The Bankes Legacy – A Matter of Trust
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John Banks must have been a proud man. His portrait, painted in 1716, now hangs in Haberdashers’ Hall, London , the headquarters of the Haberdashers’ Company. It shows him, a solid, upright figure, dressed in what appears to have been his best wig and gown. He was a successful businessman, but not a particularly well documented one According to a previous Archivist of the Haberdashers’ Company, he is believed to have been involved in the Levant silk trade, but I have not yet found any records of his merchanting activities. He served on the Court of Assistants (ie the ruling body) of the Haberdashers’ Company from 1702 until his death in 1719, and was Master of the Company in 1717(1) . At the time of his death he owned many properties in Westminster and further real estate to the east of London , in Whitechapel. His dwelling house was at Nine Elms(2).
Having seen all his eight children die before him(3), John Banks would, I believe, have been proud to know that there would be people alive in the twentieth century who would bear his name. He may been a little surprised to learn that some of these people were to live not in London, where the available evidence suggests that he and his family spent their adult lives, but in Wales. This article is intended to show how, although most pre-twentieth century migration is commonly held to have been localised in nature(4), examples of migration between distant points in the UK did occur in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is also intended to illustrate the use of certain documents which are not among the “mainstream” of sources used in family history research.
Before moving to the main part of this text, it is necessary to give a little background information about Banks’s family and the contents of his Will. This will explain how my sources came into being. I shall then outline examples of some of the evidence which I have obtained from these sources, in order to demonstrate the impact which they have had on my research.
In his Will(5), John Banks ordered that, after his executors had effected the settlement of his debts and funeral expenses, a Trust be set up for the benefit of his two half-brothers and three half-sisters and their descendants. This Trust was to be administered by the Haberdashers’ Company, who were to pay certain annuities to the beneficiaries.
By 1725, the intended beneficiaries had not received any of the benefits bequeathed by Banks, and they decided to commence legal proceedings to compel the payment of the same. Accordingly, in 1725, my direct ancestor, Mary Mitchell, issued a Bill in the Court of Chancery claiming payment of the monies left to her by Banks. The Defendants were Banks’ executors and the Master and Wardens of the Haberdashers’ Company(6). This was the first of many claims and counter-claims which were made in the Court of Chancery throughout the rest of the eighteenth century.
This litigation could, in itself, form the subject of an interesting article. However, for my purposes it is sufficient to note that as members of the family died, their kinsmen would vie for the right to receive the annuity which had been paid to the deceased person. The records of these Court of Chancery causes are available to researchers in the Public Record Office and make fascinating reading. At present they are available at Chancery Lane , but in due course they will be moved to the PRO at Kew . They take the form of written Bills of Complaint, responses to the Bills of Complaint and Depositions by witnesses. In justifying their claims, family members had to provide the court with much detailed information about their families, and insofar as the documents have survived the ravages of time, this information is now available to researchers.
In using this material in one’s research one has to bear in mind that it is not an impartial source; the information included can be assumed to have been selected to represent the views of the person giving evidence and in same cases untruths could be included. It should also be noted that the memory of the person giving evidence may have been defective, resulting in the possibility of inaccuracies. However, weaknesses such as these are counter-balanced by the fact that this source gives much detailed personal information about members of the family, their relationships and their way of life, as well as an insight into the working of the legal system of the time. Crass reference to other sources can prove or disprove the accuracy of the information. In most cases where I have carried out this work the information has proved very accurate.
My other source is the records of the Haberdashers’ Company In addition to the above-mentioned bequests to his siblings; Banks left instructions that his trustees should pay certain grants to the children of his siblings and their descendants. These grants were to be paid on starting an apprenticeship, to males on starting a business and to females on their marriage. Successive claimants of these grants had to prove their descent from Banks’ siblings and in administering the Trust the Haberdashers’ Company accumulated extensive records of payments made. They used these records to establish a Banks’ Pedigree, showing the line of descent from John Banks. Many of the Company’s records are available for research at the Guildhall Library; London and I have obtained much information from that source. Additionally, successive archivists of the Haberdashers’ Company have been extremely helpful in providing me with information and assistance in my research and I wish to place on record my sincere appreciation of their assistance.
The records of the Banks Trust should be a reliable source as they were the official records of the Company. Items such as minutes of meetings should be accurate, as they would presumably have had to be verified by members of the Trust administration committee at the time.
The Banks pedigree has been compiled for the specific purpose of constructing a historic record and one should, I think, accept that it is the result of an earnest desire to record accurately the descent from Banks’ siblings. However, it has had different compilers at different times and inevitably some of them will have been more accurate in their work than others. There is, therefore, the possibility of error in this source. Additionally, it should be borne in mind that the Pedigree is not a comprehensive record. It only contains information relevant to the people who claimed under the Banks’ Trust; many Banks’ descendants did not make a claim on the Trust, and they do not feature on the pedigree unless the Company received information which made them aware of their existence.
I have given myself the task of verifying, and adding to, the information contained in the Banks’ pedigree. In my efforts to date to accomplish This task I have found that the information contained in the Pedigree has a high degree of accuracy. I am pleased to state also that I have been able to add a considerable amount of material to that in the Pedigree, sometimes adding information concerning persons who were already included, and sometimes tracing people who had been omitted.
When, during 1990, I began to use the Banks’ Pedigree in my family history research I was almost entirely interested in my own line of descent from Mary Mitchell, a half-sister of John Banks. Although there was material available concerning other branches of the family I did not concern myself with this to much extent. I noticed that a certain Deborah Rand, granddaughter of Joseph
Rand, one of Banks’ two half-brothers, married a man named John Price of Hendrelas, wondered where that strange sounding place was and then moved on to other things. It was not until I made my first foray into the Court of Chancery records during 1992 that I encountered any family history material concerning this family, and realised how interesting these people were.
In a document dated 10th August 1769(7), written in response to evidence given by other claimants in the Chancery cause, a certain Joseph Price, of the Parish of Ystrad, son of John and Deborah Price, gives evidence on behalf of himself and his two sisters. The document stated that both Deborah and John Price were deceased and that Joseph, who must be assumed to have attained the age of 21 years, was the guardian of his sisters Ann Price (19 years old) and Elizabeth Price (16 years old). Joseph states that he and his two sisters were the only children of their parents and that their mother was the only daughter of Joseph Rand, son of Banks’s brother of the same name. Joseph thus justified his family’s claim to the annuity bequeathed by Banks to his half-brother, Joseph Rand. This document also includes the information that John Price had died on 30th June 1/56 whilst his wife Deborah had died at the end of 1765 or early in 1766. It was sworn at Trefilan, Cardiganshire, being signed by Joseph and his witnesses.
This evidence set my mind working overtime! All the previous evidence I had seen indicated that Banks and his family lived in the London area, yet here we had a member of the family marrying a man who I assumed was a Welshman, and living in what must have been a remote area of Wales ! I wondered how Deborah and John met. Maybe John had business in London and they met in that city? Maybe Deborah’s father migrated to Cardiganshire? Numerous different possibilities come to mind, but the essential point is that at some time in the first half of the eighteenth century a member of the family had moved from the London area to mid Wales . I thought about how difficult the journey to Ystrad must have been in the mid eighteenth century – presumably by coach or on horseback. The roads system was hopelessly inadequate in those days before the invention of tarmacadam, many places being reached by means of tracks(8). In 1856, Elizabeth Gaskell wrote of the “notoriously bad” state of the roads in Yorkshire in the 1820s(9); 1 hardly imagine that the condition of the roads in rural Wales in the mid eighteenth century would have been any better.
It seemed unusual to me that Joseph Price could not recall the exact date on which his mother had died. Maybe he had been away at the time? However the date of Deborah’s demise is stated in another document, dated 14th May 1767(10), which contains a statement by Deborah’s second cousin, Sarah ( Rand ) Holloway. Sarah attests that Deborah Price died on 13th October 1765 and that she had attended the burial.
The fact that a second cousin, which the available evidence suggests was living in the London area, attended Deborah Price’s burial, which I assume to have been held in Cardiganshire, seems remarkable to this twentieth century researcher. It indicates how close was the relationship between these people. The fact that the journey from London to Cardiganshire would have been far from easy and would undoubtedly have taken several days, also makes Sarah Holloway’s attendance at the burial seem remarkable, bearing in mind that burials in the eighteenth century usually took place within a very few days of death. I infer from this that Sarah Holloway may have been staying with or near Deborah before her demise. Maybe she was nursing her? I do not expect that I shall ever know any more on this subject, but it is interesting to think about it, nevertheless.
In a Bill of Complaint issued by other named Banks descendants on 24 th April 1769(11), Joseph Price is described as a yeoman. As he was the eldest son of the family and his father had died when he was a boy it seems to me quite possible that he had continued the same sort of work as that pursued by his deceased father. Maybe he was farming the same land as his father had? It is stated in the Chancery cause that Letters of Administration were issued in respect of John Price’s estate(12), but I have not yet managed to locate these probate documents. However, if John died intestate, the probate grant in respect of his estate would not include any information about the nature of his property.
Having obtained all the above information, I decided to pursue research into this family through the records of the Haberdashers’ Company.
I found that, by looking at various Minute Books of the Banks Charity Committee of the Haberdashers’ Company, I was able to find records of grants made under Banks’s charity. This information can be related to material in the Banks Pedigree, as a means of checking information therein. By this means I was able to make up an interesting family tree.
There is insufficient room in this article to describe in detail all the evidence which I discovered. I shall therefore confine myself to describing one of the most interesting items of information that I found, which is relevant to my aims stated above.
Having been somewhat surprised by the apparent migration of Deborah Rand to rural Wales from London , I was equally interested by the apparent migration of one of her grandsons from Cardiganshire to London . Census data has been used to show the considerable extent of Welsh migration to London by 1851(13), but this example considerably pre-dates that period, and makes me wonder about the extent of Welsh migration to London in the late eighteenth century. I was further intrigued to discover that this grandson was a member of the Haberdashers’ Company.
David Price was a son of the above mentioned Joseph Price, and according to the Banks Pedigree was born in 1774. He received an Apprenticeship Grant in 1793(14), and became free of the Haberdashers Company on 15th July 1800 , when he was recorded as living in Upper Thames Street , London(15). He received two Business Grants, one in 1800 and the other in 1805(16) and followed John Banks by serving on the Court of Assistants, being a Warden on at least one occasion(17), before dying in 1840.
I have traced the records of the baptisms of four of David’s five children. These events occurred between 1802 and 1811 and all took place at the church of Allhallows the Great, London . The evidence of these entries in the parish records shows that David lived in Upper Thames Street throughout this period(18).
I was fascinated by the fact that David Price was a member of the Haberdashers’ Company eighty years after Banks’s death, though of course the payment of the grants and annuities from the Trust Fund kept the family in touch with the company. The name of the man to whom David was apprenticed is shown in the Freedoms Book of the Haberdashers’ Company and does not appear to be one which features in the pedigree.
The Banks name was given as a forename to many of the descendants of Deborah ( Rand ) Price, in apparent commemoration of the eighteenth century family benefactor. This practice was more common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but the most recent examples I know of occurred as recently as 1948 and it may well be the case that this practice is still being pursued. The continued use of the Banks name indicates an awareness of, and possible interest in, the history of the family and is certainly a help in tracing the descendants of John Banks’s siblings!
In this article, I have given only a brief indication of the value to me of the sources which I have discussed. I hope that the reader will appreciate that these sources, whilst not what one may call mainstream material for family history research, are of great interest and value.
As far as Court of Chancery records are concerned, I do not claim to be an expert on these sources, being a humble family historian who is merely pursuing his hobby. These records are very demanding in terms of time and concentration, which is required to study them, and of course one must trek to central London in order to be able to use them – a not inconsiderable obstacle for most of the population of Britain ! However, I hope it will be understood how much family historians can gain from such research as this, and what wonderful sources of information these documents are. I shall always remember the thrill I felt when I first held and read one of these documents- Actual eighteenth century writings, signed by descendants of John Banks’ siblings! Surely, that is the optimum thrill of family history research!
I have much work to carry out if I am to create a comprehensive record of this Welsh branch of my family tree. As my visits to Wales are infrequent, searches of local sources will take me many years to complete. However, the information I have collected from the sources considered in this article have given me a good start in this research. It occurs to me that there may well be somebody reading this who has already carried out some of this research or has an interest in participating in it. I hope that they may be moved by the contents of this article to contact me. I am sure that they would find an exchange of information with me to be to our mutual advantage.
G M Culshaw (1805), 25 Avondale, Newport , Shropshire TF10 7LS.
(1) Haberdashers’ Company Court Minutes, 1671-1719, Guildhall Library, London ,
(2) Will of John Banks, PRO Ref. PROB11/573 278, f.240
(4) Hey, D. (1993) The Oxford Guide to Family History , Oxford University Press, p.68.
(5) Will of John Banks, op cit.
(6) Court of Chancery Record, PRO Ref.C11/2249/29.
(7) Ibid. PRO Ref. C12/1236/27.
(8) Pryce, W.T.R. (ed) (1994) From Family History to Community History , Cambridge University Press, p.127.
(9) Clayre, A. (ed) (1977) Nature and Industrialization , OUP in association with the Open University Press, pp.100-101.
(10) Court of Chancery Record PRO Ref.C12/1236/27.
(13) Pryce, op cit. p.45.
(14) Haberdashers’ Company Records – Banks Memos.
(15) Haberdashers’ Company Freedom Admissions 1773-1967, Guildhall Library London , Ref.MS15,857/3.
(16) Banks Memos, op cit.
(17) Haberdashers’ Company Court Minutes, 1820-1834, Guildhall Library, London , Ref.MS15,842/11.
(18) Baptisms Register – Allhallows the Great, London , 1765-1812, Guildhall Library, London, Ref.MS5162.
G M Culshaw
Published in Dyfed Family History Journal ,Vol.5, No.4, August 1995, pp. 157-161.
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