Bonamy Dobree (1794-1863) served as the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor from 1857 to 1859 and Governor from 1859 to 1861. The son of Samuel Dobree, the Head of the House of Dobree and Sons, Bonamy Dobree was a successful merchant in the City during the nineteenth century, but it is his time as the Governor of the Bank of England for which he is perhaps more widely recognised. 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.
On the 4 April 1861, the positive contribution of Dobree was recognised in the Court minutes, which state, ‘That the thanks of this court be given to the Governor Bonamy Dobree, Esq. for his upright and able conduct in the chair, and for his uniform urbanity to the Directors in general in the discharge of his arduous duties.’
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.