Jabez Balfour

Last updated
Balfour as caricatured by "Spy" in Vanity Fair, March 1892 Jabez Balfour Vanity Fair 1892-03-19.jpg
Balfour as caricatured by "Spy" in Vanity Fair , March 1892

Jabez Spencer Balfour (4 September 1843 – 23 February 1916) was an English businessman, British Liberal Party politician and fraudster.



Balfour was born in Marylebone, London to James and Clara Lucas Balfour. [1]

He was Member of Parliament for Tamworth from 1880 to 1885, and for Burnley from 1889 to 1893. [1] Balfour was also interested in local politics in his home town of Croydon, Surrey where he regularly topped the poll for the school board. [2] When Croydon was awarded borough status in 1883 he was selected as charter mayor and re-elected for a second term. In 1885 he stood as Liberal candidate in Croydon at the general election but lost to the Conservatives. He also stood unsuccessfully for the Liberals at Walworth in 1886.

In 1880 he was appointed chairman of the Northampton Street Tramways.

Together with City financiers Leopold Salomons and Sir John Pender, Balfour founded the investment underwriting firm the Trustees, Executors and Securities Insurance Corporation, Limited in December 1887. [3] [4]

In 1892, he was at the centre of a scandal over the failure of a series of companies which he set up and controlled, starting with the London and General Bank and culminating in the Liberator Building Society, leaving thousands of investors penniless. [1] Instead of advancing money to home buyers, the Liberator had advanced money to property companies to buy properties owned by him, at a high price. [5] After the swindle was discovered, Balfour fled the country. He was arrested in Argentina by Inspector Frank Froest of Scotland Yard in 1895; with extradition proceedings held up by legal wrangling, Froest simply bundled Balfour into a train and then a boat sailing for England, The Tartar Prince. [6] The captain of the ship, Thomas Hesketh, later received a letter from Balfour thanking him for the kindness and hospitality shown during the trip back to England. Balfour was tried at the Old Bailey and sentenced to 14 years penal servitude, most of which was served in harsh conditions in Portland prison, [7] and he was released in 1906. [1]

After his release from prison in 1906, his memoirs were serialised by Lord Northcliffe's Weekly Despatch newspaper. Balfour died aged 72 on 23 February 1916, on a train from London to Wales, heading for a job as a mining consultant. [1]

He married Ellen Mead in 1866. [1] By 1880 her mental condition had deteriorated and she became a patient in the Priory Hospital, Roehampton. [8] They had a son, James, in 1868 and four grandchildren. [9]


Present day South Norwood, in the London Borough of Croydon, has a Balfour Road which is named after Jabez Balfour. [10]

So does Ilford, Essex, where Balfour Road is on the former Ilford Lodge estate, bought for development by Balfour's group. In the same area Wellesley Road is named after his Croydon house and Morland Road after the road where Hobbs and Co, the builders, had their offices in Croydon. Also nearby is Granville Road: Granville was the middle name of the group's solicitor.

His name has, however, been erased from the memorial plaques at Croydon University Hospital (formerly Mayday Hospital).[ citation needed ]

Croydon Road and Tamworth Road in Arthur's Hill, Newcastle upon Tyne, were built using funds invested in the Liberator Building Society and named in tribute to Balfour.

Related Research Articles

London Borough of Croydon Borough in United Kingdom

The London Borough of Croydon is a London borough in south London, part of Outer London. It covers an area of 87 km2 (33.6 sq mi). It is the southernmost borough of London. At its centre is the historic town of Croydon from which the borough takes its name; while other urban centres include Coulsdon, Purley, South Norwood, Norbury, New Addington and Thornton Heath. Croydon is mentioned in Domesday Book, and from a small market town has expanded into one of the most populous areas on the fringe of London. The borough is now one of London's leading business, financial and cultural centres, and its influence in entertainment and the arts contribute to its status as a major metropolitan centre.

Ilford Human settlement in England

Ilford is a large town in east London, England, 9.1 miles (14.6 km) east of Charing Cross in the London Borough of Redbridge. Identified as a metropolitan centre in the London Plan, Ilford is classed as a significant commercial and retail centre for the wider south east of England. It had a population of 168,168 in 2011, compared to 303,858 for the entire borough.

Crystal Palace, London Residential area in London, England

Crystal Palace is an area in south London, England, named after the Crystal Palace Exhibition building which stood in the area from 1854 until it was destroyed by fire in 1936. Approximately 7 miles (11 km) south-east of Charing Cross, it includes one of the highest points in London, at 367 feet (112 m), offering views over the capital. The area has no defined boundaries and straddles five London boroughs and three postal districts, although there is a Crystal Palace electoral ward and Crystal Palace Park in the London Borough of Bromley. It is contiguous with Anerley, Dulwich Wood, Gipsy Hill, Penge, South Norwood, Sydenham and Upper Norwood.

Penge Human settlement in England

Penge is an area of South East London, England, within the London Borough of Bromley. It is located 3.5 miles west of Bromley, 3.7 miles north east of Croydon and 7.1 miles south east of Charing Cross, the traditional centre of London.

London Borough of Sutton London borough in United Kingdom

The London Borough of Sutton is a London borough in South London, England and forms part of Outer London. It covers an area of 43 km2 (17 sq mi) and is the 80th largest local authority in England by population. It borders the London Borough of Croydon to the east, the London Borough of Merton to the north and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames to the north-west; it also borders the Surrey boroughs of Epsom and Ewell and Reigate and Banstead to the west and south respectively. The local authority is Sutton London Borough Council. Its principal town is the eponymous Sutton.

Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire British statesman

Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire,, styled Lord Cavendish of Keighley between 1834 and 1858 and Marquess of Hartington between 1858 and 1891, was a British statesman. He has the distinction of having served as leader of three political parties: as Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons (1875–1880) and as of the Liberal Unionist Party (1886–1903) and of the Unionists in the House of Lords (1902–1903). He also declined to become prime minister on three occasions, not because he was not a serious politician but because the circumstances were never right.

Upper Norwood Human settlement in England

Upper Norwood is an area of south-east London, England, within the London Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth and Southwark. It is north of Croydon and is synonymous with the Crystal Palace area.

1906 United Kingdom general election General election held in 1906 in the United Kingdom

The 1906 United Kingdom general election was held from 12 January to 8 February 1906.

Croydon Human settlement in England

Croydon is a large town in south London, England. It is 9.4 miles (15.1 km) south of Charing Cross. The principal settlement in the London Borough of Croydon, it is one of the largest commercial districts outside Central London, with an extensive shopping district and night-time economy. The entire town had a population of 192,064 as of 2011, whilst the wider borough had a population of 384,837.

David McKie is a British journalist and historian.

Tamworth (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1997 onwards

Tamworth is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2010 by Christopher Pincher, a Conservative.

Whitehall Court mixed-use building in the City of Westminster, London

Whitehall Court in London, England, is one contiguous building but consists of two separate constructions. The south end was designed by Thomas Archer and A. Green and constructed as a block of luxury residential apartments in 1884 while the north end, occupied by the National Liberal Club, was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and completed in 1887.

Woodstock, sometimes called New Woodstock, was a parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom named after the town of Woodstock in the county of Oxfordshire.

Pollards Hill Human settlement in England

Pollards Hill is a small residential district straddling south London boroughs of Croydon and Merton between Mitcham and Norbury. The boundary of the two boroughs is a street named Recreation Way. No roads directly cross the Croydon and Merton divide, and streets were planned according to borough, leading to differing architectural or building schemes. It lends its name to a ward of the London Borough of Merton.

Frank Froest British writer

Superintendent Frank Castle Froest was a British detective and crime writer.

Queens Road Cemetery cemetery in Croydon, UK

Queen's Road Cemetery is a cemetery in Croydon, England. It opened in 1861, and was followed in 1897 by the larger Croydon Cemetery in Mitcham Road. Both cemeteries are now managed by the London Borough of Croydon.

Dawson Burns (1828–1909) was an English Baptist minister and temperance activist.

Francis Moses Coldwells was a British businessman and Liberal Party politician.

The 1893 Burnley by-election was held on 6 February 1893 after the resignation of the incumbent Liberal MP Jabez Spencer Balfour due to the collapse of the Liberator Building Society, for which he was eventually convicted. It was retained by the Liberal candidate Philip Stanhope.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bythell, Duncan. "Balfour, Jabez Spencer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/46588.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. David McKie, 'Jabez: The Rise and Fall of a Victorian Rogue', 2007
  3. Hawkins RA (2007). "American Boomers and the Flotation of Shares in the City of London in the Late Nineteenth Century". Business History. 49 (6): 802–822. doi:10.1080/00076790701710282.
  4. Mira Wilkins (1989). The history of foreign investment in the United States to 1914. Harvard studies in business history. 41. Harvard University Press. p.  492. ISBN   0-674-39666-9.
  5. Youssef Cassis, City Bankers, 1890-1914, Cambridge University Press (1994), page 164.
  6. Ethan Avram Nadelmann, Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement, Penn State Press (1993), page 59.
  7. John Briggs, Crime and Punishment in England: An Introductory History, Routledge (1996), page 227.
  8. Ed Wright (2006). History's Greatest Scandals: Shocking Stories of Powerful People . Pier 9. p.  23. ISBN   1-74045-809-5.
  9. "Thomas Wilson: Theft: simple larceny, 27th June 1887". Old Bailey Proceedings Online. 7.2. 27 June 1887. t18870627-730. Retrieved 28 January 2018. James Balfour: I am the son of the last witness [...]
  10. Backhouse, Roger (August 2012). Ilford Historical Society Newsletter (109): 3.Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Robert Peel and
Hamar Bass
Member of Parliament for Tamworth
With: Hamar Bass
Succeeded by
Philip Albert Muntz
Preceded by
John Slagg
Member of Parliament for Burnley
1889 – 1893
Succeeded by
Philip Stanhope