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date: 30 June 2022

Sandeman, Albert Georgefree

(1833–1923)

Sandeman, Albert Georgefree

(1833–1923)
  • T. A. B. Corley

Sandeman, Albert George (1833–1923), port and sherry producer, was born at 31 Highbury Place, Highbury, Middlesex, on 21 October 1833, the eldest of the four sons (there were also four daughters) of George Glas Sandeman (d. 1868) and his wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of Albert Forster. His great-great-grandfather was the Revd John Glas, founder of the Glasites, a nonconformist sect which became the Sandemanians after Albert's great-great-uncle Robert Sandeman married Glas's daughter. Albert was also a cousin of Sir Robert Groves Sandeman.

George Glas Sandeman was the nephew of George Sandeman, who in 1790 had become a wine merchant in London and had built up agencies with port and sherry exporters in Portugal and Spain respectively. Albert, having completed his education at Eton College, about 1851 joined his father in the firm. His business links with Portugal brought him in contact with Maria Carlota Perpetua de Moraes Sarmento (d. 1923), the daughter of Visconde Da Torre de Moncorvo, one-time Portuguese minister in London, whom he married in 1856; they had two sons and four daughters. In 1866 he was appointed a director of the Bank of England, the bank with which the firm had had an account since 1812. He retained that directorship until 1918.

On his father's death in 1868, Sandeman became head of George G. Sandeman, Sons & Co. Two years later the firm was the main shipper of port from Portugal, and Sandeman sought to achieve a comparable leadership in sherry, which then accounted for over two-fifths of the wine drunk in Britain. In 1879, therefore, he purchased a bankrupt sherry business at Jerez, and a decade later built up the firm's stock of fine sherries by making a purchase from another producer of 800 casks of unblended wines. This dramatic step helped to ensure supplies, which could be in danger from poor harvests and diseases such as phylloxera.

Sandeman was very active in public life. In 1872 he was appointed high sheriff of Surrey, and later became a commissioner of lieutenancy and commissioner of income tax for the City of London. He also served as major of the 12th Middlesex (Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service) rifle volunteers. Sandeman was elected to the board of the London Assurance Company, and in 1898 he held the presidency of the London chamber of commerce.

For twenty-five years, from 1893 onwards, Sandeman served on the Bank of England's influential committee of treasury; he was deputy governor in 1894–5 and governor from 1895 to 1897. His period of office as governor was also a time of extra-cheap money, when the bank's earnings and reserves fell sharply. Having as deputy governor been responsible for supervising the bank's branches, he actively prodded the branch agents into seeking new and profitable business. Moreover, he rebuffed attempts by the chancellor of the exchequer, Sir Michael Edward Hicks Beach, to investigate the bank's management system following the sacking of its chief cashier for irregularities.

As the Victorian era drew to its close, the cartoonist ‘Spy’ featured Sandeman as a worthy in Vanity Fair. Portrayed as a genial, moustached, and slightly rotund figure, immaculate in green-grey frock coat and buff spats, with monocle at the ready and a gardenia in his buttonhole, he typified the shrewd city magnate who contributed commercial expertise to the not over-demanding but highly prestigious task of directing the world's leading financial institution. In 1902 he had the family firm registered as a private limited company, but ensured that its direction and shareholding remained entirely in family hands. With two sons and three grandsons then in the company, Sandeman was merely its nominal head when he died, of bronchitis, at his home, Greylands, Hastings Road, Bexhill, Sussex, on 6 January 1923. He was survived by his wife.

Sources

  • N. Halley, Sandeman: two hundred years of port and sherry (1990)
  • R. S. Sayers, The Bank of England, 1891–1944, 3 vols. (1976)
  • WWW, 1929–40
  • d. cert.
  • The Times (24 Oct 1833)
  • private information (2004) [archivist, Bank of England]

Archives

  • Bank of England Archive, London
  • Segram Company archives

Likenesses

  • Spy [L. Ward], cartoon, repro. in VF (12 Sept 1895)
  • photograph, repro. in The Times (10 Jan 1923), ix

Wealth at Death

£85,732 19s. 1d.: probate, 2 March 1923, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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(1920–)
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J. Burke, , 4 vols. (1833–8); new edn as , 3 vols. [1843–9] [many later edns]