Our history in the North West

Business historian Professor Leslie Hannah talks about Barclays' long history and its role in society during this time.

Barclays and the City of Manchester

Barclays opened a state-of-the-art computer centre in Wythenshawe, Manchester in 1971. The 110,000 sq ft building cost £2.75 million and was the largest commercial computer centre in Britain. It served 900 branches across the north of England, managing more than 2.25 million customer accounts. (this building is now closed)

The 1978 Annual Report featured International Computers Ltd – they would be producing advanced-technology multi-layer printed circuit boards at their new Manchester factory, employing 400-500 people, thanks to a £3.75 million leasing package provided by Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance.

The 1980 Annual Report noted that ‘Britain will need to look to the small firms sector to provide wealth-creating employment in the new technology, high-added value economy that must be developed. Conscious of this need, Barclays has extended its working links with the Department of Computer Science at Manchester University, by endowing a new £250,000 Barclays Chair in Microprocessor Applications in Industry.’

In 2014 Barclays opened an entrepreneurial hub in Manchester, aimed at inspiring and nurturing start-ups. The Manchester Escalator at 231 Deansgate was a collaborative space run by Barclays and Central Working.

Historical Barclays Eagle

Barclays and the City of Liverpool

Customers of Arthur Heywood and Sons

(founded 1773, became part of the Bank of Liverpool, 1883)

The Corporation of Liverpool

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board

Liverpool University College (founded 1882) – also partners in Heywoods were benefactors of the University

Bank of Liverpool (est 1831)

Four early chairmen of the Bank of Liverpool – Sir William Brown, Adam Hodgson, Joseph Hornby and George Holt – were reformers, opposed to the slave trade and prominent campaigners for social and educational improvements.

William Brown (1784-1864), Chairman of the Bank of Liverpool, 1831-1835

First Chairman of the Bank of Liverpool.

A significant figure in the establishment of the Bank – he believed that Liverpool and its merchants needed a bank which understood the financial needs of the area, and inspire confidence.

Brown later funded the building of Liverpool’s public library and the Derby Museum (now the World Museum).

The street on which the library and museum now stand, along with Liverpool’s famous Lime Street Station, Walker Art Gallery and St George’s Hall, was renamed William Brown Street.

Sir William Bower Forwood (1840-1928), Chairman of the Bank of Liverpool, 1898-1899

Mayor of Liverpool, 1880-1881.

Associated with the establishment of branch libraries across Liverpool.

Chairman of the Liverpool Overhead Railway.

President of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, 1871.

Played a prominent part in the campaign for the creation of the diocese of Liverpool, and in raising funds for a cathedral. (Liverpool Cathedral, finally completed in 1978 is the largest Anglican Cathedral in the UK)

The 1978 Annual Report noted that the Liverpool-based Alexandra Towing Group was Britain’s largest private tug operator. Medium-term loan facilities from Barclays helped finance the building of new vessels which kept their fleet amongst the most modern in Britain.

In 2005, the Anfield Youth Club was the first flagship site to benefit from the Barclays Spaces for Sport community sponsorship programme.

In 2007, Barclays opened a new flagship branch in Lord Street, Liverpool. One of the largest in the Barclays network, the new £2.5m purpose-built branch was built over three floors and included counters, rooms for personal bankers, mortgage advisors, financial planning managers, Premier and local business managers, and a 30 seat conference room. In 2017, the branch is undergoing an extensive refurbishment.

Manchester Ship Canal

A 36 mile long inland waterway linking Manchester to the Irish Sea, built to enable the import and export of goods to and from Manchester without having to pay the charges imposed by the Port of Liverpool.

Construction began in 1887 – it took six years, and cost £15 million. When it opened, it was the largest river navigation canal in the world, and instantly made Manchester the third busiest shipping port in the world – quite an achievement for a city 40 miles from the sea!

Its construction necessitated the modification of several railway bridges, under which it passed, and the construction of the world’s first swing aqueduct, at Barton.

The work was undertaken by the Manchester Ship Canal Company, which raised £8 million through the sale of shares. However, credit for its completion belongs to Manchester Corporation, who, when the £8 million ran out with only half of the canal completed, advanced a further £4.5 million towards the project’s completion.

Barclays’ involvement

Barclays’ involvement in the Ship Canal occurred via the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank. As the L&Y had its head office in Manchester, it recognised the importance of the Canal to the local economy.

Its Manager, John Mills, and director Sir Joseph Cooksey Lee were leading proponents of the project. Sir Joseph became Deputy Chairman of the Ship canal Company, and Mills regularly visited site to check on progress. In 1887, Mills granted an overdraft of £50,000 to a contractor for the Ship Canal, and it is unlikely this was the only such occurrence.

Liverpool and Manchester Railway

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened on 15 September 1830. The world’s first inter-city railway, it was also the first designed to carry paying passengers as well as freight. The line included 64 bridges or viaducts, the 2,057 metre Wapping Tunnel beneath Liverpool (the world’s first tunnel under a city), and the Chat Moss crossing – 4.75 miles of track laid across bog. The line is still in use today.

Barclays’ involvement

W D Crewdson II (d.1878)

W D Crewdson II was a partner in Wakefield, Crewdson and Co, otherwise known as the Kendal Bank. He invested in a number of schemes across the North of England including: The Lancaster Canal; The Kendal Gas Light Company, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal; and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (over £6,500 in the last alone).

Adam Hodgson and George Holt (both served as Chairman of the Bank of Liverpool) served as Directors on the Board of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal – the longest canal in Britain built as a single waterway

Constructed between 1770 and 1816, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal provided a route across the Pennines, linking many of the North’s great industrial towns, and enabling the exchange of goods and raw materials between places such as Leeds, Skipton, Burnley, Blackburn, Wigan and Liverpool. With the port of Liverpool in the West and a link to Hull via the Aire and Calder Navigation in the east, for the first time there was a coast to coast route between the Irish Sea and the North Sea.

Given the landscape through which the route passes, construction was not without its problems, and the finished canal included the 1500m Foulridge Tunnel, 91 locks, two aqueducts, and a number of embankments and bridges. All of this was made even more challenging by the fact that the canal was built to accommodate broad-gauge vessels, capable of carrying around 45 tons, so features such as locks had to be 14ft wide, rather than the 7ft more commonly found on English canals. However, it is generally believed that it was this capacity that enabled the canal to compete effectively with the railways, remaining in use throughout the 19th century and in to the 20th.

However, such feats of engineering took time and money. The scheme initially drew support from the local area, but in 1777, work ceased when the money ran out. The treasurer of the canal company was John Hustler, a woolstapler and Quaker, and he was able to draw on his Quaker connections to gain further support. Already involved was fellow woolstapler and soon-to-be banker, Edmund Peckover. Not only did Peckover invest in the canal, but he went on succeed Hustler as treasurer, and after he had formally established his bank, Peckover and Harris of Bradford, extended a loan of £8,700 to the canal[i]. Hustler and Peckover also persuaded fellow Quakers from much further afield, such as the Gurneys of Norwich to invest, ensuring the continuation of the scheme.

Edmund Peckover (d1810)

A member of the Peckover family who established a bank in Wisbech, Edmubnd Peckover also enjoyed close links with other Quaker bankers, notably the Gurneys of Norwich and the Birkbecks in Settle. Edmund moved to Bradford and set up in business as a woolstapler, but seems to have been acting as an informal banker for several years before formally establishing Peckover, Harris and Company in 1804.

The Bank became the Bradford Old Bank in 1864. It amalgamated with the Birmingham District and Counties Bank in 1907 to form the United Counties Bank, which then amalgamated with Barclays in 1916.

Little further is known about Edmund Peckover, but he was definitely heavily involved in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. There are items relating to this in the archives, closer inspection of which may provide further information of his involvement

[i] J R Ward, The Finance of Canal Building in Eighteenth Century England, 1974, p189