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Barclays Bank

Barclays Bank, High Street, Leighton BuzzardLocation
High Street, Leighton Buzzard

The history of the current Barclays Bank building has its foundations in 1812 when five of the town's Quakers, founded the Leighton Buzzard Bank. They were Peter Bassett, John Grant, William Exton, Joseph Sharples and John Dollin Bassett.

In 1820 the partnership was fomalised by a deed of Articles of Partnership. The partners eventually owned a number of branches throughout Bedfordshire and the bank at Leighton traded as Bassett, Grant & Co.

Barclays Bank, High Street, Leighton BuzzardBy the mid 1820s the partnership had been reduced to just John Dollin Bassett and John Grant, and the bank then traded as Bassett & Grant. The introduction of John Dollin Bassett's sons, Peter John Bassett and later Francis Bassett into the partnership led to the name changing to Bassett Grant & Bassett and then to Bassett Grant Bassett & Co. After the death of John Grant and then subsequently his widow in 1853, the Grant family relinquished their rights to running the bank.

By 1854, Theodore Harris (a brother-in-law to Francis Bassett) was admitted as a partner and the bank's name changed once again, this time to Bassett Son & Harris. In 1864 Richard Littleboy was added as a partner, and he ran the Newport Pagnell branch.

In 1866 the bank was completely re-built, and this is the building which we see today. The new building was designed by Alfred Waterhouse (later in his career he was responsible for the Town Hall in Manchester, Law Courts in The Strand, and the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London). Architectural illustrations of the new bank building and an article appeared in the 21st December 1866 edition of the journal "The Building News" (see below). The short article reads as follows:

Messrs. Bassett and Co.'s New Bank, Leighton Buzzard.

Our illustration this week is of a building at Leighton Buzzard on the eve of completion. It consists of a banking room 35ft. by 24ft. approached through a vestibule and having at its rear a recess 20ft. wide leading to a large partner's room, a private room, and a staircase descending to safes for papers &c. The principal safe (on the bank floor) is enclosed with riveted wrought-iron plates 3/8in. thick at the sides, ends, and top, the bottom being 1/4in. ribbed plate. From the passage at the side of the building entrance is obtained to a commodius dwelling house above the bank. The front is of Ancaster stone. The carving is by Mr. Earp, the grotesque figures terminating the labels over the ground-floor windows being especially vigorous in treatment. Mr. Kimberley, of Danbury, is the general contractor. The bank fittings are being executed by Messrs. Smee and Son, of Finsbury, in oak, mahogany, and ebony, from the designs of the architect, Mr. Waterhouse.


Architecural drawings of the new bank building of 1866
Architecural drawings of the new bank building of 1866


In 1871 Frederick Bassett (one of Francis's sons) was introduced as a partner and three years later John Tindall also became a partner. John Tindall was related to Francis Bassett via his daughter Katherine's marriage to Robert Tindall. In 1895 Richard Littleboy died and at this point two of Theodore Harris's sons were appointed as partners (namely Tindall Harris and Henry Edward Harris).

In 1896 the bank amalgamated with Barclays and other Quaker banks forming Barclays & Company. The Bassett family were Local Directors of the bank and Francis Bassett was a National Director.

The families interests in the bank continued well into the 20th century.


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