26th February 1844

Guernsey’s first banker dies

Thomas Priaulx was born in 1762 and on 26 February 1844, aged 82. We can thank him for bringing Guernsey much of its wealth – for he set up the first bank on the island. If his name is familiar, that’s probably because his nephew, Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx, later went on to establish the Priaulx Library.

From privateering to banking

Thomas owned a small fleet of merchant vessels. These allowed him to carry on the family privateering business, along with his brother. They worked together from a house on Cornet Street.

Privateering was effectively acting as an army for hire. A privateer would maintain an armed boat and accept commissions from governments to patrol certain areas. Sometimes they would be tasked with warding off pirates so that a nation’s merchant shipping was kept safe, and sometimes they’d be asked to go to war, effectively bolstering the nation’s retained navy. It was a cost-effective means of defence for the country in question and a profitable business for the privateer.

Indeed, the privateering business was successful enough that it financed the founding of Priaulx, Le Marchant, Rougier & Co. Becoming Guernsey’s first bank, it was established with capital of £40,000. Its official name was a bit of a mouthful, but it was also known as the much more manageable Guernsey Banking Company. Once other banks set up rival businesses on the island, it became the Guernsey Old Bank.

Expansion and amalgamation

Over time, the Guernsey Old Bank moved to larger premises at 19 High Street, St Peter Port. It opened branches in St Pierre du Bois, St Sampson and Alderney, and by 1827 was issuing its own bank notes.

It was acquired by the National Provincial and Union Bank of England in 1924. This became National Westminster Bank in 1970 following its 1968 merger with Westminster Bank. In March 2000, Nat West was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Thus, a direct link runs from Guernsey’s very first bank to the multinational banking organisation that is RBS today.


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Other events that occured in February

Mail ship wrecked on Black Rock 1st
Oil rig stranded at Grandes Rocques
Birth of Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann 2nd
Death of Sir Charles Hayward 3rd
St Martin’s parish church consecrated 4th
Guernsey suffers its worst storm in 35 years 5th
Guernsey watchmaker helps Stone of Scone manhunt 6th
Guernsey Language Commission formed 7th
Queen Mary executed while wearing Guernsey stockings 8th
Guernsey gets its first postbox
Guernsey Society celebrates its 70th anniversary 9th
Guernsey’s last execution didn’t go according to plan 10th
The last issue of GUNS was distributed 11th
Alderney gets its first full-time radio station 12th
Guernsey’s last duel 13th
Specsavers’ Mary Perkins was born 14th
Blue Islands takes to the skies
Guernsey gets its own flag 15th
Birth of concrete poet Dom Sylvester Houedard 16th
HMS Guernsey launched in Aberdeen 17th
Guernsey’s first Methodist minister arrives 18th
Aurigny Air Services founded 19th
Guernsey Railway Company runs its first services 20th
The Channel Islands were cut off from the outside world 21st
St Sampson was ordained a bishop 22nd
Death of Thomas Fiott de Havilland 23rd
Murder inquiry ends with suicide 24th
Death of occupation resister Marie Ozanne 25th
Guernsey’s first banker dies 26th
Release of Reverend Harry Samuel 27th
Plans for St Sampson power station approved 28th
Second World War bomb detonated 29th