Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Beau Brummell's Bank Account


Drummond's Bank, at 49 Charing Cross, was subsumed in the Royal Bank of Scotland, on January 24th 1924 but the branch is still called Drummond's Branch and, rather like another RBS branch, Child & Co, at 1 Fleet Street, still has a cachet. Drummond's oldest surviving customer is Meyer & Mortimer, tailors now in Sackville Street. M&M's founder, Jonathan Meyer, of Conduit Street, had been one of Beau Brummell's favourite tailors.

The Drummond's banking records include the period 1800-1815 (when Brummell was in his prime) and his records are there but they are, alas, just on microfiche; the paper ledger records were sacrificed to the War Effort (although what on earth use they were for that, Goodness only knows). Brummell's account was not very active in the twelve months before his flight (on 16th May 1816), so it's all there and, one day I shall give myself a window of a fortnight and transcribe the microfiches. I have a specific enquiry in hand at the moment, in relation to the records and, if I get a result, I shall post it in the blog.

The records after 1815 have been preserved only for every tenth year. However, the surprising thing is that his account remained active through 1825, and down to at least 1835. Maybe, the account was the medium through which his friends responded to his begging letters, in which he complained of having been reduced to 'bran bread' and other deprivations. Again, one day, I shall give myself the time to go through it all and find such things as the night when (and the amount for which), Brummell broke George Harley Drummond, a partner in the bank, over a game of whist in White's Club (the first and, presumably, only time, that G H Drummond played a high stakes' game).

Maybe it is a little surprising that Brummell's recent biographer, Ian Kelly, did not explore these records. Indeed, as I show in History of Men's Accessories, the records of snuff chandler Fribourg & Treyer give a very good idea about Brummell's snuff habits and also his addresses at various stages and are important social documents. However, I cannot say that I am disappointed because, just as Ian Kelly was taking the ferry to Calais to start his researches, I had started my own. Alas! for me that he got into print before I had got very far at all and it all sits in a drawer, sine die. There are, though, outstanding points and many intrigues, I am sure, await discovery and discovering them one fine day will be something to look forward to.

The picture is of goldsmith Andrew Drummond, founder of Drummond's Bank in 1712.

9 comments:

  1. I've heard of Drummond's but only vaguely, I love looking back at old accounts and ledgers.
    I'm transcribing just now, just an interview, Lordy, I can't think of anything I despise more, is there not a more modern way of doing this yet? A few words, stop, type - ad infinitum.

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  2. B&P - Transcribing from microfiche is the worst of all. The handwriting on old documents is often difficult enough to construe but rendered into microfiche, it is even worst. Moreover, microfiche can't (apparently) be copied and so you have to go to the archives and sit there staring through a viewer.
    NJS

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  3. Sorry - "worse"!
    NJS

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  4. There is no substitute for the real back-breaking research, and if you do this, Nicholas, you will have something new, just because you bothered when others did not. I photographed 40 years of original ledgers in the archives of Coutts' Bank (another RBS branch), which were fortunately NOT consigned to the war effort. Then used a magnifying glass to read the writing in the 5x7 prints. I also transcribed pages of tailoring accounts as you know. This tedious work makes all the difference if you do it!

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  5. Charles - Yes, this type of work is both mechanical and tedious to carry out and very worthwhile when it is done; even exhilerating when one is lucky enough to strike a rich seam.
    NJS

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  6. Not whining exactly - just reinforcing the importance of taking these sorts of tasks on to yourself. Very satisfying when done, unless you discover that you are duplicating something that has already been done!

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  7. I think I'll stick to wining! Charles - you certainly have a point there - re-inventing the wheel the hard way!
    NJS

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