PART I: 1850 - 1900
The British Linen Co. (later to be known as The British Linen Bank) had taken the lead in the trend of 'branch-banking' and had selected Peebles for one of its twenty-one branches that it had established throughout Scotland by 1830. Peebles, therefore, got its first bank in 1825 when the British Linen Co. opened its branch at Glencorse House in the Northgate. The first agent was John Welsh, WS, of Mossfennan, and he was succeeded by the partners of Stuart & Blackwood, WS, in 1843 which later became Blackwood & Smith, this link being maintained for 120 years. The bank transferred to new premises at 39 High Street in 1887 and remained there until 1965, when it was amalgamated with the Bank of Scotland. 8
The second branch-bank in the town was established by Walter Thorburn when he became the local agent for the City of Glasgow Bank in 1840, relinquishing this in 1857 when he became the agent for the Bank of Scotland. The City of Glasgow Bank was started up in 1839 but failed in 1878, and this had serious consequences for a number of stockholders in Peebles. A local public meeting was called and a committee appointed to raise subscriptions in aid of a fund for the relief of those affected by this calamity. 9
The third bank to open up in 1846 was a new type of local savings bank which accepted small deposits and this was an improved facility for local tradesmen and townspeople. Robert Stirling was the Treasurer. It originally operated between ten and eleven o' clock each forenoon at the offices of the British Linen Bank at Glencorse House, taking deposits of not less than one shilling.
The Bank of Scotland (whose first agent was Walter Thorburn, succeeded by his son, Robert Thorburn) was set up in premises on the north side of the High Street in 1857. Ten years afterwards, the Union Bank of Scotland (later called the Commercial Bank of Scotland, before being known as The Royal Bank of Scotland) moved into premises in the centre of the High Street and subsequently removed to the west end. The first agent was John Bathgate and later, in 1881, John Buchan took over (grandfather of John Buchan, the first Lord Tweedsmuir).
These early signs of commercial activity befitted the status of a county town, but the economic roots of expansion lay in the development of its textile industry through the interest taken in Peebles by entrepreneurs from the Galashiels and Hawick woollen trade after the coming of Peebles railways. Earlier, in 1829, Mr James Dickson the founder of the well-known