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British Banking History Society


Birmingham in the mid-1700's was a town poised for spectacular growth. Dynamic and energetic, its people were thrusting forward on to the world stage. They grabbed attention through their industrial ingenuity, they gained regard from their prowess at making things and they drew notice through the startling diversity of their trades.

More than that, they attracted favourable comment for their independence, their versatility and their quick minds. In the admiring words of the French observer Faujas de Sant Fond who visited in 1784, Birmingham was one of the most curious towns in England because its people were affected with the 'genius of invention'.

Collaring mainly in garrets, workshops and factories, a host of men, women and children played a crucial role in the eruption of Birmingham. Among them were a few who made a vital contribution to the making of the modern world. They included John Baskerville, a Worcestershire lad who created an incomparable form of type; Henry Clay a 'hero of the workshop' who patented the making of papier mache; James Watt, the Scot who devised efficient steam engines; William Murdock, his countryman, the epitome of industrial man - an entrepreneur, craft worker, marketer, manager, thinker and enabler.

There were others like Samuel Galton the gunmaker; Samuel Ryland the pin manufacturer and John Taylor, the Birmingham button king. According to Hutton, our first historian, this producer of fasteners was "the Shakespeare or Newton of his day" and his achievements were essential in the riches, extension and improvement of Birmingham.

Little is known about Taylor's early life, although he was born about 1711 and it is thought that he worked for some time as a cabinet maker.

What is certain is that he made his fortune as a gilder of metal buttons - a process whereby the goods were covered with a think layer of gold leaf, or were plated in a similar way with silver.

By the mid-eighteenth century, Taylor was employing 500 workers in a factory which impressed Lord Shelburne, a leading politician, and other dignitaries.

Yet Taylor was important not only to Birmingham's manufacturing, he was also crucial in providing much-needed money for others who wanted to develop their own ideas and make them a reality.

He was not on his own. Money was loaned by many businessmen and among them was Sampson Lloyd II. His family claimed descent from the rulers of Dyfed, a medieval kingdom in South Wales, although since the 1300's they had been settled in Dolorbran in Montgomeryshire.

During the religious turmoil of the middle seventeenth century, Sampson's grandfather, Charles II had joined the Society of Friends and in a period of intolerance he was imprisoned for ten years for his Quaker beliefs.

After his release, his daughter married a Birmingham man and Charles II died while visiting them in 1689. During the same year, his son made his home in the town after moving to avoid persecution in Wales.

Sampson Lloyd I soon became a powerful iron merchant in Edgbaston Street and his sons, Charles and Sampson II, established a slitting mill in Digbeth - just up the road from the present day coach station.

Waxing wealthy, in 1742 Sampson II bought an estate for himself and his family out in the country - in Sparkbrook. Within ten years he had built a grand Georgian house and called it The Farm.

No longer surrounded by fields by hemmed in by houses still the local road shouts out the historic connection with the Lloyds. Dolorbran Road and Montgomery Street recall their Welsh home; Sampson Road is named after the man who had The Farm constructed; while Braithwaite and Dearman Roads tell of the women who married into the family.

The mansion itself was presented to the City by Alderman John Henry Lloyd, a Lord Mayor of Birmingham in 1901-1902 and remains in municipal ownership.

A man of substance, Sampson II and his son Sampson III joined forces with John Taylor and his son to open Birmingham's first proper bank on 3 June 1765. Their premises were in Dale End and remembered today by a blue plaque placed by the Civic Society. Hutton exclaimed that the credit of the pair was 'equal' to that of the Bank of England, but they ensured that it was backed up with a combined capital of 8,000.

Within six years the partners were issuing their own notes, boasted a branch in Lombard Street, London and were sharing profits of over 10,000.

Secure in the wisdom of his investment, John Taylor died in 1775. Within four years he was followed by Sampson Lloyd II whose banking interests were taken over by his two sons.

Charles lived at Bingley House, later demolished to make way for Bingley Hall, and was noted as both an anti-slavery campaigner and a translator of Horace and Homer.

His older brother, Sampson III, made his home at The Farm and when he died in 1807 at the age of 80 years he was praised as having lived a long life 'of honour and integrity', and he was religiously attached to the cause of Christianity, he endeavoured to act up to its 'divine precepts.'

John Taylor's descendants ended their association with the bank in 1852, after which it became known as Lloyds. Thirteen years later, the firm acquired the respected bank of Moilliet and Son, begun by a Swiss-born exporter of Birmingham's wares and brought to mind by a street in modern Winson Green.

At the same time, Lloyds became a limited company. Chaired by Timothy Kendrick of the West Bromwich family of hardware makers and iron founders, the new company's president was another Sampson Lloyd.

So rapid was the progress that in 1884 its headquarters were moved to London. Today Lloyds is firmly established as one of the 'Big Four' British banks.

Its continuing success owes much to the good business practices of a Welsh family which made Birmingham its home.

Dr Carl Chinn, writing in the Old Brum magazine, a supplement to the Birmingham Evening Mail

Click here for pictures of Lloyds Bank cheques.

Copyright 2010 BBHS