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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John St Barbe1   [before 3 July 1862]2

Dear Sir—

I wish to invest through the Union Bank about £17,000 in Railway Shares.3 if I can find shares that suit me. Under these circumstances, I trust you will not think it unreasonable in me to request, through you, from the gentleman, who acts as your Broker, some careful information.— I wish for Guaranteed or Preference shares which divide with ordinary shares, when the latter rise above the Guarantee—Lancaster & Carlisle, some of Newcastle & Carlisle. & of Grt. N. of Scotland &c are of this nature.4 Will the Brokers reflect what shares there are of this kind which can be purchased. Or whether any Railways acts likely soon to pass include such shares?5 I shd. perhaps purchase some Lancaster & Carlisle (these I now hold a good number) & shd be glad to know at what price I could purchase.—6 Secondly will the Brokers inform me what Preference or Guaranteed shares there are, with perpetual power of changing into ordinary stock; (though I shd prefer the former kind of stock) N.E. Berwick 4 per cent Prefer is said to be of this nature; & I shd. be glad to know price. But I wish to know what other shares there are of this nature.—7 I hope you will be so kind as to request the best information, which your Broker can give, & you can forward this letter to them—

Dear Sir | Yours &c

P.S. I have been told that the N. Staffordshire guarantees the G.T. Canal, with a promise of sharing profit; but I know not if this be accurate or scale of guarantee &c &c.8



John St Barbe was manager of the Charing Cross branch of the Union Bank of London.
Dated by reference to entries in CD’s Investment and Account books (Down House MSS) (see nn. 3, 6, and 7, below).
According to CD’s Account book–banking account (Down House MS), CD made purchases of railway stock to a total of £17,140 5s. in July and August 1862. See nn. 5 and 6, below.
According to CD’s Investment book (Down House MS), pp. 84, 57, 49, and 92, CD owned preference shares of this nature in the Great North of Scotland Railway Company, and had purchased such shares in trust for Emma Darwin in the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Company; he also had a number of investments in the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway Company.
CD refers to the passage through Parliament of the private bill legislation by which railway companies were granted powers to build new lines. On the relationship between the railway companies and Parliament in this period, see Parris 1965, pp. 56–62.
An entry in CD’s Investment book (Down House MS), p. 92, dated 3 and 9 July 1862, states that he purchased ‘5000 Stock’ of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway at a cost, including brokerage and stamps, of £10,150 4s. 9d.
CD had purchased 9000 4% preference stock of the North Eastern Berwick railway in July 1859, at a cost of £8707 10s.; an entry in CD’s Investment book (Down House MS), p. 74, dated 9 July 1862, records his purchase of a further 1000 stock at a cost of £980. An entry for 23 August (p. 53) shows that he also bought £6000 of London and Brighton Railway 4% debenture stock.
CD refers to the North Staffordshire Railway Company and to the Grand Trunk Canal (another name for the Trent and Mersey Canal) in the founding of which both of CD’s grandfathers, Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood I, had been instrumental (J. Lindsay 1979). Both CD and Emma Darwin had received shares in the company from their respective fathers, Robert Waring Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood II (see CD’s Investment book (Down House MS), pp. 3 and 27, and Correspondence vol. 3, letter to Solicitor?, 1 October 1844). In 1845, the canal company was taken over by the New North Staffordshire Railway Company. The terms of the take-over were that, when the whole line had been opened, the dividend on the Trent and Mersey shares would be 22.5%, and that on the 15 January 1847, the canal shares would be exchanged for 5% railway preference shares; thereafter the profits ‘were to be divided in proportion to the capital, until the canal shareholders had received a total of £30 per share’ (J. Lindsay 1979, p. 116). In his Investment book (Down House MS), CD noted: ‘Jos[iah]. W[edgwood II]. tells me each Canal share was converted into 2212 preference shares to pay beleive 1£ per share when whole R. Way open & afterwards, if dividend be sufficient to pay 5 per cent to other shareholders, then preference share holders to share same as at present, but never more.—’


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Lindsay, Jean. 1979. The Trent & Mersey Canal. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles.

Parris, Henry. 1965. Government and the railways in nineteenth-century Britain. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.


Wishes to invest some money in railway shares; asks for the advice of the bank’s brokers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Union Bank
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 96: 5
Physical description
AdraftS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3358,” accessed on 13 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10