Diaries of Bonamy Dobree 1857-61

On 11 November 1858, the Court of Director’s minutes record that ‘…Bonamy Dobree Esq. was chosen to be recommended to the Court of Proprietors to be elected Governor for the year ensuing…’

Bonamy Dobree (1794-1863) was a merchant and banker in the City of London. He served as the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor from 1857 to 1859 and Governor from 1859 to 1861.

Dobree is listed on the 'Legacies of British Slave-ownership’ database as having received compensation under the Slave Compensation Act 1837.

The diaries covering his years as Deputy Governor and Governor, offer a fascinating insight into the day to day work, responsibilities and challenges which the Bank faced in the mid-19th century. As well as personal information such as his times of arrival and departure and visits to Guy’s Hospital, Dobree includes important statistics, such as brief daily accounts of the Issue Department and the Banking Department. For all but a few diary entries, Dobree records the figures for the bullion and notes in the Issue Department, and the following areas in the Banking Department; other public deposits, bankers, total deposits, discounts, (London and Country), advances, total securities and reserve. Dobree’s inclusion of such information shows their importance to his work at the Bank. A more detailed set of the Bank's accounts can be found in the Daily Accounts Books.

Among the more significant diary entries are where Dobree records events leading up to the financial crisis at the end of 1857. These illustrate the pressure placed on the Bank of England by David Barclay Chapman of Overend Gurney, the successor to Samuel Gurney in 1857. For much of that October the Governor was absent, which meant Dobree, as Deputy Governor, was left to handle the fragile situation that was emerging in the City.

Dobree records a visit by the Queen of the Netherlands and Sir Benjamin Hull on 17 August 1857.  Other entries refer to international events, such as on 8 July 1859 when Dobree writes, ‘Telegram announcing an armistice between France and Austria’ in a probable reference to the Second War of Italian Unification.

Until the election of the longest serving Governor, Montagu Norman in 1920, the position of the Governor was held for two years. As a consequence, blank pages can be found in Dobree’s diaries as he does not begin recording until the 14 April 1857, when he became Deputy Governor, concluding on 9 April 1861, when his time as Governor ended.

This page was last updated 31 January 2023