#FromtheArchives: Oriental Bank Corporation

A set of share certificates deposited with Barings provides a window into the world of colonial investment in the mid-19th century. 

The certificates are all for a share of £25 in the capital of the Oriental Bank Corporation, equivalent to an investment of around £3,700 today according to the Bank of England's inflation calendar. The Oriental Bank Coporation had been established in 1842 as the Bank of Western India. In 1845 its head office relocated to Threadneedle Street in the City of London and the bank was renamed the Oriental Bank. In 1849 it acquired the Bank of Ceylon and subsequently its charter was revised on 30 August 1851, it then became the Oriental Bank Corporation. 

The certificates were all issued to their original holders between 1851 and 1865 and provide a tantalising cross section of investment in a British colonial bank. Shareholders included those living and working in India such as Charles Joseph Braine, a tea trader; Malcolm McNeil Rind, an army surgeon with the Bengal Army and Cowasjee Jehangier Jussawara, a shopkeeper. Other holders had wider colonial connections such as Sir Samuel George Bonham, a British colonial governor, who became the 4th Governor of the Straits Settlements and the 3rd Governor of Hong Kong. A final grouping appear to be UK based investors. One of these was Sebastian Stewart Dickinson, an English Liberal Party politician. Another notable figure was Benjamin Buck Greene, one of London's leading merchants and shipowners who inherited a large fortune derived from the Atlantic slave trade and the sugar industry in the Caribbean and would serve as a director of the Bank of England for fifty years from 1850, also serving as deputy governor (1871-3) and governor (1873–5).

The reverse of each certificate documents the transfers of ownership that ultimately led to the acquisition of the share certificates by Jean François Gabriel and Adolphe Chasteau who then deposited them for safekeeping at Barings. Their investment did not perhaps work out the way they had hoped: Oriental Bank Corporation would ultimately decline in the early 1880s and eventually failed in 1892.

Discover more:

  • View the share certificates here.
  • View an example of the transfer of ownership here.
  • Discover more records relating to the Oriental Bank Corporation at the Lloyds Banking Group Archives.
Detail of the company seal of the Oriental Bank Corporation.
Detail of the company seal of the Oriental Bank Corporation.

Posted on Tuesday, 25th January 2022

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