The winding-up of the Ayr Bank, 1772-1827

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The collapse of the ambitious and experimental Ayr Bank (Douglas, Heron & Co.) was the central episode of the 1772–3 British credit crisis and served as a direct influence on Adam Smith's monetary analysis in the Wealth of Nations. This article identifies the issuance of redeemable annuities in response to the bank's stop of payments in June 1772 and the distressed nature of its asset liquidations afterwards as the main reasons behind the size of its losses. It furthermore uses primary manuscript evidence to reconstruct and extend the existing narrative of this famous episode, from the planning stages in 1773 while the bank was still fighting for its survival, to the retirement of its banknotes by the Edinburgh public banks in 1773–4, the legal and political manoeuvring behind the redemption of the annuities by Act of Parliament in 1774, and the over 40 years of asset unwinding that followed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-190
Number of pages26
JournalFinancial History Review
Issue number2
Early online date17 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


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