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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Trade and Communications

Banking and Finance

By Charles Munn

George Readman The 1830s brought a whole new range of large-scale joint-stock banks with shareholders and with extensive branch networks. Foremost amongst these were the Glasgow Union Banking Company (1830), The Western Bank of Scotland (1832), Clydesdale Bank (1838) and the City of Glasgow Bank (1839). The Glasgow Union was very active in buying up the provincial banks to the extent that it changed its name in 1843 to the Union Bank of Scotland.

City of Glasgow Bank For the first time Glasgow was providing a serious challenge to the power of the Edinburgh banks. But it was to be short lived. First the Western Bank failed in 1857, followed in 1878 by the City of Glasgow Bank. Both had been very badly managed with the directors of the latter facing criminal charges. The shareholders suffered even more having discovered that the shares had unlimited liability. Hundreds lost everything they had in the process of paying off the bank's debts.

National Bank of Scotland The system coped well with the crisis and total lending to industry was soon growing again as Glasgow became the Workshop of the World and demand for bank credit grew apace.

By this time savings banks, aimed at the working class, were also on the scene, having begun in Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, in 1810. The movement grew slowly at first, but following the formation of the Glasgow Savings Bank in 1836 its growth was prodigious – helped by the Penny Savings Banks whose funds were often deposited with the bigger savings banks. The Glasgow Savings Bank soon grew to be the biggest in Britain and provided leadership for the movement.

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