Tuesday, 7 June 2016


A 9th Plate Daguerrotype portrait image of Thomas Neale Junior (1802-1854), taken circa 1840, has recently come to light, having been sold on eBay for the princely sum of £188. The size of the image is 2.5” x 2”.

(The Daguerrotype was the first commercially successful photographic process (1839-1860) in the history of Photography. Named after the inventor Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, each daguerreotype is a unique image on a silvered copper plate.)

Also, in a separate auction lot, from the same source, a contemporary (but undated) letter written by a Mr Chambers, throws further light onto to the Reigate Brewery’s early days and its connection with the Reigate & Darking Bank.

To recap - After Charlotte Matilda Bunn married Mr Thomas Neale Jnr., of Reigate, the friendship between them and Mr Chambers continued. Mr Thomas Neale was a partner with his father (also Thomas Neale), and his brother William in the Reigate Brewery, Mr Thomas Neale Senior being also a partner in the Reigate Bank. The partnership in the brewery commenced in 1830, Mr Thomas Neale Jnr’s capital being provided partly, by himself, and also by £1,000, his wife’s property, and a loan from Thomas Neale Senior.

Mr Thomas Neale Senior was supposed to have a large capital in the bank but a sudden call for £1000 by one of the contractors for the Brighton Railway then in the course of construction, created a difficulty.

It is with regard to this that Mr Chambers writes:

“My Uncle Frank (brother in law of Mrs Thomas Neale) borrowed the money for the day, but the arrangement was made too late to go to Reigate by coach and there were no telegrams in those days, so a gig was engaged in which I started off, taking a man with me; it was a bitter evening in February, the snow deep and the waters of the Mole out beyond Croydon, but I got down about 11 and started back at 5 the next morning with the requisite securities and was at my office in Mincing Lane in good time. In consequence of this difficulty it was decided that I should examine the bank accounts also…” (Mr Chambers had made up the accounts of the Brewery for some years hitherto) “… and to our great astonishment and regret it was found that instead of Mr Thomas Neale Senior having capital in the Bank, there was a heavily overdrawn account. This required to be immediately dealt with. There was the Public Houses which had not been included in the capital but a Banker could not be borrowing money on Mortgage so I arranged for the purchase of them by Mr Thomas Neale Jnr. who, through his brother in law Mr E. Watts, obtained an advance upon them to put Mr Neale Senior’s account at the bank on the right side. The Brewery, apart from the Public Houses, was purchased by Mr Thomas Neale Jnr. and his brother William.

“Unhappily old Mr Neale again speculated and persons in connection with the London & County Bank having discovered that there was again an overdrawn account, the doors of the bank were closed.

“I could say much on this subject but it is not necessary at present. Suffice it to say that I was in a position to enable Thomas Neale Jnr. to once again say that whatever might be due by his father to the Bank should be ready for the payment of the first dividend, which was done greatly to the establishment of Mr Thomas Neale Jnr’s credit.

“Not having the bank to draw on any longer it was thought desirable to bring a monied partner into the brewery and I had various negotiations open with this object and, in order to show the capital already engaged, an entry was passed in the Brewery books bringing in the value of the Public Houses.”

At about this time, Mr Frank Chambers returned from India and went into business in London. Mr Chambers writes about this:

“I was for some years my Uncle Frank’s right hand, assisting him in every possible way until, contrary to all I had waged against it, he threw himself into the hands of Overend Gurney & Co., when I thought it right to take no further part or to be mixed up in his proceedings. For a time all seemed to go smoothly, but a crash came when I again did all I could to lessen the difficulties and the two creditors for whom I felt most sympathy were Mr de St Croix and Mr Mellersh and for whom I strove to the utmost to be of service, Mr Mellersh’s case was extremely painful, the greater part of his capital had been put into my Uncle’s business with a view to partnership, and there was no prospect of recovery of any of any material part; he was with me I might almost say, night and day, coming to me early in the morning and going home with me in the evening, saying his marriage must be given up and he must try to get a clerk’s berth at £100 or £150 a year. I said what I could to cheer him and keep him up and never gave him the cold shoulder but was always ready to listen to him and always on the watch for something that might turn up in his favour and he often said that he looked for help from me more than through any other channel, while I on my part had formed the highest opinion of his integrity and was purposed to offer the strongest testimony in his favour.”

“While matters were pending (re a Partner for the Reigate Brewery) Mr Mellersh’s position was dwelling on my mind and it led to my visiting Mrs Neale, the health of her husband being then in a very critical state, explaining exactly how matters stood, that while on the one hand if we obtained a larger amount of capital which would be immediately productive, on the other, by the management of of one in whom we had entire confidence the business might in time be even better developed. I recommended a reference to Mr Watts as to the view he might take in the matter; the reply was that Mr Neale was satisfied to leave it all in my hands, accordingly the entry bringing in the Public Houses was written back, Mr Neale only taking a rent from them and a partnership was found accommodated to Mr Mellersh’s reduced capital, to having the benefit of the much larger capital on which Mr Neale took only Interest.”

At this time Mr Chambers made provision for Sisson, son of Thomas Neale Jnr., to become a partner in the Brewery when he came of age, he being then eleven years old and considered delicate.

Mr Chambers never ceased to take an interest in the Reigate Brewery and for many years audited the books.

In consequence of the provision made, as above, by Mr Chambers, Sisson Neale became in due course a partner in the Brewery which has since been turned into a Limited Company and has continued to prosper.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008



The banking business was founded in 1808 by Joseph Nash and Thomas Gale senior, and was styled the Reigate and Darking Bank, and business was conducted from premises on the corner of the High Street and Bell Street, Reigate.

Thomas Neale assumed control as manager of the bank in 1827 out of necessity and not from choice, as very serious losses had been sustained during the previous two years, and Mr. Gale junior, the former manager had succumbed under these difficulties. Had not Thomas Neale possessed the energy and the means to come forward, his partners, and many others who were dependent on the bank at that period, would have undoubtedly been ruined.

The result of his management up to 1842 was a profit of about £20,000, after expenses, of which £6,700 had been equally divided between his partner, Mr. Nash, and himself. The remainder was applied towards making good the losses that had accrued prior to his assuming control [1].

A rigid examination of the books in 1842 revealed that there were more actual losses and further estimated losses to be provided for; no subsequent division of profit therefore was made.

The fact that the bank made a profit of £20,000 indicated the extent of Thomas Neale's efforts, for it is believed that had it been forced to close when he took over its management the losses would have been well in excess of this sum. In 1827 there had been many outstanding debts due on which only interest was being paid, and had he not pursued and obtained repayment of these loans in full, the bank would undoubtedly have had to be content in continuing to accept dividend payments and leave the capital to remain outstanding [2].

These results encouraged hopeful expectations of future success. Because the bank was going through hard times, he invited his two sons, Thomas junior and William, to join him in partnership at the brewery in order that they run it for him, and so leave him to concentrate on restoring bank affairs to order. The capital that they raised, partly by the brothers, and partly by £1,000 as a portion of Thomas junior's wife's property, was used to acquire the necessary shares [3].

A succession of heavy financial demands on the bank during 1847 and 1848, together with a call for £7,000 in 1850 by one of the contractors for the Brighton Railway, then in the course of construction, led to the discovery of a large deficiency at the Dorking agency. These setbacks checked the hope of a speedy recovery of past losses. Recent profits were diminished also by the outlay for new premises and other heavy expenses attendant on the death of Mr. Overton, the Dorking agent. Consequently, bankruptcy was inevitable.

In Thomas junior's letter to his father's creditors, written on the 12th March, 1851, the position was only too clearly explained, and he went to great lengths to exonerate his father from any blame attached to the bank's failure. Of his father, young Thomas had this to say:

" My father has been censured for carrying on the bank without capital; there is no substantial ground for this accusation; his private property was capital for the bank; it was made available for surmounting the crisis of 1825; it had also been resorted to on other occasions; he did not contemplate the nice distinction of joint estate and separate estate made by bankruptcy, but felt that all he possessed was equitably liable to the claims of the bank creditors; it was this consideration which made him more particular with his own family than with strangers, and elicited my consent to pay interest on a part of the valuation of my first share in the brewery, although I did, and do believe, that on paying down out of my own savings and my wife's little fortune, so large a portion of the purchase-money, it was not unreasonable to expect that I should have been assisted by a father with a gift, rather than with a loan, to complete the arrangement.

" Until the recent disasters, there never was the slightest doubt of the sufficiency of my father's property, since so seriously and grievously depreciated, to make good all the engagements of the bank without any assistance from Mr. Nash.

" The balance appearing to be due from my father has also been made the ground of censure; for 23 years he has given most unremitting attention to the concerns of the bank, incurring numerous expenses on its behalf, and has made no charge for these services; -were he periodically credited with a very moderate allowance the balance would be in his favour. Except as to two or three investments made several years ago, he has personally assumed the risk of attending the employment of the surplus funds of the bank; the bank has extensively benefited by the interest charged by him; his individual account has borne the loss, and thus his private fortune has been absorbed.

" It has been stated that he took the bank money to embark his sons in a brewery speculation, but so far from this being the case, for the express purpose of strengthening the bank by a large money payment, he sold to his sons in l843 at its extreme value the brewery property, of which he possessed the greater part before he was a banker; on the depreciation of his subsequent investments, the payment of the balance due upon this sale has made good the deficiency. My father would have disposed of the brewery in l830 but for my taking a share, and he gave only nominal attention to it afterwards, the bank engrossing all his energies; up to the day of his being taken ill, he invariably counted the money at night, every note cancelled was burnt by him, and every entry of cancellation is in his own handwriting; I am informed that the books bear, in numerous places, the marks of his scrutiny….” [4].

The letter continues at some length, unfolding the course of events that led to the closure of the bank in 1850. This closure led to the rendering penniless overnight of a great many clients, and the thought of this, coupled with great personal financial loss, led to the death of Thomas senior.

At the opening of the above letter, his son had this to say of his death: " but he had no expectation of such an attack as was then made upon him; that attack, which the suspension of his Certificate rendered more poignant, was his death blow, for on the very day, nay, the very hour appointed for delivering judgement in an earthly court, his spirit, without a sigh, without the slightest outward struggle, passed into the presence of a Heavenly Tribunal.”

I may have dwelt too much on the banking concern, but the aim in including these facts lay in an attempt to convey the character of the brewery's founder, which to all reports was impeccable to a degree. To give the reader further insight as to his just nature, there exists a story of the time that Thomas senior was censured for holding shares in an Insurance Company; in a newspaper report touching upon the subject, Mr. Nash's name was substituted; Thomas senior observed it and wrote to beg that the error might be corrected. The incident was trifling, but it proved that though persecuted himself, he was uneasy lest another should suffer.


1-4. Neale Papers.