Birth and early career
William Newmarch was born on 28 January 1820 in Thirsk, Yorkshire.
He left school at an early age and worked as a clerk at Yorkshire Fire & Life office and in York Stamp Office before becoming second cashier of the Wakefield branch of the country banking house of Leatham, Tew & Co in 1843. There he learned the basics of banking, and was influenced by the achievements of the bank’s former manager William Leatham, who had lobbied the government on currency issues.
In 1846 Newmarch left Wakefield and moved to London, where he wrote for the Morning Chronicle on economic issues and worked as deputy manager of the London branch of Agra Bank.
In 1847 Newmarch joined the Statistical Society of London and in 1850 gave a paper to the society on fluctuations in the issue of bills of exchange. The paper showed up errors in views which Lord Overstone, a respected authority on banking, had expressed to the bank charter committee. The paper’s publication attracted interest from Thomas Tooke, with whom Newmarch subsequently worked to update Tooke’s four-volume History of Prices. Published in 1857, this revised edition became a classic, with new fifth and sixth volumes effectively written by Newmarch alone. Newmarch, by now a recognised authority on monetary issues, was later invited to give evidence to a number of parliamentary select committees on the subject.
Newmarch continued writing articles and pamphlets – often published anonymously – on a range of topical issues until the late 1870s. His work regularly appeared in the columns of The Times, The Statist and The Economist and his best known publications include:
- The New Supplies of Gold (1853)
- Pitt’s Financial Operations (1855)
- A History of Prices (1857)
- Political Perils (1859)
Newmarch was active in a wide range of learned societies. He became treasurer of the Political Economy Club in 1855. He was secretary of the Statistical Society, 1854-61; editor of its journal, 1852-62; and its president (in succession to William Ewart Gladstone), 1869-71. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1861. A liberal in politics, Newmarch was also a member of the Reform Club.
In 1851 William Newmarch became secretary of the Globe Insurance Company.
In 1862 he was appointed manager of the prestigious City banking house Glyn Mills & Co, on the invitation of the senior partner George Carr Glyn. His appointment broke with a century-long tradition of promoting partners from within the bank only. Glyn was, however, ageing, and had apparently begun to see the need for a successor. His heir George Grenfell Glyn – the only one of his sons with any aptitude for banking – was far more interested in his political career. Glyn had known Newmarch for some years, and was perhaps further encouraged towards the new departure by the example of the new joint stock banks, which employed salaried managers.
In the event, however, Newmarch’s expectations of the role must have been disappointed. Soon afterwards, in 1864, Glyn, Mills acquired Curries & Co, and its senior partner Bertram Wodehouse Currie immediately assumed leadership of the amalgamated bank. Newmarch effectively ended up as office manager, albeit in charge of very important accounts, such as that of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, of which he also became a director.
Newmarch was firmly marked as an outsider by his strong Yorkshire accent, and this – combined with his illiberal approach – made him deeply unpopular with the bank’s staff. Tradition has it that when he suffered a stroke at the office in 1881 the clerks who carried him down to his carriage deliberately let his head bump on every step of the stair, to help ensure he would not return.
William Newmarch married his wife Elizabeth in the early 1840s. They had a son and a daughter together. Their son William joined Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co in 1874 as an assistant to the partners but fell victim to a serious accident in the street – being struck by a tram pole – in 1877. He never fully recovered, and his suffering affected Newmarch deeply.
Retirement, death and legacy
In 1880 Newmarch wrote to George Grenfell Glyn, the senior partner at Glyn’s, giving notice of his wish to retire, and confiding that his son’s affliction had ‘overturned most of my expectations and plans.’ Newmarch’s son died in 1881 and he himself retired, following a stroke, in the same year. He was awarded a life pension from the bank of £1,500 per annum.
Newmarch died on 23 March 1882 in Torquay, Devon, having suffered a second stroke. He was survived by his wife and daughter. A Newmarch lectureship in economic science and statistics was established at University College London in his memory.
An obituary in The Statist commented that ‘Mr Newmarch’s distinguishing characteristic was the power of applying economic principles to the real world of business…and illustrating these principles by statistics. There are economists and there are statisticians, but Mr Newmarch combined the two qualifications, the result being a species of writing about the laws of business and their working on a large scale…which is yet comparatively new and rare.’
Related publications and online sources
- ‘The death of Mr William Newmarch FRS’, Journal of the Statistical Society of London, vol.45, March 1882, p115-121
- Obituary, Journal of the Institute of Bankers, April 1882
- Obituary, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, vol.XXXIV, 25 January 1883
- ‘William Newmarch’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
- ‘William Newmarch and Glyn’s’, Three Banks Review, no.122, June 1979, pp.49-60
- R Fulford, Glyn’s 1753-1953: Six Generations in Lombard Street (1953), pp.182-4
- Eric Gore Browne, The History of the House of Glyn Mills & Co (1933), pp.69-71