He was an internationally respected economist whose views are still quoted today, and now at last Walter Bagehot’s name is truly honoured in his home town.
Yesterday Langport’s Town Garden, was officially renamed the Walter Bagehot Town Garden after the Victorian banker and former editor of The Economist at a ceremony attended by Helen Mann the magazine’s archivist, former editor Bill Emmott and John Aram who writes for the magazine.
A new information board detailing Bagehot’s career was also launched. National and international bodies, including University College London, the Royal Mint, the House of Lords and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Virginia have allowed their images to be used to illustrate the board.
On June 1 the second Bagehot Memorial Debate will take place, and a public appeal was launched which it is hoped will lead to the creation of a Bagehot Centre where artefacts associated with the influential writer will be displayed.
Bagehot was born in Bank House in 1826. It was the premises of Stuckey’s Bank, run by the Bagehots and their business partners, his mother’s family, the Stuckey’s. He read law at University College, London, and was called to the Bar but joined the family business instead.
In 1860 he took over the editorship of The Economist from his father-in-law James Wilson MP, and was consulted by leading figures such as Gladstone, and admired by the future US president, Woodrow Wilson, who made a pilgrimage to Langport to visit Bagehot’s grave in 1896. Bagehot died on March 24, 1877.
His writing on bank panics makes familiar reading today, while his comment that “Nations touch at their summits” was carried on the reverse side of the Royal Mint’s £5 coin commemorating the 2012 Olympics. “Bagehot’s Dictum”, often cited by central bankers, states that in times of financial crisis banks should lend freely but only to solid firms and only against good collateral and at interest rates that are high enough to dissuade those borrowers that are not genuinely in need.
Chair of the Bagehot Memorial Fund steering committee, Barry Winetrobe, said: “Today marks a significant milestone in commemorating Langport’s most famous citizen.”
The fund was set up in 2011 under the auspices of the Langport Town Trust. It has a website, (www.bagehotlangport.co.uk). Contact the fund at email@example.com or Clerk@langport-tc.gov.uk