Our History & Inspiration
in 1859 at Temple Bar
from 1859 at Temple Bar
Tellsons’ roots and inspiration go back to 1859 at Temple Bar in Fleet Street, modelled on the oldest bank in the City of London by Charles Dickens for his Tale of Two Cities. That bank was founded at the end of the English Civil War and still exists at the old site of Temple Bar, though the ‘bar’ itself – the old gate to the City – now stands next to St Paul’s Cathedral.
But what is the inspiration Tellsons gives us?
(Images: the old Temple Bar, gateway to the City of London on Fleet Street in the 1850s; and restored and relocated today at Paternoster Square).
Treasury and safekeeping
It is the Tellsons Bank that represents the single continuous thread of strength and dependability throughout the story and becomes the means of survival and freedom in the otherwise chaotic story line of this epic novel. Recurring themes for Dickens throughout his writing were the virtue of prudence and the ever-present threats of speculation to one’s good credit and condemnation to the Debtors’ Prison – this was the fate of his own father. In the environs of the Temple, Dickens rekindles the long association between the safekeeping of wealth and the law: the Temple Inns of Court had been first established in the 1300’s in the old monastic buildings confiscated from the Knights Templar by Edward II when he suppressed the order and appropriated their assets. The Knights had made their headquarters there in the 1180’s and had operated as the treasury and safekeeping for the estates of kings and crusaders away in the Holy Land – the precursor to what we might now recognise as modern banking.
This continuity of banking, protection, purpose and place inspired us when we founded the firm, taking on a proud legacy; but it was also a cautionary tale as that same bank remains in that place, doing what it has always done, simply and reliably since its foundation, but now it languished amidst the destruction and ruins of its larger parent, brought low by the hubris of its own ambitions and imprudence, salvaged for the nation in the greatest ever tax-payer rescue in the history of the City of London.