Thomas Hallifax

Sir Thomas Hallifax (1722-89) was a banker, politician and Lord Mayor of London. He was a founding partner in Vere, Glyn & Hallifax.

Early life

Thomas Hallifax was born on 23 February 1722 in Barnsley, the third son of John Hallifax, a clockmaker, and his wife Ann Archdale. He was educated in Barnsley and began working life as an apprentice to a local grocer, before moving to London.

Banking career

In London, Hallifax found work as a clerk at the goldsmith-banker’s John Martin & Co, also known as Martins Bank. He soon advanced to the position of chief clerk.

In 1753 he entered into partnership with banker Joseph Vere and merchant Richard Glyn to form the banking house Vere, Glyn & Hallifax. His two partners, as the larger investors in the enterprise, seem to have been more influential than him in the bank’s early years.

In 1766 Joseph Vere retired from the partnership, which became known as Glyn & Hallifax. A few years later, in 1772, the bank suffered difficulties, and was forced to stop payment from 25 June to 6 August. The bank was saved by loans from several wealthy benefactors, including one of £8,500, at a low interest rate, from Hallifax’s father-in-law John Saville. The following year, Hallifax became senior partner in the bank, which became known as Hallifax, Mills, Glyn & Mitton.

In 1760 Hallifax was elected to the Livery of the Goldsmiths Company, a small body chosen by the Company’s freemen to act as its committee of management. He was elected prime warden of the Company in 1768.

Political career and titles

Thomas Hallifax was elected sheriff of the City of London in 1768, the same year as he became prime warden of the Goldsmiths Company.

He was knighted in 1772.

In 1776 he was elected Lord Mayor of London, having stood unsuccessfully on two previous occasions. While in office, he supported significant improvements to the navigation of the Thames. He opposed the operation of press-gangs in the city, but ordered that all suspected criminals in public houses be sent into service in the army or navy.

He was elected Member of Parliament for Coventry in December 1780 after a bitter campaign in which he was labelled ‘the dumb knight’. Only weeks later – in February 1781 – he was unseated after a successful petition by his opponents.

In March 1784 he was returned unopposed as Member of Parliament for Aylesbury. He held that seat until his death in 1789. Although nominally a supporter of the Pitt administration, he does not seem to have been active in parliamentary affairs, and there is no record of him having spoken in any debate.

Family life

On 27 April 1762 Thomas Hallifax married Penelope Thomson. She died within a year of the marriage. On 1 November 1772 Hallifax was married for a second time, to Margaret Saville, a well-connected heiress and daughter of Thomas Saville, a wealthy linen draper. They had two sons together: Thomas, born in 1774, and Savile, born in 1777. Margaret died shortly after Savile’s birth, in November 1777.

Hallifax’s elder son Thomas continued his father’s banking interests, becoming a partner in Glyn, Mills, Hallifax & Co in 1796, when he was 21. He remained with the bank until his death in 1850, by which time he was senior partner.

Death

Sir Thomas Hallifax died suddenly 7 February 1789, in the apartment above the bank in Birchin Lane, London. He was 66 years old, and had been unwell for the preceding four days.

Related publications

  • ‘Sir Thomas Hallifax’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • R Fulford, Glyn's 1753-1953: Six Generations in Lombard Street (London: Macmillan, 1953)