Sir John Houblon was the first Governor of the Bank of England; he was appointed to this position in July 1694. In 1696 he was re-elected by a General Court of Proprietors and continued in office until July 1697.
John Houblon was born on 13 March 1632 and was strictly raised in the Protestant faith and in the family business. An older brother, also called James, together with their father are frequently mentioned in the diaries of Samuel Pepys together with increasing references to another brother who, it seems probable, was the young John. Most of the interaction between Pepys and the Houblons concerned shipping and it was commonplace for Pepys to hire the ships that were clearly owned by the family. But the relationship extended beyond business transactions, the diaries recording many social occasions; when Pepys was imprisoned in the Tower, in 1679, on suspicion of being a Papist, it was the Houblons who bailed him out.
John Houblon married Marie, the daughter of Isaac Jurin, a Flemish refugee and during their lives together raised five sons and six daughters. Only two sons, John and Samuel, survived their father. John acquired the lease on a house in Threadneedle Street, the site of the present Bank, in 1671. His fame as a merchant, the fair and responsible way in which he conducted his business and his public spiritedness ensured that, with time, his standing in the London community grew. He became the Sheriff of London between 1689-90 and was Alderman from 1689 until 1712. He was knighted in 1689 and served as the Master of the Grocers’ Company in 1690-91 and as a Commissioner of the Admiralty between 1693 and 1699. Sir John became Lord Mayor of London in 1695 and was elected the member of Bodmin in three Parliaments. So it was then, that when finally the Bill for the foundation of a national Bank was approved in Parliament that the Houblons, and Sir John in particular, were among those merchants both investing monies and being instrumental in creating the managing structure. Three brothers, Sir John, Sir James and Abraham were there at the very start; James and Abraham as Directors and John as Governor taking up this position on Tuesday, 10 July 1694. By the terms of the Charter he held the position until 25 March 1696 when he was re-elected by a General Court of Proprietors and continued in office until July 1697.
Sir John died on 10 January 1712 and was buried in the church of St Christopher-le-Stocks.
The house in Threadneedle Street
In December 1694 the Bank, originally occupying Mercers’ Hall, paid £5,500 for an eleven year lease on Grocers’ Hall where it eventually remained until 1733. On the failure to negotiate a renewal of the lease it was agreed to “build a new public office upon the Bank’s estate in Threadneedle Street”; the original site of Sir John Houblon’s house and gardens.
After the death of Lady Houblon in 1732 the site was to become the basis for Sampson to begin the development of the present Bank of England building in Threadneedle Street. Subsequently, the church of St Christpher-le-Stocks and the graveyard were to disappear beneath the ever-increasing requirements of the Bank. Now, little remains but the records of how it once was.