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British Banking History Society

Royds of Rochdale

The assumption that provincial banknotes were not used in Lancashire did not apply to Rochdale. Here, the district's ancient woolen industry resulted in economic ties, not with cotton Manchester but with Halifax and its Piece Hall; with Leeds, once the centre for cloth finishing, and with Hull for export to London or the continent. From Halifax this long journey was by canal and river, but until the Rochdale Canal was opened to Sowerby Bridge, Halifax could not be reached except by pack horse. Probably for this reason, the earliest banker at Rochdale was apparently a branch of one of the Halifax partnerships; a surviving cheque shows that Rhodes, Briggs and Garlick were there by 1814. This name first appears at Halifax in 1807 as Rawson, Rhodes and Briggs. In 1811, the Rawsons left the firm to form their own family bank and thereafter the two firms provided Halifax with the major part of its banking facilities into the twentieth century.

At Rochdale, Rhodes and Briggs sold out to Clement Royds in 1827. Collectors well may associate Rochdale with the proof Fenton and Raby note, particularly as this was included in a set of notes reproduced in 1970 on thin card. The Royd's note is uncommon indeed, and has as a vignette, the superb Pistrucci George and Dragon featured on the gold sovereign coinage introduced in 1816 in place of the guinea coins of the previous 160 years. Royds was probably emphasising the pound denomination of his notes in contrast to the guinea values then gradually going out of use all over the country.

All these bankers - the Rawsons, the Briggs and the Royds - were woolen manufacturers. The Royds were a long established family in the area: the name is the local word for the old English assart, meaning a land cleared for cultivation. The family owned a fulling mill down to have existed at the time of Elizabeth I and by the mid eighteenth century purchased the estate - with suitable coat of arms - which they still possessed in the twentieth century.

The Rochdale Canal is still considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of the Industrial Revolution - 31 miles long with ninety-two locks, it rises by over 500 feet. Its existence owes much to the Royds family. John Royds financed a preliminary survey in 1766, but the project was successfully opposed. He revived the scheme in 1790 and with difficulty obtained the necessary Act of Parliament in 1764. Sowerby Bridge was reached in 1798, and in the other direction, through Manchester to the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal in 1804. The opposition was from the other canal owners and mill owners who feared that the new canal would diminish their available supplies of water, so the Rochdale Canal has an unusual number of reservoirs throughout its length.

Naturally, Clement Royds was the canal's banker. His grandson was the chairman of the canal company, which was incidentally profitable until after the opening of the Manchester to Leeds railway in 1841. As is usual with provincial bankers, Clement Royds was a prominent citizen in many ways, as the Chairman of the local magistrates and in 1850, High Sheriff of Lancashire. He was honourary treasurer of the local savings bank when its actuary decamped with over 71,000 of its funds. His rivalry with the Fentons, the other local bank, reached a peak in 1837 when Royds as the Conservative candidate stood against the liberal Fenton and lost by 383 votes to 339. This in a town with a population of just over twenty thousand and which had been enfranchised by the 1832 Reform Acts.

Clement died in 1854 and was succeeded by his sons Albert and William, both of whom had been with the bank since its inception. The firm's style remained as Clement Royds & Co throughout its existence. The next generation included another Clement C M Royds. He also became a magistrate and High Sheriff of Lancashire - and this Clement outdid his grandfather in achieving his ambition of becoming a Member of Parliament. He became a partner in about 1867, in which year the firm abandoned banknote issue and he was the senior partner by 1875.

In 1878 Fenton's collapsed and although Royds handled the resultant run without too much difficulty, it may well have suggested to its partners that the day of the local bank was over. They approached the Manchester and Salford Bank and amalgamated in 1881. That the Royds chose this bank so firmly based in the Manchester area was clear evidence of the decline of the woollen industry. By amalgamation and name change the Manchester and Salford Bank became William Deacon's later William and Glyns and now the Royal Bank of Scotland. It is easy to dismiss Royds as an obscure provincial single office bank, but in fact Sir Clement Royds (as he became in 1906) was the Chairman of William Deacon's - by then a London clearing bank - from 1891 to 1911, a period of much activity.

Geoffrey L Grant

Click here for pictures of Royds cheques.

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