ATTWOOD, Matthias (1779-1851), of Gracechurch Street, London and Dulwich Hill House, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 1779, 2nd s. of Matthias Attwood, ironmaster, of Hawne House, Halesowen, Worcs. by Ann, da. and event. h. of Thomas Adams of Cakemore House, nr. Halesowen. m. 1806, Susannah, da. of William Twells of Birmingham, Warws., 1s.
Attwood’s father’s family, associated by marriage with the Foleys, the pioneering Worcestershire ironmasters, migrated from Clodbury Morton to Halesowen, where Matthias Attwood senior (d.1836) made ‘a fortune from steel converting, the manufacture of nails, and the sale of Swedish iron’.1 In 1791 he and Isaac Spooner, the Birmingham ironmaster, founded the bank of Spooner, Attwood Co., styled the Birmingham Bank. In 1801 the London branch (Spooner, Attwood and Holman) was opened at Fish Street Hill, moving to Gracechurch Street in 1812. It was here that Matthias junior was launched on his successful City career.2 A partner in the family bank, he went on after 1820 to promote and direct numerous public companies. In 1810 and 1811 he drew attention to himself as a pamphleteering opponent of the resumption of cash payments: one of his converts was the publicist William Cobbett. His brother and fellow banker Thomas Attwood† was at the same time leading the opposition to the orders in council at Birmingham.
Attwood’s readiness to come into Parliament in 1819 was doubtless connected with the imminent resumption of cash payments by the Bank. He was recommended to George Lucy*, patron of Fowey, by Viscount Lowther; and although Lucy at first demurred at a banker, preferring a man of family or an officer, only Attwood was willing to risk and shoulder the expense. It was understood that he would support the government on every question, except that of the Bank resumption: he had no objection to voting against Catholic relief.3 Attwood succeeded in his election contest, only to be unseated on petition, without being able to do anything in Parliament, 11 May 1819. Only four days before he had assured Edward John Littleton in the House ‘that if government should persist in its intention of carrying into effect the recommendation of the report [for a resumption of cash payments], he and 50 other Members would vote with Tierney on his motion for a committee on the state of the nation’. For the day of Tierney’s motion, he called a meeting of City merchants and bankers to petition against a hasty resumption, on the eve of which he found that Sir Robert Peel was willing to stand by him, in defiance of his son’s contrary line in Parliament. It was Peel senior who moved the petition and Attwood who seconded it: Peel presented it to the House on 24 May.4 Attwood resumed his parliamentary career subsequently and could no longer be prevented from airing his views on currency questions. He died 11 Nov. 1851.