Birkbeck Bank

Birkbeck Bank (1851-1911), established in London, was a past constituent of NatWest.

Brief history

This bank's origins lie in Birkbeck Building Society and Birkbeck Freehold Land Society, formed in 1851. The Society developed a large deposit-taking business that developed into banking activity. Cheque books were issued from 1858 and by 1872 the banking business, managed by Francis Ravenscroft, was trading under the title of Birkbeck Bank. New premises, Southampton Buildings in Chancery Lane, were built in 1902.

In 1910, when its balance sheet totalled £12.26m and it had 112,817 accounts, the Birkbeck Bank suffered a run on its deposits. Continuing rumours about its financial position and a climate of depreciation in gilt-edged securities led to a suspension of payments in June 1911. Bank of England provided support for the immediate payment of 10s in the pound to depositors, but as most of its deposits were held as long-term securities the bank lacked liquidity and went into receivership. In 1911 the bank’s goodwill and premises were purchased from the receiver by London County & Westminster Bank.

Published histories

  • TE Gregory, The Westminster Bank through a Century (London: Oxford University Press, 1936)

Summary of our archive holdings

Our archival records of Birkbeck Bank have the reference code BIR.

For help understanding words used here, check our glossary of banking record types (PDF 68 KB).

Corporate records

  • annual report, Birkbeck Freehold Land Society 1852
  • liquidator's statement incl balance sheet 1915

Customer records

  • passbooks n.d., 1899-1911
  • deposit receipt form 19th cent
  • cheque book 1911

Staff records

  • superannuation fund rules 1903
  • list of staff 1911

Property records

  • architectural drawings c.1895-1905
  • papers re installation of safe deposit fittings 1901-1905
  • fire insurance premises plan 1903
  • room rents schedule 1911
  • list of tenants 1911
  • premises photographs n.d.

Marketing records

  • advertisements 1902, 1910

Summary of archive holdings elsewhere

  • Bodleian Library, Oxford: Letters to prime minister Herbert Asquith re the bank’s failure 1911 (Ref: MS.Asquith 24, fols.21-32)