6 July 1861
Volume 4, page 183, sitting number 4802.
Born in Scotland in or about 1817, William Rennie was the son of James Rennie. He became a partner in the firm of Cavan, Lubbock and Co., who carried on business as sugar growers in Barbados, British Guiana, Trinidad, St Vincent, Granada, St Lucia, St Kitts and Jamaica. In 1862 he was a member of the select committee appointed to inquire into the operation and scale of sugar duties. Unsurprisingly, the committee recommended no further increases.
On 3 October 1860 at St John’s Paddington William married Wyndham Georgiana Lucas Rennie, daughter of Captain George Lucas Rennie, RN. According to their marriage certificate, the groom was a widower.
The couple appear on the 1861 census living at 54 Upper Brook Street with five servants, including a butler and a footman. William described himself as a ‘West India Merchant.’ When his daughter Katherine was baptised at the end of the following year, William gave ‘Banker’ as his profession.
In addition to his interests in sugar, William Rennie was also a director of the wholesale discount bank Overend, Gurney and Co., known as ‘the bankers’ bank.’ When the firm ran into financial difficulties, it incorporated itself as a limited company in July 1865 in an attempt to recover its liquidity. It nevertheless collapsed in May 1866, owing in excess of £11 million. The ensuing panic caused the failure of dozens of small banks and for three months the interest rate rose to 10 per cent. The financial crisis caused the failure of over 200 companies.
In 1869 the six directors of the company, including William Rennie, were tried at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to defraud. It was alleged that when they had sold the company shares in 1865 they had made false claims in the prospectus. However, the Lord Chief Justice Sir Alexander Cockburn said that they were guilty only of ‘grave error’ rather than criminal behaviour, and the jury acquitted them.
When the census was taken in 1871 the Rennies were living at 6 Great Cumberland Place, Marylebone. The family now included sons Henry (9) and Wyndham (7) and daughter Isabella (8). Also present on the night of the census were seven servants. William once again gave ‘West India merchant’ as his profession.
William Rennie died, aged 70, on 9 November 1887 at 6 Great Cumberland Place, London. He left an estate valued £37,470.
[His date of birth is problematic. According to the 1861 census he was born in or about 1821. According to the 1871 census, he was born in or about 1819. When he died in 1887, he was supposedly 70 years old, which would mean he was born in or about 1817.]