Paper money of England and Wales

Edited by Catherine Eagleton and Artemis Manolopoulou

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Security printers to the provincial banks:

Perkins Company and the production of banknotes in 19th-century Britain

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Many banks borrowed visual details from the notes of others. In 1826, Kendal Bank requested a ‘border like the one on the £5 note for Farrer & Co., Ripon’ and Hereford Old Bank suggested that their £1 and £5 notes were constructed from specific design motifs found on those for banks in Belfast, Yarmouth and Leeds.

While some banks wanted their notes to resemble those already in circulation, others requested designs intended to make their notes highly distinctive. In 1835, the Richmond and Swaledale Bank asked that the word ‘Richmond’ on their notes be replaced with ‘Bedale’, ‘engraved in German Text or in such a way as you think would make a little diversity in the appearance of the note’.

Security and speed were also dominant themes in the letters to Perkins and Co. In 1829, Eaton and Co. of Swansea left it to Perkins’ discretion as to whether it was ‘desirable to have back plates as additional preventions against forgery’. In 1825, Dewsbury and Co. asked that Perkins provide ‘all the security you can’.

Most letters requested a rapid turnaround in design alterations and printing. When the Belfast Commercial Banking Company required a new note, they wrote: ‘send us the one drawing made out as near as possible to my description, and I hope you will do this without loss of time’. Banking licences could be easily obtained. By issuing their notes without delay, established banks laid claims to a particular locality and name.

Some letters referred to the specific processes of banknote production and suggested the ways in which technological developments impacted upon this. In their letter to the company in 1822, Saddleworth Union Bank confirmed the design for their note and asked that Perkins ‘harden the plate and strike off for us 1,000 impressions’. Burlington and Driffield Bank, unconvinced by the quality of steel plate impressions, wished to know the price Perkins and Co. charged for these and the ‘advantages they have over copper’.