Hemel’s banknotes are in the money

hemel hempstead banknotes week 50 auction story
hemel hempstead banknotes week 50 auction story

A clutch of 13 rare black and white banknotes, produced in the 19th century when Hemel Hempstead produced its own money, sold for nearly £4000 at an auction on Friday.

One note alone – an 1855 fiver emblazoned with the words ‘Hemel-Hempsted Bank’ with its value underprinted in blue – sold for £650, in line with pre-sale estimates.

An 1855 £10 note issued by the same bank five days earlier on December 14,1855 etched £560 at the sale at specialist auctioneer Spink.

Altogether the 13 Hemel notes, sold by Jersey-based property tycoon David Kirch,75, fetched £3,790.

In Victorian times it wasn’t uncommon for local banks to issue their own currency, but the money was only ever used in the immediate vicinity.

The bank was founded in 1811 by local businessman named Harry Grover and in 1839 it was taken over by William Smith and Edmund Fearnley-Whittingstall, the great great great grandfather of TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Edmund’s handwritten signature appears in the bottom right hand corner of one of the notes.

Even though the bank went bust in 1856, two years before the Gazette began publishing, Edmund lived in style and comfort.

According to 1851 census figures his Langleybury House household included Berkhamsted-born wife Mary and no fewer than 10 live-in servants – including two ladies’ maids,a cook, a kitchen maid, two housemaids, a laundry maid, a butler,a footman and a groom.

Also living on the estate were a gardener,a gamekeeper, a needlewoman and a coachman.