wilts eventually pulled out of the deal. It preferred to fight it out on the high street.
Wilts & Dorset also inherited branches by taking over private banks in the area. The first one was Luce & Co. of Malmesbury, in 1836. It also took over Pinckney Bros. This private firm had been the very first bank to open in Salisbury, in 1811. Its last takeover, in 1897, was R&R Williams & Co. (est. 1786). Numbered amongst this Dorchester bank’s customers was the author, Thomas Hardy.
Lloyds Bank took over Wilts & Dorset in 1914. By this point, the latter had absorbed 10 private banks, and had a network of 100 branches that stretched from Gloucestershire to Dorset. This was Lloyds’ largest takeover to-date.
Incidentally, North Wilts, with which Wilts & Dorset had once been in fierce competition, was also eventually absorbed by Lloyds.