This savings bank, generally regarded as the first savings bank in the world run on business principles, was established in 1810 by the Rev Henry Duncan (1774-1846), the local minister. It opened in Ruthwell in the rooms of Ruthwell Friendly Society and was initially known as Ruthwell Parish Bank. Duncan, concerned by the dire poverty of his parishioners, aimed to encourage saving amongst the labouring class to keep them from the degradation of poor relief. Duncan was governor of the bank, which was administered by trustees, a court of directors and a standing committee of elected members. All decisions could be vetoed by the annual general meeting of members and customers could deposit between 1s and £10 and were paid interest and bonuses. The savings were placed on loan with a commercial bank to earn interest.
Ruthwell Parish Bank was reliant on the Friendly Societies Act 1793 for its legal authority, but Duncan regarded this as unsatisfactory and, following the establishment of other savings banks in Scotland and England, he helped to draft an Act entitled ‘An Act for the protection of banks for savings in Scotland’ which was eventually passed in 1819 (two years later than a similar measure in England). Thereafter the bank was known as Ruthwell Savings Bank and operated from the schoolroom at Clarencefield every Saturday from 7 to 8 in the evening.
Deposits peaked in 1835 when £3,326 was held. Subsequently the establishment of savings banks in Dumfries and Annan reduced the need for a bank at Ruthwell and the number of customers dwindled. In 1875 the remaining 29 accounts, with deposits of just over £590, were transferred to Annan Savings Bank and Ruthwell Savings Bank was wound up.
- J L Dinwiddie, The Ruthwell Cross and the Ruthwell Savings Bank, 2nd edition (Dumfries: Robert Dinwiddie, 1933)
- H O Horne, A history of savings banks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1947)
- W Roddick, Annan Savings Bank 1835 to 1985 (Annan: privately published by Dumfriesshire Newspapers Ltd, 1985)
Summary of archive holdings elsewhere
- Lloyds Banking Group Archives: Ruthwell Friendly Society: cash books 1795-1810, rules 1801; receipts re investments 1804-75; minutes 1813-79; 1875; letters from Dr Henry Duncan re bill to encourage establishment of savings banks in Scotland 1817-9; applications for relief from Ruthwell Friendly Society 1817-39; rules 1820, 1871; letters, draft provision and treatise re legislation 1820-4; balances book 1829-76; testimonial re James Scott, teacher, Clarencefield 1850; treasurer’s accounts abstracts 1864-6,1875; ledger 1863-74; statements re account with Commercial Bank of Scotland 1864-75; annual account 1875; papers re accounts transferred to Annan Savings Bank: 1875-1910, passbooks c.1860-75; extracts from commonplace book of Rev George Duncan (c.1866)