Son of Thomas Hankey of Newchurch, Over, Cheshire, Henry was baptised on 16 Sep 1668 at Whitegare, Cheshire, ten years after his uncle Samuel Hankey first came to London.
On 23 March 1683 Samuel Hankey took his nephew Henry Hankey into his business as an apprentice, but only three years later, in 1686, Samuel died.
The nineteen year old Henry took over his business as goldsmith and banker in Fenchurch Street, and it was not until 4 Apr 1690 that he came to his Freedom as a member of the Haberdashers Company.
Details of Henry Hankey’s business are somewhat scarce:
- Apprenticed from 1683 to Samuel Hankey, goldsmith, who in September 1685 was at the Ring, under St Dionis Backchurch, in Fenchurch Street and who was listed in 1687 as one of the ‘goldsmiths keeping running cashes’.
- In April 1695 Henry Hankey, of the Ring and Ball, Fenchurch Street, opened a not very active account at the Bank of England, which had been founded only nine months earlier under the chairmanship of Samuel Hankey’s former partner Sir John Houblon.
- In 1700 Henry Hankey, of the Ring and Ball, Fenchurch Street, was mentioned as one of the ‘goldsmiths keeping running cashes’, or current cash accounts for customers. Henry Hankey, Goldsmith, was still at the Ring and Ball in January 1701 when he advertised in the London Gazette for some lost ships papers.
- A Deposition of February 1704 in connection with the will of Henry’s friend Alderman Thomas Turgis mentions Henry Hankey of Fenchurch Street, Goldsmith, and John Hankey of Fenchurch Street, Goldsmith. Henry and John evidently worked together as partners, the firm being called Henry Hankey and Co, as shown by an endorsement on a draft drawn by Silvanus Bevan on Child’s, dated 25 Sep 1704: ‘Witness Jeffery Viber ffor my masters Henry Hankey and Co.’ and several more documents show the same style of the firm up to 1735.
- In December 1711 Henry’s brother and partner John Hankey died.
- In 1713 Henry Hankey was introduced by the Dutch mercantile house Fizzeaux & Co to Peter Simond, who became established as a merchant trading with the West Indies. Over the next fifty years the Hankeys continued to develop similar interests in the West Indies, like those started in 1674 by Houblon and Hankey, which in 1764 were transferred to Simond & Hankey, with Henry’s grandson John Hankey as a partner.
- Henry Hankey ‘rode out unshock’d in the violent Storm of the year 1720, in which fortunes had been made and lost in the feverish speculation of the South Sea Bubble. Henry was owner of Jonathan’s Coffee House in Exchange Alley (he may have inherited it in 1728 from Joseph Chaplin, a wine merchant). This was a famous meeting house and a precursor of the Stock Exchange, and it was there that much of the speculation in shares of the South Sea Company took place. The dealings at Jonathan’s Coffee House were celebrated in a topical ballad of the day:
For Hubble Bubble’s now in play
Come buy the Bubble while you may
There’s Hubble Bubble night and day
At Jonathan’s and Galloway.
- In the year 1720, celebrated for the bursting of the South Sea bubble, a Gentleman called late in the evening at the banking-house of Messrs Hankey and Co. He was in a coach, but refused to get out, and desired that one of the partners of the house would come to him. Having ascertained that it was really one of the principals, and not a clerk, who appeared, he put into his hands a parcel, very carefully sealed up, and desired that it might be laid on one side till he should call again, which would be in the course of a few days. A few days passed away - a few weeks, a few months, but the stranger never returned. At the end of the second or third year, the partners agreed to open the mysterious parcel in the presence of each other. They found it to contain 30,000l. with a letter, stating that it was obtained by the South Sea speculation, and directing that it should be vested in the hands of three trustees, whose names were mentioned, and the interest appropriated to the relief of the poor, which was accordingly done.
- On a draft dated 1722, Thomas Hankey (aged eighteen) witnesses a signature for his father, Henry Hankey.
- The London Gazette, 23 Mar 1723, states that ‘a very fine onyx is to be sold, found under the ruins of an ancient structure, supposed to be hundreds of years old. Apply to Mr. Henry Hankey, Goldsmith, Fenchurch Street.’
- The first known mention of Henry Hankey & Co as a bank was in 1725, although the firm had carried out many of the functions of a bank for forty years or more.
- Henry was involved in numerous proceedings in Chancery from about 1720. He thus had excellent credentials for his appointment in October 1733 as a Commissioner to Survey the Office of the Court of the Kings Bench.
These brief details hardly do justice to the substantial business which Sir Henry built up, or to his impressive international reputation as a banker, for on his death in 1737 The Gentleman’s Magazine wrote that Sir Henry Hankey ‘was one of the greatest Bankers in Europe, and rode out unshock’d in the violent Storm of the Year 1720; similarly, the Historical Register wrote that Sir Henry Hankey ‘from a private Goldsmith, in a few Years became one of the greatest Bankers in Europe’.
Joseph Chaplin 1645-1728
Father in law of Henry Hankey.
This portrait is in private hands in Somerset.
Henry Hankey was married on 26 Dec 1694 at St Mary at Hill to Anne Chaplin, aged 17, daughter of Joseph Chaplin, a wine cooper, under Licence dated 24 Dec 1694.
There was already a connection between the families, as Joseph Chaplin’s wife and Captain Samuel Hankey’s widow were sisters.
There were five members of the Hankey family living in the parish of St Dionis Backchurch in 1695:
- Henry Hankey and his newly-wed wife Anne
- Elizabeth Hankey, who was Samuel’s widow and Anne’s aunt
- John Hankey, Henry’s nineteen year old brother, (servant), who had recently been apprenticed to Henry as a Haberdasher
- Margaret Hankey, probably Henry’s first cousin, (servant), who was married shortly afterwards to Richard Fallowes of Alderley
Henry and Anne were the parents of three sons and one daughter surviving:
m 1725 Sir James Creed
Henry and his family lived above the bank in Fenchurch Street, nearly opposite St Dionis Backchurch, where the Hankey family had a vault under the organ loft.
Anne died in 1709 aged 32, following the birth of her eighth child and was buried on 18 Nov at St Dionis Backchurch.
The two elder boys attended Merchant Taylors’ School, St Laurence Pountney from about that time, as did Thomas from 1713.
There is strong evidence that Henry later had a country house at Clapham:
- Samuel Hankey’s widow Elizabeth was resident at Clapham at the time of her death in 1724, very possibly in a house owned by Henry;
- Henry’s daughter Mary was married at Clapham in 1725;
- his son Joseph had children baptised at Clapham in 1725, 1727 and 1729;
- his son Thomas was married at Clapham in 1733, to the daughter of a Clapham family;
- Sir Henry’s will mentions that he owned two fields at Clapham.
Queen Anne gave three silver salvers to Joseph Chaplin, 1707
Henry’s father in law, Joseph Chaplin (1645-1728), was a successful wine merchant in the City, who came from East Bergholt in Suffolk and owned substantial property in that area, including his manor house Old Hall.
Henry gained his profound respect and admiration, so that when Joseph Chaplin died in 1728, Henry inherited most of his property, the only son Benjamin Chaplin being largely disinherited.
Henry Hankey was specifically left three silver salvers engraved with the royal arms, which had been given to Joseph Chaplin by Queen Anne in 1707. These eventually passed to Sir Thomas Hankey, to Sir Thomas’s third son Robert Hankey, to his daughter Henrietta Hirst and hence by descent to the Marquess of Lothian (aka Michael Ancram, QC, MP).
Henry was evidently a man of great energy and ability, and his business prospered. However banking lacked the prestige of the older guild trades and Henry, like his uncle Samuel and subsequently his brother John, had become a member of the Haberdasher’s Company.
It was in that capacity that in 1696 he subscribed to an Oath Roll of prominent citizens in defence of the king, following the discovery of a plot to assassinate William III.
Old Hall, East Bergholt, by John Constable, 1801
So although Henry was head of a successful bank, it was as a Haberdasher (and the Master in that year, when his sons Joseph and Thomas were admitted by patrimony) that he was elected in 1728 to be Alderman for Langbourn Ward in the City of London, a post he held as was customary until his death.
His highest office, held in 1732, was that of Sheriff, for which the expenses were so great that anyone elected had at that time to be worth at least £15,000. His services were rewarded by a knighthood on 28 Sep 1732, in company with Sir John Barnard, when congratulating King George II on one of his safe returns from Hanover.
The name of his business then became Sir Henry Hankey & Sons. Sir Henry was eligible for election as lord mayor, had he survived. Sir Henry had also been appointed in 1733 as Lieutenant General of the Artillery Company of London, and was a commissioner of lieutenancy for the City of London.
By 1728 when he acquired the estate at East Bergholt, Henry’s work and commitments in London left him little time to become involved in village affairs, and it is unlikely that he ever made Old Hall his home. He did however purchase Thornbush Hall and other property in the district. He must have been well respected in East Bergholt, since he was chosen in 1731 as treasurer of the Town and School lands. However by this time it was his eldest son Joseph who was living at the manor.
Henry Alers Hankey had the above photographs taken at Bourton House, Bourton-on-the-Hill in 1891, stating that the portraits were of Sir Henry Hankey and his wife Anne (who died at an early age before he was knighted). But the features of the man are very like those of Sir Edward Hyde East, and this attribution is also substantiated by the style of the clothing. For similar reasons, it is possible that the portrait of the lady, with her magnificent dress and long ropes of pearls, is of Lady East. Where are these portraits now?
Sir Henry died on 30 Jan 1737, aged 69, and was buried on 8 Feb at St Dionis Backchurch. Sir Henry’s will (made on 5 Sep 1733 after the death of his second son Henry, and proved on 17 Feb 1737 in London) mentions the following property which he owned:
- Lands etc at East Bergholt, Stratford, Brantham, Wenham Combusta, Bentley, Capell and Chattisham, all in Suffolk and inherited in 1728 from his father in law Joseph Chaplin.
- Farm called Thornbush Hall, Bramford, farm at Groton and lands etc at Edwardstone, all in Suffolk and purchased by him.
- Property in Little Tower Street (St Margaret Pattens).
- Property in Exchange Alley (St Margaret Pattens) known as Jonathan’s Coffee House, occupied by Mr Price.
- Property in Fenchurch Street (St Dionis Backchurch) known as the Sign of the Four Coffins (probably Samuel Hankey’s original premises).
- Two freehold properties in Fenchurch Street (St Dionis Backchurch), one in his own occupation.
- Two fields at Clapham, Surrey.
The executors were his sons Joseph and Thomas Hankey, and his friend and lawyer Samuel Troughton.
Arms: Per pale gules and azure a wolf salient erminois,
vulned on the shoulder of the first
Crest: A demi wolf erminois