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No. 1, FLEET STREET.
The history of the Banking-house of Messrs. Child and Co. is interesting on account of its being universally acknowledged to be the first Banking-house in succession to the goldsmith's trade from which it sprung, and from the business having been carried on in the same premises from those very early times.
Friends and customers of the Bank are frequently wont to inquire of members of the house the date of the commencement of the Banking-house. The reply they usually receive to such a question is, “It is difficult to say: we had the cash accounts of Oliver Cromwell*, Nell Gwyn, and that of her executors at her decease in 1687, also the account of King William the Third and his Queen, Mary, which we can prove by our ledgers ; but how long we were established before that time we can't exactly say."
This is simply because no one has had either the time or inclination to search the archives and discover the real truth. And these interesting archives would never have seen the light but for the following circumstance.
* The ledger which contained this account is missing.
There is an old proverb that “it is an ill wind that blows nobody good.” This may be considered as being appropriate with regard to the present condition of the much-cherished and over-adored Temple Bar, one of the postern gates of the City of London.
It is now a matter of history that at the end of the month of July or the beginning of that of August, 1874, the keystone of the arch was observed by some architect to have dropped, and Temple Bar was out of the perpendicular. This caused, as might be expected, a great outcry from all the daily newspapers, who clamoured for the instant removal of Temple Bar. The City authorities were duly informed of its dangerous and critical condition, and they at once sent up a gang of workpeople to shore up and put the dilapidated old structure upon crutches, to prevent any further subsidence of the structure.
The immediate cause of the disaster may be attributed to the fact of the foundations being set in alluvial deposits resting upon the London clay; and after the houses which supported it on the north side of Fleet Street were removed to make way for the much-talked about New Courts of Justice, a very deep excavation was made, close to the Bar, into the London clay to allow for the foundations of a lofty tower being built. This operation exposed the foundation of Temple Bar. It fortunately so happened that there had not been much rain, or it would have percolated the surface soil, and so reached the clay, which it could not have penetrated; thus it would have formed a sort of slide upon which poor old Temple Bar would have been gracefully let down, and the building might have passed into the Law Courts area precisely in the same manner that a ship is launched.
Had there been rain in any quantities, nothing could have prevented this catastrophe, which would have been started by the great vibration caused by the vehicles constantly passing beneath.
So much has been written, both true and false, good and indifferent, relative to the old arch, that I shall not enlarge further
it than to mention that the present Temple Bar was erected in 1670, from designs by Sir Christopher Wren. Originally only posts, rails, and a chain marked the boundary of the liberty of the City westwards, as did Holborn, Smithfield, and Whitechapel Bars in other directions. Afterwards a house of timber was erected across the street, with a narrow gateway, and an entry on the south side of it under the house. -STRYPE, Book iii. p. 278.
This old structure being considered dangerous, having already stood some hundred years or more, was pulled down after the great fire in 1666. It must have been about this time that Messrs. Blanchard and Child built a new front to their house.
To return to the existing Bar, after the crack and slip had taken place, Messrs. Child and Co., the tenants of the rooms over the gateway, which are rented of the Chamber of London at the rental of £20 per annum, commenced to move all their old ledgers and other books connected with the Bank, amounting to many tons in weight, in order to relieve the arch from an extra burden.
It has always been felt that a history of Messrs. Child and Co.'s Bank would be a very interesting and even in