James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Paku

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Paku

During our stay on the districts of Paku, we lost some men from the over-confidence of the sons of the Orang Kaya Tumangong of Lundu, who advanced to clear the path by which we were to march on the town. They were stooping to pull out the ranjaus when the Seribas, headed by Lingire, sprang upon them, and cut down two, while the third son escaped, as a party of our Malays poured a volley into the enemy and killed several of them. However, we advanced next day and laid their country waste, our native contingent loading themselves with plunder. Having showed the pirates that no defences could prevent our punishing them, it was decided to carry out the original plan and attack those Sakarang and Seribas Dyaks who lived on the Kanowit, a branch of the great Rejang river, about a hundred miles from the mouth of the latter. These men were most feared by the inhabitants of the Sago districts, which were situated near the western entrances of the mighty stream.

Many of our native allies now left us, as they were loaded with plunder and were not provisioned for so long a voyage; so we proceeded with the Nemesis, the English boats, and our principal Malay war prahus, and as soon as we appeared on the Rejang fresh bodies of natives began to join us, eager to retaliate upon those who had so often attacked them and captured their trading vessels. The Rejang is a splendid river, destined some day to be an important highway of commerce, as its various branches open out a large extent of country, and it penetrates further into the great island of Borneo than any other stream on the north-west coast.

The Nemesis towed many of the boats up to the entrance of the Kanowit branch, and anchored there whilst the expedition pushed up to attack the great pirate chief Buah Ryah, who had established his quarters in the interior of this broad river. We advanced rapidly, and were within one day’s pull of his forts, while Captain Brooke, with the light division of fast-pulling boats had reconnoitred some miles ahead, and found that the pirates were beginning to show in great numbers, which made us feel assured that we should soon be in touch with the main body. We landed to inspect a large village house, which was surrounded by a cotton plantation, and found it well built, and full of baskets of the skulls of the unfortunates who had been surprised by these marauders. I counted three hundred heads in one village. We then fell down the river to join Sir James Brooke and the English force, in great spirits at the prospect of coming in contact with the enemy next day. We were therefore astonished to hear, on our arrival, that it had been decided to give up the object of our expedition and return.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

London Corn Exchange

We discovered this interesting article on the history of the London Corn Exchange – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

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London Corn Exchange

The business of a corn-broker is one of modern growth and doubtful utility. Formerly the farmers of Kent and Essex used to send their grain up the river, and attend a sort of market at Bear Quay; but, about the middle of the last century, when grain was cheap, the farmers often returned home without selling their grain. Those from Essex chiefly used the Bull Inn, Whitechapel; and the landlord, who was of  an enterprising spirit, proposed that the samples, with the prices, should be left with him, in order that he might try to dispose of the grain in their absence. This man, whose name was Johnson, and who was originally the “Boots” of the inn, soon got so much business in this way, that he opened an office at Bear Quay as a corn-factor, and amassed a fortune.

The business of corn-factors afterwards increased so much, that they erected a market in Mark Lane, which is called the Corn Exchange. The building, with which two coffee-houses are connected, is of the Boric order; and the quadrangle, where the samples of grain are exhibited, is capacious. The brokers at first wished to render the  Corn Exchange a private market; but on an application to parliament, it was thrown open. Auxiliary to this market is a much neater though smaller structure, called “The New Exchange for Corn and Seed.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

London Corn Exchange on Wikipedia

 

Lloyd’s Coffee House

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We discovered this interesting article on the history of the Lloyd’s Coffee Houses – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in the London series

Lloyd’s Coffee House

It is difficult to decide whether Lloyd’s Coffee-House is more to be admired for its commercial importance, or for the many acts of benevolence with which its name and its subscribers are associated. This coffeehouse, which derives its name from the individual who first kept it, is over the northern piazza of the Royal Exchange; and though presenting none of those attractions which would allure the gentleman who loves “to take his ease at his inn,” is more frequented than all the other coffee-houses in London. It is indeed the centre of British commerce; the point where it concentrates, and whence it diverges over the globe. A bank post-bill does not obtain a readier currency than an article of intelligence from Lloyd’s, and to name this house as an authority is quite decisive  with every person who knows the means of information it possesses, and its accuracy.

Lloyd’s Coffee-House is the great mart for maritime insurance, and in order to obtain correct information it has agents in almost every port in Christendom, who are in regular communication with it, announcing every event that can in the most remote degree affect the political or commercial interests of the country. It was by these means, that during the late war government was often apprized of events, of which they had received no official intelligence, the arrival and sailing of vessels, a list of captures, accidents, and every thing relating to the shipping interests being regularly kept. One room in this coffee-house is appropriated to subscribers, who pay £25 on being admitted, and four guineas a year. No person, however, can be admitted without being recommended by six members, and approved by the committee of management.

The subscribers to Lloyd’s Coffee-House have been as much distinguished for their patriotic benevolence as for the extent of their commercial relations, and it was with this body that the PATRIOTIC FUND originated. This noble charity, the object of which was to provide relief for the widows and orphans of such as die in their country’s service, as well as to remunerate the wounded, was commenced on the 28th July [1803] with a donation of £20,000. three per cents, by the subscribers to Lloyd’s, independently of their contributions as individuals; and so liberally was their example seconded, that in the course of twelve years the fund amounted to £543,450 18s. 11d., out of which eighteen thousand persons had been relieved. Previous to the formation of the Patriotic fond, “Lloyd’s” had been the source and centre of many liberal subscriptions, particularly in [1794] and [1798]; in the former year upwards of £21,000 was raised tor the sufferers in Lord Howe’s victory, and in the latter £32,000 for the widows, orphans, etc. of the battle of the Nile.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

Lloyds Coffee House on Wikipedia

Lloyds of London

The London Stock Exchange – Principal Stock

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We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the London Stock Exchange and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in several parts over the next few days – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Stock Exchange

Read other posts in the London series

The London Stock Exchange – Principal Stock

In the Stock Exchange great pains are taken to exclude improper persons, and no one is allowed to transact business there unless admitted a member by ballot. Four days a week the commissioners for the redemption of the national debt attend to purchase stock.

The principal stock is the three per cent, consols, which amount to upwards of 365 millions. The  price of this stock has fluctuated in a singular manner during the last ninety years. In the month of July 1736, it was at 113; in February 1746, at 75; in 1752, at 106; and it continued at various prices, from 70 to 100, until the year 1778. The greatest and most sudden depression that the stocks ever experienced was in the early period of the French revolutionary war. In the month of March [1792] the three per cents, were at 96, and in 1797 they were as low as 48, which is the minimum. Although they had gradually declined every year from the commencement of the war, yet this great depression was owing to the Bank suspending its cash-payments.

As the funds are necessarily much affected by political events, individuals who possess prior or exclusive intelligence will at any time be enabled to speculate with great success. A broker, who, by means of an intelligent Frenchman, with whom he became casually acquainted, obtained the first information of the failure of Lord Macartney’s negotiation with the French Directory, made £16,000 while breakfasting at Batson’s coffee-house, and had he not been timid might have gained half a million; so great was the fluctuation owing to the intelligence being quite unexpected. As real events affect the funds, many efforts have been made to produce the same result by false rumours, and that with great success. The most memorable instance of this was on the 21st of Feb 1815, when a Mr. Random de Berenger, in concert with some stock-jobbing gentlemen, played a singular hoax on the Stock Exchange. Mr. De Berenger had gone to Dover, and personated a French officer just landed with despatches, announcing that in a late action Bonaparte had been killed. After writing to Admiral Foley at Deal, who would have telegraphed the Admiralty had not the foggy weather prevented it, De Berenger set off in a post-chaise to town, drove rapidly past the Royal Exchange spreading the news, which had such an effect that Omnium rose nearly five per cent. The trick was afterwards discovered, and Lord Cochrane, Mr. Butt, and De Berenger were indicted for a conspiracy. They were found guilty; when Lord Cochrane and Mr. Butt were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, and to pay a fine of £1000 each. De Berenger and some others were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, and the Hon. Cochrane Johnstone, who was also indicted, quitted the country. This severe example has not been without benefit, as it is the last great attempt at fabricating false news that has been made, though minor rumours are circulated daily.

A singular custom, worthy only of the cupidity and intolerance of a barbarous age, is connected with the Stock Exchange. The number of Jew brokers admitted is limited to twelve, and these only on condition of purchasing the privilege by a liberal gratuity to the lord mayor for the time being. During the mayoralty of Wilkes, one of the Jew brokers was taken seriously ill, and his lordship is said to have calculated pretty openly on the advantage he would derive from filling up the expected vacancy. The son of the broker meeting the lord mayor, reproached him with wishing his father’s death. “My dear fellow” said Wilkes, with that sarcastic humour which was peculiar to him, “you are completely in error, for I would rather all the Jew-brokers were dead? than your father.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The London Stock Exchange on Wikipedia

The London Stock Exchange Website

The London Stock Exchange – 1801

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We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the London Stock Exchange and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in several parts over the next few days – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Stock Exchange

Read other posts in the London series

The London Stock Exchange – 1801

Of all the means of making a great fortune, there is none so rapid as by speculating in the public funds. Much has often been gained by bonefide purchases and sales of stock, but the speculation is not thus limited. Individuals who never had a shilling in the funds, or the means of purchasing £100 in the three per cents, will speculate in thousands. The risk is, however, small, and the danger still less, for as they are gambling transactions they are not recoverable in law. A jobber purchases or sells a certain quantity of stock to be received or delivered on such a day. When the time comes, he is not called on for any transfer; all that is required is that he shall pay or receive the difference in the price of that particular stock on the day fixed from that on which the bargain was made; if he has lost, and cannot or will not pay the deficiency, he becomes a defaulter, or, to use the jargon of the Stock Brokers, “is a lame duck,” and is not allowed to enter the Stock Exchange again.

By means of speculating in the funds, we have seen persons who began the world in a humble walk of life, amassing fortunes of nearly a million of money in a few years; and there is the instance of Mr. Rothschild, who a few years ago was a dealer in cloth at Manchester, and now deals in millions contracting for and supplying loans to all the powers of Europe. To the honour of this gentleman it must, however, be said, that although a member of that persecuted people, the Jews, he possesses a heart which does honour to human nature, and that to him every increase of wealth is but an additional means of doing good.

The amount of the national debt, which, during the long war with France, rendered new loans continually necessary, increased the business of the funds so much that the house in Change Alley, where it was transacted, became too limited, and in [1801] it was determined to build a more commodious house for the purpose. Capel-court, once the residence of Sir William Capel, lord mayor in 1504, was fixed upon as a convenient situation for the purpose.

The Stock Exchange, the first stone of which was laid on the 18th of May, [1801], was raised by subscription: the plate which has been placed in the first stone bears an inscription, which after ages may consider as a questionable proof of national prosperity, although evidently intended to record it. Of national good faith it is certainly an indisputable memorial. It states that the public funded debt was then upwards of five hundred millions. There is nothing in the building itself to excite particular attention, although it is conveniently and handsomely fitted up; but there is no place in the world where money transactions are carried on to such an extent, an assertion which will scarcely be doubted by those who consider the fluctuations which must occur in a funded property, which, on the 5th of January [1823], amounted to £796,530,144 15s 4d.

Although the number of persons, among whom this sum is subdivided, is varying almost every day, so as to render any calculation uncertain, yet, in a recent investigation, it was found that there were 283,958 persons who had shares of various amounts in the public funds; and that it requires upwards of twentysix millions yearly to pay the dividends. Of the various fundholders more than 90,000 receive a dividend not exceeding £10 a year; nearly 100,000 more a sum not exceeding £100 per annum; and there are 215 persons who receive an annual income of £4000 and upwards from the funds. This statement is exclusive of those persons who have deposited money in the savings’ banks, the number of which is immense.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The London Stock Exchange on Wikipedia

The London Stock Exchange Website

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Spy Boats

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Spy Boats

After two days’ waiting, our spy boats, at sunset on the 31st, brought intelligence of the approach of the pirate fleet. When they saw us at the mouth of the Kaluka, they gave an exultant shout and dashed away for home, but their hopes soon vanished as they were met by the Nemesis, the English boats, and the mass of our native fleet. Some turned to escape by the Kaluka, but were driven back and pursued by our light division. They now lost all hope of being able to get away in their heavy bangkongs; they therefore ran them on shore and escaped into the jungle.

In the morning the Rajah received a note from Farquhar to say that he had gone up the Seribas with the steamer to prevent any of the pirate boats escaping, but the few who had forced their way through the blockading squadron were already far beyond his reach. Our division then proceeded to the mouth of the Seribas. What a sight it was Seventy-five of their war boats were lying on the sands, eighteen had been sunk at sea, and twelve alone escaped up the river. Such a defeat had never before been known.

These war boats were very different from what have been described by certain critics. I measured one. It was eighty feet in length, nine in breadth, and its pulling crew must have consisted of at least seventy men. The pirates murdered all their girl captives, and, after shocking mutilations, cut off their heads and escaped. We soon had ample proof of the piracies committed by this fleet. Not only had they attacked villages on shore, but they had captured two large native vessels on their way to and from Singapore. It would have been easy to have destroyed the fugitive pirates by occupying a narrow isthmus over which they must pass, but Sir James Brooke, convinced that this great defeat would have full effect, called off his excited native followers to the attack of the interior strongholds.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Turning Point

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Turning Point

Leaving Sulu, we called in at Samboangan, and had a very agreeable time with the acquaintances we had previously made there. We saw how little the Spaniards had done to develop the immense island of Mindanau. Here and there on the coast were some small settlements, with cultivation extending but a few miles inland, but there was a great air of neatness about the places dotted along the coast.

On our return voyage we touched at Labuan, and then went on to Sarawak, where we found H.M.’s brig Albatross, Commander Farquhar, and the Royalist, Lieutenant-Commander Everest. The Nemesis proceeded on to Singapore, but soon rejoined us.

The expedition which was now organised was the largest that ever left the non-piratical districts for the punishment of the marauders. Besides the steamer Nemesis, we had the boats of the Albatross and Royalist, and about one hundred native prahus, manned by between three and four thousand men. I have in another work so fully described this expedition that I will not give a fresh account, but content myself with a summary of our proceedings. As a turning point in the history of the coast it will ever be remembered, not only as the greatest blow that was ever struck at Dyak piracy, and practically its destruction, but also because it led to the great misfortune that Sir James Brooke considered it necessary to retire from the public service, a step which was forced upon him by the weakness of Lord Aberdeen’s Government and the malice of his enemies.

On the 24th July [1849] the Nemesis started with the Royalist, the Ranee tender, and seven English boats in tow, and we followed in the evening with our powerful native contingent. The campaign, as planned by the authorities, was to proceed up the great river of Rejang, and attack the pirate communities from inland; but on our way to the mouth of that river we received information that ninety-eight Seribas war boats had pulled along the coast towards our point of rendezvous, the Rejang. It was instantly decided that on its return we should attempt to intercept this fleet, and our force was divided into two squadrons, one to guard the entrance of the Seribas, the other the mouth of the next river to the north, the Kaluka.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Sulu Sultan

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1848 – Sulu Sultan

The Meander soon sailed from Sulu, and after calling at Samboangan, the Spanish penal settlement in the island of Mindanau, we returned to our colony of Labuan, where we were pleased to find that all the officers were well, and that they had removed from the swampy plain to the higher land behind it. There was, however, but little progress visible, as the fever panic still prevailed. We did not stay long here, as the Rajah was anxious to begin operations against the Seribas and Sakarang pirates, who had again commenced to ravage the coast. We reached Sarawak on the 16th February. A daring attack of the Seribas Dyaks on the Sadong district, when they captured over a hundred heads, made us move out with our native fleet to pursue them, but a return of the north-east monsoon drove us to shelter. Later on, accompanied by the boats of the steamer Nemesis, we destroyed some of their inland villages, and thus kept them quiet for a time.

To crush these pirates, however, we required a stronger force, and had to wait for the arrival of one of Her Majesty’s ships. In the meantime, in order to save the independence of Sulu, threatened both by the Dutch and the Spaniards, Sir James determined to proceed there in the steamer Nemesis and negotiate a treaty. After calling in at Labuan, we continued our course to the Sulu seas. We were received by the Sultan and nobles in the most friendly manner, and Sir James had no difficulty in negotiating a treaty which, had it been ratified and supported, would have effectually preserved the independence of the Sultan. Our intercourse with these people was most interesting. Preceded by his fame, Sir James soon made himself trusted by the brave islanders, and one proof was that the Sultan asked him to visit him in a small cottage, where he was then staying with a young bride. I was among those who accompanied our Rajah, and on the darkest of dark nights we groped our way there. The Sultan was almost alone, and he soon began to converse about his troublesome neighbours, the Dutch and the Spaniards, expressing a strong hope that the English would support him.

Sir James explained to him our position in Labuan, and cordially invited his people to come and trade there, assuring him that the English had no designs on the independence of their neighbours, but that they only wanted peace and the cessation of piracy. One or two nobles dropped in, and the conversation turned on the subject of hunting, and our hosts proved themselves eager sportsmen, and invited us to return when the rice crop was over and they would show us how they hunted the deer, both on horseback and on foot. The Sultan, during the evening, took a few whiffs of opium, whilst the rest of the company smoked tobacco in various forms. The women were not rigidly excluded, as they came and looked at us whenever they pleased; but we could not see much of them, and it is a form of politeness to pretend not to notice their presence. After a very enjoyable evening, we bade farewell to the Sultan, as we were to sail the following day.

Sir James Brooke had intended to return there, establish himself on shore for a month, and join the nobles in their sports, and thus acquire a personal influence over them. He thought he could wean them from intercourse with the pirates and turn them into honest traders. It must be confessed that when we were there we had abundant evidence that the Balignini and Lanun pirates did frequent the port to sell their slaves and booty and lay in a stock of arms and ammunition. Sir James was, however, persuaded that if British war steamers showed themselves every now and then in Sulu waters, the pirates would abandon these seas. The moment was propitious; the Spaniards had just destroyed the haunts of Balignini, capturing many and dispersing the rest. The sanguinary defeat of eleven of their vessels in [1847], by the Nemesis, was not forgotten, and it required but a little steady patrolling to disgust the nobles with this pursuit; in fact, many had sold their war vessels and guns, saying, that now the English steamers were after them, it was no longer the profession of a gentleman. I never met natives who pleased me more; the young chiefs were frank, manly fellows, fond of riding and hunting, and our intercourse with them was very pleasant. It was always a matter of regret with me that I never had an opportunity of visiting them again.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

The Bank of England – Part VII

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Part VII of our series on the origins of the Bank of England – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

Read other posts in the London series

The Bank of England – Part VII

The affairs of the Bank of England are managed by a governor, deputy-governor, and twenty-four directors, who are chosen annually. The duties are not only arduous, but of great responsibility, when it is considered that, independent of their own business in discounts, the interest on a debt of nearly eight hundred millions is paid in the Bank, and that with such regularity, that at the time when the pressure of our finances was the heaviest, not a creditor of the state had to call twice for his dividend, although nearly the whole of Europe was receiving millions from us annually, either as loans or as subsidies.

The interest on bank stock had long been at five per cent, half yearly, but in March [1823], it was reduced to four-and-a-half, which occasioned a fall in the stock from 236 to 210; it has, however, since recovered its former price. At the same time the company entered into an arrangement with the government, to advance a sum of £13,089,419 in order to pay the military and naval pensions, on condition of receiving an annuity of £585,740 for forty-four years. A few months afterwards, the directors determined on advancing money, on mortgages, in sums of not less than £10,000 at four per cent, one of the privileges of this great corporation which has rarely been resorted to, although a short time after it resumed its first charter, a bank was proposed for the purpose, entitled the Land-Bank, but it fell among the visionary projects of the age.

The name of Abraham Newland, a faithful and trusty servant of the Bank of England, for upwards of sixty years, is so connected with it, that the historian of this great establishment would be guilty of a very culpable neglect if he omitted to notice him. Mr. Newland was a striking instance of the success of diligence and integrity. At the age of eighteen, he was appointed a junior clerk; and, it is said, added to his salary the stipend of organist at one of the churches. His appointment at the Bank was about the year 1748, and in [1782], he became chief cashier, an office which he retained until [1807], when he resigned with a splendid fortune, the fruits of honest industry. On his retirement he refused to receive the usual annuity, which is very liberal, as, indeed, are all the transactions of the bank, but the directors prevailed on him to accept a service of plate of the value of 1000 guineas. So attentive was Mr. Newland to his trust, that for a period of twenty-five years he never slept beyond the walls of the Bank of England. Mr. Newland died worth £130,000 principally obtained, says a modern historian, by various successful speculations in the funds. It appears to us rather the accumulation of a liberal and increasing salary during the long period of sixty years. For had Mr. Newland speculated in the funds, he would have violated one of the regulations of the bank, and with that early knowledge which he must ex officio have known of the operations of the government, he might have made more money than he died possessed of, in a single hour.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

The Bank of England – Part VI

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Part VI of our series on the origins of the Bank of England – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

Read other posts in the London series

The Bank of England – Part VI

The business of the Bank of England was at first carried on at Grocer’s Hall, and continued to be transacted there until the year 1734, although the increase of the establishment had long rendered larger premises desirable. At length, in 1732, it was determined to erect a new building of sufficient magnitude, and the site chosen, was the house and garden of Sir John Houblon, the first governor of the company, in Threadneedle Street. The original building has since received so many additions, that it becomes more difficult to trace the architectural than the commercial growth of the establishment. The first edifice, which formed but a small portion of the vast fabric which now constitutes the Bank of England, was raised under the direction, and according to the designs, of Mr. George Sampson, and was opened for business on the 1st of June, 1734.

This building was soon found insufficient for the increasing business of the company, and some adjoining houses and ground having been obtained, wings were added under the direction of Sir Robert Taylor. In [1788], Mr. Soane succeeded as architect to the Bank, and to him is the present building indebted for its principal ornaments, particularly the rotunda. Mr.Soane had also the re-constructing of the principal part of the interior, which he has rendered much more commodious. From Mr. Soane’s first appointment to the present time, there has scarcely a year elapsed in which he has not been engaged, either in making some addition to the building, or in re-modelling and simplifying the arrangement of the interior; nor has he yet completed his work, but has recently added what may justly be considered the most splendid portion of this noble edifice. This consists of a new wing at the east end of the Bank; the elevation forms a colonnade of six fluted Corinthian columns which connect two pavilions; the columns do not form a portico, being barely insulated from the wall. The entablature, which is surmounted with a very fine parapet, has its frieze enriched with Vitruvian fret. The whole possesses much novelty, boldness, and elegant effect.

The whole building occupies an area of nearly four acres. The centre of the south front erected by Sampson, is eighty feet long, and is of the Ionic order. The two wings, added by Sir Robert Taylor, were copied from a building by Bramante, in the Belvedere gardens at Borne, and, although neat, did not harmonize with the centre. The north and west fronts have been erected by Mr. Soane, who, in this, as well as in several other parts of the Bank, has indulged in his favourite attachment to the Grecian architecture, which he has introduced in the purest style.

It is, however, in the interior of the Bank that the skill of the architect is displayed to the greatest advantages. The rotunda, where the money-changers assemble to traffic in real or fictitious stock, is a fine octagonal room, fifty-seven feet in diameter, and covered by a dome; the whole building being of stone. It was erected in [1795], under the direction of Mr. Soane. The court room, the pay-hall, the offices for the several kinds of stock, the hall, the apartments for the accommodation of the governor, the directors, and the cashiers, with the various offices requisite for the accommodation of eleven hundred clerks, who are now employed in the Bank, are all admirably suited for the purposes for which they are constructed, and nothing can exceed the order and regularity with which the business is conducted. As a whole, however, the Bank, from its having been built at different periods, presents several architectural anomalies and incongruities, and a confusion of orders as varied as the Babel-like confusion of tongues heard in the rotunda when a sudden fluctuation in the funds has created a multitude of hopes and fears among the clamourous multitude who usually assemble there during office hours.

Over the hall of the Bank there is a curious clock, which, by communicating rods, indicates the march of time in sixteen distinct offices, where dial plates are placed; thus obviating the inconvenience which might arise in the transacting of business in the funds by the variation of different clocks.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives