Background and early life
Thomas Charles Newman was born on 3 May 1866 in Dorchester, the son of Thomas Newman, a solicitor’s clerk and agent for the estates of Lord Alington. In January 1879, when Thomas Charles Newman was 12 years old, his father died. Thomas, despite an offer to continue his education free of charge, concluded that he was now responsible for supporting his mother and three younger sisters. He left school to get a job, at first locally and later in London, where he worked as a junior clerk in a variety of jobs.
In 1882, when Newman was 16, a friend of his late father provided an introduction for him to the London private bank Williams, Deacon & Co. His uncle had formerly worked there, and his father had been known to Dorchester Bank, which had connections with Williams, Deacon & Co. Following a successful interview Newman left his job as a clerk in the London office of a Leith rope manufacturer to begin on 27 December 1882 a 50-year career in banking. Newman believed that he obtained the position because one of the partners, William Samuel Deacon, had a liking for tall people, and Newman was over 6 feet tall. Newman worked as a clerk in the bank’s only office, in Birchin Lane, in the City of London. Just over a month later the house in which Newman, his mother and his sisters were living was burned to the ground, and although they escaped with their lives, all of their possessions were lost. Newman later recalled the kindness of the bank’s partners in providing him with a sum equivalent to five times his starting salary to enable him to buy new clothes and other essentials for himself and his family.
Following the bank’s amalgamation with Manchester & Salford Bank in 1891, additional offices were opened in London, and in May 1898 Newman took charge of the new Marylebone branch. In October 1912 he moved on to manage the bank’s much larger Charing Cross branch in Cockspur Street.
In 1924 Newman oversaw the transfer of the branch to new premises on the corner of Pall Mall and Waterloo Place, and in recognition of the importance of its business, the branch was renamed West End Office. In the following year, in conjunction with the Scottish artist Muirhead Bone, Newman arranged for 20 etchings of London by contemporary artists to be hung in the banking hall of the new premises, a novel initiative which met with critical acclaim in the press.
In 1932 Newman expressed a desire to retire from the bank, but agreed to continue temporarily as joint manager alongside his successor, in order to ensure a smooth handover. He finally retired on 30 September 1933, by which time he had completed over half a century with the bank, a milestone which was noted in articles in The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and Dorset County Chronicle.
Other activities, interests and character
Newman believed it was important for bankers to have outside interests, since ‘to serve the public you must know the public … I have always encouraged young men under me to play games, mix with the fellows in every way possible, read widely, see good plays and generally to cultivate the humanities and, out of banking hours, to avoid banking men like the plague!’
In 1887 Newman started a young men's institute in Kensal New Town. In what was a poor, underprivileged district, the institute provided valuable leisure and self-improvement opportunities, including a gymnasium, reading room, lending library, drum and fife band, and clubs for football, cricket, swimming and rambling. Lectures, musical evenings and Sunday church services were also held there. Newman undertook most of the work involved in running the institute for six or seven years, before handing it over to be run by the local clergy.
From his first arrival in London Newman himself was an enthusiastic theatregoer, and referred to his own ‘insatiability as a first-nighter’. In later years he developed a wide circle of friends among London’s actors and actresses, and often spent time backstage with them at theatres.
In 1935 he published a memoir entitled Many Parts, in reference to his passion for theatre. In it, he recounted many tales of London theatrical life, and also of his life as a bank manager and his decades as a resident of London.
In 1904 he was one of the founding members of the Society of Dorset Men (originally the Society of Dorset Men in London).
He was a husband and father. By his own assessment, he was a shy man.
Thomas Charles Newman died on 4 January 1950 at the age of 83.
- EJT Acaster, '20 Birchin Lane, London. Nr Newman’s Entrance, 1883', Three Banks Review, September 1987, vol. 155, pp. 36-42
- EJT Acaster, 'A London Odyssey', Three Banks Review, December 1988, vol. 160, pp. 36-45