The following article was first published by the Friends of Old Portsmouth Association in their Newsletter dated Spring 1999. We are indebted to FOOPA for permission to re-publish on this site.
The closing of Lloyds Bank in High Street during 1998 saw the breaking of the continuity of a Bank trading in High Street, Old Portsmouth for more than 200 years. Many will remember when, in 1955, Lloyds Bank moved to No. 31 from its premises at 60 High Street which had been used by them since 1903 when they absorbed Grant & Madison's Union Banking Co. Ltd.
It was, however, on 25th October 1787 that Grant & Burbey opened for business at No. 46 High Street. The founders, Thomas Grant senior, William Grant and Richard Burbey advertised on their opening that their speciality was not only good business connections but also the ability to negotiate "good bills on Dublin, Cork & Waterford and money remitted". The split between Grant and Burbey seems to have occurred in 1818 when Grant took over Godwin's Bank.
Burbey Loe & Co. Bankers failed in 1841. James Loe is recorded at No.46 as a Grocer & Tea Dealer in 1842. By 1846 46 High Street was in use by, and will be known to many as one of the buildings occupied by Charpentier & Co, Printers, Booksellers etc. Later, after the split, and presumably the move to 60 High Street, this bank became Grant, Gilman & Long and in 1888 amalgamated with Madison, Darwin and Hankinson of Southampton as a joint stock bank to become Grant & Madison's Union Banking Co. Ltd.
Back to the 1790s, the competition was not far behind Grant & Burbey when Godwin, Minchin and Carter opened their premises at 2 Grand Parade, now the site of Aquitain House, probably before 1796 as Godwin & Co. John Godwin (Burgess & Banker 1763) died on 17th June 1817 having been Mayor of Portsmouth seven times. Indeed it is possible that his partner, Carter (perhaps Sir John) was also Mayor of the town a number of times. It may be his son John, a Barrister, who 'Was several times elected as one of the two MP' s for the city from 1816 to 1838. At the death of John Bonham, he benefitted from the inheritance of landed estates and assumed his name (see our page on the Pike Spicer brewery). The other MP at this time was Sir Francis Baring. Today we still hear the names Bonham-Carter and Baring from time to time. Later on in the century, in 1883, two Bonham-Carters are to be found living in the High Street - L.G. (Lothian George) at No. 16, the other. John junior (perhaps a great grandson to the banker), a JP at No. 19.
Some confusion surrounds the facts. Was it this partnership that failed on 10th November 1818 under the title of Griffiths, Chaldecott, Drew and Godwin and had, by then, another partner been drawn into the business? A winding up petition heard at the Guildhall, London on 2nd December 1818 has the name of the bank as Minchin Carter & Kelly.
Bank failure was not uncommon. In 1810 the Gosport Bank failed, Burridges Bank (Broad Street) in 1814 and on 16th June 1815 financial panic was recorded with a run on all banks. Godwins Bank never recovered, its failure a major event and, we are told, Portsmouth's credit locally was badly shaken.
The Bank of England also opened a branch in 1834 (nearly opposite the George Hotel) and later it moved to 26 High Street. In 1833 the manager was Mr. H.S.J.Ross.
A savings Bank was also reported as established in the building of the Old Town Hall in 1835. Later it was removed to St. Thomas's Street to the building, on the corner of St. Mary Street (now Highbury Street) next to the then County Court Offices.
The Hampshire Banking Company opened in 1863 after acquiring the premises of John Atkins and Sons of 2 Green Row (now Pembroke Road) between Penny Street and King William Gate. This Bank later became part of the Capital & Counties Bank (later subsumed into Lloyds Bank) which were themselves present in 1883 at 31 High Street. The manager was J.Clegg Esq.
A part of the banking business, of course, was the service of the traders of the town whose own businesses were concerned with supply of vitals, chandlery, maps, books and clothing to those about to sail the seven seas. The officers, both Royal & Merchant Navy, as well as passengers would need to transact business. The convenience of local premises with links to London and elsewhere must have been important.
8 Stevens Directory of 1883 records the following trades:-
So that in the street directory of 1883, 166 trades were represented in a street of about 150 properties (with several back lots), including a number occupied by gentlemen, solicitors etc, With a population in the town of 7,000 or so in 1811. the High Street was clearly no ordinary small town trading place.
The industrial revolution that was the Dockyard in the late 18th century provided a growing population with an expanded town outside the walls of Old Portsmouth and Queen Street in the late 18th century and Kings Road in the mid 19th century as posh shopping areas. The railways arrived in Gosport in 1840 and to Portsmouth in 1860 so that the High Street's international trade would probably have lost its reason for being in the 1830's to 1850's with the development of the south and west railway ports of Plymouth, Liverpool, Bristol etc. The departure of Lloyds Bank, 57 years after the physical vestiges of the High Street were largely blown away by the Luftwaffe in 1941, is a remarkable poignant but scarcely noticed event in the 1,000 years of this town's principle street.