O’Brien Banknote Guide: Gibbons & Williams Bank, Dublin (1833-1835)


Introduction:

The short-lived Gibbons & Williams Bank issued some of the most attractive banknotes of the period – being printed on both sides and featuring many beautiful vignettes of Dublin and agricultural themes. As such, they are highly sought after by collectors. Their one pound, thirty shilling and three pound notes were payable in Dublin only, while their five and ten pound notes were also payable in London.

  • Their notes are frequently available at auction in Ireland and the UK.
  • The most common denominations are the £1 and the 30 Shillings notes.
  • There are print variations, so be on the look out for these.
    • The printed area on all denominations = 200mm x 105mm
1833 £5 Gibbons & Williams, Dublin, S/N 1042, payable in Dublin & London (obverse + reverse design). The Old Currency Exchange, Dublin, Ireland.

1833 £5 Gibbons & Williams, Dublin, payable in Dublin & London (obverse + reverse design).

Gibbons & Williams were the last Private bank to issue notes in Dublin. Gibbons parted company with Williams in 1834 and Hutchins Thomas Williams went bankrupt the following year due to embezzlement of clients’ funds. When the Belfast Telegraph of Jan. 27th 1835, reported on the failure of the firm of Gibbons and Williams in Dublin, they wrongly implicated James Gibbons.

 ‘A complete panic pervaded the mercantile interests of this city on Thursday at the closing of this house, so long deemed of the highest character, credit and respectability….the paper of the bank is said to have obtained a large circulation in the county Westmeath,  where the estate of one of the firm is situate…’

In fairness to the Belfast Telegraph, there was a young Thomas Gibbons (or Thomas H. Gibbons in some records) who was working alongside Hutchins Thomas Williams in the bank of Gibbons and Williams when it failed in 1835. This Thomas Gibbons has also been noted as the nephew of James Gibbons (Senior) of Ballynagall, who had been in business with Richard Williams.

  • He was possibly the son of Thomas Gibbons of Fitzwilliam Square

The Waterford Mail of 21st January 1835 rectified this error when they reported:

‘It’s not the well known house of Gibbons and Williams that has failed, that one having been dissolved two years ago, and neither James Gibbons of Ballinagall, who retired, nor Mr. Richard Williams of Dame Street, now head of  Richard Williams and Son, were ever connected with the bank of Hutchins Williams who operated under the name of Gibbons and Williams….the young Mr. Gibbons who worked there was son of the late Thomas Gibbons and nephew of Mr. James Gibbons….’    

The article went on to state that Hutchins and Richard Williams didn’t see eye to eye, and that Hutchins Williams had used the name of Gibbons and Williams with the consent of James Williams.

James Gibbons:

Gibbons and Williams were notaries to the Bank of Ireland, and appear in the Dublin street directories as such from 1800. James Gibbons was also mentioned earlier in the 1780s as a notary to the Bank of Ireland (when it first opened). It seems that the Gibbons family actually lived at 38 Dame Street.

  • The Treble Almanack of 1815 notes the attorney E.H. Gibbons at this address.
  • The same year, Thomas Gibbons Junior was one of 21 managers elected to the board of the charitable Richmond National Institute of Great Britain St/Parnell St.
    • By 1824, E.H. Gibbons, the attorney, had moved north of the Liffey to 27 Queen Street in Smithfield and was resident there with Edward Gibbons who was possibly his son.

James Gibbons, Senior (1761-1835) of Ballynegall, Westmeath, died at Cheltenham on 15th March 1835. James Gibbons (Senior or Junior?) built Ballynegall House, Co Westmeath c. 1808 for £30,000 – an enormous cost in those days. Although now in ruins, its portico was removed and currently forms part of Straffan House in Kildare.

Ballynegall House, Co Westmeath - then and now !

Ballynegall House, Co Westmeath – then and now !

The house was considered one of the finest regency houses in Westmeath and was built by Francis Johnston, one of the most famous architects of his day who was also responsible for the General Post Office and the Irish Houses of Parliament, now the Bank of Ireland building in College Green.

  • In 1824 at Ballynagall, James Gibbons donated land and £1,892 towards the construction of the Protestant church there.
  • In the 1820s he was also involved with the establishment of the county jail and courthouse in Westmeath

James Gibbons Junior (1792 – 1846) of Ballinagall, who was JP, DL and High Sheriff for County Westmeath, died on 22nd February 1846, aged 54, whilst hunting; he died intestate, leaving no children.

  • He died in Leamington at the house of Richard Coote, or at the house of the widow of William Bennitt of Drumlavery, Co. Cavan.
  • Ballynegall Manor passed to the nephew of his wife, James William Middleton Berry, who died in 1855, and then to his cousin Thomas James Smyth (passed by marriage to the Smyth family) where it remained until the early 1960s.

Hutchins Thomas Williams:

Thomas Hutchins Williams was born to John Jeffery Williams and Sarah Dignan in Holborn, London, and was baptised on February 20th 1790 in the nearby Church of St. George the Martyr. He seems to have followed his older brother, John Dignan Williams (a merchant) to Dublin and had close association with the City of Dublin Steam Packet Co.

The records of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, founded by Charles Wye Williams and his brother, Richard Williams were his second-cousins, i.e. their father (Thomas Williams, of the Bank of Ireland) was first cousin to Hutchins’ father John Jeffery Williams.

  • In 1815, The Treble Almanack showed the family of Thomas Williams (Bank of Ireland) living at 2 Belvedere Place. It is likely this was where Hutchins Thomas Williams resided when he first came to Dublin.

Hutchins Thomas Williams is first mentioned in Dublin (1818) as a public notary, petitioning the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Talbot, of Dublin Castle, requesting the grant of a licence to operate as a stockbroker. The petition stated that he was a partner in the firm of Gibbons and Williams, and he included the names Arthur Hume and Nathaniel Callwell to act as joint sureties. His ‘impecable’ references included:

  • G. La Touche (of the Dublin banking family)
  • Newcomen (also of a family of Dublin bankers)
  • Joshua and Joseph Pim (merchants and bankers)
  • Joseph Goff (an early director of the Bank of Ireland).
38 Dame Street (former premises of Hutchins Thomas Williams, Stockbroker & Banker) trading as Williams & Gibbons Bank. The Old Currency Exchange, Dublin, Ireland.

38 Dame Street (former premises of Hutchins Thomas Williams, Stockbroker & Banker) trading as Gibbons & Williams Bank.

Hutchins Thomas Williams worked with James Gibbons (as a stockbroker) at 38 Dame Street, Dublin. The premises is now an internet café and the former residence (three upper floors) is now let as individual office spaces.

  • In 1823, Thomas Gibbons of Dame Street was an early proprietor of the shipping company, as was Hutchins Thomas Williams of Dame Street, both men holding stock to the value of £500.
    • The following year, both have moved:
      • Thomas Gibbons was living in Fitzwilliam Square
      • Pigot’s Directory of 1824 shows Hutchins Thomas Williams living at 4 Belvedere Place
  • By 1828, both men increased their holding in the City of Dublin Steam Packet Co
    • Thomas Gibbons held £2,400 of shares
    • Hutchins Thomas Williams held £4,400 of shares
  • In 1829, H. Thomas Williams, a merchant, was admitted by Grace Especial to the Freemen of Dublin
  • In 1832, Hutchins Williams of 38 Dame Street was noted as a churchwarden of nearby St. Andrews Church
  • On 26th April 1833, Dympna Elis of Woodville, North Liberties, Cork, leased a house on the northside of Merrion Square, Dublin, for the remainder of 92 years to Hutchins Williams of Dame Street.
    • The rent was £100 per annum.
    • This was No. 9, Merrion Square, later owned by Michael O’Leary of Ryanair.

By 1833, the firm of Gibbons and Williams comprised Richard Williams (of Drumcondra Castle) and his close relative Hutchins Thomas Williams; these two dissolved their partnership in 1833

  • Richard continued in business as Richard Williams & Son
  • Hutchins continued in business as Gibbons and Williams

When Hutchins’ company failed because of his embezzlement of clients’ funds in 1835, James Gibbons Junior of Ballynegall, Westmeath, quickly issued a statement that he was not involved in the firm of Gibbons and Williams. Calling himself ‘James Gibbons Junior’ signifies that he was the son of an earlier James Gibbons.

Hutchins Thomas Williams – Bankruptcy

The speedy collapse of the bank was sensational, as was the reason behind it, i.e. embezzlement. One Williams family biographer later wrote:

“The Skeleton in the Cupboard Williams – Hutchins Thomas [Williams] lived at 4, Belvedere Place where his wife gave birth to twin daughters; thence moved to Dame Street; 9 Merrion Square; “Bloomfield”, Bird Avenue; was declared an “Outlaw”.

  • Hazel Smyth:
    • Some Notes on Charles Wye Williams, His Family, Their Life and Times
    • Published by the Dublin Historical Record

An 1835 edition of ‘The Law Recorder, Volumes 3 – 4′ gives some details:

‘In the matter of Hutchins Thomas Williams, a Bankrupt. The petition stated that:

H.T.Williams had been duly found and declared a bankrupt….that Elizabeth Oliver attended a meeting…for the purpose of proving a debt…and thereupon deposed that the said H.T.Williams, trading in partnership with Richard Williams, was, together with his said partner….indebted to her in the sum of £250, being the balance due to her on foot of an account for money…to and for the use of the said Elizabeth Oliver, and in the further sum of £1845, being the value…of forty-five shares of and in the Provincial Banking Company, charged to her on the said account, as having been purchased for her by the said co-partners…but which shares had not been transferred to her or entered in her name in the books of the said Provincial Bank….That the said Richard Williams was still in solvent circumstances…..

….The grounds on which Elizabeth Oliver rests her claim are, that she entrusted the said co-partners with several sums of money, from time to time, with directions to invest the same for her in the purchase of shares in the Provincial Bank; that they furnished her with an account, charging her with the purchase of several shares purchased from time to time for her: that previous to the bankruptcy of the said H.T.Williams, the said ex-partners had dissolved their partnership, without notice to her of the intended dissolution; that she had never heard of the same until after the said bankruptcy and that she has since discovered that, though in the said account she had been charged with the purchase of such shares, that in fact no such shares had been entered in her name in the books of the said Provincial Bank.’

Following the bankruptcy, Gibbons and Williams had debts of £70,736 and 11 shillings, although a separate report stated that the debts were in the region of £200,000, while the firm’s assets were a paltry £45,000. Gibbons & Williams also had dealings with several prominent London businesses at the time of the company’s collapse in 1835.

  • From The Evening Post of 1835:
    • Extract of a letter from Dublin, dated January 21:
    • “The utmost consternation prevailed through Dublin, today, owing to the unlooked for failure of the well-known house of Gibbons and Williams, of Dame Street. In addition to the banking business, they carried on that of stock-brokers and notaries public.”
  • From ‘The Spectator‘ of 24 January 1835 :
    • ‘Gibbons & Williams : The banking-house of Gibbons and Williams of Dublin stopped payment on Wednesday. The amount of their outstanding engagements is stated at £8001 and 10/-. The Dublin correspondent of the ‘Linnet says—” Gibbon and Williams had a good many of their notes pushed into circulation amongst the farmers, particularly in the county of Westmeath, where an estate of theirs lies, and also amongst the shipping interests. I hear that one Dublin house is in for £60,0001 and a house in Liverpool for £23,000. ‘
  • From ‘The Times‘ of 26th January 1835:  
    • ‘Failure of Messrs. Gibbons and Williams.  A confidential messenger belonging to the establishment proved the act of bankruptcy, which was, that a Mr. Duffy, one of the creditors, had called to demand some money due to him, and that Mr.Hutchins T. Williams was at his own special desire denied to Mr. Duffy….we are requested to state that James Gibbons, Esq., of Ballinagall, county of Westmeath, was not in any manner whatever, connected with the firm trading under the name of “Gibbons and Williams” in this city, whose failure was announced yesterday…Today at three o’ clock, I attended the opening of the commission at the Royal Exchange, to see Hutchins Thomas Williams declared a bankrupt.  The docket was struck against him alone….The business was done…in a very quiet manner. Two clerks and the porter of 39 Dame-street, proved the trading and closing of the doors at half past ten in the morning of yesterday, and the denial of Mr. Williams…to those who came with notes to be exchanged.  It was remarked that Mr. Creighton (barrister to the commission and a friend of Mr. Williams) examined the witnesses in almost a whisper and that their depositions were brought already written out….’
  • From ‘The Belfast Telegraph‘, 27th January 1835:  
    • ‘Failure of Messrs. Gibbons and Williams’ Bank of Dublin – A complete panic pervaded the mercantile interests of this city on Thursday at the closing of this house, so long deemed of the highest character, credit and respectability.  There are various rumours as to the amount to which the firm are liable, some say £300,000 – others only £40,000.  The paper of the bank is said to have obtained a large circulation in the county Westmeath, where the estate of one of the firm is situate.  It is thought that all the liabilities of the bank will be met to the satisfaction of the creditors,  as there is a large amount of available debits due to the firm.’

Hutchins Thomas Williams Family Notes:

Hutchins Thomas Williams married Francis Susanna Carleton. There was a twist to the tale of Hutchins Thomas Williams bankruptcy insofar as the premises/house at 38 Dame Street seems to have transferred to Williams’ wife’s name before the bankruptcy proceedings took place.

From Deed 1840-8-74:

On 15th April 1840, Richard Williams of Dame Street made 38 Dame Street over to George Simpson Carleton at a yearly rent of £100 for the life of Frances Susanna Carleton, then of Simcoe, Canada, the widow of the deceased Hutchins Thomas Williams.

The notorious Hutchins Thomas Williams died on 6th February 1839 (aged 47 years)

They had nine children:

  • Charlotte and Sarah (twins)
    • Charlotte Williams married Henry Coldham, son of Rev. John Coldham, vicar of Snettisham
    • Sarah Williams married James Covernton, on 6th Dec 1851 in
  • John Williams
    • ?
  • Margaret Williams
    • ?
  • Hutchins Williams (Jnr)
    • MRCSE, LRCP, GP
    • Surgeon of the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s service
    • Married Ellen Harriet, daughter of Rev. John Coldham, vicar of Snettisham
      • In 1881, he lived at ‘Bloomfield’, Lee, Kent, England
      • By 1911, he lived at Charleton & Kidbrooke, Blackheath, London
  • James Gibbons Williams (1821-1882)
    • Yeoman of Townsend, Simcoe
    • Married Annabella Caroline Lowndes of Woodhouse, on 1st Feb 1849
  • Frances Elizabeth (Eliza) Williams
    • Married Dr. Charles William Covernton in 1841 in Woodhouse, Longpoint, Canada
  • Frederick Williams
  • Annie /Nanny Williams
    • Married Dr. James Coldham, son of Rev. John Coldham, vicar of Snettisham

His bank failed in late January 1835 and immediately after the bankruptcy, Hutchins Thomas Williams and his wife emigrated to Simcoe, Ontario, via New York. There are two separate records for them:

  1. Arriving in New York City in late May, 1835.
    1. The first merely mentions that Hutchins Thomas Williams arrived there in 1835;
  2. The second document is the manifest of the ‘Silas Williams’
    1. It shows Hutchins’ family arriving in the city on May 25th 1835:
        ‘Mrs. Williams and servant
           Master John Williams
           Miss Fanny Williams
           Master James Williams
           Miss Charlotte Williams 
           Miss Sarah Williams
           Master Hutchins Williams
           Miss Nanny Williams
           Miss Harriet Williams
           Master Frederick Williams.’

Their farm in Canada was named Brookeville but Hutchins Thomas Williams died four years later.

From St. John’s Anglican Church Cemetery, Woodhouse Township, Norfolk County, Ontario, Canada:

‘Sacred to the memory of / Hutchins T. WILLIAMS / who departed this life/ 16 February 1839 / aged 47 years’

‘In memory of / Frances Susannah / relict of the late Hutchins T.WILLIAMS / a native of Dublin, Ireland / who departed this life September14, 1844 / aged 50 years and 5 months’

Gibbons & Williams Banknotes:

Ironically, in the dangerous world of the Early Irish Private Bankers, the bigger the failure the more of their notes are available to collectors and Gibbons & Williams is no exception to this general rule. Had he ran a small banking business, he would have quietly gone out of business and left little trace behind in terms of old notes – issued or unissued.

But Hutchins Thomas Williams was well-connected (as can be seen from his references), he was related to a Bank of Ireland Director and he produced a huge amount of paper-based debt. He, no doubt, traded on his family’s good name and very quickly over-extended himself.

His promissory notes became worthless almost over-night and he clearly didn’t have the cash-on-hand to sustain a run on his bank. It was the stockbroking side of the business that caused the run and the banking side of the business went under too.

Most of these notes turn up at auction – both here in Ireland and in the UK (particularly around London). This probably reflects the distribution of his creditors between Dublin and London. The newspaper reports of many creditors in Co Westmeath is probably due to him trading on the good name of James Gibbons and James Gibbons, Jnr.

The speed at which James Gibbons, Jnr. published notices in the newspapers shows that his family had:

  1. no wish to be associated with Williams’ failed business
  2. no wish to be associated with Williams’ embezzlement (a serious crime back then)
  3. an urgent need to protect their own good name and the solid reputation(s) of their family businesses elsewhere.

The transcripts of the bankruptcy proceedings show his cousin’s family protecting their own and hanging Hutchins out to dry ! Although the newspapers were baying for blood and polite society distanced themselves from him, his wife was set up up with an income of £100 a year … for life! This sum that would allow some comforts and respectability in rural Ontario but would fall well short of the expensive lifestyle funding requirements for a family of eleven + servants in Dublin’s elite society of Merrion Square.

  • They also had the cash to buy a farm and a substantial house there too
    • Perhaps, for some, crime did have little consequences…

 

1833 £10 Gibbons & Williams, Dublin, S/N 99, dated 1st July 1833 and signed by Hutchins Thomas Williams. The Old Currency Exchange, Dublin, Ireland.

1833 £10 Gibbons & Williams promissory note, payable in Dublin and London, dated 1st July 1833 and signed by H.T. Williams himself (as were all of his notes).

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