Our history in Scotland

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

The family connection

The first member of the Barclay family to be involved in banking was James Barclay, the son of a Scotsman. In 1733 James married the daughter of John Freame, a goldsmith who traded in London’s Lombard Street. John Freame was also a partner in a banking business which had developed from his trade and which began operating from the Lombard Street premises in 1690. In 1736 James became a partner in this firm, from which Barclays Bank Plc traces its origins.

James Barclay’s father David (1682-1769) had gone to live in London, but he was born on an estate at Ury, near Aberdeen. David’s grandfather, Colonel David Barclay, (1610-1686), had bought the Ury estate in about 1648. Colonel Barclay himself was born at Kirktounhill, on the estate of Mathers, which had been in the possession of his family since 1351. (It is possible that the Barclays’ family roots in Scotland go back to John de Berkeley who, in 1069, travelled there in the retinue of Margaret, sister of Edgar Atheling. He and his descendants settled on lands granted to them at Towie.) However, the estate of Mathers had been largely sold off by 1648, when Colonel Barclay married, and he had to look elsewhere to establish his home.

Barclay family home, Scotland

Ury. The original Barclay family’s home and Quaker meeting house in Scotland. James Barclay, the first Barclay in the Bank, was the son of David Barclay the elder who was born at Ury

Colonel Barclay had begun his military career abroad but he returned to Scotland in 1638 and saw more service during the civil war. In 1666 he became a Quaker, in which belief he was followed by Robert, his son. Robert Barclay (1648-1690) later became known as “The Apologist” in honour of his famous book, “The Apology for the True Christian Divinity, as the same is held forth and preached by the people called in scorn Quakers”, which he published in 1676. Both father and son were imprisoned for a time because of their beliefs.

In 1679 a charter was obtained from the crown which constituted the lands of Ury ‘a free barony with criminal and civil jurisdiction’. Robert Barclay’s eldest son, also called Robert (1672-1747), succeeded him at Ury and the ‘The Barclays of Ury’ are just one line of the Barclays family. Robert Barclay’s second son, David, moved to London and became an export merchant.

In 1723 David Barclay married Priscilla Freame, who was John Freame’s granddaughter and the niece of Sarah Freame, who later married David’s son James. The ‘banking line’ of the Barclay family is descended from David’s two sons from his second marriage; like James, David and John Barclay entered the banking business and a number of their descendants married into another Quaker banking family, the Gurneys.

The Gurney group of banks joined with Barclay, Bevan & Company and a number of other private banks in the amalgamation which formed Barclay and Company in 1896.

The banking connection

Barclays have had banking connections with Scotland since 1919. In this year the bank purchased the British Linen Bank, a Scottish note-issuing bank founded in 1746, whose first Governor was the Duke of Argyll. It was known then as the British Linen Company and was established with the aim of encouraging the export of linen from Scotland. To this end the Company purchased flax and opened spinning schools in various towns and villages such as Cromarty, Kirkwall, Dornoch, Wick and Inverness. The completed fabric was bought by the Company and sold on in domestic and foreign markets.

A decline in the linen trade brought about a transfer for the company into banking and the firm survived the unrest of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and managed to expand its business. It opened branches, made substantial investments and increased the dividend it paid to its shareholders. Nevertheless, when James Tuke became General Manager of the British Linen Bank in 1912 he realised a need to be associated with a large international bank in order to exploit the foreign markets which were opening up in Australia, America and Canada.


In 1919 an agreement was reached to affiliate with Barclays. Each bank had a Director present on the other bank’s Board, but otherwise there was little structural change. Nevertheless, both sides gained from the arrangement; Barclays acquired representation in Scotland and the Linen Bank used Barclays to handle its overseas business. However, by the late 1960s it was decided that both banks would benefit from a separate existence. In 1969 an agreement was reached between Barclays and the Bank of Scotland whereby the British Linen Bank would amalgamate with the latter, and Barclays’ ownership would be converted into a 35% holding in the Bank of Scotland.

Bank of Scotland

The Bank of Scotland was founded in 1695 by a group of Scottish merchants. (Interestingly, it was an English merchant, John Holland, who drew up the Constitution for the Bank of Scotland, and it was a Scotsman, William Paterson, who founded the Bank of England.) The Bank of Scotland began business in 1696 and until 1727 it had no rival operating in Scotland. After a number of earlier attempts it eventually established a branch network in the 1770s, encouraged by competition from other banks.

In 1971 the amalgamation between the Bank of Scotland and the British Linen Bank went ahead. Barclays retained its stake in the Bank of Scotland until 1985, when it sold the shares to Standard Life Assurance for £155 million. This mutual decision was made after it became apparent that both banks wanted to operate in England and Scotland under their own names.

Oil boom

During the North Sea oil boom of the 1970s, Barclays Bank International had opened branches in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow which dealt solely with international business. In February 1983 the control of these branches was transferred to the parent bank (Barclays Bank UK) and they began to offer full UK corporate and personal services. Brian Dixon, then Manager of Berwick-upon-Tweed Branch, was appointed Local Director for Scotland, based in Glasgow. In March 1984, Barclays’ first purely domestic branch in Scotland was opened at Kelso. In 1985 the first Barclaybank ATM in Scotland was opened at Glasgow branch.

Initially, these four branches were controlled by Newcastle Office, under Northern Region. Then, in 1986, a Scottish Local Head Office was set up and a Regional Office for Scotland was created in 1988.