Friday, 14 August 2015

A run on the bank in Beaufort

This week's Sepia Saturday picture is a prompt for the topic of banking.


There are several bankers in my family tree. One of them is my great great grandfather Edward Walter Hughes (1854-1922).


E. W. Hughes from Hudson, Helen Lesley Cherry stones : adventures in genealogy of Taylor, Hutcheson, Hawkins of Scotland, Plaisted, Green, Hughes of England and Wales ... who immigrated to Australia between 1822 and 1850. H.L. Hudson, [Berwick] Vic, 1985.page 81.


Edward Hughes was manager of the Bank of Victoria at Beaufort, Victoria, 50 km from Ballarat. In 1883 when he married at the age of 29, Hughes was working with the Bank of Victoria, though possibly not, so far as I know, at its Beaufort branch. In 1906 he was manager of the Beaufort branch when his daughter Beatrix, my great grandmother, married. His son Vyvyan was born in Beaufort in 1888 but his son Reginald was born in Essendon, Melbourne, in 1886, so I assume Edward Hughes moved to Beaufort about 1887. He retired from his job of bank manager in Beaufort in 1919 due to ill health.

Bank of Victoria, Beaufort, 1890s - from Museum Victoria Reg. No: MM 001094


In mid-April 1893, while Hughes was manager at Beaufort, there was a run on the bank. The branch at Beaufort ran out of bullion and Mr Hughes travelled to Ballarat by the 2 p.m. train for more gold.

A DEMAND FOR GOLD. (1893, April 14). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article193438039

THE BENDIGO ADVERTISER. (1893, April 15). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88966637
When I think of a bank run I think of the scene from the film  of Mary Poppins when Michael wants to keep his tuppence to feed the birds.

There was a report that the bank declined to take deposits from some of their customers who had withdrawn their funds at the time of the run.

The Portland Guardian (1893, April 19). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65442835

The Beaufort depositors in the Bank of Victoria were right to be wary .  On 28 January 1893 the Federal Bank of Australia in Melbourne had run out of cash and closed. On 4 April the Commercial Bank of Australia, then one of Australia's largest, suspended operations. Twelve other banks  followed in quick succession and depositors struggled to retrieve their savings.

On Sunday 30 April the Victorian Cabinet met and in an attempt to manage the financial crisis, decided to close all banks for the following week.

The Oxford Companion to Australian History summarises the crisis:
The drying up of British capital inflow after the Baring crisis of 1890 spelt the end of the over-extended financial system. As asset prices fell and borrowers defaulted, the lending institutions came under pressure.The fringe financiers fell first. Eventually, the banks too began to experience financial losses, falling share prices, and panicking depositors. Thirteen of Australia's 22 banks closed their doors in 1893. All but two reopened within the year. However, all of the survivors had been forced to reconstruct.(page 58)

On 1 May 1893 the Bank of Victoria and other Victorian banks closed their doors for a week.



THE FINANCIAL CRISIS. (1893, May 2). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved  from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article193419212

The Bank of Victoria re-opened at 2.30 on Wednesday 3 May. (SITUATION IN MELBOURNE. (1893, May 4). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article193417046)

On 12 May the shareholders and depositors of the Bank of Victoria approved a scheme of reconstruction. (THE BANK OF VICTORIA. (1893, May 13). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 15. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article193419451 LARGE MEETING OF DEPOSITORS. (1893, May 13). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 15. Retrieved  from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article193419452)


E. W. Hughes retired in 1919 aged 65. He died in 1922 in Melbourne.

What People are Saying and Doing. (1919, November 13). Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 - 1939), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146472785
I had trouble identifying the building of the former Beaufort Bank of Victoria. In the twentieth century the building, in Havelock Street, was converted to a Masonic Hall. A parapet was added incorporating the Masonic device of a square and set of compasses.  The building has since been subdivided into three flats and sold.

16 Havelock Street Beaufort from Google street view as at February 2010


The Bank of Victoria merged with the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney in 1927. The CBC merged with the National Australia Bank in 1982.


Sources
  • Hudson, Helen Lesley Cherry stones : adventures in genealogy of Taylor, Hutcheson, Hawkins of Scotland, Plaisted, Green, Hughes of England and Wales ... who immigrated to Australia between 1822 and 1850. H.L. Hudson, [Berwick] Vic, 1985.
  • Foster, S. G. (Stephen Glynn), 1948-, Aplin, G. J. (Graeme John) and McKernan, Michael, 1945- Australians, events and places. Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates, Broadway, N.S.W, 1987.  
  • Davison, Graeme, 1940-, Macintyre, Stuart, 1947- and Hirst, J. B. (John Bradley), 1942- The Oxford companion to Australian history. Oxford University Press, Melbourne ; Oxford, 1999. 
  • Wikipedia contributors, "Australian banking crisis of 1893," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_banking_crisis_of_1893 (accessed August 14, 2015). 
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