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Introduction to Irish Joint Stock Banks of Note Issue
All Ireland from 1783

Twelve Banks

There follows a brief introduction to the Joint Stock banks that issued banknotes in Ireland. Nine Joint Stock Banks were in existence in Ireland when the country was partitioned into The Irish Free State and Northern Ireland in 1922. Six of these banks had the right to issue their own banknotes, by virtue of the fact of their having been founded prior to the 1845 Act.

Other joint Stock Banks were founded both before and after the 1845 Act. They either chose not to issue their own notes, or were prohibited from doing so. All of these other banks either failed or were taken over prior to 1929 by one of the surviving banks listed here.

The Belfast Banking Company restricted its operations to Northern Ireland only after the partition of Ireland in 1922, leaving five note issuing banks, which along with the other three banks became the eight Associated Banks in the Irish Free State. All of these received the right to issue banknotes under the Consolidated Banknote issue in 1929, whilst the Currency Commission, as the Issuing Authority, regulated banknote issue within the state and also issued its own series of Legal Tender Notes. It should be noted that The Bank of Ireland was by far the most powerful of the eight Associated Banks. All six of the banks which had the right to issue banknotes prior to partition continued to issue their own banknotes in Northern Ireland under the regulation of the Bank of England.

The Agricultural & Commercial Bank of Ireland 1834–1840

First proposed as the National Commercial Bank of Ireland, the Agricultural and Commercial Bank was founded by Thomas Mooney as a bank for farmers and smallholders. The bank opened its first branch in Nenagh on 1 November 1834. By 1839 it had 44 branches plus a non-branch head office in 4 College Green, Dublin. There was considerable rivalry between this bank and the National. The Agricultural issued two series of banknotes.

The bank was poorly organised, badly managed and incompetently run. It expanded too fast for its capabilities. It also opened branches in Ulster, a province already well served by strong banks which the Agricultural could not compete effectively against. However, its most critical shortcoming was its capital base. Unlike other Irish banks, one of its founding ideals had been that of an Irish bank for Ireland. Because of this it relied solely on Irish shareholders and had no English capital base to draw upon in times of crisis as did the other Irish banks. This was to prove fatal to the bank.

There was a run on the National and Agricultural banks in 1836 during a financial crisis at the time. Although the National fared well, some of the branches of the Agricultural stopped payment on its notes in November 1836 due to a lack of readily available cash. Although it had failed in liquidity, the bank was, nonetheless, solvent and it resumed payment on its notes on 23 January 1837.

Following continual difficulties in liquidity and much acrimony, the Agricultural and Commercial again suspended payment on 19 April 1840. The bank was not bailed out by the Bank of Ireland and it never resumed operations. Its debts were finally paid off by ca.1851.

Banknote issues: Old notes Pre-1929.

The Bank of Ireland 1783

The Bank of Ireland was established by Royal Charter on 10 May 1783, by a group of over 200 Irish businessmen, land owners and clergymen, to stimulate and regulate the Irish economy and to provide it with a stable banknote currency. The bank was granted the sole right of banknote issue in Ireland except for Private banks of six partners or less, and was to be banker to the government. It commenced business on 25 June 1783, and proceeded to issue banknotes. The Bank of Ireland was essentially similar to a modern Central Bank of sorts, and was founded along the lines of The Bank of England and The Bank of Scotland.

The bank’s first premises was in Mary’s Abbey, Dublin, purchased in 1784. In 1802 the bank purchased the old Irish Parliament House, College Green, Dublin, vacant since the Act of Union, and located its head office there in 1808. One of the most attractive buildings in the city of Dublin, the former parliament House has been the bank’s flagship branch ever since and was its head office for over a century.

The creation of Joint Stock banks of note issue as a result of the 1824 Act, and the subsequent erosion of the Bank of Ireland’s special privileges, leading up to their abolition with the 1845 Act, provided for the effective reduction in status of the bank to that of a Joint Stock bank. It was as a result of this levelling of the rules that the bank felt it necessary to expand into the country and compete with the other banks by establishing its own branches, the first of which was opened in March 1825, in Cork. Prior to the 1824 Act, the Bank of Ireland had largely ignored the country outside of Dublin. The bank, however, still had significance, in that its assets and prestige far exceeded that of any other bank, and its notes were considered to be as good as gold.

With Irish independence in 1921, the Bank of Ireland aspired to become the currency regulatory authority for the new Irish Free State, even though its ethos at the time would not have favoured Irish independence. Although it failed in these aspirations, the bank served as an important part of the Currency Commission’s currency distribution network.

The Bank of Ireland issued notes under the Consolidated Banknote system from 1929 to 1939, as well as its own Bank of Ireland Northern Ireland issue. The Bank of Ireland exists to the present day,and continues to issue banknotes in Northern Ireland. The bank took over both the Hibernian Bank and the National Bank.

Banknote issues: Old notes Pre-1929; Consolidated Notes 1929–1940; Northern Ireland Issue 1929–continuing.

The Belfast Banking Company 1827–1970

The Belfast Banking Co. was formed with 337 shareholders on 2 July 1827, by a merger of the then two remaining private banks in Belfast, Batt’s (The Belfast Bank, in business since 1808) and Tennant’s (The Commercial Bank). It was organised on similar lines to the Northern Banking Co. and commenced business on 1 August 1827. In 1917 its share capital was sold to the London Joint City and Midland Bank Ltd.

The Belfast Banking Co. remained mostly an “Ulster” bank, and had relatively few branches outside the Province, not opening an office in Dublin until 1892. In 1923 the bank sold to the Royal Bank of Ireland the 20 branches which it had in the newly-formed Irish Free State. Thus the bank became the only one of the Irish Joint Stock banks to operate solely in Northern Ireland. A new series of banknotes was produced in 1922 for issue in Northern Ireland only. It appears that Belfast Banking Co. notes were always printed on both sides.

In 1965 The Northern Bank was taken over by the Midland Bank, which already owned the Belfast Bank. The Belfast was then merged into the Northern in 1970.

Banknote issues: Old notes Pre-1929; Northern Ireland Issue 1929–1968.

The Hibernian Bank 1825–1958

The Hibernian Bank was founded as The Hibernian Joint Stock and Annuity Company in April 1825. It opened on 20 June 1825 with 1063 shareholders, many of them London based. Its foundation by a group of Dublin businessmen was in response to anti-Catholic discrimination by Bank of Ireland. It changed its name later to The Hibernian Bank. The bank aimed itself primarily at the Dublin business community.

Bank of Ireland opposed any attempts by The Hibernian Bank to acquire the right to issue banknotes of its own. The Hibernian issued Tokens, engraved on stamped paper, signed and dated. Although legal, these were withdrawn following their opposition by Bank of Ireland. There have been unconfirmed reports of a Hibernian banknote issue dated 1825 or 1826. This may be the banknote-like 3 Pound post bill, dated 1829.

In 1844, the Hibernian again tried unsuccessfully to obtain the right of note issue. Any further attempts to obtain the right to issue its own notes were prevented by the 1845 Act.

In 1885 the Hibernian Bank was reconstituted and the name changed to The Hibernian Bank Ltd. The Bank received the right to issue its own Banknotes in 1929, when it issued Consolidated Banknotes in the Irish Free State.

The Hibernian Bank was taken over by Bank of Ireland in 1958.

Banknote issues: Early Token issue pre-1929; Consolidated Notes 1929–1940.

The Munster & Leinster Bank Ltd 1885–1966

The bank was established on 19 September 1885, to take over the business of the failed Munster Bank, mostly by shareholders of that bank. It commenced business on 19 October 1885 in several of the premises of the former Munster Bank. Later the Munster & Leinster Bank purchased 35 out of 43 of the Munster Bank's former branches, including the Dublin and Cork premises. Because the 1845 Act forbade the creation of any new banks of note issue, the Munster and Leinster bank did not issue banknotes.

The Munster & Leinster Bank Ltd. issued its own banknotes for the first time in 1929, with the Consolidated Banknote issue. Being quite a large bank, the Munster and Leinster had a big allocation (£852,000) of Ploughman notes. Munster and Leinster Ploughman Ten Pound notes are the most common of any bank, and its £1 and £5 notes are also easily obtainable. Hosford signature £1 notes are twice as common as those of the Gubbins signature.

In 1966, The Munster & Leinster Bank merged with The Provincial Bank of Ireland and The Royal Bank of Ireland to form Allied Irish Banks.

Banknote issues: Consolidated Notes 1929–1940.

The National Bank Ltd 1835–1966

The National Bank was formed in 1834 in London by Daniel O’Connell and the Nationalist Party as The National Bank of Ireland. The deed of covenant was signed on 6 January 1835 by 249 shareholders. The first Branch opened in Carrick on Suir either on Monday 26 or Wednesday 28 January 1835 (history appears not to have recorded what the exact date was!). The Bank’s first Governor was Daniel O’Connell, a fact which earned the Bank the nickname of The Liberator’s Bank.

The bank aimed itself at farmers and at country business outside Dublin. It expanded its branch network rapidly, but refrained from moving into Ulster to any significant degree as the province was then well covered by banks. In 1856 the Bank’s name was changed to The National Bank Ltd., as it commenced business in London.

The National Bank issued its first notes in 1835. It issued Consolidated Banknotes in 1929, as well as its own Northern Ireland issue.

In 1966 the Irish Business of the Bank was taken over by a new company called The National Bank of Ireland Ltd., which was set up as a subsidiary of The Bank of Ireland Group. The National Bank was subsequently taken over by the Bank of Ireland.

Banknote issues: Old notes Pre-1929; Consolidated Notes 1929–1940; Northern Ireland Issue 1929–1964.

The Northern Bank Ltd 1824

Established as The Northern Banking Company on 1 August 1824, with 264 shareholders, it took over the business of Montgomery’s Private Bank, operating since 1809. The Northern Bank opened on 1 January 1825 in Belfast and commenced the issue of banknotes. Northern notes were always printed on both sides.

In 1867 the Bank was incorporated. It changed its name to The Northern Banking Company Ltd. on 1 September 1883. In 1888 the Bank bought the business of Ball & Co., Dublin, for £22,500, and opened an office there.

On 1 January 1929 the bank changed its name to The Northern Bank Ltd. It issued Consolidated Banknotes in 1929, as well as its own Northern Ireland issue. It continues to issue banknotes in Northern Ireland to this day.

The Northern Bank was taken over by The Midland Bank Group in 1965 and had the Belfast bank merged into it in 1970. In 1987 Midland sold the Northern Bank to National Australia Bank. After this takeover, the identity of the former Northern Bank in the Republic of Ireland was changed in name to National Irish Bank, with the Northern Bank identity remaining only in Northern Ireland.

In December 2004 Danske Bank took over Northern Bank and National Irish Bank. In 2014 the Northern Bank name was replaced by that of Danske Bank on its Northern Ireland note issue..

Banknote issues: Old notes Pre-1929; Consolidated Notes 1929–1940; Northern Ireland Issue 1929–continuing.

The Provident Bank of Ireland 1837–1840

This bank was founded in Dublin by Thomas Mooney, founder of the former Agricultural and Commercial. Despite being in Dublin, the bank was able to issue banknotes as it had fewer than 6 shareholders. It was constituted in such a way that it could draw on funds from outside of its shareholder base.

The bank was intended as a farmers’ bank and only ever had one office. It failed to raise sufficient capital for its activities and ceased operations in December 1839, with its owners being adjudicated bankrupt on 14 October 1840. It appears that the vast bulk of its banknotes were paid off by April 1841.

Banknote issues: Old notes Pre-1929.

The Provincial Bank of Ireland Ltd. 1825

Founded by Thomas Joplin and others in London in 1825 with 689 shareholders, the Provincial Bank of Ireland opened its first branch in Cork on 1 September 1825. Its primary aim was to introduce English capital into Ireland outside of the Dublin area. It was organised along the lines of the Scottish banks of the day, and imported Scottish expertise. The Provincial bank initially employed La Touche, a private bank, as its agency in Dublin. It opened an office at 60 South William St., Dublin in 1836 where it redeemed its banknotes, but did not issue or re-issue them, in accordance with the law.

The Provincial Bank commenced its initial note issue in 1825. It issued Consolidated Banknotes in 1929, as well as its own Northern Ireland issue.

In 1966 The Provincial Bank of Ireland merged with The Munster and Leinster Bank and The Royal Bank of Ireland to form Allied Irish Banks. The new bank group retained the Provincial Bank identity in Northern Ireland and continued to issue banknotes there as the Provincial Bank of Ireland until 1981 when it issued banknotes under the title of Allied Irish Banks. It changed its title to First Trust Bank in 1994, and still continues to issue its own notes under that title.

Banknote issues: Old notes Pre-1929; Consolidated Notes 1929–1940; Northern Ireland Issue 1929–continuing.

The Royal Bank of Ireland 1836–1966

The Royal Bank was founded on 1 September 1836 with 309 shareholders and commenced business in Dublin on 26 September. It took over the operations of private bankers Sir Robert Shaw, Bart & Co. which had been in existence since 1799 as Leighton, Needham & Shaw, based in Foster Place, Dublin, where the Royal established its office.
At one point, a sizeable number of Royal Bank shares were held by the Directors of The Agricultural & Commercial Bank with a view to merging the two banks, but the Agricultural & Commercial failed prior to the completion of negotiations.

The Royal Bank of Ireland sought the right to register as a bank of note issue in 1844, without success, and was precluded from doing so thereafter by the 1845 Act. It remained a Dublin bank until the 1860s, when it began to open branches further afield. In 1923, it bought the 20 branches of the Belfast Banking Company which were located in the Irish Free State.

The Royal Bank finally got the right to issue its own banknotes in 1929, as part of the Consolidated Banknote issue. Because of its small size and thus relatively small allocation (£273,000) of the total number of Ploughman notes, all denominations of Royal Bank Ploughman notes are relatively scarce. Ploughman Royal Bank One Pound notes are offered with a reasonable degree of frequency. All Stanley signature notes are scarcer than those of other signatures.

The Bank merged with The Munster & Leinster Bank and The Provincial Bank of Ireland in 1966 to form Allied Irish Banks.

Banknote issues: Consolidated Notes 1929–1941.

The Southern Bank of Ireland 1837

Founded in Cork in March 1837 by some former officials of the Agricultural and Commercial. The Southern Bank lasted less than a year, and appears to have operated on the fringe of legality. It issued one series of banknotes, but had little in the way of funds to back them.

Banknote issues: Old notes Pre-1929.

The Ulster Bank Ltd 1836

The Ulster Banking Company was founded on 22 February 1836 as a result of a meeting in Belfast to open a National Bank branch. The bank was established on 1 April 1836 with approximately 830 shareholders. It was to have started business on 1 June 1836, which is the date on its first banknotes. Final arrangements had not been completed, however, and the bank did not start to operate until 1 July 1836.

The Ulster Banking Co. opened an office in Dublin in 1862, and changed its name to The Ulster Bank Ltd. on 1 September 1883. In 1917 the bank’s share capital was bought up by the London County and Westminster Bank Ltd. The Ulster Bank continued to be a part of The National Westminster Bank Group which was taken over by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group in 2000, but retains its Ulster Bank identity in Ireland.

It issued the full range of Consolidated Banknotes in 1929, as well as its own Northern Ireland issue. The bank continues to issue banknotes in Northern Ireland.

Banknote issues: Old notes Pre-1929; Consolidated Notes 1929–1940; Northern Ireland Issue 1929–continuing.




Notes issued in Northern Ireland by the Irish banks are regulated by the Bank of England and are not part of the Euro zone currencies.

Continue to a pictorial Historical Timeline of Irish Paper Money
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Note, this page started originally as a construction page for the Old Notes, Northern Ireland, and Ploughman Notes sections. However, as it consolidates all of the note issuing banks onto a single page I decided to add it to the History section. As such, it duplicates the bank information in the aforementioned sections.



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