Bank of Ireland

Early Irish Banknotes (Bank of Ireland, not the Central Bank of Ireland). The Old Currency Exchange, Dublin, Ireland.

Old ‘Bank of Ireland’ Notes:

The Bank of Ireland began as a national bank but acted as a private bank – a massive private bank with over 200 partners – and almost a monopoly around Dublin in the way legislation was passed favouring it. This was no accident as many of its partners and directors were MPs at the time – and most of them retained their seats after the Act of Union in 1800. This page lists their SEVENTEEN banknote issues between 1783 and 1929.

The Need for a National Bank in Ireland:

In the charter first granted to the Bank of England in 1694; there was no prohibitory clause. But when the charter was renewed in 1708, it was enacted, that no other company formed of more than six person should carry on the business of banking in England. This basic tenet was passed on to Scotland and, in turn, Ireland.

There was an initiative by the main merchants of Dublin in 1695 to establish a public bank or a fund of credit for the encouragement of trade, and supply of the present ‘want of money’ faltered.

  • There was no enthusiasm for such a development in Ireland in the late 1690s and early 1700s owing to concern about what was felt to be the excessive influence of the English monarchy on Irish affairs. Neither was there a crisis in the public finances or serious instability in the banking system – the two main reasons for the emergence of central banks.

The lack of enthusiasm in Ireland towards extending power and privileges over financial matters to the monarchy was partly fostered by Jonathan Swift – who did not hold bankers in high esteem – in The Drapier’s Letters. However, in 1721, a charter for a national bank similar to the Bank of England was granted subject to approval by Irish parliamentarians.

  • Because of the absence of political support and also because of mistrust in the 1720s of all financial innovation after the South Sea Bubble, the charter did not receive the support of the Irish politicians.
  • Consequently, the emergence of national banking was postponed for over sixty years. In the intervening period, the Irish philosopher and economist George Berkeley contributed to keeping the issue alive by making a case for a national bank for Ireland in ‘The Querist’ published in 1735.

Conditions changed – markedly so in the second half of the 18th C – in favour of promoting a national bank. This was partly as a result of the adverse private banking experiences around the mid century. More important was the indirect impact on the Irish economy and public finances of the international economic disturbances associated with the American War of Independence.

Against this background, the deficits in the Irish public finances, which had persisted from the early 1760s, had become more pronounced in the late 1770s and early 1780s leading to relatively substantial increases in borrowings by the Irish Exchequer.

  • This gave a major stimulus to the re-opening of the case for a national bank.

These financial developments, together with the spirit of independence kindled in Ireland through contact with continental Europe but particularly in the light of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, generated the political support which was previously lacking for the services of a national bank.

The Bank of Ireland

The Bank of Ireland was established in 1782 as a national bank but despite its massive resources and virtual monopoly it was very slow to establish branches either within Dublin County or in the country towns.

  • This gap was filled by an increasing number of small, private banks.
  • These small banks were severely restricted via unlimited liability and not being allowed more than six partners
    • There was a huge number of small private banks by the year 1800.
    • Despite their numbers and their initial success, few managed to acquire sufficient capital to ensure stability

The Bank of Ireland Act, 1781

  • 1781 – the Bank of Ireland Act is passed by the Parliament of Ireland
    • This Act gave the Bank of Ireland a monopoly for ONE POUND banknotes
    • Bank of Ireland notes were issued in Irish currency (until 1825)
    • It also prevented competition by limiting new banks to 6 shareholders or less
      • All the directors had to take the oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration, and Catholics and Presby­terians were thereby excluded
      • It was, in effect, the bank of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy class
      • They did little to expand, apart from to protect their new monopoly
  • 1783 – the Bank of Ireland opened for business at Mary’s Abbey, Dublin

Early Bank of Ireland Notes:

  • 1783First issue, Bank of Ireland notes (none have been found)

    • Banknotes:
    • Printed in England by Portals (a specialist paper manufacturer)
      • £10, £15, £20, £25, £30, £40, £50, £60, £70, £80, £90, £100, £200, £300, £400 and £500 (Irish)
  • 1784Second issue Bank of Ireland notes (none have been found)

    • Banknotes:
    • Printed in Ireland by William Wilson on Portal’s paper
      • £10, £15, £20, £25, £30, £40, £50, £60, £70, £80, £90, £100, £200, £300, £400 and £500 (Irish)
      • 5gns, 10gns, 20gns, 30gns, 40gns, 50gns, 60gns, 70gns, 80gns, 90gns, and 100gns (Sterling)
  • 1797Third issue Bank of Ireland notes (extremely rare)

    • In 1797, the Restriction Acts were passed in both Ireland and Great Britain to suspend payment of banknotes in specie (silver/gold) due to the economic difficulties arising from the war with France. This resulted in a huge increase in banknote denominations below five guineas.
    • Banknotes:
      • One Guinea
      • One Pound
  • 1798-1812Fourth issue Bank of Ireland notes (rare)

  • Contemporary forgeries exist for many of the denominations below.
    • Banknotes:
      • Ten Guineas
      • Five Guineas (Five pounds, thirteen shillings & ninepence)
      • One & Half Guineas
      • Thirty Shillings (One pound, fourteen shillings & three-halfpence)
      • One Guinea
      • One Pound
        • No other denominations seem to have survived but it is likely they did exist
  • 1802

In 1802, an Act was passed (42 Geo. 111. c.87.) to enable the Lord High Commissioner or commissioners of his Majesty’s treasury in Ireland for the time being, to to sell, lease, convey, or dispose of the parliament house in the city of Dublin. Thus, the Bank of Ireland moved from its original premises in St Mary’s Abbey to College Green.

View of the Bank of Ireland College Green, Dublin: Published by J. Le Petit, Anglesea Street, c.1840.

View of the Bank of Ireland College Green, Dublin: J. Le Petit, Anglesea Street, c.1840

  • Some quirky facts about The Bank of Ireland, College Green, Dublin

    • There are ‘no windows‘ in the building’s facade
      • When the building was being erected in in the 1730s, a Window Tax was in force throughout Britain and Ireland – so the intended windows were filled in, intended to be glazed at a later date, to cut costs. This ‘window tax’ remained for several decades and the window bricks were never removed – thus becoming a permanent feature.

    • It was the world’s first purpose-built ‘two-chamber‘ parliament house
      • The building was originally known as Irish Houses of Parliament, having been commissioned to act as a parliamentary chamber for the Irish House of Lords and the Irish House of Commons. It cost £6,000 to build and was designed by an architect called Edward Lovett Pearse – who knew exactly what a parliament house would need, given that he was himself an MP.

    • The design was copied for the US Capitol Building
      • The founding fathers of America seem to have kept a close eye on Ireland’s politics during the late 18th C and some of Washington DC’s best known buildings are based on Irish architecture:
        • The design of the Capitol Building – Washington’s own houses of parliament – is modelled on Pearse’s building.
        • The design of the ceiling of the original House of Commons chamber was used in the original chambers for both the US House of Representatives and Senate, though both have since moved to alternate rooms.
        • The White House somewhat modelled on Leinster House (and reportedly also on the Custom House)
    • 2/3 College Green was sold to the Bank of Ireland on two conditions…
      • One: It never be used as a parliament house again !
        • The building had become redundant in 1800 after its parliament, and that of Westminster, both passed Acts of Union in 1800 which created a unified parliament in London.
        • The Bank of Ireland bought it in 1803 for £40,000.

      • Two: It had to be adapted so that a parliament could never sit there again

        • This resulted in the magnificent House of Commons chamber, having been recently refurbished after a fire just four year earlier, being broken up into smaller offices.

        • Fortunately, the House of Lords chamber escaped virtually untouched

  • 1804

In 1804, a new Act (44 Geo. III, c.91) declared all banknotes under 20 shillings invalid. This meant that all private banks issuing these small denomination notes had to find a way to withdraw them immediately. The obvious (and most common method) was:

  • go into voluntary liquidation
  • pay all creditors (note / bill holders) in full
  • re-open with a different name (if still solvent, with an appetite for business)
  • issue larger denomination notes

The smaller, under-capitalised banks never recovered from the sudden run on their notes but, the more commercially astute, did manage to find a way. Nevertheless, these small banks were vulnerable in a period of economic change and most of those remaining failed in the ‘deflation and depression’ period after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.

  • 1812-1815Fifth issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
      • Five Pounds
      • Thirty Shillings
      • Twenty-five Shillings
      • One Guinea
      • One Pound
        • No other denominations seem to have survived but it is likely they did exist
    • Post Bills:
      • Ten Guineas
      • Ten Pounds
      • Five Guineas
      • Five Pounds
  • 1815-1825Sixth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
      • Ten Pounds
      • Five Pounds
        • Type 1 – Two oval ‘value’ panels, bank title in Roman capitals
        • Type 2 – One oval ‘value’ panel, bank title in Gothic script
      • Two Pounds
      • Thirty Shillings
      • One Pound
    • Also recorded as being authorised / printed:
      • 25s, 30s, £15, £20, £25, £30, £40, £50, £90, £100 and £500 (Irish)
      • 1½gns, 2gns, 3gns, 5gns, 10gns, 20gns, 30gns, 40gns, 50gns, and 100gns (Sterling)
        • no surviving examples recorded
  • 1821

The Suspension Period officially ended on 1st May 1821, although it took some time to come into effect. The main benefit of ‘paper money’ was that it gave certainty at a time when much of the copper coinage in circulation was counterfeit and much of the silver coinage was clipped (under-value). In order for a ‘safe’ return to the gold standard, a new coinage was needed.

The British Treasury responded with a new gold ‘one pound’ coin known as a sovereign to compliment the Great Recoinage of George III – started in 1816 and rolled out to all corners of the British Empire thereafter.

  • To put a ‘gold standard’ into effect, and avoid the pitfalls of bi-metallism, silver coins were declared legal tender only for sums of money up to £2. This prevented an ‘arbitrage market’ in gold and silver coins from forming.

This sudden burst of silver coin production by the Royal Mint was not matched in Ireland and left the smaller, under-capitalised banks vulnerable to runs on their promissory notes. From 1816 onwards, any monetary shocks (due to failed harvests, trade blockades, etc.) in the banking system were severe. Nevertheless, new banks continued to open all over Ireland and they issued notes to facilitate new business.

  • 1825-1840 Seventh Issue Bank of Ireland notes

  • Banknotes:
    • Class A – Notes Payable to Bearer in Dublin (1825-1828)
      • Thirty Shillings
      • One Pound
        • It is likely that other denominations were printed but none seem to have survived
    • Class B – Notes Payable to Bearer in Branches (1825-1840)
      • Fifty Pounds
        • Type 1 – Dublin only (Bank title in Roman lettering)
        • Type 2 – Dublin only (Design change: Bank title now in Gothic script)
      • Twenty Pounds
        • Type 1 – Dublin, Bandon & Cork (1862)
      • Ten Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • Five Pounds
        • Type 1 -Dublin only (1838)
        • Type 2 -Dublin & Wexford (1840)
      • Thirty Shillings
        • Type 1 – Dublin only (1828)
        • Type 2 – Dublin, Newry & Armagh (1831)
        • Type 3 – Dublin & Cork (1834)
        • Type 4 – Dublin & Clonmel (1835)
        • Type 5 – Dublin & Galway (1835)
        • Type 6 – Dublin & Drogheda (1837)
      • One Pound
        • Type 1 – Dublin only (1832)
        • Type 2 – Dublin, Clonmel & Waterford (1832)
        • Type 3 – Dublin & Dundalk (1837)
        • Type 4 – Dublin & Waterford (1837)
        • Type 5 – Dublin & Westport (1838)
  • 1838-1842Eighth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
    • Hibernia & Medusa Head types
    • Hibernias = 75mm high
      • Five Pounds
        • No surviving examples recorded
      • Thirty Shillings
        • Type 1 – Dublin & Armagh (1838)
        • Type 2 – Dublin only (1839)
        • Type 3 – Dublin & Youghal (1841)
        • Type 4 – Dublin & Kilkenny (1841)
        • Type 5 – Dublin & Waterford (1841)
      • One Pound
  • 1842-1849Ninth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
    • Hibernia & Medusa Head types
    • Hibernias = 68mm high
      • Five Pounds
        • Type 1 – Dublin, Wexford & Waterford (1845)
      • Three Pounds
        • Type 1 – Dublin, Carlow & Kilkenny (1846)
      • Thirty Shillings
        • Type 1 – Dublin & Youghal (1842)
        • Type 2 – Dublin, Londonderry & Belfast (1843)
        • Type 3 – Dublin, Drogheda & Dundalk (1844)
        • Type 4 – Dublin only (1844)
      • One Pound
        • Type 1 – Dublin, Carlow & Kilkenny (1843)
        • Type 1 – Dublin, Youghal & Cork (1845)
        • Type 1 – Dublin, Cork & Limerick (1846)
        • Type 1 – Dublin only (1848)
  • 1852-1863Tenth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
    • Hibernia & Medusa Head types
    • Wavy security protector
    •  Multiple branches, arranged geographically (not alphabetically)
      • Ten Pounds
        • Type 1 – Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Kilkenny, Carlow, Clonmel, Cork, Queenstown, Youghal, Tralee, New Ross, Wexford, Roscrea & Tipperary (1856)
      • Five Pounds
        • Type 1 – Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Kilkenny, Carlow, Clonmel, Cork, Youghal, Tralee, New Ross, Wexford, Roscrea & Tipperary (1856)
        • Type 2 – Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Kilkenny, Carlow, Clonmel, Cork, Queenstown, Youghal, Tralee, New Ross, Wexford, Roscrea & Tipperary (1858)
      • Three Pounds
        • No surviving examples recorded
      • One Pound
        • Type 1 – Dublin only ()
        • Type 2 – Dublin, Armagh, Belfast, Drogheda, Dundalk, Londonderry & Newry (1855)
  • 1864-1883Eleventh Issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
    • Hibernia & Medusa Head types
    • All branches in red gothic script
      • Five Hundred Pounds – 56 branches (incl. Skibbereen) – Extremely RARE
      • One Hundred Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • Fifty Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • Twenty Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • Ten Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • Five Pounds – 47 branches in 4 lines
      • Three Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • One Pound
        • Type 1 – 36 branches (1869)
        • Type 2a – 40 branches (1872)
        • Type 2b – 47 branches (1874)
        • Type 2c – 49 branches (1875)
        • Type 2d – 55 branches (1877)
          • Now incl. Banagher, Charlevill and Midleton (opened in 1876), Mallow, Roscommon and Skibbereen (opened in 1877)
        • Type 2e – 56 branches (1877)
          • Now incl. Mountmellick, Co Kildare (which opened in 1836 but excluded ’til now)
        • Type 2f – 57 branches (1878)
          • Now incl. Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
        • Type 2g – 58 branches (1880)
          • Now incl. Ballibay, Co Monaghan
  • 1883-1905Twelfth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
    • Hibernia & Medusa Head types
    • 58 branches in 4 lines / red ink
      • Five Hundred Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • One Hundred Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • Fifty Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • Twenty Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • Ten Pounds
        • Type 1 – Signature: H. Henry (1887)
        • Type 2 – Signature: Amos M. Vereker (1890)
        • Type 3 – Signature: Henry Evans (1901)
        • Type 4 – Signature: William Haughton Baskin (1904)
      • Five Pounds
        • Type 1 – Type 1 – Signature: S. Foot (1887-90)
      • Three Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • One Pound
        • Type 1 – Signature: J. Craig (1881-89)
        • Type 2 – Signature: Amos M. Vereker (1890-96)
        • Type 3 – Signature: Henry Evans (1900-01)
        • Type 4 – Signature: William Haughton Baskin (1905)
  • 1908-1919Thirteenth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
    • Hibernia & Medusa Head types
    • 65/66 branches in 5 lines / red ink
    • Signature: William Haughton Baskin
      • Five Hundred Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • One Hundred Pounds – no surviving examples recorded
      • Fifty Pounds
      • Twenty Pounds
        • Type 1 – Thin serial numbers
        • Type 2 – Thicker serials numbers
      • Ten Pounds
        • Type 1 – 65 branches
        • Type 2 – 66 branches (Newtownards added)
        • Type 3 – Smaller sans-serif prefixes / thicker serial numbers / plate numbers discontinued
      • Five Pounds
        • Type 1 – 65 branches
        • Type 2 – 66 branches (in red)
        • Type 3 – 66 branches (in green)
      • Three Pounds – 65 branches
      • One Pound
        • Type 1 – 65 branches
        • Type 2  – 66 branches
  • 1918-1920Fourteenth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

  • 1920-1921Fifteenth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
    • Hibernia & Medusa Head Types, no branches
      • Ten Pounds
      • Five Pounds
        • Type 1 – Signature: Alfred Fleming (1920)
        • Type 2 – Signature: S. Hinton (1921)
  • 1920-1921Sixteenth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

    • Banknotes:
    • Hibernia & Medusa Head Types, no branches
      • One Pound
        • Type 1 – Signature: Alfred G. Fleming (1920)
        • Type 2 – Signature: S. Hinton (1921)
  • 1922-1928Seventeenth Issue Bank of Ireland notes

  • 1927

    • The Currency Commission of the Irish Free State
      • New Irish National Coin Designs
      • New Irish National Banknote Designs
  • 1928

    • Currency Commission Banknotes issued
    • Irish Free State Coins Issued
  • 1929

    • The Bank of Ireland issued two sets of banknotes from 1929-1939
      • Consolidated Banks (Ploughman Notes) in the Irish Free State
        • Being by far the largest bank in the newly formed Irish Free State, the Bank of Ireland had the largest allocation (£1,760,000) of Ploughman notes.
        • It ceased issuing banknotes in the Republic of Ireland in 1939

PLOUGHMAN ISSUES:

NORTHERN IRELAND – FIRST ISSUE

Notes:

The Bank of Ireland took over The Hibernian Bank and The National Bank in 1969 and the three companies merged to form the Bank of Ireland Group.