This private bank was established in Nottingham in the 1650s by Thomas Smith (1631-99), a cloth mercer or merchant. By 1658 Smith had acquired business premises in Peck Lane. His stock book shows that he had begun acting as a banker in the early 1650s, for alongside the entries recording cloth, the book notes loans made to customers. Smith is believed to have been England's first banker outside London.
Smith died in 1699 and his son, also Thomas, took over and developed the banking business. Smith had links with the London goldsmith bankers Edward Backwell and Gilbert Whitehall. A legal deposition dated 1711, concerning the ownership of deposited money, stated that he acted 'in the nature of a Banker, and returnes great sums of money to London and ... also for several years past, and his father before him, hath used to take in and receive great sums of money of diverse persons'. The firm issued banknotes.
After the death of Thomas junior in 1727, the business was taken over by his brothers, Samuel and Abel, who were later joined by their own sons. The bank traded as Samuel & Abel Smith & Co from 1727; Abel Smith & Sons from 1751; and Abel Smith & Co from 1757 to 1788. Abel's son, also named Abel, became senior partner in 1758. He founded separate banks in London, Lincoln and Hull, and moved the Nottingham business to larger premises in Market Place in 1754.
Abel junior died in 1788 and his son, Samuel, later took over the business. The firm was called Robert Smith & Co from 1788 to 1792 and Samuel Smith & Co from 1793. The bank’s balance sheet totalled £138,000 by 1752; £248,910 in 1797; and £277,935 in 1808. In 1870 the bank acquired James & Charles Robinson & Co of Mansfield, and in 1880 Godfrey & Riddell of Newark. From 1873 the bank opened a number of branches.
During the 19th century the connections between the Smith family partners loosened and each bank became more autonomous of the London business. In 1902, however, the five Smith family banks amalgamated with Union Bank of London to form Union of London & Smiths Bank.
Branches: The bank opened 11 branches between its foundation and 1902, of which 10 were still operating in 1902.
- JASL Leighton-Boyce, Smiths the bankers 1658-1958 (London: privately published by National Provincial Bank, 1958)
Thomas Smith's stock account, 1653-9, is featured in the NatWest history in 100 objects
Summary of our archive holdings
Our archival records of Samuel Smith & Co of Nottingham have the reference code SSN.
For help understanding words used here, check our glossary of banking record types (PDF 68KB).
- partners' private papers re wills, property, trusteeship etc 1614-1784, 1894-1905
- mercery stock account, Thomas Smith 1653-1861
- letterbook, Abel Smith II 1730-84
- apprenticeship indenture, Abel Smith II 1732
- partners' business papers 1757, 1836-61
- presscuttings re partners 1778-9
- partnership agreement 1844
- partners' memorandum book 1853-79
- papers re purchase of James & Charles Robinson & Co 1870-1
- amalgamation papers 1902
- banker's draft: 1699, pull 18th cent
- receivership accounts ledger 1741-58
- London account ledger 1756-9
- private ledger, Abel Smith II 1757-74
- balance books 1774-1878
- general balance books 1780-1808
- discounts ledger 1783
- charity accounts book 1800-73
- private ledgers 1810-82
- overdue debts book 1833-48
- balance sheets 1867, 1897-1901
- solicitor's bill 1712
- cheques and cheque forms 1705, 1828-1902
- customer papers 1711-1893
- deposit notes 1736-46
- customer securities papers 1738-71, 1802, 1857
- customer account ledger 1748-63
- customer surety bonds 1750-94
- customer letterbook 1773-4
- receipt pull 18th cent
- town account ledger 1814-22
- security for advances ledger 1824-67
- character book 1859-77
- customer account pass books 1863-1903
- unclaimed payments receipts 1876-98
- debit slips 1879-88
- customer circular 1886
- staff fidelity bonds 1829-1902
- staff salaries book 1839-69
- papers re staff surety bonds 1861-6
- presscutting re branch manager 1898
- photographs, Nottingham premises c.1870s
- papers re branch repairs 1880, 1897-8
- tenancy agreement 1883
Note issue records
- indemnities re mutilated and lost banknotes and drafts 1773-1884
- banknote pulls 1770s, 19th cent
- banker's licences 1836-74
- banknotes 1840-1902
Summary of archive holdings elsewhere
- Nottinghamshire Archives: family correspondence of Abel Smith 1733-1839; papers and accounts re Abel Smith 1788-94; balance sheets with lists of debtors and creditors 1796-98; annual accounts of income in cash, bills and rent 1838-47