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Coins and Medals
Handwritten cheque for an account with Abraham Fowler, goldsmith
London, England, AD 1725
An early example of personal banking
By the late seventeenth century legal clerks, merchants and goldsmiths provided a large range of financial facilities in Britain. These included many services offered by modern banks: for example, exchanging foreign coin, making loans, and accepting money on deposit. Customers could also authorise the banker to pay money from their account to a third person.
Although it looks very different, this handwritten document from the eighteenth century is much like a modern cheque. It is addressed to the banker, Mr Fowler, and requests that £70 be paid to Mr Thomas Hill from the account of Charles Cocks. At the lower left the document is addressed to 'Mr Abraham Fowler Goldsmith' who works at 'the Signe of the Three Squirrils over-against St Dunstans Church in Fleet Street'.
There had been a goldsmith's business at this address from the middle of the seventeenth century. Indeed, the diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) recorded a visit there in his diary in 1660. Since Pepys' day it has continued to enjoy an unbroken history as a bank. By the late eighteenth century the address was given as 19 Fleet Street, and cheques (now printed) were decorated with a little engraving of three squirrels. This charming tradition even continued after the business became part of Barclays Bank, which has a branch there to this day.
P.W. Matthews and A.W. Tuke, History of Barclays Bank Limit (Blades, East and Blades Ltd., 1926)
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)