One pound note discovered in prayer book uncovers new information about town’s history of banking

A drawing of St Neots Market Square in 1824

A drawing of St Neots Market Square in 1824 - Credit: Archant

A one pound note that dates back to the 19th century and reveals an important part of the history of St Neots has been discovered inside an old prayer book.

The old one pound note

The old one pound note - Credit: Archant

The rare £1 note, which is dated 1824, was issued by the St Neots Bank, which was established in 1807 by businessmen George Gorham, Francis Rix and John Inkersole. It was in the possession of Anne Booth who found it in a prayer book in an old writing desk belonging to her great-aunt, Mary Blowfield, and grandmother, Audrey Booth, whose parents owned properties and a pawn shop in Enfield, north London. It is believe the note was used in payment for a property. The family donated the item to the St Neots Museum.

Museum curator, Liz Davies, said provincial banks sprang up across the country in the Georgian period to meet demand for more cash and investment in business.

“They probably had their bank premises at 16 Market Square [currently the Hong Kong restaurant]. Sadly, they went bankrupt in about 1824 when it was said that poor investment of the bank’s funds led to its collapse.”

Mrs Davies says the one pound note is currently on display at the museum and it represents an interesting piece of the town’s history.

She said: “Unfortunately, the note has very little value due to its poor condition. It is one of only a few now known to exist and sadly is in very poor condition, it must have been well used. We are delighted to be able to acquire it as it is from an important period of change in the town’s history.”

Mrs Davies said it was around this period that many of the buildings around the Market Square were given new Georgian brick frontages to reflect the prosperity that existed for some. The style was for large windows, which was made possible by the new process for making glass.

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“New industries, such as paper making, began at the old flour mill site on the road to Little Paxton and existing businesses such as the existing brewery on the old St Neots Priory site expanded and thrived.”

According to the 1831 census, St Neots had a population of about 2,600. Social change was being driven by revolution in farming and manufacturing, alongside improvements in transport. Canals were linking the rivers and waterways and roads were being remade allowing goods to be moved around the country much more easily.

People in St Neots and other towns across the country rejected the Parish Vestry, which had run the town since Tudor times and obtained an Act of Parliament in 1822 to appoint a new town council, which had new powers to collect rates, purchase buildings, pave the streets and put up street lights.

St Neots Museum was opened in 1995, in what was the old court – a former police station and law court building in New Street

The museum presents the history of the market town, from prehistoric times onwards and includes the original early 20th century gaol cells where prisoners were detained.

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