Daniel Race… short-arse in a big job!

Continuing stories of the ancestors of my friend Heidi Mellings, this time going back to her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather (that’s officially the most greats I’ve had in one of these pieces), Daniel Race, born in 1697.

Daniel was reported to have been abnormally small and you can see from his portrait, Daniel was indeed a short-arse, but the question is, why is there even a portrait of him at all?

The Bank of England was established in 1694. There have been 33 Chief Cashiers at the Bank of England and Daniel Race was the Chief Cashier, from 1739 to 1775 and this portrait hangs in the Bank of England Museum.

What was/is the Chief Cashier? You can find the Chief Cashier’s signature on every British banknote. Chief Cashiers have charge of “the banking business and the note issue” and sign banknotes on behalf of the Bank to demonstrate its promise to pay the value of the note for all time. Originally, Chief Cashiers’ signatures were handwritten on each banknote one by one: now the signature is added as part of the design but still appears on each banknote that is printed.

Daniel Race joined the bank in 1719.

In 1729 he married Mary Dewes (or Dewees, it’s unclear) and together they had four children, Mary, Elizabeth, John and Morris of which only one, Mary, would outlive them. (Mary would marry Benjamin Godfrey, the East India Company Captain I wrote about previously.)

In 1739 Daniel became Chief Cashier jointly with James Collier, then held the post jointly with Elias Simes from 1751 to 1759 then solely until 1775.  

During Daniel Race’s lifetime, he witnessed the Bank of England moving from Grocer’s Hall to its permanent location on Threadneedle Street, London in 1734. By that time, it had become the largest and most prestigious financial institution in England.

I came across an episode when Daniel was mentioned in evidence at the Old Bailey. In 1738, one of the bank promissory notes to the value of £500 signed by Daniel Race for a Mr John Pye was stolen from that gentleman shortly after he left the bank. It wasn’t long after that a certain Joseph Hodson was arrested for picking Mr Pye’s pocket and tried at the Old Bailey. The Newgate Calendar picks up the story…

Joseph Hodson, 45 Years of Age, born of honest Parents in London, who gave him an Education to fit him for Business, and as to Religion, that he least minded. He never was put to any Trade or Business, but pretended to be a Dutch Trader; but his Business, by which he maintain’d himself and his Wives, was by private Robberies and artful Cheating [love that phrase!]. For this Purpose he dress’d well, and used to frequent Guildhall, the Royal Exchange, Westminster hall, Masquerades, Assemblies and Installations. Wherever there was any Confluence of fashionable People, he was sure to be present. He refused to acknowledge anything relating to the robbing of Mr. Pye of his Pocketbook, tho’ the £500 Note was found upon him.

At this time in England, the Bloody Code was in force, which imposed the death penalty for 225 offences, most of which would deem trivial today. Consequently, Joseph Hodson was found guilty and hanged at Tyburn.

Daniel Race worked for the Bank of England all his life, leaving their service just before he died on 6th October 1775 aged 78 years.  His wife, Mary, died the same year.

Daniel was buried at St. Luke’s Church, Old Street in London and the brass memorial to his memory, erected by the Bank of England on the east wall of the chancel of the church speaks of him in the customary fulsomeness of the eighteenth century as “A man of plain appearance and no way assimilated with the Depravity of the Times, in every respect the Man of Business, the Gentleman, the Philosopher, the Christian: eminently distinguished by his extraordinary Virtues and Abilities, uniformly and successfully executed in a large and important Sphere of Action for the interests of the Bank and the Publick.

In the 1850s, a descendent Frederick Race Godfrey, published a journal in which he stated, “He [Daniel Race] possessed a fortune of £200,000, from which he assisted in many patriotic and benevolent schemes.” Just for information purposes, £200,000 in 1775 would be worth the equivalent of approximately £35 million today.

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