Mansfield, Ramsay and related banking families

Portrait of William Ramsay of Barnton (1732-1805) by Sir Henry Raeburn

I’ve been avoiding writing up this chapter of my Scottish ancestors from Edinburgh for a few years now because it involves some transcription from one of the only books/journals I’ve bought for this project: ‘From James Mansfield to Ramsays, Bonar & Company: some notes on the story of a private bank‘, by Zella Ashford, in ‘Book of the Old Edinburgh Club‘, vol 6 (2005). My ancestor James Mansfield was born in Glasgow on 23rd December 1703. He was referred to as the “little draper’, which according to Electric Scotland is attributed to the banker Sir William Forbes. James was the eldest son of Peter Mansfield, inkhorn turner in South Leith, who married Alisone Hutchisone on 21 November 1700. She was the daughter of John Hutchisone, combmaker, also of South Leith. Peter and Alison must have moved to Glasgow because their first 3 children are recorded as born there, but they moved back to Edinburgh in about 1710 because 2 other children are recorded there. Peter became a burgess of Edinburgh on 21 December 1720. James becomes a burgess by right of his father on 7 September 1726. He marries Janet McIntosh on 10th December 1727. She is the daughter of Lauchlan McIntosh, merchant in Kirkcaldy. According to The Sots Magazine she dies on 25 December 1786 in her 75th year in Warriston near Edinburgh. This would be mean she would have been born in about 1711.

James already had small haberdashers shop in Parliament House when he married Janet. He was in the right place at right time given that the Linen Office in Parliament Close had been set up after an Act Of Parliament in the same year for the ‘better regulation of such manufactories’. He also becomes cloth couper, who buys and sells cloth. Apparently, it’s possible to trace James’s progress from small merchant dealing in bills of exchange to what a contemporary called ‘a banking house of the first celebrity in Scotland’ through Register of Deeds (the Books of Council and Sessions).

The Mansfield Bank is considered to have started when James was given £500 credit by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1737, which is later increased to £1,000 in 1740. He’s also listed as a merchant in Edinburgh in the Bank of Scotland’s first 300 cash account holders in 1737. By this time he has already been dealing in bills of exchange as far a field as London and Inverness, conducting business with shipmasters up and down the coast, and in Rotterdam and Campvere. Ashford’s account provides a lot more detail about these early days, and also how James Mansfield became Third Merchant Councillor and Baillie on the Town Council in 1740, and was one of two Extraordinary Merchant Directors to be appointed by the the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1744. In these roles he was also involved in the Royal Banks endeavours to keep their money out of the hands of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the rebellion in 1745, and lodge it in the Castle. By 1747 he’d been elected as ‘Admiral of Leith and Baillie of the Regality of the Citadel there’.

Interestingly, James bought a house and cellar in Mary King’s Close in 1741. It’s now buried deep beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile with a series of rooms and streets that have become a major tourist attraction having been frozen in time since the 17th Century. I must add this to my fantasy road trip. Other properties near the High Street included a home and counting house in Cantore Close (Kintore Close) known as ‘The Shop’, and part of Great Lodgings in Advocate’s Close. When the company became Mansfield, Ramsay & Co, it moved to the first floor of the New Exchange around 1788-90.

James Mansfield dies on 23rd February 1753. It’s not clear what he dies from, but Ashford thinks it may have been a fever that 20 others died from in February that month. He’d made provisions for his youngest daughter Margaret, an annuity of £60 for his wife Janet, with the rest of the estate being divided among his surviving children. Ashford also mentions that James and Janet had 12 or more children, but only 5 survived into adulthood listed as follows:

  • Lauchlan Mansfield, born 27 November 1730. He joined the firm in 1744 but left to become a ship’s chandler in South Leith with a £300 advance from his father to set-up the firm Creighton & Mansfield.
  • John Mansfield, born 20th July 1734. He married Mary Rannie on 6 August 1750, the same year he became an apprentice at the family firm. Mary was the daughter of James Rannie, wine couper in South Leith. John became a burgess in 1757, Merchant Councillor and Bailie in 1758, and Admiral Bailie of Leith in 1759. John and Mary’s son James is born on 15 August 1760. John dies from a fever on 18 September 1860. His son James married Marion Dalrymple-Horn-Elphinstone, daughter of General Robert Dalrymple-Horn-Elphinstone of Horn and Westhall and Mary Elphinstone, on 21 November 1785. Later in 1792 bought the Barony of Midmar from his sister-in-law Margaret Davidson of Midmar, and becomes James Mansfield of Midmar.
  • Janet, married William Ramsay, later ‘of Barnton'(see below), on 31st July 1763.
  • Margaret, born 12 February 1752.
  • Alison (possibly), who marries Sir James Stirling (see below).

Ashford doesn’t mention James Mansfield and Janet’s possible son James. In my Captain James Mansfield Revisited post, I mentioned how Hamish Bain had shown me the following record of James Mansfield the banker and his 3 sons from the Edinburgh Burgess Rolls:


James, merchant by right of Peter, M. Burgess 7 Sept 1726

John, mt Burgess & Guildbrother by r of James M, mt, late bailie, B & G. 27 Aug, 1760

Lauchlan, mt, B & G in rt of dec. fr. James M, late bailie, B & G 27 Aug 1760

Mr James, capt-lieut of 7th Regt of Dragoons, B & G in r. of dec, fr. Baillie James M., gratis by act of Council 5 Sept 1770

I think it’s highly likely that this is the Captain James Mansfield of the South Fencible Regiment (formerly of the 7th or Queen’s Dragoons), who was killed in the Mutiny of the Highland Regiment at Leith in 1779. Captain Mansfield had married Margaret Ramsay, the daughter of Peter Ramsay the Stabler and Innkeeper. Margaret was niece of my ancestor William Ramsay, of Barnton, who’d married Janet Mansfield above.

Pedigree showing intermarrying between Mansfield and Ramsay families (click to see larger image)

My other research has showed that there’s quite a lot of intermarrying between my Mansfield, Ramsay, Hamilton, Maitland and Marjoribank ancestors (see first few generations above). I am pretty certain from Parish records that the parents of Peter Ramsay the stabler and William Ramsay of Barnton the banker were George Ramsay the stabler in Canongate and his spouse Agnes Thom (see more here). I say ‘pretty certain’ because I was sent a 30′ x 10′ Ramsay of Barnton Pedigree by Mel Goldman of the Ramsays of Barnton that starts with a Peter Ramsay. There are some other inaccuracies on the pedigree from Mel Goldman, whereas the George Ramsay, stabler in Canongate, pedigree tallies with the snippet I found below from Stage-coach to John O’groats‎ by Leslie Gardiner (1961). The snippet mentions that William Ramsay’s father was a stabler in Canongate (see more here):

One was William Ramsay of Barnton, whose father, years ago, had made a small fortune out of inns and stabling in Edinburgh’s Canongate and whose brother had more recently cornered a a useful slice of the cornered a useful slice of the stage-coach and mail business on the Dumfries and Carlisle roads.

After the death of John Mansfield in 1860, the bank was run by James Hunter. He’d joined as a clerk in 1746. The bank had been renamed as Mansfield, Son & Hunter in 1753 when he became a partner. It was later named Mansfield, Hunter & Co, presumably after the death of John Mansfield in 1760. It’s not clear from Ashford’s account when what happened to Hunter. He was initially supported by William Ramsay, later William Ramsay of Barnton, who joined Mansfield’s firm as a clerk on 7th February 1753. This was only days before James Mansfield’s death. William Ramsay was eventually successor to James Mansfield, and became a leading figure in the Town Council from 1761-1771, serving as councillor and all the senior positions apart from provostship. In 1781 Ramsay bought the estate of Barnton and Cramond Regis and is known subsequently as ‘of Barnton’. He demolished the old house and built a grander one on the site for his son George. Cramond Regis, the old name for the area, was an ancient hunting seat of Scotland’s kings.

Ashford goes into a lot of detail about the evolution of the Manfield Bank, such as how they issued their own bank notes until shortly before the 1765 Bank Act came into force in Scotland. She also mentions that William Ramsay attracted men of wealth and ability to join the banks co-partnery, including Patrick Miller (1731-1815) who was in partnership with Ramsay until 1760, and went onto become the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Scotland in 1790.

Portrait of Sir James Stirling (1740 - 1805) by Sir Henry Raeburn
Portrait of Sir James Stirling (1740 – 1805) by Sir Henry Raeburn

Sir James Stirling (1740-1805) later become Provost of Edinburgh 3 times and was created a baronet also joins. Ashford mentions how he made a considerable fortune as a planter in the West Indies before heading back to Edinburgh, to join the firm and marry James Mansfield’s daughter Alison on 16 August 1772 (see above). Given the date of the marriage I’m assuming that Alison is the daughter of my ancestor James Mansfield the banker rather than one of his descendents. She died in 1823.

Andrew Bonar joined the bank in 1763 with his brother Alexander joining in 1767. They were the sons of John Bonar, minster for Cockpen & Perth who died in 1761 leaving six boys and two girls under the age of 14. They’d been supported with bursaries by their father’s friends in the Church of Scotland. By 1789 the bank had an indirect controlling interest of the Royal Bank of Scotland with a third of the shares. It’s about this time that a breach occurs between Coutts Bank in London and their Edinburgh office. James Coutts ends up collaborating with Mansfield & Co as his correspondents in Edinburgh, providing with access to large amounts cash. I’m presuming it’s about this time that James Hunter joins up with Will

In 1779 the co-partnery changes it’s name to Mansfield, Ramsay & Co with the following partners:

In 1783, Andrew and Alexander Bonar become partners, and it is presumed that they do so to replace Patrick Millar who has left and James Ramsay who has died. Apparently, there is a diary that William Ramsay kept after he want to live at Barnton which shows that he had a paternal interest in all the members of the bank, and the wide web of Mansfield and Ramsay relatives. This included the Bonar family, such as the Rev. Archibald Bonar (1756-1816) who became minister of the Crammond parish church where Ramsay worshipped.

The French Revolution in 1789 caused a run on banks, and in the crisis of 1793 William Ramsay was concerned about the fate of both the Royal Bank and and of Mansfield, Ramsay & Co. There’s a brief account of the education of William Ramsay of Barnton’s son George in the book ‘Dugald Stewart The Pride and Ornament of Scotland’ by Gordon Macintyre. Stewart was a distinguished philosopher and economist who “agreed to spend a few months on the Continent with George that coincided with the French Revolution. Given the people they meet along the way and the political upheaval at the time I can’t help but think that George’s tutoring was in part cover for the intelligence gathering on the trip.

The banks subsequent fortunes are covered in some detail by Ashford, who mentions that a ‘recent’ scholar describes William Ramsay as a ‘peevish, rancorous man, who could hardly tolerate a rival’s prosperity’. It appears that the younger James Mansfield of Midmar was a little at odds with the other members of the family firm. He was chiefly interested in the affairs of the Bank of Scotland, whereas Ramsay’s interest was in the Royal Bank. There was also ill feeling between Mansfield and John Marjoribanks, who’d married Ramsay’s daughter Alison on 12th April 1791.

Portrait of Sir John Marjoribanks, 1st Baronet (1763-1833) by Andrew Geddes
Portrait of Sir John Marjoribanks, 1st Baronet (1763-1833) by Andrew Geddes
Alison Ramsay by Mrs James Robertson from a The portrait gallery of distinguished females by John Burke
Alison Ramsay by Mrs James Robertson from a The portrait gallery of distinguished females by John Burke

There’s more intermarrying by the Ramsays, this time with the Hamilton, Maitalnd and Marjoribank families. George Ramsay of Barnton and his cousin William Ramsay of Gogar both marry daughters of Robert Hamilton, 6th of Wishaw, and Susan Balfour. William Ramsay of Gogar’s son Peter marries his cousin Susan Mary Hamilton, the niece of his mother the Hon. Bethia Hamilton. George Ramsay of Barnton’s daughter Susan marries Alexander Maitland. Their son George Ramsay Maitland marries Alice Anne Nisbet. They are my ancestors, and Alice is the granddaughter of Sir John Marjoribank who married Alison Ramsay the sister of George Ramsay of Barnton.

Pedigree showing intermarrying between Ramsay, Hamilton, Maitland and Marjoribank families (click to see larger image)
Pedigree showing intermarrying between Ramsay, Hamilton, Maitland and Marjoribank families (click to see larger image)

Back to the Mansfield bank again, and James Mansfield of Midmar ends up loosing his position as a director in the Bank of Scotland in 1807. His differences over the two banks also leads to him giving up his interest in the Mansfield, Ramsay co-partnery in 1807. By March the co-partner has re-formed as Ramsays, Bonars, & Co. On 17 May William Ramsay of Barnton dies, and later that year a new contract is drawn up with the following:

  • George Ramsay, of Barnton, my ancestor and son of William Ramsay, of Barnton
  • Andrew Bonar (largest share)
  • Alexander Bonar (later of Ratho)
  • William Ramsay (of Gogar), son of Peter Ramsay the stabler (1727-1794) and cousin of George Ramsay above
  • John Marjoribanks, brother-in-law of George Ramsay above and my ancestor. He was later Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and was created a baronet.
  • Alexander Henderson

Alexander Henderson owned Eildon Hall in the Border and was a neighbour of John Marjoribanks. He bought the West Worriston House, which had been build by William Ramsay in 1772.

Mr George Ramsay of Barnton

Ramsays, Bonars & Co made a second foray into printing bank notes in 1807. Apparently, the direction of the bank followed in much the same direction as under William Ramsay of Barnton, but without his financial flair. His son George Ramsay, of Barnton, died on 28 January 1810, leaving an estate to his infant son who became known as “the richest commoner in Scotland”:

William Ramsay Ramsay (1809-1850), does not seem to have become a partner of the family firm, but according to his record on the History of Parliament site he was MP for Stirlingshire and was ‘widely known on the Turf for a considerable number of years’. His only son Charles William Ramsay-Ramsay died aged 21 in coaching accident. He was the last Ramsay of Barnton, and the estates subsequently devolved to his cousin, Sir Alexander C. Gibson-Maitland, whose mother Susan Ramsay was my ancestor and the eldest daughter of George Ramsay of Barnton (grandfather of Charles William Ramsay-Ramsay).

Charles William Ramsay Ramsay of Barnton by Robert Pattison, from the Freemason Collection of Portraits of Famous Masons

Andrew Bonar became the senior active partner after the death of William Ramsay of Barnton in 1807. He continued the practices that had stood William Ramsay in good stead, which included the practice of of borrowing large amounts of unauthorised cash from the Royal Bank of Scotland that was then invested in government stock for their own interests. When the practice was called into question in 1815, the amount stood at £130,000. They Royal Bank made an order for the amounts to be paid back in full, which the Mansfield Bank partners did at their own leisure. Pamplets were printed by both sides with William Ramsay and Alexander Bonar walking out of a meeting after having their integrity called into question. The incident seems to have blown over quickly because Alexander Bonar doesn’t retire from the Board of Royal Bank until 1818 and William Ramsays (of Gogar) stays on until 1822.

A new co-partnery had been formed in 1817 that also included the following new partners:

  • John Boner ‘senior’ (1793-1834), son of Andrew Bonar
  • William Bonar (1797-1866), son of Andrew Bonar
  • John Bonar ‘junior, son of Alexander Bonar
  • Peter Ramsay (1795-1856), son of William Ramsay of Gogar
Peter Ramsay, son of William Ramsay (of Gogar)

This was a time of great unrest in Britain that came to a head in the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. Hugh Hornby Birley who is reputed to have led the charge is the grandson of my ancestors Richard Birley and Alice Hornby. Alexander Bonar dies in 1820 and a new contract is subsequently drawn up. William Ramsay of Gogar retires in September 1823, and Andrew Bonar dies in 1825. There is also a run on the bank in 1825, and are bailed out by Coutts who support their application to the Bank of England for a loan. After a series of new co-partnery contracts involving new Bonar and Henderson family partners, Peter Ramsay eventually renounces his right as a partner in 23 June 1831. This is nearly 80 years after his great uncle William Ramsay of Barnton joined the bank. Peter is the last Ramsay partner, and according to an entry on 21st March 1832 in a diary kept by John Bonar (1793-1834) he was in financial trouble:

The dreadful truth is that R. [peter Ramsay] is under water. We have though so but certainly not the extent – so much for the concealment – what an ocean of trouble we are in.

Peter Ramsay went on to become agent for the Western Bank until his death in 1855, two years before it went bankrupt.

The deaths of John Bonar of Kimmerghame in 1834, and John Bonar of Ratho in 1836, and concerns about financial panic in England spreading to Scotland, resulted in the remaining Ramsays, Bonars & Co partners to consider transferring their business to the Royal Bank of Scotland. They failed to negotiate a favourable amalgamation, and ended up winding up the bank in February 1837. Electric Scotland suggests that the winding up was brought about partly by losses in speculations, and partly by the growing public disfavour with which private banks were regarded. In May the following year the bank’s premises at the Royal Exchange are taken over by the newly formed Clydesdale Bank, which is also joined by one of the defunct Ramsays, Bonars & Co bank partners (William Fleming) and many of their clerks. There had been a period of financial difficulty at the time of winding up Ramsays, Bonars & Co that left outstanding sums. William Bonner died in 1866 while still holding the position of winding-up partner. The duties then fell on his only daughter Margaret (1832-1924), and it wasn’t until 28 September 1868 that she writes the following in her diary:

This day Ramsays, Bonars & Co, ceased to exist.

Ashford provides the following chronology of the banks trading names:

  • c. 1727 James Mansfield. By 1741 Mansfield & Spence. Later Mansfield & Company.
  • 1753 Mansfield, Son & Hunter. Later Mansfield, Hunter & Company
  • 1779 Mansfield, Ramsay & Company
  • 1807 Ramsays, Bonars & Company

She also lists the names of Apprentices and Clerks that sign as witness for James Mansfield that could be relations:

  • John M’Intosh, son of Mr M’Intosh, minister at Errol. Apprenticed 14 January 1741.
  • William McIntosh, signs 1747
  • Launchlan McIntosh signs 1763

This rather long post as actually a short summary of 10 pages from Old Edinburgh Club Journal that is fully referenced and includes notes from the family papers of William Bonar (1797-1866). I’ve also added my own research on the Ramsay and Mansfield families and their intermarrying with the Hamilton, Maitland and Marjoribank families mentioned above. It was prompted by my lunch tomorrow with descendents of the Ramsay of Gogar family.

6 thoughts on “Mansfield, Ramsay and related banking families

  1. I’d be interested in speaking to you about Andrew Bonar. I’m currently working on a book in which his name comes up as being in the jury pool of a famous Edinburgh crime.

    1. Brian, all I know about Andrew Bonar is from an article by Zella Ashford titled From James Mansfield To Bonars & Company: some notes on the story of a private bank in The Book of The Old Edinburgh Club New Series Volume 6 2005. It has 122 references including mention of the Bonar Family Papers. I think Zella has passed way, so the best person to contact is (Dr) Alan Borthwick at the National Archives of Scotland.

  2. I have found mention of William Ramsey of Barnton, with son Peter, who in 1786 bought the mansion of Chartershall in Stirlingshire from the creditors of James Cheap of Sauchie (Ancient Castles and Mansions of Stirling Nobility by J.S.Fleming, 1902 pages 395 to 397 published in Electricscotland).
    I am trying to find out what I can of Chartershall where I grew up, and would be very interested if you can shed any light on the whereabouts of this big house and its appearance. The maps give two quite different locations for the house (and quite possibly there were two different houses in two different locations at different times) and Fleming’s description of the location of the farmhouse on its site would appear to me to apply possibly to two farms if “close” to the Bannock burn means within 50 yards and four if I am more elastic.
    I would be most grateful if you know anything that could help me in this.
    Yours, Judith Greig

  3. Almost a decade late here, but I am investigating Lachlan McIntosh of Kirkcaldy, James Mansfield’s father-in-law. I believe he is my 8th great grandfather. Circumstantial evidence suggests that he may be the son of Duncan McIntosh (merchant and burgess of Edinburgh, who died between 1696 and 1703) and Jean Brisbane (1648-1694). They have a son, Lachlan, born in 1678. Duncan was a younger son of William McIntosh of Aberarder, who came to Edinburgh as an apprentice in the early 1660s. Duncan was involved in the New Mills Company in Haddington in the 1680s, producing woolen cloth, and is among the wealthiest merchants in the city, according to tax rolls from the 1690s. If you’ve happened upon anything further on Janet McIntosh or her father, I’d love to know!

    1. Thanks Lawrence, and looks like you have got a few generations back further than me. Sadly, I know nothing more about this family than I have published on here already. Best, Justin

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