Before banks existed people left their gold coins with goldsmiths for safe-keeping. In exchange they were given a note promising to pay that amount on demand. People soon found it easier to carry around these notes than heavy coins. The goldsmiths also lent money to earn themselves interest.
The first banks in England started in London during the 17th century, the Bank of England being founded in 1694. During the 18th century ‘country’ or ‘provincial’ banks began to appear. These were set up by people with spare money such as landowners and traders.
Evidence exists that Whitchurch had two country banks: Whitchurch Old Bank and Whitchurch Shropshire Bank.
The old Whitchurch Museum had some original banknotes in its collection but nobody knows what happened to them when the museum closed in the 1970s.
Until The Country Bankers Act of 1826 only the Bank of England could issue notes for fixed amounts. After 1826 joint-stock banks with more than six partners and situated more than 65 miles from London were also allowed to do this.
One of the banks that took advantage of the new law was The Whitchurch & Ellesmere Banking Company that was formed in 1840. The bank was located on the corner of High Street and Pepper Street. The bank got into difficulties and in 1881 was taken over by Lloyds. During the 1860s Randolph Caldecott was one of their employees.
The Whitchurch Savings Bank was established in 1818. By 1842 it was situated in St Mary’s Street. According to records in Shropshire Archives (c.1845) it opened on the first and third Saturdays in each month from 3 until 5 o’clock. On 20th November 1844 there were 1532 accounts open and £52,472 on deposit. Interest payable stood at £2 18s. 4d. per £100. In 1846 a purpose-built property was constructed at Number 3 St Mary’s Street. Around 1925 the bank became part of the Trustee Savings Bank Group. The grade II listed building is still there today.