Collection RS9 - Derwent Bank and Swanston Letterbooks

Index to RS9

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Reference code



Derwent Bank and Swanston Letterbooks


  • 1827-1854 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

6 vols and 1 file

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Charles Swanston (1789-1850), banker and merchant, was born at Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland, England, the son of Robert Swanston and Rebecca, daughter of Johnston Lambert of Mordington and Margaret Handyside of Tweedmouth. At 16 he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Madras establishment of the East India Co.'s army. In November 1831 Swanston was appointed managing director of the Derwent Bank, which was established as a partnership by a group of Hobart citizens, including several officials, and first opened for business in January 1828. Although the bank at first had seven directors, a meeting of shareholders in March 1830 agreed to reduce the number to three, one of them to be a full-time salaried managing director. The first managing director of the bank was William Hamilton, who soon returned to London as the bank's representative. Charles Swanston was appointed to succeed him; on 26 November 1831 he signed a covenant with the other two directors, Hamilton and Stephen Adey, that each should hold forty of the bank's 200 shares, and should not acquire a greater number or sell shares without first offering them to the other two. When Adey went to England Swanston bought more shares, thereby gaining a majority of votes and undivided control. Under his management the Derwent Bank prospered, attracting large amounts of overseas capital for investment at high rates of interest. He was responsible for introducing the overdraft system into Australian banking in 1834, in which year he established the Derwent Savings Bank. His influence in the colony increased when he was nominated to the Legislative Council.
For more information see :

Name of creator


Administrative history

The Derwent Bank was established in 1827 and opened for business on 1 January 1828 in Davey Street, Hobart, with a staff of two, the cashier Stephen Adey and the accountant John Leake of Rosedale, Campbell Town. William Henry Hamilton was appointed managing director in 1830 but retred in 1832 and was replaced by Charles Swanston (1789-1850), a former Captain in the Indian Army. Swanston also carried on business as an import and export agent in wool, tea, sugar, rum, etc. The bank failed in 1849 and John Walker, merchant and mill owner of Hobart, acted as liquidator.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Presented to the Royal Society by Mrs C.N. Atkins

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Collection consists of letter books of the Derwent Bank also the private letter books of Charles Swanston

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Conditions governing reproduction

This material is made available for personal research and study purposes under the University of Tasmania Standard Copyright Licence. For any further use permission should be obtained from the copyright owners. For assistance please contact

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Publication note

Another Swanston Letter book is held by the State Library of Victoria (1835-1840)

Publication note

S.J. Butlin, 'Charles Swanston and the Derwent Bank', Hist. Studies N.Z. & Aust., No.7, May 1943

Publication note

W.D.Hudspeth, 'The rise and fall of Charles Swanston', Pap. & Proc. Roy. Soc. Tas., 1948 pp 1-16

Publication note

Robin, ED 2017 , 'Captain Charles Swanston : ‘man of the world’ and Van Diemen’s Land merchant statesman', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

Publication note

Swanston : merchant statesman / Eleanor Robin, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2018.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

HE Apr.2020




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