Ann's Places

William Rawson & Co. and the Birth of Rawson’s Bank

By Martin Walker
https://twitter.com/ListeriaUK
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Christopher Rawson really was Ann Walker’s cousin: Ann’s cousin Mary Priestley (daughter of Ann’s aunt Elizabeth Walker) married Christopher’s brother William in 1806. The “strategic marriages” of both the Rawson and Walker families meant that by the turn of the 19th century, both were very powerful and influential in Halifax. With the rise of the banking business in the first decade of the century, it seems that the Rawsons were able to consolidate their influence – perhaps becoming the dominant family in the Halifax area. Certainly, their business interests became more concentrated in Rawson hands as the inter-familial partnerships were disbanded. Could the 1806 return of Christopher Rawson from his 14 years of service with the East India Company1 have been the catalyst that drove the Rawsons’ dominance?

Photograph taken about 1900 of Royds House on Rawson Street, Halifax when it was Halifax & Huddersfield Bank. The building has been called Somerset House since 1898.
Royds House (when it was Halifax & Huddersfield Union Bank), now Somerset House (since 1898)
on Rawson Street, Halifax. Hugh Percy Kendall (c.1900) Image courtesy of © Calderdale Libraries

Background

The Rawsons have been in Yorkshire since at least 1505, when John Rawson of Ingrow (near Keighley) was born. Six generations later, John Rawson of Bolton married Catherine Lister of Ripon (d. 1750), and after his death in 1719, his widow Catherine and their son Christopher (1712-1780) moved to Halifax, thus establishing the Rawson family in Halifax. Christopher married his cousin Grace, daughter of John Rawson of Beckfoot, and built Stoney Royd House in or soon after 1738. Their children were John (father of Christopher, Jeremiah & Stansfeld of Gentleman Jack), William (of William Rawson & Co.), Catherine, and Elizabeth. Elizabeth married Philip Saltmarshe (1753-1791) in 1779, uniting the two families that were already in business together.

In 1817, Elizabeth and Philip’s second son, another Christopher, also married a Rawson, his cousin Emma, and in 1858, their daughter Emma married Henry Dalbaic Harrison, a cousin of Isabella Norcliffe.2

First partnership

The commercial link between the Rawson and Saltmarshe families was established in 1704, when Rawson & Saltmarshe was formed in Bradford.3 The Rawson of the partnership was presumably John Rawson of Bolton; the Saltmarshe, an ancestor of Elizabeth Rawson’s husband, Philip Saltmarshe.

By 1750, the West Riding of Yorkshire had become a major centre for the manufacture of woollen textiles. The Halifax Piece Hall (for the trading of “pieces”, or 30-yard lengths of cloth) was built in 1779, and by the end of the 1700s, mechanisation, in the form of water and steam-powered mills, had begun to transform the industry. There was much money to be made by manufacturers and merchants, and Rawson & Saltmarshe, like the Walkers, Priestleys and the Edwards family, were involved in textile manufacture.

It is unclear when the company began the export of woollen goods, but it was certainly a significant part of the next incarnation of the partnership.

Second partnership

By 1786 at the latest, William Rawson & Co. had been established in London; the company appears in Lowndes’s London directory for that year:4

Image of Lowndes's London Directory entry for Rawson, William and Co., 1786
Lowndes’s London Directory entry for Rawson, William and Co., 1786 Image Courtesy of National Library of Australia

In 1793 William Rawson’s nephew Christopher, later the chairman of Rawson’s Bank, but then a 16-year-old midshipman in the East India Company, made his way to Portsmouth where he boarded the East Indiaman Minerva, bound for China and the East Indies. During the 18-month voyage he wrote his Journall of a Voyage from London towards Canton in China In the Ship Minerva of London Kennard Smith Esqe Commander kept by Christopher Rawson Midshipman.5 The journal carries the inscription “Wm Rawson Esqr/Corbet Court”, which strongly suggests that Christopher was very much associated with the family business, and perhaps did not, as popular legend relates, “run away to sea”.

William Rawson & Co. were manufacturers and exporters of woollen goods, and they had access to a wide market. For example, in February 1794 they delivered £100 of “dry goods” to Hamburg-based commission merchant Caspar Voight for export to New York.6

There seem to have been various reorganisations of the partnership. The 1806 dissolution of a Rawson/Leach partnership was announced in the London Gazette:

Image of an entry in the London Gazette 12-15 May 1810  giving notice of the dissolution of the first Rawson partnership
Recorded in the Gazette (London Gazette) Issue 16369
From Saturday May 12 , to Tuesday May 15 , 1810. Open Government License
William Rawson (uncle of Christopher, Jeremiah & Stansfeld Rawson)
Samuel Rawson (relationship to the family unknown)
Timothy Leach (father of Elizabeth Leach, who married Stansfeld Rawson in 1802)
William Henry Rawson (brother of Christopher, Jeremiah & Stansfeld Rawson)

Also in 1806, William Rawson (brother of Christopher, Jeremiah and Stansfeld) married Ann Walker’s cousin, Mary Priestley, linking the Walker, Rawson, Priestley and Saltmarshe families even more closely.

A subsequent partnership was dissolved in 1810; the London Gazette again:

Image of an entry in the London Gazette 1st - 5th May 1810 giving notice of the dissolution of the second
 Rawson partnership
Recorded in the Gazette (London Gazette) Issue 16366
From Tuesday May 1 , to Saturday May 5 , 1810. Open Government License
William Rawson
Timothy Leach (Stansfeld Rawson's father-in-law since 1802)
William Henry Rawson
Arthur Saltmarshe (brother of Christopher Saltmarshe)
Christopher Saltmarshe (husband of Emma Rawson)

A third partnership, W. H. Rawson & Co. (London), along with Rawson, Saltmarshes & Co. (Halifax) was dissolved in 1813:

Recorded in the Gazette (London Gazette) Issue 16868
Tuesday, March 15, 1814. Open Government License

It could be that William Rawson had left the company, possibly in 1810, handing it over to his nephew, William Henry.

Third partnership

With the retirement of Timothy Leach, and the 1802 marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to Stansfeld Rawson, the partnership had now turned full circle, again trading under the name of Rawson & Saltmarsh(es).

Various documents mention textile exports from (Edward) Rawson & (Arthur) Saltmarshe to South America throughout the first half of the 19th century, so it is possible that Rawson and Saltmarshe survived for many years. Edward Rawson may have been the son of John Rawson, a brother to Christopher, Jeremiah and Stansfeld.

The South America link is intriguing, as Ann Walker’s cousin, Charles Atkinson (perhaps the brother of the cousin Atkinson who gets a “well-worded letter” in Gentleman Jack) emigrated to Argentina some time before 1833, and died in Buenos Aires in 1857. I have no evidence, but he may have been connected to the export business.

The move into banking

Towards the end of the 18th century private provincial banks began to appear, often established by successful local companies who mixed banking with their other businesses. As the textile industry grew so did the demand for capital; local private banks were formed to meet the demand. By the turn of the century, the Rawsons were wealthy manufacturers and merchants with the money needed to fund such a provincial bank (at this time only directors could legally invest in private banks).

The first “Rawson’s Bank”: Rawson, Rhodes & Briggs

Also known as Halifax Bank or Halifax New Bank, Rawson, Rhodes & Briggs was formed as a private bank in 1807 by brothers John and William Rawson, John Rhodes and Rawdon Briggs.8 Like the Rawsons, both Rhodes and Briggs were wool merchants.

Rhodes and Briggs continued as a bank after the partnership with the Rawsons broke up. John Rhodes died in 1818, after which Rawdon Briggs formed a new bank, Rawdon Briggs & Sons, with his sons Rawdon and William.

Image of a one pound banknote issued by Halifax bank for Rawdon Briggs and Sons
Image © The Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Rawdon Briggs & Sons existed until 1836, when it was acquired by the newly-restructured Halifax Commercial Banking Company which had started out as the Hainsworth, Holden, Swaine & Pollard Bank (the first bank in Halifax) in 1779. One of the last joint-stock banks in the country, it merged with the Bank of Liverpool & Martins Ltd. in 1919, finally being absorbed by Barclays in 1969.9

The second “Rawson’s Bank”: J W & C Rawson & Co.

In 1811, the Rawsons, Rhodes and Briggs dissolved their partnership and formed two new, competing businesses. Christopher Rawson, now discharged from the East India Company and married to Mary Anne Brooks, joined his father and uncle in establishing John, William & Christopher Rawson & Co., another private bank. There were two branches, one in Halifax, and one in Huddersfield, less than 10 miles away, and the home town of Stansfeld Rawson.

Image of a five pound banknote issued by the Halifax Bank for John Rawson, Will Rawson, Chr. Rawson & Co.
Image © The Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The Rawsons also provided a weekly banking service in Rochdale where they issued notes under the name Rochdale Old Bank. In 1827 Rochdale Old Bank was acquired by local woollen merchant Clement Royds, initially trading as Royds, Smith & Co., and later (in 1828) as Clement Royds & Co., eventually becoming part of The Royal Bank of Scotland after being sold to the Manchester & Salford Bank in 1881.10

In 1827, Rochdale Old Bank was acquired by local woollen merchant Clement Royds, initially trading as Royds, Smith & Co., and later as Clement Royds & Co; eventually becoming part of The Royal Bank of Scotland.

The third “Rawson’s Bank”: Halifax & Huddersfield Union Bank

The Banking Co-partnership Act of 1826 represented a relaxation of the regulations controlling provincial banking. Previously only the bank’s directors could hold stock in the bank; the Joint Stock structure allowed additional shareholders to invest in the bank, sharing both profits and liabilities. The extra capital available to the banks allowed them to fund the industrial boom of the period. It also meant that the banking business, previously entwined with the other commercial interests of the directors, became separate and more transparent.

Image of a five pound banknote from the Halifax & Huddersfield Union Bank
Image © The Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

In 1836, the private banking businesses at Halifax and Huddersfield were converted to a Joint Stock Bank, creating the Halifax & Huddersfield Union Bank, with Christopher Rawson as the first chairman. The subsequent four chairmen were also Rawsons.

Rawson family members owned the bulk of the stock; amongst the other shareholders were two Miss Listers, but unfortunately their full names were not recorded.11

Share certificate signed by Christopher Rawson:

Image of share certificate number 131 for the Halifax & Huddersfield Union Bank. The certificate bears Christopher Rawson's signature and is dated December 1837.
Image © The Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The new enterprise grew, opening several more branches in Yorkshire towns, including Sowerby Bridge, Slaithwaite, Elland, Brighouse, Bradford and Leeds.12

The end of Rawson’s Bank

In 1910, the Halifax & Huddersfield Union Bank was taken over by the Halifax Joint Stock Banking Company, of which Mr John Abbot (Marian’s suitor), was a founder member. This was itself renamed the West Yorkshire Bank in 1911. Finally, in 1919, the West Yorkshire Bank was bought by Lloyds13 – which means that, in a way, I have an account with Rawson’s Bank.

Footnote:

The George Higham of Brighouse named on the last image of the Halifax and Huddersfield Union Banking Company share certificate was the lawyer who represented Jane Atkinson in a lawsuit against Ann Walker in 1843 over an unpaid debt. This lead to Sheriff’s Officer, Matthew Highley, and his bailiffs taking over Shibden Hall for 7 days. Read more about this here

Notes

1 – Hardy, Charles, 1811, A Register of Ships, Employed in the Service of the Honorable the United East India Company, from the Year 1760 to 1810 With an Appendix, Containing a Variety of Particulars, and Useful Information Interesting to Those Concerned with East India Commerce https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_Register_of_Ships_Employed_in_the_Serv/aaoBAAAAYAAJ

2 – Burke, Bernard & Burke, Ashworth Peter (eds), 1895, A Genealogical and Heraldic History Of the Colonial Gentry
https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_Genealogical_and_Heraldic_History_of_t/0wXkAAAAMAAJ

3 – Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale Companion: http://www.calderdalecompanion.co.uk/r.html

4 – Lowndes, William, 1786, Lowndes’s London Directory, for the year 1786: containing an alphabetical arrangement of the names and places of abode of the merchants, manufacturers and principal traders of cities of London and Westminster, The 25th Ed.

5 – Bonhams (auctioneers): https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/10399/lot/72/

6 – Uchida, Y, アメリカの産業経営史の一齣 (History of American Industrial Financial Management)

7 -Llorca-Jaña, Manuel, 2012 The British Textile Trade in South America in the Nineteenth Century

8 – British Banking History Society: https://banking-history.org.uk

9 – Martins Bank Archives: http://www.martinsbank.co.uk/

10 – NatWest Group Heritage Hub: https://www.natwestgroup.com/heritage.html

11 – Newton, Lucy & Cottrell, Philip L, 2006, Female Investors in the First English and Welsh Commercial Joint-Stock Banks, Henley Business School, University of Reading

12 – British Banking History Society: https://banking-history.org.uk

13 – Ibid

Other resources

Hudson, Pat, The Role of Banks in the Finance of the West Yorkshire Wool Textile Industry, c. 1780-1850, The Business History Review, Vol. 55, No. 3, Autumn, 1981

From Weaver to Web, Online Visual Archive of Calderdale History, Calderdale Libraries https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/wtw/index.html

Further Rawsons Bank banknotes can be seen on the Spink and Son website:

Read more research blog posts at https://insearchofannwalker.com/category/research-blogs/

Read blog posts on Ann Walker’s Associates blog at https://insearchofannwalker.com/anns-associates/

Edited by Louise Godley

How to cite this article:

Martin Walker (2021) “William Rawson & Co. and the Birth of Rawson’s Bank”: In Search of Ann Walker [Accessed “add date”]

Martin Walker

#AnneListerCodeBreaker, cyclist, Japanophile, former Tokyo resident (that's a while since) now back in the UK & living in Oxford. Before Gentleman Jack I never imagined I'd be interested in genealogy, historical research, or the lives of two remarkable women. Just happy to be here, really.