Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sikes, Charles William

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SIKES, Sir CHARLES WILLIAM (1818–1889), projector of post-office savings banks, second son of Shakespear Garrick Sikes, banker, and Hannah, daughter of John Hurst of Huddersfield, was born in Huddersfield in 1818. In 1833 he entered the office of the Huddersfield Banking Company, in 1837 became cashier, and in 1881 managing director. He took considerable interest in the schemes for social amelioration which were common towards the end of the first half of the century, and in 1850 wrote an anonymous letter to the ‘Leeds Mercury’ advocating the establishment of savings banks in connection with working-class organisations of all kinds. The Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes took up the matter, and started banks wherever it could. The interest aroused by the scheme led Sikes to consider an extension of it, and in 1854 he published a pamphlet, entitled ‘Good Times, or the Savings Bank and the Fireside,’ and shortly afterwards addressed an open letter to Sir George Cornewall Lewis [q. v.], then chancellor of the exchequer, urging that the government should secure the savings of the working classes. This was the origin of the scheme for post-office savings banks. Sir Rowland Hill [q. v.], Frank Ives Scudamore [q. v.], and others connected with the post office were induced to patronise the project, and in 1860 Mr. Gladstone carried it into effect. ‘In recognition of the important part taken by him in introducing the system of post-office savings banks now so widely and so beneficially in operation,’ Sikes was knighted in 1881. He died unmarried on 15 Oct. 1889 at Birkby Lodge, Huddersfield. His portrait hangs in the Huddersfield council-chamber.

[Men of the Time, 11th edit. p. 992; Huddersfield Chronicle, 16 Oct. 1889.]

J. R. M.