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British Industrial History

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Rowland Stephenson

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Rowland Stephenson (1782-1856), banker, politician and fraudster

1807 April 23rd. Married at Camden, Kent, to Mary Eliza Stephenson

1808 Birth of his son Rowland Macdonald Stephenson

1810 Birth of his son Edward John Stephenson

1812 Birth of his dau Eleanor (1812-1816)

1814 Birth of his son Robert Stephenson

1816 Birth of his son James Owen Stephenson (1816-1886)

c1819 Birth of his son Cecil Mackintosh Stephenson

1829 Addicted gambler who absconded with bank funds and fled to US to escape apprehension

1856 July 2nd. Died at Burslem, Staffs. (possibly died in Pennsylvania)


The Fraud of Rowland Stephenson.[1]

Mr. Lawson, in his "History of Banking," states that early in December, 1828, some unfavourable reports had got abroad respecting the credit of Messrs. Remington and Co., of Lombard Street, bankers, in consequence of which many customers removed their accounts from them..

To counteract these rumours and to allay all apprehensions, five of the principal bankers in London investigated the affairs of the bank, with the condition of which they were so well satisfied that each of them advanced ₤20,000 on such securities as they found the bank to possess. They further made a declaration of their entire conviction of the solvency of the house, and went so far as to induce many parties who had withdrawn their accounts to return them.

This condition of things, however, did not last long, as on December 27, 1828, it was reported by Remington and Co. that Mr. Rowland Stephenson, the active partner, had absconded with a large sum of money. He was M.P. for Leominster, and Treasurer of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, etc, etc.

The effect of this serious event was that they were obliged to suspend payment; a step that caused the utmost consternation in the City. It transpired that Mr. Stephenson had been addicted to gambling, and that his defalcations extended to £200,000. He made off with £70,000 in Exchequer bills belonging to various customers of the bank..

The mode adopted by Stephenson to deceive his partners with respect to the various deposits of Exchequer bills was simple enough. He had sealed packets with the names and addresses of the depositors and the amount of Exchequer bills endorsed thereon; so that the bankers, who investigated the affairs of the bank, concluding that the actual securities were inclosed in the envelopes, did not examine them further.

Rowland Stephenson was charged with bankruptcy and embezzlement, and a warrant was issued for the apprehension of himself and of his clerk, Lloyd, with a reward of ₤1000 for the former, and of ₤300 for the latter.

After various adventures they succeeded in getting to Clovelly, where they met with a vessel bound for Savannah.


Mr. Rowland Stephenson is the second son of the late John Stephenson, Esq., of Great Ormondstreet, Queen-square, who was the cousin of Rowland Stephenson, Esq., the elder, the original of the firm of Batson and Stephenson, who subsequently introduced into it his cousin, the above-named John Stephenson, Esq., at whose death his son, the present Mr. Rowland Stephenson, succeeded to the partnership. He married his cousin, the eldest daughter of Edward Stephenson, Esq., of Farley-hill, Berkshire, and of Queen-square, Bloomsbury, only son of the original Rowland Stephenson, Esq., by whom he has eight children, and is now a widower. His age is about 50; though it is not improbable that there may not exist any authentic record of his birth, he having been born at sea, in the Straits of Dover. Of his children one son, the eldest, was in the Banking-house; two others are in India; and one is in one of the Government public-offices.

Mr. Stephenson appeared in private to be of a very gloomy uncertain temperament He would in company sit for a length of time without speaking, and would then suddenly break out into merriment, not called for by anything peculiar in the conversation. In fine, he had, in private society, that abstracted appearance which one would expect to see in a man who must have passed every hour, for bygone years, in agonizing apprehension of what the next might by possibility produce.




See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. A Handbook of London Bankers by Frederick George Hilton