Tring High Street
in the Edwardian era. The edifice behind the lamp standard on
the right is that of Thomas Butcher & Sons — also known as The
Tring, Aylesbury & Chesham Bank, and The Tring Old bank — its facade
projecting a corporate image of solidity, prudence and honesty,
qualities that are no longer quite so evident in banking. The
austere metal railings that now front the building (shown
below) are a
poor excuse for the ornate ironwork seen here in an age when
corporate and civic pride were more apparent. John Bly’s
antique shop is to the right of the bank — he was the grandfather of
the television antique furniture expert — and what an attractive
facade the shops opposite present, their gas-lights angled to
illuminate the wares within (domestic electric lighting arrived in
Tring in 1926). Of course one didn’t download e-mail in that
era. Having traversed the Victorian Internet —
— the printed message was delivered by a telegram boy, seen here on
the left holding his bicycle, who then returned to base to arrange
the transmission of any reply. In this horse-powered age
ladies were well advised to raise their skirts when crossing the
Photo: Wendy Austin
The Need for a Bank in
Thomas Butcher &
The End of the Business
BACKGROUND: DURING the first half of the 19th Century, England
had many small private banks. These were often set up by local
businessmen — merchants, manufacturers, lawyers, etc. — as a
sideline and to fund their own activities, but they came to play an
important role in developing local economies at a time when the Bank
of England and other London-based banks rarely stirred outside of
the capital. Because they were originally engaged in other
businesses these local bankers were knowledgeable about their
borrowers and the trades in which they were engaged. Many kept
customer accounts, issued their own banknotes and were closely
linked to at least one London bank or ‘agent’ that invested their
customers’ money and settled transactions with other banking firms
But the existence of many small banks empowered to issue their own
banknotes caused serious stability problems, and during the period
1809 to 1830 alone, over 300 of them failed. In 1844, the Bank
Charter Act created the supremacy of the Bank of England and put in
place the process that eventually led to its monopoly of the issue
of banknotes in England and Wales (but not in Scotland, Northern
Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands). This
monopoly did not take full effect until 1921, when Lloyds Bank took
over the last private bank of issue, the firm of Fox, Fowler and
Company, which had conducted a banking business at Wellington,
Somerset, since 1787.
THE NEED FOR A BANK IN TRING: the main road through Tring was
turnpiked in 1762 leading to an improved highway with London and the
Midlands, later designated the A41. The
Sparrows Herne Turnpike
was followed in 1799 by the Grand
Junction Canal and then, in 1837, by the
London and Birmingham Railway.
Although there were probably other reasons that cannot now be
identified, improved transport communications must have played some
part in increasing trade, particularly in agricultural produce with
the Metropolis. With growing trade came an increased
population and here Tring’s Silk Mill, opened in 1824, must have
made some contribution; in 1840 it employed 40 men, 140 women and
320 children, many from outside the area. In 1840, the
condition of Tring was described thus:
“Modern Tring is a highly industrious
and thriving little town, in which farmers, manufacturers, and those
employed by them, make up the sum of its inhabitants, which is about
4000. The principal farming business consists of grazing
sheep; much of the neighbouring pasturage, from the chalky nature of
the soil, and the highland character of the district, being unsuited
for other purposes. The manufactures consist of canvass
weaving, a silk mill, and straw plaiting . . . . Tring has increased
its inhabitants so much lately, that at the present time, owing to
the demand for houses, it holds out a highly alluring and eligible
investment for capital, in buildings suitable for the middle and
lower classes of industrious people.”
London & Birmingham
Railway Guide, by E. C. and W. Osborne (1840).
(Source: A Vision of Britain through Time.)
a small town, a parish, and a sub-district, in Berkhampstead
district, Herts. The town stands on Icknield-street, 1¾ mile W. of
the Northwestern railway, and 5 N.W. of Berkhampstead . . . .
consists chiefly of two well built streets; carries on
canvas-weaving, silk-throwing, silk-weaving, brewing,
straw-plaiting, and parchment-making; and has a head post-office, a
railway station with telegraph, a banking office, a market house, a
handsome church (chiefly later English, restored in 1862), five
dissenting chapels, a mechanics’
institute, national schools, a weekly market on Friday, and fairs on
Easter Monday and Old Michaelmas day . . . .
of England and Wales, 1870-72.
The above extract
fails to mention farming, which the Census analyses show to have
been a significant employer in the area throughout the 19th century.
Being a market town, the farmers − who were an affluent bunch
compared with most folk at the time − came in from outlying areas to
attend Tring’s weekly market and animal auction, and no doubt to
transact business through the bank.
Thus there arose in this
industrious and thriving little town”
a need for banking facilities in an age before the appearance of
modern high street banks. Nonconformists were prominent among
those who set up in business as bankers, for being barred from a
wide range of careers by the discriminatory legislation of the era
they concentrated their energies on trade and commerce. The
Butcher family were businessmen, dealing in groceries, tea, tallow,
seeds and corn. They were also nonconformists, Strict
Baptists, and so extending the family’s business activities into
banking was not so unusual in that age.
NatWest Bank .
THOMAS BUTCHER & SONS:
customers entering the National Westminster Bank in Tring High
Street (above) might not realise that this was once Butcher’s Bank,
 a private bank and
established in 1836 by Thomas Butcher in partnership with his son,
Thomas Jnr.  Based in Tring, the bank
was also represented (in a makeshift way at first) at Aylesbury and
Chesham on market days. The Bank’s business was mainly
agricultural and it is said that local farmers and merchants used to
accompany the partners, acting as their escorts, when they were
conducting banking business in nearby towns.
The Crown Hotel,
Aylesbury (demolished 1937), looking down the High Street.
11th November 1837.
Thomas Snr. lived above the bank until his death in 1862 at the age
of 83. Two days later he was followed by his wife, Elizabeth (née
Woodman), their remains being laid to rest in the nearby
Akeman Street Baptist Church burial ground; an imposing stone marks
the spot. Their daughter Lydia drowned in the
in 1824, probably aged 16, the newspaper report of the coroner’s
hearing describing her father at that time as a
partners in 1845.
In 1826, Thomas Jnr. married Elizabeth Cutler, a lady nine years his
senior, and at some point in their life the couple moved to
Frogmore House, an imposing residence that once stood in
Frogmore Street opposite the Black Horse public house. 
Thomas Jnr. eventually took over the bank from his father and his
sons, Frederick and George, became partners in the business, which
then became known as
Butcher & Sons.”
Street (then called New Road) C1860
looking towards Butcher’s Bank.
Butcher’s Bank grew steadily under the prudent and close attention
of its partners who established permanent branches in the High
Streets of Aylesbury and Chesham, and an agency in the premises of
Richard Woodman, a tallow chandler in Berkhamsted (perhaps a
coincidence, but Thomas Butcher Snr. married one Elizabeth Woodman);
following the takeover of Butcher’s bank in 1900, Berkhamsted became
a full branch. In his classical work Lombard Street,
Walter Bagehot drew a pen portrait of the local banker, which from
the available evidence appears to have been true of the banking
members of the Butcher family:
man of known wealth, known integrity, and known ability is largely
entrusted with the money of his neighbours. The confidence is
strictly personal. His neighbours know him, and trust him
because they know him. They see daily his mode of life, and
judge from it that their confidence is deserved. Accordingly,
the bankers who for a long series of years passed successfully this
strict and continuous investigation, became very wealthy and
powerful . . . . The calling is hereditary; the credit of the bank
descends from father to son; this inherited wealth soon brings
Lombard Street: A
Description of the Money Market, Walter Bagehot (1873).
Thomas Jnr. died in 1871:
late Mr. Thomas Butcher, banker of Tring, who died on the 5th of the
present month, at the age of 65 years, was an inhabitant of the
county, and was well known and highly esteemed. Mr Butcher was
an ardent and consistent Liberal, and did much to advance the
Liberal cause in the district in which he resided. He was a
Nonconformist, and was greatly respected for his excellent qualities
by all who knew him, whether Churchmen or Dissenters.”
29th April 1871.
partners in 1874.
Frederick Butcher (1827-1919)
Following Thomas Jnr.’s death,
Joseph joined his brothers Frederick and George as a partner in the
business. Frederick retired from the firm in February 1891 and
ceased to be a partner in the business.
Frederick followed his grandfather and father as a deacon of Akeman
Street Strict & Particular Baptist Church in Tring. He was a
wealthy man, using his money to help the Baptists ― especially the
Strict Baptists ― with chapel projects in the Chilterns.
He also served as Chairman of the Tring Urban District Council from
its creation in 1895 until 1901; on the death of Queen Victoria it
fell to Frederick to express the Council’s condolences:
OF THE QUEEN. ― Before proceeding to the ordinary business, the
Chairman [Councillor F. Butcher]
moved the following resolution:
this Council record their deep sorrow upon the death of her Most
Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, and respectfully beg to offer to
his Majesty the King an expression of their sympathy with his
Majesty and the Royal Family in their great bereavement.’
It is not necessary, nor was that the occasion, to dilate upon the
character of the late Sovereign. A capable and judicious
ruler, a loving wife and parent, a sympathetic and tender Queen, she
would be greatly missed by her Ministers of State, by her children
and relations, and also by her subjects. ― Mr. J. G. Williams
formally seconded, and the resolution was passed in silence, all
Bucks Herald, 16th February 1901.
The Bank continued under the direction of George and Joseph until
1896, when Joseph died. George’s sons, Francis Joseph and
Walter, then became partners and, together with George, directed the
firm during its final years, George, Francis Joseph, and Walter
running the branches at Aylesbury, Chesham and Tring respectively.
George Butcher was by now head of the firm. Born in Tring in
1835, he appears in the 1851 Census living with his parents at
Frogmore House, his occupation being described as Bank Clerk.
The 1881 Census shows him and his wife Fanny living above the Bank
in Tring with their two sons, Francis Joseph and Walter, who were
employed as Bank Clerks. Fanny died in 1898:
regret to have to record that Mrs George Butcher (Fanny Elizabeth)
passed away at her residence The Bank, Tring on Thursday afternoon.
Great sympathy is felt with Mr Butcher who is so well known in the
district as head of the Banking House, Thomas Butcher & Sons of
Tring, Aylesbury & Chesham, and as Chairman of the Aylesbury Bench
Bucks Herald, 26th
partners in 1900.
George followed his wife on the 29th August, 1901, aged 67 years:
Butcher was one of the best known and most respected of the
residents of this district. Owing to his long connection with
the banking firm known for so many years as Thomas Butcher and Sons,
and with so many of the commercial and benevolent institutions of
this town, he was probably quite as well know, and spent almost as
much of his time at Aylesbury as in his native town of Tring.
Endowed with quite exceptional business capacity and insight, sound
judgement, and a long and extensive experience in all financial
matters − scrupulously just and honourable in all his dealings,
small or great, with his fellow men − he not only filled a leading
position in the Bank identified with his family with conspicuous
ability and success, but his advice and counsel were often eagerly
sought, not only by clients, but by many others who had no business
claim upon him; and advice and counsel were not seldom supplemented
by substantial assistance where the circumstances called for it.
Few men will be more missed in this district.
It is impossible at such short
notice to recapitulate all the positions which he filled with so
much honour to himself and advantage to the public. He was a
J.P. for the County and Chairman of the Aylesbury Bench, a member of
the Monthly Board of the Royal Bucks Hospital, a trustee and
Treasurer of the Aylesbury British Schools, Chairman of the
Chiltern Hills Water
Company, the Aylesbury and
Tring Gas Companies, and
the Aylesbury Market Company. He was associated with Messrs. R.
Dickens, H. Wyatt, and W. W. Walker − all now deceased − and other
gentlemen in the successful operations of the Bucks Land and
Mr. Butcher belonged to an old and staunch Nonconformist family, but
his religious sympathies were ever of a catholic and tolerant
character. In politics he was a Liberal Unionist, and a loyal
supporter of the late Baron F. Rothschild, taking the chair at most
of his political meetings in Aylesbury. He married a daughter
of the late Mr. J. H. Marshall of Aylesbury, who died a few years
ago, and leaves two sons, both of whom are engaged in the business
of the Bank, which is now merged in that of Messrs. Prescott,
Dimsdale, Cave, Tugwell and Co. (Ltd.), of London, previously its
The Bucks Herald, 31st August 1901.
“The will of the late Mr. George
Butcher has just been proved at £100,700 15s 3d. The executors
of the will, which is dated Aug. 4, 1901, are the deceased’s two
sons and late partners, Mr. Francis Joseph Butcher, of Chesham (bank
director), and Mr. Walter Butcher, of Tring, (bank director) to whom
the testator left in equal shares the whole of his property.”
The Bucks Herald, 2nd November 1901.
A view along Tring High Street, c. 1870.
Butcher’s Bank, marked by the iron railings,
is just visible on the left.
Photo: Wendy Austin
As part of its business the Bank probably advanced loans on the
security of property, which, in the final years of the 19th century
may have been the reason why it acquired a windmill. The
windmill in question was
now a private dwelling at the junction of Miswell Lane and Icknield
Way, Tring. Herbert Wright, son of the last miller, left a
short account of his early life in which he recalls that Thomas
Butcher & Sons owned the mill worked by his father James. The
details of this acquisition are not known, but it seems possible
that the Bank acquired Goldfield Mill as foreclosure on an
outstanding loan following the bankruptcy of its then owner, Thomas
Liddington, in December 1888.
THE END OF THE BUSINESS: Thomas Butcher & Sons was eventually
taken over by its London agents, the bankers Prescott, Dimsdale,
Cave, Tugwell & Co (est. 1766):
amalgamations, and the conversion of private business undertakings
into limited liability companies, are events of such common
occurrence nowadays as to cause but little notice or comment.
An operation of the first mentioned nature which has been announced
this week will, however, certainly excite considerable interest in
the district. The banking business of Messrs. Thomas Butcher
and Sons has been amalgamated with that of Messrs. Prescott,
Dimsdale, Cave, Tugwell, and Co. (Limited), with whom, as their
London agents, Messrs. Butcher have been closely connected for more
than sixty years. Although, doubtless, a good many people will
regret to see a certain amount of change introduced into the status
of an old and trusted institution, the new arrangement is sure to
meet with the full approval of the customers of Messrs. Butcher, as
no alteration will be made in the management. Small private
banks are rapidly becoming things of the past, and that this local
bank would one day be amalgamated with a larger undertaking was
regarded by not a few persons as practically inevitable. The
change, indeed, may be welcomed in many quarters.”
The Bucks Herald,
24th March 1900.
Following the takeover the three partners continued as local
directors at their respective branches.
An entry reading
Premises, Furniture, and Purchase Account Thomas Butcher and Sons”
balance sheet, as at the 31st December, 1901. It shows a
valuation of £229,627 3s 5d, presumably the sum that Prescotts paid
business. In 1903, Prescott, Dimsdale, Cave, Tugwell & Co
became Prescott’s Bank, and in the same year amalgamated with Union
of London & Smiths Bank (est.
Following further acquisitions and mergers, the firm amalgamated
with the National Provincial Bank in 1918, which in turn merged with
the Westminster Bank to form the National Westminster Bank in 1970.
TRING BANKNOTES: According to surviving records, Thomas
Butcher & Sons issued bank notes between 1836 and 1900, the known
denominations being of £5 and £10. However, the Bank Charter
Act, 1844 (7 & 8 Vict. c. 32), gave the Bank of England the monopoly
to issue new banknotes, and issuing banks were required to withdraw
their existing notes in the event of their being the subject of a
takeover. Thus, as provincial banking companies merged to form
larger banks, they lost their right to issue notes and the English
private banknote eventually disappeared.
A £10 banknote
issued by Thomas Butcher & Sons.
In 1844, the total value of banknotes issued by Thomas Butcher &
Sons was £13,531. A 19th century ten pound note issued by the
Aylesbury and Chesham Bank”,
unsigned and undated, was recently offered for sale at £250;
but what was signing and dating?
Banknotes were originally hand-written, although from about 1725
onwards they were partially printed, but cashiers still had to sign
each note and make them payable to someone. The ‘£’ sign and
first digit were printed, but other numerals were added by hand, as
were the name of the payee, the cashier’s signature, the date and
the number. Although early banknotes could be for uneven
amounts, most were for round sums. By 1855, banknotes had
become entirely machine printed and payable to ‘the bearer’.
THE CHESHAM BUILDING SOCIETY: although Butcher’s Bank is long
gone, a financial organisation that grew out of a suggestion by
Thomas Butcher Jnr. continued in operation until 2010; indeed, at
the time of its closure it was the oldest building society in the
world. Not the Halifax or the Abbey National, as one might
expect, but the Chesham. When founded in 1845 it was not the
earliest building society, but older societies − the first known
being Ketley’s Building Society, named after the landlord of the
Golden Cross Inn in Birmingham, where it held its meetings − had
gone out of business or had merged with others.
At that time the Society was formed, Chesham’s inhabitants lived
mostly in and around the centre of the town, which supported
long-established industries based on local products; the beech woods
yielded wood for the manufacture of shovels, brooms, spoons and
chairs; the river Chess provided water to power mills, as it had
since Saxon times; there were tanneries, breweries, paper-making and
other trades; straw-plaiting was a cottage industry for women and
girls; boots and shoes makers supplied the London market, and bricks
and tiles were other staple products. As industries developed,
they employed a greater proportion of the local population who began
looking for a secure way to invest their savings. Thomas
Butcher Jnr., who lived in Chesham, suggested to a group of
influential businessmen that a building society could operate
successfully in the town.
A society was formed. Thomas Butcher Jnr. and his son
Frederick were among its trustees, while one of the early directors
was one Arthur Liberty, whose business later grew into the
internationally famous department store off Regent Street. All
of gave their services free; in the Society’s early days, only the
Secretary received a salary.
The Society had its head office in Chesham and eventually had
branches in Little Chalfont and Aylesbury and an agency in Tring.
But by February 2010 the effects of ultra-low interest rates forced
it to surrender its independence. With bank rate at 0.5% it
was unable to make a profit on its lending and borrowing, and this
pressure on its finances forced it into the red in 2009. As a
result the Society’s members agreed to a rescue by the the UK’s
fourth largest building society, the Skipton.
The Village Hall,
THE CHOLESBURY PARISH ROOM:
A remaining legacy of the Butcher family is the Village Hall at
Cholesbury near Tring. Built in 1895 on land given to the
people of Cholesbury by Frederick Butcher (grandson of Thomas Snr.,
the Bank’s founder), it is an attractive Victorian building situated
at the Buckland Common end of Cholesbury. Originally just a
it was soon taken over by the Men’s Club, which charged 1p a week
membership and did its best to exclude rowdies from the neighbouring
1. The history of the building now occupied by NatWest
Bank on Tring High Street is unclear, nevertheless it is unlikely to
date from 1836 and the formation of Butcher’s Bank; it is
probably much later. Writing C1900, local historian Arthur
MacDonald Brown claims that Thomas Butcher & Son originally set up
their banking business in the Counting House (now No. 9 High
Street, then called Market Street). The Counting House
we see today is a late 19th century alteration of an older building
― probably that used by Thomas Butcher & Son ― carried out for Lord
Rothschild by William Huckvale.
The Counting House
(second building from the left) C1900, before it received Huckvale’s Tudoresque
the two adjacent buildings to
its right have already been done.
MacDonald Brown goes on to
[i.e. the present NatWest premises]
was built by Thomas Butcher Jnr. on the site of two old shops with
half doors and steps up to them. Over one of those doors Mr
Rogers, cooper, was usually to be seen reposing with arms akimbo and
pipe in mouth, the ideal British attitude of repose and
proprietorship. Very few of the doings of Tring escaped the
observation of this sentry, the coaches changing horses at the
opposite being a source of never failing interest. The other
shop was occupied by Mr. Tomkins, baker.”
MacDonald Brown’s note suggests that the bank was built from
new, perhaps following Thomas Snr.’s death in 1862
(banking returns show that he remained senior partner until that
year). However, in their description of the NatWest building,
Historic England consider it possible that it is an 18th century
structure re-fronted in the 19th century, but re-fronting is not
clearly evident . . . .
NATIONAL WESTMINSTER BANK WITH ATTACHED
HOUSE, OUTBUILDINGS, WALLS OF WALLED GARDEN, AND GATEWAY ON SOUTH.
TRING HIGH STREET SP 9211 (South side) 11/73 No. 20 - (National
Westminster Bank) with attached house, outbuildings, walls of walled
garden, and gateway on South GV II Bank with house and walled garden
attached. Early C19 bank fronting possibly C18 house and
walled garden. Painted stucco bank, red brick house and
garden, slate roofs. A 2-storeys and attic bank with
architectural elaboration on N gable-end to street. Plinth and
V-rusticated ground floor, moulded cornice as string returned as
member of entablature below blocking course of 2 small square
projecting pilastered kiosks with entrances in facing sides and
small round-headed front window to each with moulded surround.
2 round-arched windows between kiosks. 1st floor of smooth
stucco lined as ashlar with rusticated quoins and moulded surround
to 3 square-headed openings, central one blind, outer ones with 6/6
panes recessed sashes. Wide eaves soffit with paired brackets
with similar verges to form pediment with small round-headed window
in tympanum. House at rear faces S into garden and 2-storeys E
wing has rounded corner to yard to E. 3m approx wall all round
garden with pilaster buttresses on outside above plinth dying into
wall at half height. S gateway has 2 taller square piers with
stone caps and coping between. Ogee stone arch with pointed
top and small moulded corbel. Brick jambs with stone inset for
hinge pin. Battened wooden door.
2. The bank was also known as Tring Old Bank; the Tring, Aylesbury
and Chesham Bank; the Bank of Tring; and, in Aylesbury, the
3. The following was received from the Archivist, NatWest
and Turton in ‘British Banking’ cite Thomas Butcher & Sons as being
established in 1836. This is supported by the note registers
we have for Tring branch which are dated from 1/1/1836.”
Frogmore House . . . .
the centre of Tring stood a large house, Frogmore, which took
its name from the street in which it was situated, and was the home
of the owners of the town’s private bank. Thomas Butcher
established what is now the NatWest in the High Street in the 1830s,
and at first lived over the premises and enjoyed the large garden
area behind. When his son inherited the estate, he took
advantage of the natural springs at the bottom of Frogmore Street to
include several water features in the overall garden layout.
At the turn of the century the head gardener was Joseph Reeve, a
local man who had been born in the now-vanished hamlet of Lower
Dunsley. He was also responsible for overseeing the
maintenance of the large garden at the rear of Butcher’s Bank in the
High Street. Joseph lived with his family in one of a pair of
pretty cottages opposite The Black Horse. He was
expected to supply choice examples of fruit from the orchard, and
vegetables from the kitchen garden to exhibit in the local
horticultural show [the Tring Agricultural
Show]. Along with other head
gardeners in the area, he enjoyed considerable success.
However, their names never appeared on the winner’s certificate or
challenge cup, as it was always their employers who received the
credit. In any case, all Joseph Reeve’s
efforts were swept away in 1956 when Frogmore, the grounds,
the water gardens, the gardener’s
cottage, and 18 acres of land were sold for redevelopment.”
Tring Gardens Then
and Now, Wendy Austin (2006).
Tring in 1877: key . . . .
Frogmore House, red; Water Gardens and stream to Silk Mill
Pond, blue; Parish Church, green; High Street, yellow; Frogmore Street, orange.
The last owner of Frogmore was Arthur Butcher, the youngest
son of Frederick and Ann, who died on the 23rd September, 1955, at
the age of 91. Arthur studied law at Cambridge but never
practiced. He was a first class batsman, captained Tring Park
Cricket Club and played for Hertfordshire County and the M.C.C.
(1902-1905; batting style, right-hand; bowling style, right-arm
slow). He was also a good golfer and shot. A notice in
the Bucks Herald (4th November 1955) states: “Mr
Butcher’s Will − Mr Butcher of
Frogmore Street and Butchers Bank left £452,782. Mr Butcher
inherited his money from the family Banking business.
Butcher’s Bank started in Tring early in the last
century with later businesses in Berkhamsted and Aylesbury.
It was taken over by the Union of London & Smiths Bank, which
afterwards was absorbed by the National Provincial.”
death in 1955 his estate was bought at auction by the Luton builders
H. C. Janes & Co for £9,000. Frogmore was demolished to
make way for a new estate, which included Friars Walk
and Deans Furlong.
I’m grateful to the Archivist of The Royal Bank of Scotland, of
which Butcher’s bank is a constituent, for providing much of the
information about the Bank and its notes in circulation, to the
Secretary of the former Chesham Building Society for information
about the Society’s early years, and to my friend and sometime
co-author, Wendy Austin, for her advice and the use of photographs
from her collection.