Gibbs, Antony 1756-1815, merchant and banker, was born at the family home in the cathedral close in Exeter, the sixth in the family of five sons and six daughters of George Abraham Gibbs, surgeon at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, and his wife Anne Vicary; an elder son, Sir Vicary Gibbs [qv.], became chief justice of common pleas.
     Antony Gibbs went to Exeter Grammar School. His first trading venture was as a woollen exporter, principally to Spain and Italy; he was also briefly involved with a woollen-cloth factory near Exeter. In 1787-9, in circumstances that are unclear, he got into financial difficulties, losing not only his own money but some of his familys: it became a matter of pride to make good those losses.
     The first step in his financial recovery involved setting up an agency business in Madrid to serve English and other textile manufacturers. Later, he joined a partnership in Malaga to sell Spanish produce in England. When Spain declared war in 1796, Gibbs faced another financial crisis; but he was eventually able to use Lisbon as an illicit (and profitable) means of entry to the Spanish market for English woollens. When peace came in 1801, Gibbs was able to set up a profitable business in Cadiz. However, the outbreak of war again in 1805 forced Gibbs to close in Cadiz, and once more he had to struggle to survive. A key to the realization of his assets in Spain was a perilous shipment to Peru; the success of at least the outward journey meant financial relief, but it was not until the war with Spain ended in 1808 that Gibbss difficulties really began to abate. The reopening of the Cadiz house, and the opening of a London house in partnership with his eldest son under the style Antony Gibbs & Son, marked the beginning of a period of real prosperity. Debts were paid and a profitable trade to and from the south of Spain energetically fostered.
     The siege of Cadiz by the French between 1810 and 1812 led to the closure of the Cadiz house; but when the siege was abandoned trade and profits rapidly regained their former levels. In 1813 a second son was taken into partnership, and the London house became Antony Gibbs & Sons.
     Gibbs died in London 10 December 1815. It was the trading contacts that he had established in Spain which enabled his firm, after his death, to exploit so efficiently the opportunities afforded in South America after its liberation from Spanish control.
     He married 3 October 1784 Dorothea Barnetta, youngest daughter of William Hucks, a Yorkshire wine merchant; they had seven children, two of whom died in infancy.

     J. A. Gibbs, The History of Antony and Dorothea Gibbs, 1922, which is based on the extensive Gibbs archive in the Guildhall Library, London.

Contributor: I. G. Doolittle

Published: 1993