During the latter half of the 18th century some 800 country banks were established in Britain, usually by well-established tradesmen or wealthy landowners. Harborough’s first bank was opened on Tuesday (market day) 27 December 1791 as the Bosworth & Inkersole Bank. George Bosworth (1735-1804) was a prosperous ‘gentleman grazier’ and Thomas Inkersole (1751-1820) ran a successful ironmonger/cutler business in the High Street.
Was a bank needed?
During the second half of the 18th century, Market Harborough was a thriving market and coaching town. The A6 main road from London to the north of England ran through the town and it was a good stop-over place for stage coaches, being mid-way between Northampton and Leicester. Traffic had been steadily increasing over the previous century and markedly so since roads had been improved via turnpike trusts. Local people took full advantage of the situation particularly through its coaching inns, ale houses and shops. There were also numerous successful trades within the town, principally those relating to cloth manufacture, shoemaking and other leather trades, clock-making etc.
Since the enclosure of the open fields in 1776 local agricultural interests had prospered and so did those businesses associated with farming and the growing coach trade, particularly the care of hundreds of horses.
One sign of prosperity was that six more annual Market Fairs had been added to the town’s long established October Fair bringing hundreds of visitors to town. Such prosperity generated large amounts of money that needed better security than peoples own homes. A bank was needed.
Bank of England notes were in circulation in the late 18th century but most private banks printed their own notes – apparently people preferred (trusted) the local bank notes to those from London! A Harborough Bank Note depicts a standing female figure holding an anchor with a sailing ship at the rear.
George Bosworth’s involvement with the bank was short-lived as he dissolved the partnership on 5 September 1794. Thomas Inkersole re-named the business Harborough Bank and ran the bank on his own until 1807 when two of his nephews, Holland Goddard and James Goddard, joined him.
Harborough Bank prospered, although competition arose when Market Harborough Savings Bank opened on 28 April 1838. On 22 April 1843 news broke that a Leicester bank, Mitchell, Clarke & Philips had ceased trading. This caused a run on Harborough Bank who announced insolvency two days later. The bank had 510 creditors, many being local people who must have suffered considerable hardship. Creditors eventually (about 1860) received 10/- in the pound from the Bankruptcy Court.
Thanks to our volunteer, Michael, who researched and wrote this entry for Object of the Month. To find out more about the Harborough Bank, you can read The Story of the Harborough Bank 1791-1843 by Ken Day in the Local Studies section of the museum and library.