Written by Jeannie Swales
Banking has been so much in the news in recent years, and is seen as so much a part of the fabric of our society, that it’s easy to forget that it had to start somewhere.
Banking practice as we know it today began to be developed in the 17th century
Primitive banks were known in the ancient world: the Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese and the Indians, amongst others, were known to lend, accept and change money.
But banking practice as we know it today began to be developed in the 17th century. Wealthy merchants would lodge their gold with London’s goldsmiths, utilising their private vaults for security purposes and paying a fee for the service.
Eventually the goldsmiths began to lend the money out to others on behalf of their clients; promissory notes, which later became bank notes as we know them now, were issued for money deposited as a loan to the goldsmith.
The first bank to begin the permanent issue of bank notes, the Bank of England, started in the late 17th century to issue handwritten notes which promised to pay the bearer on demand the value written on the note – a form of wording we’re still familiar with today.
This period also saw the emergence of private banks set up by local businessmen. The Scarborough Bank was launched in 1792.
Our exhibit this week is a one-pound note issued by the Scarborough Bank on September 10, 1821, for local businessmen Lister, Moorson & Co. The bank went bust in 1822 with liabilities of £70,000, leaving all their banknotes worthless.
This pound note, and other coins and tokens with monetary value from the Scarborough Collections, can be seen as part of the next Collections Close-up on Tuesday April 7. Entitled Money, Money, Money, it will be led by Scarborough Museums Trust’s Chief Executive, Debbie Seymour.
The monthly Close-ups feature a themed selection of items from the Scarborough Collections, each one explained by a member of the museums trust team. They take place on the first Tuesday of each month. Each takes around an hour, and participants are asked to meet at Scarborough Art Gallery at 2.30pm. Places on the event are £2 each. Places are limited, so booking is recommended. To book, or for further information, call the art gallery on (01723) 374753.