With roots going back almost a century the accountancy firm of Royce Peeling Green – RPG – once based at offices in Manchester's Hilton Street and now at the Deva Centre, Trinity Way, is one of the best known and highly respected firms of chartered accountants in the city. But how many of the firm's numerous clients know anything of its past?
It was 1911 when Ernest Royce first put up his plate hoping that business would find its way to him. Fortunately it did, and a substantial client base was soon built up in the textile industry.
Ernest Royce was part of a Manchester which is now history. When he began in practice tax relief could still be claimed for the upkeep of a horse!
Royce's clients had to pay income tax at only 9d (4p) in the pound on income above £2,000 per annum and a shilling (5p) on all income above £3,000. Estate Duty had recently risen to an outrageous 15 per cent – but only on estates worth more than a million pounds.
Ernest Royce was a shrewd, intelligent and kindly man – but one of rigid moral principles, something which could upset his clients. It was said that although he inspired respect, confidence and even affection amongst his clients that affection could be mixed with trepidation amongst his more wayward clientele. According to one recollection the occasional defaulter would approach the Inland Revenue with unease but had to face his accountant with real fear.
Charles Large was taken on by Ernest Royce as a partner to carry much of the administrative burden; a fortunate choice which would enable Royce to fully enjoy his love of long winter cruises, a passion which endured for so many years that he would live to see his favourite newly-launched cruise liner, eventually crumble to rust and be consigned to the scrapyard.
The current firm however has two roots. In 1935 two young Manchester chartered accountants Charles Green and Noel Peeling, instituted what was eventually to become the firm of Peeling Green & Co. That firm was founded almost by accident when by chance the two friends had found themselves practising in adjacent premises.
Work poured into their two small practices and through working together the two friends found that they had drifted into partnership. The energy and resilience of youth which was a mainstay of their progress turned to disadvantage however on the outbreak of war in 1939. Both partners and the whole of their staff were very young and for this reason the firm became vulnerable to extinction when many of them were called up for military service. Fortunately the firm employed a Mr G J Primer an accountant exempt from call up and whose mental resolution belied his physical frailty. G J Primer's resilience eventually led him to become a partner in the firm and he, together with Charles Green, kept the firm going through the war years – years which included the destruction of the firm's premises in the air raids of December 1940.
In the immediate aftermath of the war all accountancy firms found an immense backlog of work. It was under that pressure that Ernest Royce & Co suffered the crippling loss of Charles Large around whom the administration of that firm had revolved.
An amalgamation was proposed, and the partnership of Royce Peeling Green emerged; the older Royce being somewhat shocked to discover that Messrs Peeling and Green had so much confidence in their friendship that they had never had a formal partnership agreement drawn up.
The role occupied by Charles Large was filled by G M Bickerton an Incorporated Accountant who was then required to study for the examinations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants at night – a challenge he famously rose to by gaining honours in one part and prizes in both.
In 1965 the firm moved to Hilton Street. Ernest Royce continued to be associated with the firm for sixty-five years living in retirement in Southport until his death at the age of ninety. In 2002, the firm moved from Hilton Street to its current premises at The Copper Room in the Deva Centre, perhaps more widely know locally as the old Threlfalls Brewery.
The firm remains an independent one, though with world-wide connections. The firm now has offices in London, Stockport and St Asaph.