Early Irish Banknotes

The Old Currency Exchange is Ireland's leading dealer in old coins, tokens and banknotes for discerning collectors.


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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.

The First Irish Banknotes

The first banknotes issued / used in Ireland were proto-banknotes issued by Dublin Goldmiths. This followed a pattern set by the Goldsmiths in London but the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, which ended with the Cromwellian invasion, destroyed the Irish economy and countryside. New towns and new industries would rise from the ashes.

The First Private Banks in Ireland

The Irish economy developed rapidly in the late 18th C and, in response to increased demand for agricultural produce, the essential stimulus for the formation of a modern banking system finally arrived.

  • Dublin (Burton & Falkiner) 1700-1733
  • Cork (Hoare, Joseph & Co) 1709-1740
  • Clonmel (Riall, Phineas) 1715 ?
  • Clonmel (Bagwell & Co) 1720-54
  • Dublin (Dillon & Co) 1736-54
    • Richard Ferrall joined the partnership in 1748
      • Traded as Dillon, Ferrall & Co (1748-54)
        • The bank collapsed in March 1754
        • Both partners absconded to France
Dillon & Co, Ten Pounds, 22 May 1753, no. 809, for Thomas Dillon, Richard Ferrall and Co, signed by William Fitz Patrick

Dillon & Co, Ten Pounds, 22 May 1753, no. 809, for Thomas Dillon, Richard Ferrall and Co, signed by William Fitz Patrick.

  • Belfast (Mussenden, Daniel & Co) 1751-58
  • Clonmel (Riall, William & Co) 1754-1820
  • 1709

In 1709 an Act was passed:
“For the better payment of inland bills of exchange, and for making promissory notes more obligatory. “Bills of exchange of $25 and upwards drawn in England upon persons in Ireland, may be protested either for non-acceptance or non-payment in the same way as foreign. And notice of such protest must be given within fourteen days afterwards to the party from whom such bills were received.”
  • Promissory notes were put on the same footing as inland bills of exchange.
  • Notes issued by any “banker, goldsmith, merchant, or trader,” whether payable to order or bearer, were rendered assignable and endorsible over as inland bills of exchange, and the endorsee might sustain an action thereon.
Previous to the passing of the Act, it was considered doubtful whether promissory notes
of any kind were legally transfers by endorsement. But such transfers were now declared legal (in Ireland) as they had been a few years beforehand in England.
  • 1729

The forging of bills of exchange, goldsmiths’ or banker’s notes – above the value of £5 declared felony; and the felon to be burnt in the hand or transported at the pleasure of the court. Criminals, who had stolen bills or notes, liable to the same punishment as though they had stolen goods of the same value.
  • 1733 & 1735

Acts passed for the relief of the banks (and creditors) lately kept by
  • Samuel Burton and Daniel Falkiner
  • Benjamin Burton, Samuel Burton and Daniel Falkiner
  • Benjamin Burton and Francis Harrison

This bank carried on business in Dublin from the year 1700 to 1733, and then failed.

  • In the interim, some of the early partners had purchased estates with the money deposited at the bank; and the Acts enabled the creditors to sell those estates
  • The different names denote the changes which took place in the firm

Banking in 18th C Ireland became a high risk sector – especially for their creditors and something had to be done to improve standards. New laws were urgently needed.

  • 1771

In 1771, the first Bankrupt Act passed in Ireland. Bankers who had committed an Act of bankruptcy might be made bankrupts, or their affairs might be settled according to the Bankers’ Act passed in 1759.
  • 1773

Forgery of a bill of exchange, or note, rendered punishable with death.
  • 1777

A Loan bank established. The Act is entitled, “An Act for incorporating the Charitable Musical Society for lending out money, interest free, to indigent and industrious tradesmen.”

Private Banks of the Late 18th C

The Bank of Ireland was established in 1782 as a national bank but despite its massive resources and virtual monopoly it did not 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

Their banknotes display a myriad of designs, denominations, signatures and placenames. As such, these early Irish banknotes provide students of notophily, economics, politics and history with a wealth of subject matter.

  • Belfast Bank (Ewing, John & Co) 1787-1796
  • Belfast (Cunningham’s Bank) 1789-1793
  • Belfast Discount Company (McIlveen, Gilbert & Co) 1793-1820
  • Cork (Falkiner, Riggs & Co) 1760-1799
  • Cork (Hewitt, Williams & Co) 1776-1787
  • Cork (Lawton, Hugh & Co) 1750-1760
  • Cork (Pike, Ebenezer & Co) 1770-1785
  • Cork (Pike, Richard & Co) 1796-1800
  • Cork (Pike, Samuel & Co) 1785-1796
  • Cork (Roberts, Sir Thomas & Co) 1786-1815
  • Cork (Roche, Philip & Co) c. 1797
  • Cork (Roche, Stephen & Co) 1799-1820
  • Dublin (Beresford’s Bank)
  • Belfast Bank (Hamilton, John & Co) 1796-97
  • Killarney (Murphy, William) 1797-
  • 1799

By the Act of 1799, banks within the City of Dublin were forbidden to issue notes for less than 5 guineas (£5 and 5 shillings). Banks outside this boundary were not subject to this restriction and, consequently, many new entrants to the banking sector chose rural Dublin villages outside of the canals to locate their businesses.

  • Athy (Mansergh & Co) 1800-
  • Borris-in-Ossory Bank (partners unknown) 1800-
  • Carnew (Blaney & Co) 1800-1803
  • Carlow Bank (MaCartney, Henry & Co) ?-1813
  • Castlebar (Carr & Co) 1801
  • Birr (Bernard, Thomas & Co) 1801-1812
  • Callan (Hearn, Michael) 1801-1807
  • Carlow (Bennett, John & Co) 1803-
  • Charleville (Evans, Eyre & Co) 1803-1805
  • Charleville & Limerick (Bruce, George Evans & Co) 1805-1820
  • Clonmel (Watson, Solomon & Co) 1800-1809
  • Cork (Cotter & Kellett’s Bank) 1799-1809
  • Cork (Leslie, Charles & Co) 1819-1826
  • Cork (Morris, Abraham & Co) 1812-1815
  • Cork (Newenham, George & Co) 1800-1824
  • Cork (Pike, Joseph & Co) 1800-1826
  • Cork (Roberts, Sir Walter & Co) 1815-1819
  • Enniscorthy (Woodcock’s Bank) 1799-18??
    • Early Irish Banknotes: Nine shillings
  • Fermoy (Anderson, John & Co) 1800-1816
  • Killarney (Deanagh Mills) 1801-
  • Kingscourt (Bank of Kings Court) 1800-
    • Early Irish Banknotes: Bank of Kings Court, Three Guineas
  • Malahide Silver Bank (Talbot & Co) 1803-1804
  • Waterford (O’Neill’s Bank) 1801
    • Early Irish Banknotes: Six Shillings
  • 1800

In 1800, by an Act of Parliament (40 Geo. 111. c.22) it was provided; that all bankers who had stopped payment since April 1, 1793, or who shall stop payment, and who shall have invested their property in trustees as required by the Bankers Act shall be discharged from their debts upon obtaining a certificate; signed by two-thirds of their creditors in
number and value.
  • 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.

  • 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. 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.

  • Athy (Rawson, J.T. & Co) 1804-06
  • Aughnacloy (Falls, James) 1804
  • Ballinakill (Goss, Anthony) 1804-07
  • Ballinakill (Savage, Michael) 1804
  • Belfast Bank (Gordon, David & Co) 1808-25
  • Carrick-on-Suir (Sausse, Richard & Co) 1804-1824
  • Carrick-on-Suir (Carshore, Joseph & Co) 1806-1809
  • Cork (Moylan, Denis) c. 1813
  • Cork (Newenham, George Jnr. & Co) 1824-1825
  • Dublin (Finlay, Thomas) 180?-
  • Fermoy (Anderson & Staig) 1816-1821

It illustrates why self-regulation is even worse than no regulation, and why constant monitoring and strict financial regulation with enforceable penalties is necessary.


  • Clonmel & Waterford (Scott, Thomas & Co) 1821-31


Examples of Early Irish Banknotes

Many of Ireland’s early banks depended for their survival on the issue of banknotes.  Each denomination had its own serial numbers and every note was signed by the chief cashier.  Careful records were kept of issued and returned notes, so that duplicated serial numbers (indicating forgery) would be spotted, and lost or damaged notes could be accounted for.

In 1845, a period of financial crisis prompted new legislation to regulate the issue of notes.  Only six Irish banks were authorised to issue banknotes and this new law allowed notes in ’round pounds’ only, so banks had to withdraw (over time) any of their banknotes in guineas, fractional guineas and such oddities as 25s, 30s and 35s denominations.  The ability to print their own banknotes gave these banks a huge commercial advantage over their new and emerging 19th C rivals.

In 1920 the Banknotes (Ireland) Act ended the practice of making notes payable only at specific branches. Instead, notes could be redeemed at a bank’s head office. This meant there was no need for banks to list all of their branches on their banknotes any more – just the location of the bank’s principal offices. In line with this new legislation, most banks issued a new series of banknotes from 1920 onward.


We buy current, recent and old banknotes

We buy banknotes from all over the world. This includes Irish, British, European and all countries worldwide. We especially like older (vintage) banknotes but will gladly accept your old holiday change, or accumulations in old wallets, junk boxes and attic clearances. Please note, some countries make their banknotes obsolete every 10 years or so, and these banknotes are no longer legal tender for foreign exchange purposes, e.g. Canada and Switzerland change their banknotes regularly to prevent counterfeiting and tax evasion.

sell, buy, value, evaluate, appraise, old, vintage, banknotes, currency, collect, collector, collectible, ireland, irish, world, foreign. The Old Currency Exchange is Ireland's leading retailer for collectible banknotes, coins and tokens. best good shop for Irish coins and banknotes, Dublin, Ireland


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2 thoughts on “Early Irish Banknotes

  1. i want to change old bank notes and coins , as i never had a passport , i cant do it at central bank , im irish , i work at the guarda barricks , im living in mayo ,i have a social wlefare card with my picture on it how can i exchange them


    • You do not need a passport – a drivers licence or social welfare photo ID should suffice.
      Just go to the Central bank in Dublin and ask them to lodge the money into your bank a/c if the total is more than €100.
      If the total is less than €100, they will exchange your notes and coins for immediate cash.
      The new rules were introduced to reduce money laundering, so it doesn’t really affect most people.
      The staff at the Central Bank are really nice and they usually go out of their way to be helpful, so don’t worry.
      Bring along your Garda ID if you feel it might help but I’m confident it will be a painless process.

      Alternatively, you could bring your cash to a dealer.
      If your banknotes are in ‘uncirculated’ condition (look like they are new), a dealer will pay more than their face value.
      If you scan them and attach to an email, I will let you know if you should go to a dealer.
      You can email me at old.currency.exchange.gmail.com


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