A History of Banking in Stony Stratford

At the beginning of the 19th century men with some resources were tempted into banking. They had a high income, usually from the rental of land and property, and in the new commercial and industrial climate of the 19th century, it made sense to lend stagnant money and earn even more.

Stony Stratford’s first bank was founded as a partnership between William Oliver, a local landowner, and Richard Harrison, resident of Wolverton House, who had inherited a great deal from his father’s ventures. The new bank was called Oliver, Harrison and Co. Unfortunately, the bank got into difficulties within a few years. It was easy to lend money, but not always easy to get it back when needed, and in 1821 the bank failed. Harrison and Oliver were able to meet their financial obligations and the bank closed without the stigma of bankruptcy.

A few years later, William Oliver’s son, John, revived the idea of the bank and went into partnership with John York, who owned the tan yard on Mill Lane. The new bank was known as Olivers and York. John’s father William was still alive, although close to the end of his life, and so the Olivers were plural. This new bank took the precaution of being underwritten by a London bank, Jones, Loyd and Company, so that if there was a temporary cash flow problem, they would be covered. The bank proved to be stable and they later opened a branch in Newport Pagnell.

The history of banking, as with almost every other type of business, is that some grow larger and swallow up their smaller competitors, and this is illustrated in Stony Stratford and Wolverton. By 1854, the Olivers and York Bank had been taken over by the Bucks and Oxon Union Bank. By the 1870s, this bank was drawing on a bigger entity, the London and Westminster Bank.

Early 20th century photo shows Lloyds Bank on the right. Cox and Robinson have since moved to the Square and the Victoria Cafe recently burned down.

This bank prospered to the end of Victoria’s reign and then was taken over by Lloyd’s Bank. At the same time, a second bank, the London and County Banking Company Limited, opened a sub branch on the Hight street, but only open on Tuesday and Friday.

Wolverton in the meantime had been without banking services. It was probably assumed that anyone who needed banking services, such as merchants, could make the trip to Stony Stratford. For ordinary people in Wolverton, (by far the largest majority) a savings bank and a building society, met their needs. But the takeover by Lloyds of the Stony Stratford Bank meant that they had the resources to open a sub branch in Wolverton, which they did on the Square c 1903. Lloyds later moved their branch to 24 Stratford Road.

The London and County Bank changed its name to the London Westminster Bank before the first World War and in the 1920s became known simply as the Westminster Bank at its premises at 80 High Street.

It was not until 1928 that Barclays established themselves in the district, opening a branch at 29 Stratford Road. Lloyds Bank at about the same time moved to permanent premises at 47 Stratford Road.

The shop with the green awning was the Wolverton branch of Barclays Bank.

This situation prevailed at the middle of the 20th century. There have been may changes since, but I won’t go into these. After 1945 there were five dominant banks, known as ‘the big five’. Wolverton and Stony Stratford had three of them: Lloyds in both Wolverton and Stony Stratford, Barclays in Wolverton, and Westminster in Stony Stratford. The other two, Midland and National, were not represented.

Two houses converted into a Lloyd’s branch at Wolverton. The manager lived in the flat above.

Wolverton, as I said above, established a Building Society and a Savings society. Both were volunteer organisations for many years. The savings society was established by George Fitzsimmonds, the works accountant in the last quarter of the 19th century. Men would bring the money they wished to save to a room at the Science and Art Institute each Friday evening, where Fitzsimmonds and his fellow volunteers would carefully record each deposit. This money was then taken to lloyds Bank in Stony Stratford on the next banking day and deposited. Fitzsimmonds remained a bachelor all his life but he put a great deal of energy into community work. He served on many parish committees and was instrumental setting up the recreational Park which opened in 1884.

The Co-op, the Wolverton Industrial and Provident Society, also established a savings bank at the end of the 19th century. Post Office savings schemes were also available from an early date.

In the early 1950s Wolverton opened its first Trustee Savings Bank at 73 Church Street under the management of Geoff Taffs. The new venture was underwritten by the Northampton Trustee Savings Bank.