The home of this bank was the area around the head of Morecambe Bay, with Kendal at its centre. The nineteenth century traveller on the west coast roads to Scotland was likely to use his last English provincial notes at Kendal - further north, apart from a solitary issuer in Carlisle, the English tended to use Scottish notes. As time went on, business spread through the Furness district of Lancashire to West Cumberland, whilst on the east side a few branches were established in centres of importance along the Westmorland portion of the Pennine Chain, but the chief business of the bank always remained in Kendal, and it was with the dairy and mixed farming of South Westmorland that it was chiefly concerned.
That Kendal had its own issuing banks was probably due to its location. To the south, the canal ran for fifty miles to Lancaster with one lock. To the north, the choice of route was Lune Gorge, Orton Scar or Shap Fell, all of which were no doubt as daunting as they sound!
A trade directory of 1805 described Kendal as a considerable town on the River Ken, navigable as far as the town, with a five hundred year old trade in Kendal cottons and linens and where "the women knit stockings". That Kendal cottons were in fact a type of course woollens only emphasises the remoteness of the place. The directory might have added that one of the largest gunpowder works in the north was located there, which was why Rennie had built the canal from Lancaster. The Wakefield family owned these works and the stately home nearly - as moneylenders, brewers, buyers, bill brokers and bankers they have been leading Kendal citizens since at least the 1670s.
The origins of the bank lay in two firms both established in Kendal on the first day of January 1788.
Maude, Wilson & Crewdsons Bank established in "Farrers House", Stramongate, combined in partnership three well-known families. Joseph Maude, Christopher Wilson and Thomas Crewdson were the original partners; their business prospered and in 1792 they removed into more commodious premises which had been specially constructed at No 69, Highgate.
Thomas Crewdson died in 1795, and other members of the family were admitted to the partnership. In 1801, this was dissolved by mutual consent but the business was continued by the same families. Joseph Maude died at Stricklandgate House in 1803, and a few years later, with the retirement of his son, Colonel Maude, this family disappeared from the business. The Wilson family, who lived at Abbot Hall, withdrew in 1826 at a time of crisis caused by a run on the banks known as the "paper panic". Under the style of W D Crewdson & Sons, the remaining family continued until the amalgamation in 1840 with John Wakefield & Sons.
Wakefield's Bank, founded by John Wakefield in Stricklandgate next door to Stricklandgate House, enjoyed from the first a very good reputation. Both Kendal banks were immune from the periodic crises of the time but the farmers particularly favoured Wakefields and a "Jacky Wakefield" bank note was reckoned the equal of a gold sovereign. John Wakefield II moved the bank to better premises in the same street. This is the only recorded happening in the history of the bank, which continued to thrive until its amalgamation with W D Crewdson & Sons in 1840, under the style of Wakefield, Crewdson & Company; "The Kendal Bank".
Both families provided the town with a succession of Mayors and other civil dignitaries. Both were Quakers (although subsequently withdrew) and thus had marriage connections with other bankers, the Crewdsons with the Lloyds and the Craven Bank partners. Both families are still represented in the town today.
The amalgamation of the two firms was no doubt in response to the rise of the Joint Stock banks; the Bank of Westmoreland had opened in Kendal in 1833. The new firm operated from the Crewdson premises, using the Crewdson trading name (Kendal Bank) and with a Crewdson as a senior partner, and that family taking 60% of the profits. However, within 10 years, the family interests were equalised and thereafter the senior partner was always a Wakefield!
A long period of prosperity followed the amalgamation. New branches were established, this bank favouring the system whereby the chief businessman of a village was appointed the bank's agent and combined banking with his other business of lawyer, land agent, factor or parish clerk. An unusual number of sub-branches thus resulted.
Naturally, the banknotes produced after 1840 reflected the amalgamation. They were printed by Perkins Bacon, the printers to the old Crewdson Bank. The coat of arms is from the old note, as is the beehive, a famous Charles heath engraving of the 1820s which also appears on notes at Rochdale, Oswestry, Ringwood and no doubt elsewhere. On the extreme left is the vignette from the old Wakefield family bank, and this is also used on the firm's cheques.
In 1863, the business of Percy and Postlethwaite at Ulverston was taken over. This firm had been established in Theatre Street as wine merchants since 1804 and had combined banking with their other business for many years. Apparently, Wakefield Crewdson & Co were content to leave the wine business in the hands of Petty and Postlethwaite, for an old directory of 1889 still lists them as trading in Theatre Street.
Some years later, when the North Western Bank of Barrow-in-Furness failed, Wakefield Crewdson & Co took the opportunity to buy out the Coniston deposits and in 1883 they acquired the premises and business in Lancaster of the Manchester and Salford Bank, when the latter decided to give up this connection.
In 1884 a further business was purchase, that of Grice & Company, of Bootle in Cumberland. They were wool and general merchants, as well as bankers and members of the Grice family are customers in the Millom area today.
Wakefield Crewdson & Co had not registered a coat of arms, but the design on their cheques of an oat sheaf surrounded by a rake, scythe and sickle was as familiar in Westmorland as the heifer on the cheques of the neighbouring Craven Banking Company was in the West Riding.
Negotiations for the amalgamation with the Bank of Liverpool Ltd were begun in 1892 and a resolution dated 27 June 1893, of the latter authorised the purchase of the undertaking of Wakefield Crewdson & Co which by this time, in addition to the head office in Kendal, comprised seven full branches and seventeen sub-branches spread throughout Westmorland, Furness and South West Cumberland.
Thus, vis Martins Bank Limited to the present day Barclays Group.
Click here for pictures of Wakefield Crewdson cheques.
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