Richardson, Thomas (1771-1853) (DNB00)

RICHARDSON, THOMAS (1771–1853), quaker and financier, son of Robert Richardson, formerly of Hull, and of Caroline Garth, was born at Darlington on 15 Sept. 1771. He was second cousin of George Richardson [q. v.] After a scanty education at home, Thomas was apprenticed to a grocer in Sunderland. His cousin, Edward Pease [q. v.], gave him money for a passage to London and an introduction to Messrs. Smith, Wright, & Gray, the quaker bankers of Lombard Street, who engaged him as messenger at a salary of 40l. a year. He rose to be clerk and confidential manager. In 1806, with his friend John Overend, a Yorkshireman, and also a bank clerk, he started bill-broking in a small upstairs room in Finch Lane, Cornhill. Their system of charging commission to the borrower only was original. They were soon joined by Samuel Gurney [q. v.], moved to Lombard Street (part of the premises now occupied by Glyn, Mills, & Currie's bank), and rose rapidly to financial power and pre-eminence. In 1810 Richardson twice gave evidence before the bullion committee of the House of Commons. He retired from business in 1830. The firm, after being converted into a limited liability company (Overend, Gurney, & Co.), suddenly stopped payment on ‘Black Friday,’ 1866, spreading ruin far and wide. The directors were tried for conspiracy and fraud, but were acquitted.

Richardson built himself a handsome house at Stamford Hill, and another at Great Ayton, Yorkshire, where he interested himself in establishing an agricultural school for the north of England, to be managed by Friends. To this he contributed about 11,000l. He owned a third house at Allonby, Cumberland, and he was a generous benefactor to the neighbouring Friends' school at Wigton. The railway enterprises of George Stephenson [q. v.] and the Peases received his substantial support, and he was one of the six who purchased the estate which developed into the town of Middlesborough.

Richardson died at Redcar on 25 April 1855, leaving by his will money for educational purposes in the Society of Friends. He married Martha Beeby of Allonby, but left no children. An engraved portrait, with the title ‘A Friend in Lombard Street,’ is at Devonshire House.

[Biographical notice in the Friends' Quarterly Examiner for October 1891, by his great-nephew, J. G. Baker, F.R.S.; Biogr. Cat. of Portraits at Devonshire House, p. 566; Records of a Quaker Family, by Mrs. Ogden Boyce, 1889; Reports of the Commons, cvii. 122, 147.]

C. F. S.