Saturday, June 19, 2010

Question from Colleen - Pre-Elizabethan banking system

I'm looking for specifics on the banking system (if there was one) in pre-Elizabethan England. Namely, did rich people and nobility keep their money in banks or stored within vaults (or other storage methods) inside their homes? Did they keep it in gold form, or did they invest it in valuable items such as jewelry? I haven't been able to find much information on this so any help is appreciated!!


  1. When Kathryn Howard’s relatives were put in the Tower for not having disclosed her steamy past, their houses and goods were confiscated. She had been brought up by her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, at Norfolk House in Lambeth (NOT Lambeth Palace!!) where Sir Thomas Wriothesley, taking an inventory of the old lady’s stuff, found she had hidden away huge amounts of money with a buying power of millions of pounds today, as well as gold plate and jewellery. Francis Dereham had also left his savings of £100, another sizeable sum, in Kathryn’s care when he went to Ireland.

    Wriothesley wrote to Henry VIII to say they were trying to get the old woman to tell them where she kept her money, so the bulk of her wealth was expected to be in coinage, (gold and silver, but no notes at this stage), which turned out to be the case. I doubt that they would invest in jewellery etc as people do today - that was to be worn and flaunted rather than put aside as a future asset.

    Presumably, money and valuables were kept in well-locked stout wooden chests, or coffers. The Duchess's money, etc was taken across the Thames to Westminster Palace for safe keeping, and Wriothesley ‘would sleep better’ if someone else would take responsibility for it.
    You can find the details of the Duchess and her money in
    ‘Letters & Papers Foreign and Domestic’ for December 1541, available at British History Online.

    No banks at this stage. You might find this helpful:

  2. I think the Greshams were involved in early proto-banking systems regarding transferring money to the continent and substantial loans?


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