This section of the website contains a selection of images of primary sources relating to the life of John Bankes, Citizen & Haberdasher of London (c1652-1719).
John Bankes was a man of considerable property, and was involved in business transactions on several levels. He was a timber merchant, and traded from two wharves – one at St Paul’s Wharf, London and the other at Nine Elms, on the south side of the river in Surrey. He was involved in the import of material from Scandinavia.

He also engaged in many property transactions concerning housing developments in London. In the late seventeenth century there was much building taking place in and around the City of London, fuelled by the reconstruction after the Great Fire of 1666 and the need to provide housing and business premises for a rapidly expanding population. At various times of his life Bankes owned leasehold estates in the Westminster, Southwark, and Whitechapel areas, as well as his timber yards and houses at Goodman’s Fields, St Benet, Paul’s Wharf, and Nine Elms.

In order to carry out this business, Bankes needed to raise capital, and least one source of funding was a solicitor named John Hales. His business dealings with this man spanned many years, and involved many thousands of pounds. Bankes regularly produced statements of his receipts and expenditure, and his indebtedness to his creditors. Some of these are preserved at the PRO, Kew. His statement for the year 1709 shows lists of expenditure and liabilities and assets and receipts . Comparison with other documents shows that this was written in his own hand.

Some of the most fascinating material about Bankes that has survived is the collection of everyday documents relating to his business affairs. There are a number of property leases relating to building developments in which he was involved. Many of them concern dealings with a carpenter named Simon Betts, and among other people mentioned in them were Nicholas Barbon. Barbon was the son of the MP who gave his name to the Barebones Parliament in the 1650s, and was heavily involved in property development in London in the late seventeenth century.

Unfortunately, these Deeds are too large to be displayed meaningfully on this site, but I have found a few smaller items that may be of interest. To start, I hope you will be interested to see a handwritten rental agreement dated 1717, which was made between Bankes and a certain Peter Abell. The document was signed by both parties, and witnessed by Nathan Crow, who other sources have confirmed was in the service of Bankes in the later years of his life.

This document demonstrates an apparent informality to business dealings of the time; the document does not appear to have been drawn up by a solicitor, but presumably it was regarded as sufficient in law to protect the interests of Bankes and Abell.

At the PRO, Kew, it is possible to see (indeed, to hold) a variety of other documents that demonstrate the apparent informality of such dealings. There are several bills and receipts, and I have selected one of each of these. The bill shows a charge by a Bricklayer for work done for Bankes in 1715 . There are a quite few points worth noting here, among which are: the sheer fascination of seeing such an everyday item from nearly 300 years ago; the insight we gain into the materials used in building work at the time; the information we gain about the price of materials in 1715.

The receipt is in similar vein. It records money paid by Bankes to a bricklayer for work carried out on his properties.

Like all of us, John Bankes had to pay his taxes. Taxation records can reveal information about an individual and his household. For instance, we can learn whether his wife was alive at the time of the assessment, whether he had any servants, or gauge the size of his house from the number of hearths his house contained. We have traced a number of taxation records relating to John Bankes, and transcriptions of them can be seen by clicking here.

For anybody who wants to learn more about The National Archives’ holdings of tax records, click here.

As Bankes’s life drew to its close he had the task of divising his Will. In this document he left his estates to members of his family, and the next source is of particular interest in this regard. It is a handwritten sheet, in Bankes’s writing, on which he stated his wishes as regards the disposal of his leasehold estate at St George Yard, Whitechapel. The disposal of these estates as outlined in this source is perecisely as stated in Bankes’s Will. Maybe this was his draft, from which his solicitor drew up his Will.

The last source displayed here is an image of the final page of the Will of John Bankes. This document is twelve pages long, and it is not practical to display it in its entirety. However, for those who are interested, a transcription of the Will is also available for viewing.

Please note the above transcriptions have been made as accurately as possible, but are likely to contain errors. Neither the transcriber or the creator of this website accept any responsibility for any possible consequences of such errors.

  • This page was last updated on Saturday July 2nd, 2011.