The Huddersfield Banking Company was the first joint-stock bank to be established in Yorkshire (1827) and one of the first in England. The Head Office was at Cloth Hall Street, Huddersfield, and was to become one of the busiest bank offices in the country.
The Huddersfield Banking Company in its preliminary announcement drew attention to the depressing effect of having had five local banking establishments fail, and pointed out that if fresh establishments rose to fill the gap they too would be liable to a similar fate, and that it was therefore opportune to found a solid public company to fill the gap.
Scottish influence is very evident in the formation of the bank. The prospectus referred in glowing terms to the safety of the Scottish system and, although there were twenty applicants for the post of Manager, it was decided to send a committee to Glasgow and Edinburgh to confer with local bankers and to interview applicants from Scotland for the post. The choice fell on Hugh Watt, Manager of the Arbroath Bank who a few years later was to publish his account of English and Scottish banking practice. Other appointments were local men and included Joseph Rhodes as teller; who had previously served with Townsend and Rishworth and Leatham Tew & Co. A second teller was John Harrop, formerly a partner in the Saddleworth Bank of Harrop & Co, which had stopped payment in 1825.
Hugh Watt had wide experience of business conditions in central and northern Scotland. In 1820, when employed by the Perth Banking Company he was sent round branches to inspect their books and cash. This is the first suggestion of a Scottish provincial banking company employing an Inspector of Branches, although the public banks had appointed inspectors several years earlier.
Another noteworthy employee of the Huddersfield Banking Company was Charles William Sikes who was personally responsible for introducing the Post Office Savings Bank. Charles William Sikes was born in 1818, and in 1833 at the age of 15, joined the staff of the Huddersfield Banking Company, working under Hugh Watt with whom he was somewhat of a favourite - but this is part of another story, suffice it to say that it is not therefore surprising to find that from its earliest days the Huddersfield Banking Company encouraged small savings. The bank was steadily successful; for over half a century it paid a dividend of ten per cent, and during its last years supplemented the dividend by bonus distributions.
In 1897 the Midland Bank considered opening a branch at Huddersfield, and the Huddersfield Banking Company, knowing that the Midland preferred amalgamation, agreed terms, rather than engage in severe competition and rivalry which would ensue.
Sources: Banking in Yorkshire by W Hartley; The Scottish Provincial Banking Company by C Munn; and A Hundred Years of Joint Stock Banking by W Crick and J Wadsworth.
Photograph of Huddersfield Bank courtesy of "Images of Huddersfield".
Click here for pictures of Huddersfield Banking Company cheques.
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