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British Banking History Society

Leyland and Bullins Bank

Britain is now well and truly hooked on the weekly National Lottery which is creating many new instant millionaires. The idea of a lottery is not a new concept though, and it was used in the reign of King George III to help replenish the government's emptying coffers, as well as making the lucky few extremely rich also.

In 1776, one such winner of the Lottery was the company of Dillon and Leyland, which was Gerald Dillon and Thomas Leyland. They were Liverpool merchants, mainly in the Irish Trade, and situated at the lower end of Water Street. They dealt in oats, peas, wheat, oatmeal, bacon and lard etc. and apparently had a moderate, but progressive business.

Thomas Leyland was born in Knowsley in 1752, the son of Richard Leyland. In 1768, Thomas Leyland was known to have been employed by Edward Bridge & Co, coopers, of Coopers Row, Liverpool. He did not spend much time in their employment as he soon entered the service of Gerald Dillon. He must have developed a keen business brain even at that early age, because in 1774 he became a partner in the firm. In order to make this early start in the commercial world, Leyland had to borrow 500 from three friends to invest in the business.

Liverpool was prospering at the time, especially trade with the West Indies in sugar and rum and also the privateering that was growing out of the European wars. Liverpool also had a large share of the African trade in slaves, so Leyland was trading at a time of great opportunities which he was not slow in seizing. A measure of the success of the venture can be seen by the fact that he had repaid half of the loans within two years.

In 1776 the partners invested 7 in a ticket in the State Lottery and in December of that year had the fantastic good fortune to win a wonderful Christmas present. It was reported in the Williamson's Advertiser of the time, dated 27 December 1776 as follows:-

No. 52,717 drawn on Saturday last a prize of 20,000 is the property of Messrs Dillon and Leyland, merchants of this town

In the MS "Records of a Liverpool Fireside", 1775-81, this news was given at the meeting held on 23 December 1776, but the number of the ticket is given there as 44,696. Under the date 21 December 1776, the same number is given in Gores "Annals of Liverpool", but the names of the lucky winners are not given.

Thomas Leyland's former employer, Edward Bridge, died in June 1775, and the business was carried on by his widow. Two years later on the 14 May 1777, at Saint Thomas's Church, Leyland married Ellen Bridge, the daughter of his previous employer. When Elizabeth Bridge died in 1782, Thomas Leyland inherited one-third of her estate.

In 1779, Dillon and Leyland took a one-sixteenth share in the privateer "Enterprise" of F Ingram and Co. and they supplied the beef, pork etc. for the cruises.

In 1780, Thomas Leyland was elected to the Chamber of Commerce, and on 30 September in that year, Hughes has it that he dissolved his partnership with Gerald Dillon. [Naylor has it that Dillon retired from the business in 1781, but that Leyland continued trading with his increased capital].

Leyland became a large trader in olive oil from Spain, Peruvian bark, sherry, wines in butt and hogshead, ox-beef in tierces, pork in barrels, butter, hides, oats and white herrings in barrels.

Thomas Leyland was elected Mayor of Liverpool for the first of his three times in 1798. Later, he embarked largely in the African slave trade and amassed a huge fortune. From account books available in 1948, the following information was found. They disclose that the profit on one round voyage made by Leyland's ship "Lottery" in 1798 was 12,091. His ship "Enterprise" which delivered 412 slaves at Havana in 1802 made a profit of 24,430 on the voyage.

It was also in 1802 that Leyland entered the banking business himself, becoming a senior partner in the then existing firm of Clarkes and Roscoe, a banking firm on the corner of Dale Street and Castle Street, that had run into difficulties. [This was William Clarke, Jnr., John Clarke and William Roscoe]. The company then became Leyland, Clarkes and Roscoe.

This was a strange coalition, the successful slaver and the consistent opponent of slavery, William Roscoe, but Leyland brought financial stability and a keen business mind to the firm. William Clarke, Jnr. died on 21 October 1805, aged 52.

In November 1806, a Parliamentary Election took place in Liverpool which William Roscoe won. Not long after this Thomas Leyland left the partnership.

Under the date of 31 December 1806 appeared the following circular:

The partnership heretofore carried out in Liverpool by the undersigned Thomas Leyland, John Clarke, and William Roscoe all of that place, bankers, under the firm of Leyland, Clarke and Roscoe, is this day, by mutual consent, dissolved.
(Signed) Thos. Leyland.
John Clarke.
Wm. Roscoe.


The firm, in 1807, appears as Roscoe, Clarke and Roscoe, the latest accession being William Stanley Roscoe, eldest son of William Roscoe.

bank house
It is not clear just why Leyland withdrew from the partnership. Whether it was due to William Roscoe entering Parliament is debatable. It is possible that it was Roscoe's strong support of the movement for the abolition of the slave trade, which was then gaining a strong following throughout the country. [In 1807, Parliament declared slave trading in all British ships illegal]. Also likely is that Leyland had learned all he needed to know about banking in his four years with the firm and was ready to start out on his own, but Lucie Nottingham in her book about the Rathbone Brothers (1992) states that:

. . . while being an admirable friend, Roscoe turned out to be a bad banker and, consequently, William V removed the accounts of two of his brothers from the bank. [Clark and Roscoe's Bank]

On 10 January 1807 Leyland started as a banker on his own account in York Street, Liverpool, in a building separate from, but adjacent to, his office in Henry Street. [At the time of writing, this building is still standing to-day]. The title of the new firm was Leyland and Bullin, the partner being his nephew, Richard Bullin. His other cousin, Christopher Bullin was also expected to become a partner in the firm at the same time, but due to ill health was unable to do so. In 1809, Christopher was apparently admitted to the partnership, and the title of the firm now became Leyland and Bullins. This title was maintained for the duration of the partnership, nearly a hundred years. [Crick and Wadsworth put this date at 1815, but Naylor appears to confirm Hughes's date].

In 1816 Leyland and Bullins moved to their new premises in King Street. Their circular, dated 28 January of that year, is as follows:

"Leyland and Bullins beg leave to inform their friends that the banking establishment at present carried on in York Street will be removed to their new premises in King Street on Monday, 5th February."

Thomas Leyland served the City of Liverpool as Mayor on three occasions although, in 1798 as mentioned, and 1814 and 1820. The second one was not wanted by Leyland, and he at first refused to accept it. It is said that Thomas Leyland had three great ambitions: to become Mayor of Liverpool; to create a great fortune and to found a family. He succeeded in the first two, but was sadly disappointed in the third, being childless when he died.

Leyland died on 29 May 1827 aged 75. He left about 600,000 sterling, which in 1948 was estimated then to be equivalent to 5,000,000; and by Naylor in 1967 as 6,000,000 at that time. The business then continued to be conducted in the same style by Richard and Christopher Bullin, the name of Leyland being kept as per the conditions of the Will.

Christopher Bullin retired from the firm in 1847, and died in 1849.

The business of the bank was then continued by the surviving partners, Thomas Leyland's grand-nephews, John Naylor and Richard Christopher Naylor. The latter retired in 1852 and John Naylor then took into partnership George Arkle (who entered the bank as an apprentice, became managing partner, retired in 1879 and died in 1885.) and in 1867 Benjamin Arkle, who died in 1891.

In 1879, John Naylor admitted his three sons, Christopher John Naylor (who in 1891 succeeded to the Naylor entailed estates, and took the name of Leyland in substitution for that of Naylor); Rowland Edward Leyland Naylor, and John Naylor (who became a director of the North and South Wales Bank), and also John William Hebblethwaite, who, like Arkle, had entered the bank as an apprentice, and who died in 1900.

John Naylor died on 13 July 1889, and in 1895 the Head Office of the bank was moved to new premises at 36 Castle Street, Liverpool.

In May 1901, the bank amalgamated with the North and South Wales Bank Ltd, these in turn were taken over by Midland Bank Ltd in 1908.

In "A Hundred Years of Joint Stock Banking" by Crick and Wadsworth, it states:-
"In King Street, Liverpool there stands today an old building, blackened with age and the smoke of steamers, whose story runs back for more than a hundred years. Around it, where formerly hummed the business of a thriving port, are warehouses and chandlers shops - the centre of business have moved north-westward. Within easy reach are the Customs House and the Docks. On the door, as a sign of adopted modernity, are the words "Midland Bank Limited", but inside are the desks and stools of a counting house, rather than the fittings of a modern bank. The ancient safes, one of them operated, well - like by an old-fashioned pump handle, another protected by an iron door filled with sand, still stand as a tribute to the ingenuity of the locksmith and safe-maker of a hundred years ago. The Manager's parlour is a relic of olden times, with its handsome mahogany table, horse-hair couch and wooden gun case, its portraits of Leyland and Bullins, and its model of a three masted schooner."

Unfortunately, in May 1941, the King Street Bank was totally destroyed by enemy action, and the business was then transferred to the Midland Bank headquarters at 62 Castle Street.

On the Leyland and Bullins cheques, it has the date the bank was established as 1806. This can probably be accounted for from the information gained from letters between Thomas Leyland and his nephew Richard Bullin, dated 17 December 1806; and Richard and his brother Christopher dated 7 December 1806. All of the arrangements seem to have been made, and the bank established at that time, but because of the ill health of Christopher, and not being able to make arrangements early enough with a banking house in London, the opening was delayed until January 1807.

A E Phillips

Click here for pictures of Leyland & Bullins Bank cheques.

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