contact us

join the bccs


British Banking History Society


Sir James Esdaile was descended from a French noble family, his grandfather, Baron d'Esdaile having fled France to avoid persecution by Louis XIV. his father, Peter, had become rich in trade and James also managed to make his fortune in commerce. By 1748, James was one of the successful merchants of the day looking for a seat in the country.

When James arrived at Upminster, he brought a wife and a young family. After his wife died, he married Mary, the daughter of John Mayor of New Place, Upminster. The marriage increased his property interests in the area, and in 1770 he became Lord of the Manor of Gaynes, Upminster. He then embarked on a local building programme, creating buildings which became local landmarks and gave employment to many in the area to service and build them. He spent 22,000 on Gaynes Manor House alone and had the Old Lady Chapel in Upminster Parish Church rebuilt.

James Esdaile was knighted by George III in 1766, and became an Alderman the following year. In 1776 he was sworn in as Sheriff of London and Middlesex, and the following year became Lord Mayor. In 1781, with his son-in-law, Benjamin Hammet (later Sir Benjamin Hammet MP) he set up a banking business at 26 Birchin Lane. His son, William, who was working for the banking house of Ladbroke left to join them. They moved premises the next year to 73 Lombard Street.

In 1792 the business amalgamated with Messrs Smith Wright & Gray of 21 Lombard Street, and became styled Sir James Esdaile, Esdaile, Hammet, Esdaile and Hammet. In the following years there were a few changes among the junior partners who were apparently the sons of the senior partners. In 1833, the business was styled Sir James Esdaile, Esdaile, Grenfell, Thomas & Co. In 1837, the bank suspended payment but was able to pay all its creditors by means of a loan of 5,000 advanced by all the principal bankers in the City. The loan was also later repaid in full.

As the bank ceased payment in 1837, it cannot be directly linked to the present day business, but since the cheque illustrated was drawn on behalf of Francis Cobb and Son of Margate, there is an indirect link to Lloyds Bank.

Sir James Esdaile died in 1793 and was buried in the Parish Church at Upminster. His son, Peter, became the next Lord of the Manor, followed by another son, James. William became an eminent bankers and collector of coins, prints, china and other ephemera. Joseph pursued a military career and became a friend of the Prince Regent. The estate which Sir James had built up at one time to over 3000 acres was gradually broken up and sold off from 1819 onwards, the last remaining property being "The Bull" which was sold in 1866.

Derek Piper

Click here for pictures of Esdaile cheques.

Copyright 2010 BBHS