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Friday, 1 August 2008

What is the Connection between the Ruthwell Cross and The Savings Bank

What is the connection between
The Ruthwell Cross and a
Savings Bank?


In the closing years of the 18th century, Britain was suffering in many different ways. There was a need for many reforms at this time.

We had been at war with France, and more strife was still to come. All this had to be paid for. Added to this there was galloping inflation, with grain prices rising by a massive 358% within the short period of 15 months.

The majority of rural people worked long hours on the land where wages were extremely low. There had been some poor harvests, and as agricultural work is seasonal, it was almost impossible for people to make ends meet in the countryside.

The government of the day introduced direct income tax, but wages did not rise to reflect this. The children of the poor worked in harsh conditions.

The money was in the hands of the few, and as France had proved with its Revolution, something drastic had to be done! Social reform was, of course, resisted by the few who feared for their "heads".

It was a bleak time.

The little Parish of Ruthwell was no different from other rural areas, but then someone arrived in their midst, who was to change all this.


Not only did he change attitudes to the poor, he also changed the banking world forever.

This man personally underwrote a consignment of corn
to be shipped to the Solway from Liverpool, and arranged for its distribution.

He saw the trials of the poor, and realised that when someone was sick or died there was no income for that family. In the area a Friendly Society had been set up, which was a form of insurance fund to provide for such requirements. However this was not being run successfully. He revived this and saw that it was run properly. The Friendly Society flourished. the people of the area were starting to feel more secure.

To help the women he organised supplies of flax which they spun, whilst the men were working.

He saw the need for a community spirit, for some relief from the worries of work and money, and persuaded the local Laird to build a Society Room for local folks to get together for social meetings, parties and the like.




This building became the focal point of village life, and was to eventually become the site of the First Savings Bank.



This man believed in the dignity of the ordinary man. He believed that it was degrading for people to be labelled as poor.

Banking was outwith the reach of most people in those days, because one required an initial deposit of £10 to open an account. On wages of 5 pence per day one can see how this could never happen.


On 10th May 1810, he set up Ruthwell's own Savings Bank in the Society Room
To join this bank a deposit of 6 pence was made, and provided that every depositor lodged an amount of 4 shillings within a year, interest of 5% would be paid. The first year showed deposits of £151. By year 4 this had risen to £922. The Savings Bank was a success! The local people could hold their heads up high, they did not need charity, they were self sufficient.

By this time word about it had spread throughout Scotland, and this man was asked to travel to other areas to help set up similar banks. Soon this concept was being adopted in other countries in Europe and the World.

The tiny village of Ruthwell on the Solway Coast of Scotland had given the Savings Bank to the World.

But who was this wonderful man whose idea it all was?

None other than the same man who set about restoring the Ruthwell Cross, the Rev. Dr Henry Duncan. A man of vision.


Rev. Dr. Henry Duncan









A lovely collection of Savings Banks.

The Bank held the key to these banks so they could not be raided!


(I know this because I have one!)


Why the Ice Cream?


For those wishing to visit Ruthwell, and area, there is a farm which makes its own Ice Cream in the area, where one can stop, have a light meal and sample the delicious Ice Cream selection they have. It is called Drummuir Farm, Collin. there is also a play area for childen.

It called to me the day I made my visit to Ruthwell!



Mmmmmm Delicious!!!!



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