Who financed the great expansion of the Victorian equity market, and what attracted them to invest? Using data on 453 firm-years and over 172,000 shareholders, we find that the largest providers of capital were rentiers, men with no formal occupation who relied on investment income. We also see a substantial growth in women investors as time progressed. In terms of clientele effects, we find that rentiers invested in large firms, whilst businessmen were the venture capitalists of young, regional enterprises. Women and the middle classes preferred safe investments, whilst financiers and institutional investors were speculators in foreign companies. Our results may help to explain the growth of new types of assets catering for particular clienteles, and the development of managerial policies on dividends and share issues.