Friday, 22 July 2016

Henry Crofts Sercombe

Henry Crofts Sercombe, an Exeter banking survivor

Thanks to Barbara we have  more information .Henry Crofts Sercombe, whose death was reported on 30 November 1908 at the age of 64, leaving his widowed second wife and two sons aged 10 and 9, was from a family with an unusual name and geographical origin: Daniel Morgan (a Sercombe descendant) has found that in 1881 there were only about 500 Sercombes out of a British population of some 30 million and 70 per cent of them lived or were born in Devon. In 1851 most of these were in Exeter, where Henry was born in 1844, his father John being at that stage a grocer and tea dealer in Paris Street, but becoming by stages a shopkeeper (1850), assistant grocer (1851) and accountant (1871), a rise in fortunes mirroring that of his son. Henry progressed from scholar (1851) to banker’s clerk (1861, 1871 and 1881), bank cashier (1890) and finally chief clerk of Sanders, Snow & Co. (the Exeter Bank). 

We do not yet know if he was the Vlielands’ banker, but Charles James Vlieland was his doctor and clearly friend, and his obituaries in the Western Times show a loved and highly respected ‘Exonian’.

Sanders, Snow & Co. was a private bank in Bank House in Cathedral Yard, established on 9 July 1769 as Duntze & Co., the first bank in Exeter, issuing their own notes after 1791. John Duntze, one of the founding partners, was originally from Bremen, MP for Tiverton and a leading woollen merchant, a Unitarian who was buried in the Exeter Dissenters’ graveyard and who lived first in the Merchants House and later in Rockbeare House, which William Hoskins said was ‘straight out of Jane Austen’. The second founding partner was William Mackworth Praed, a London banker who designed and built the bank building and the Assembly Rooms (now the Royal Clarence Hotel) next door. The third founding partner was Joseph Sanders, a Quaker, whose family were partners until 1901, and the fourth Daniel Hamilton. The bank became Sanders & Hamilton on Duntze’s death in 1789 and then Sanders & Co. until 1901. Despite two cases of forgery of its notes – in 1818, when Samuel Holmyard was hanged at the Magdalen Road gallows for printing and 1829 when William Notley was hanged for passing them – the bank prospered during Sercombe’s almost 50-year employment, and opened new branches in the 1890s.

Sercombe then survived a major upheaval in the Exeter bank community. In February 1901 the city’s last two private banks, the Exeter Bank and Milford, Snow & Co. (the City Bank in Broadgate) merged to form Sanders, Snow & Co. In 1902, that bank was acquired by Prescott, Dimsdale, Cave, Tugwell & Co. (after 1903, Prescott’s Bank) and in 1905 moved premises to the old City Bank Buildings: Sercombe’s address was at Broadgate at this time, so he must have been chief clerk of the merged bank after 1901. When the final amalgamation took place later in 1903, with the wealthy City of London Union of London & Smith’s Bank, Sercombe was commended as being the person they wished to lead the new bank.

Thanks are due to Daniel Morgan, the genealogist of the Sercombe family, to William Hoskins, A New Survey of England: Devon (Collins, 1954), and to David Cornforth of Exeter Memories for some of the information in this post

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