From the sale catalogue for the Membland Estate of Edward Charles Baring, later Lord Revelstoke, from 1895. Barings Brothers Bank collapsed in November 1890 and was saved by the Bank of England and a consortuim of city banks, most notably Rothschilds. The quid pro was that Revelstoke and Henry Bingham Mildmay must offer up their estates to the Bank of England. Membland was eventually sold to a shipbuilder from Hartlepool. The estate was broken up and much of it was sold to the existing tenents. Membland Hall itself and all its memories were literally blown up in 1928. The neighbouring estate of Flete was leased but not sold and now remains in the Mildmay family to this day.
MOST PEOPLE will be aware of the collapse of Barings Bank in 1995 – an event that sent a shudder around the financial world. The name of Nick Leeson will always be associated with the abrupt end of the world’s oldest merchant bank. He was able to do this by reckless and unsupervised speculation in “derivatives” in Singapore. When he could no longer hide his activities he had exposed the Bank to liabilities of close to £1 billion, from which it was unable to recover, allowing Dutch Bank ING to acquire the remains for £1. The Bank that during the 19th century held the world in its hands and the assets of royalty in its vaults was gone.
Less widely known – forgotten perhaps except by financial historians – is the fact that 1995 was the second collapse of Baring Brothers Bank, the first being almost 100 years earlier in November 1890. The Bank had again involved itself in reckless and unsupervised speculation, but this time in South America, and not by an employee but by its senior partners, and the sum involved in today’s terms was also £1 billion!
During the research of this earlier failure as a piece of local history – the 1890 crash caused the loss of two of the grandest estates in Devonshire - a much wider story started to emerge of the power and social ambition of these great merchants and bankers of the Victorian era and their transformation from immigrant wool traders to society’s elite and the most influential politicians of their time. What contributed to the geometric growth of this banking dynasty – where did the money really come from – and where did it go? The answers to those questions will be found in Barings Bank, William Bingham and the Rise of the American Nation
Same Old Game! starts and effectively finishes in Devon, England, but travels the world in between against a backdrop of 130 years of world history and events from the American Revolutionary War to the dawn of the twentieth century. It features the ambitions of four very different families each with their own remarkable history, and culminates in the rivalry of two sisters who were to marry the two cousins that had taken control of the most influential bank of its time. Their ambition should have completed the social climb started by Johann Baring in Bremen, Germany 150 years before, moving seamlessly from trade through politics to aristocracy and then to royalty – but it all went disastrously wrong - just as the summit was in sight!
The story follows two distinct strands and opens in the offices of the Bank of England in early November 1890 and very uncomfortable discussion between Edward Charles Baring (Lord Revelstoke) and the Governor of the Bank of England, William Lidderdale.
But it also the story of two sisters, Louisa Emily and Georgiana Bulteel, used to living in style at Flete House in Devon, but whose circumstances changed on the mysterious death of their father, John Crocker Bulteel and the disappearance of the family wealth.
Now in straightened circumstances Lady Elizabeth Bulteel mothballed the house and took her daughters to London to bring them up in Society with the determination to find husbands able to restore them to the style to which they had all been accustomed.
Not only did the sisters capture the senior partners of the foremost bank in Britain, possibly the world, they persuaded them to buy back and restore their lost inheritance (the Flete and Membland estates). For more than a decade from 1876 Lord Revelstoke and Henry Bingham Mildmay turned their twin estates into a principality on the coast of south Devon. The world was at their feet and the world's elite became their guests - kings, princes, tsars and politicians were all entertained in lavish style.
But it was not to last – the rivalries and perhaps the expense in Devonshire took its toll on the management of the Bank, and in 1890 a speculation too far in Argentina brought Barings to the verge of bankruptcy – with tragic results for the key players in our drama.
Although the story revolves around Barings it became apparent that it is the story of four families whose histories had started to intertwine more than 50 years earlier. The success and subsequent failure of the Bank is about all four families – a fact that is not apparent in the official history of Barings Bank.
The four families, of course, are Baring, Bingham, Mildmay and Bulteel. The book examines the history of each family to the point where they become emeshed with the Barings, and how they fared thereafter.
The family stories run in parallel with the unfolding events in South America that are destined to bring the most famous bank in the world to its knees.
"SAME OLD GAME!"
Old Lady of Threadneedle Street "YOU'VE GOT YOURSELVES IN A NICE MESS WITH YOUR PRECIOUS SPECULATION! WELL - I 'LL HELP YOU OUT OF IT, FOR THIS ONCE!!"
A cartoon by John Tenniel published by Punch on Saturday November 8th 1890, the same day that Lord Revelstoke met the Governor of the Bank of England, William Lidderdale to discuss Barings' plight. The reality of Barings dire circumstances were known to very few people when Tenniel drew this cartoon and Punch published it. They were very well informed................
I have explored the mystery of the the source and the intriguing timing for this Punch cartoon, and "Mr Punch and the Crisis of 1890", a chapter from "Same Old Game" appears on the next web page, "............and Mr Punch"
I have had a number of enquiries about the progress of "Same Old Game!", which is very encouraging. I am working on the manuscript and hope to get it completed soon. It willed be published on Amazon in paperback and as an e-book for Kindle. In the meantime "Mr Punch and the Baring Crisis" follows!