Britain's First Municipal Savings Bank
Part One: The History of Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank
Birmingham Corporation
Savings Bank

The growth of the Bank made it necessary to find some way of relieving the pressure of work at Head Office, and it was decided to try an experiment with branch banks in works. It was felt that if satisfactory arrangements could be made for coupon cards to be dealt with and entries made in pass books, at certain works, and at the same time provide facilities for depositors to withdraw sums at these branch banks, it would be mutually advantageous to depositors and the Bank. It will be borne in mind that only one pound could be withdrawn without notice, according to the Act of Parliament, and therefore we could ascertain, with reasonable accuracy, the requirements in actual cash.

Amongst those works where branch banks were set up may be mentioned the following:- The Birmingham Small Arms Co., Messrs. Bellis & Morcom, Components Ltd., the Austin Motor Co., the Birmingham Battery Metal Co., the Wolsely Motor Co., the Birmingham Metal & Munitions Co., Messrs. J. & E. Wright; the Dunlop Rubber Co., Messrs. Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds; Messrs. Alldays & Onions; all the Corporation Gas Works, and at the Tram Depot, Witton. Every Friday, and ultimately on other days, officers from the Bank, and other Corporation departments, would attend at these works and transact the business of the Bank. In some cases voluntary service in this connection was rendered by the staff at the particular works.

An enthusiast was discovered in the Inspector of Munition Areas, whose centre was Birmingham. He preferred the Bank scheme to the war savings scheme, and adopted it for employees under his jurisdiction. He had an equally keen enthusiast in his principal assistant (Mr. F. H. Ogden). To meet the requirements of employees scattered all over the district in various bond rooms, a kind of travelling branch bank was arranged. Every Friday, and occasionally on other days, the inspector's clerk would visit these bond rooms to pay wages, accompanied by an official of the Bank, who would deal with the Bank scheme.

One amusing incident is recalled in connection with this travelling Bank. At one of the bond rooms a rumour had been started that the Bank was in financial difficulties, and depositors were demanding their money. The writer at once visited the particular bond room with a supply of cash, but before commencing to pay out addressed the depositors and pointed out the foolishness of the rumour. Pressing for an explanation of the rumour, it was ascertained that it all arose from the fact that an advertisement had been seen in the press to the effect that the city treasurer of Birmingham was prepared to receive loans on mortgage! This had been used by the "joker" to point out that Birmingham was short of money and that as a consequence depositors in the Corporation Savings Bank would stand in jeopardy. These depositors were then given the opportunity of receiving their money. One or two took advantage of the opportunity, but more money was brought back to the Bank than was originally taken to the bond room, because advantage was taken of the opportunity to sell coupons to the assembly of depositors and a highly successful sale resulted.

The experience gained with these branch banks proved useful at a later stage when the question of setting up branch banks in different parts of the city came to be considered.