The book published under the above titles is the major source of the early history of the BMB for this website. It was written by
the Bank's first General Manager - Mr J P Hilton, and published by The Blackfriars Press, Limited (of 17-23 Albion Street, Leicester;
and also of Birmingham and London) in 1927.
Two editions of the book
were sold: the Popular Edition of 228 pages and with a red cover
sold for 1/6d (7½-pence); the green-covered Library Edition of 251 pages had a price of 7/6d (37½- pence) per copy. Both books measured
5" by 7½", but at over 1½" thick, the Library Edition was about three times thicker than the cheaper version. The Library Edition
contained an Appendix that was not included in the cheaper book, but the main reason for its extra thickness was the better quality
of paper used.
The following extracts from the Bank's Committee Minutes give some of the background to the decision to publish
a history of the Bank:
Finance Sub-Committee: February 14th 1927
The General Manager presented the following report with
reference to the proposed compilation of a history of the Bank.
History of the Bank
Having regard to the prominence now
being given to the question of Municipal Banks, and to the fact that repeated suggestions are being put forward by depositors and
others that a history of the Birmingham Municipal Bank should be compiled, I am of opinion that the time is ripe for a suitable book
to be published.
The matter is a most important one and careful consideration should be given to the different methods under
which such a book could be published and placed on sale. With the object of going fully into the matter I suggest that the Chairman
and myself should be instructed to make full enquiries and put forward to the Sub-Committee our recommendations.
the Chairman of the General Committee and the General Manager be requested to make full enquiries into the question and to submit
to this Sub-Committee their recommendations in due course.
Finance Sub-Committee: March 14th 1927
On Minute No 35
(history of the Bank) the General Manager reported that Alderman Sir Percival Bower and himself had made enquiries with reference
to the printing and publishing of such a publication. The result of the enquiries pointed to the fact that a book in suitable form
with illustrations of branches etc, could be printed at the cost of 1/1½d a copy for 5,000 copies which cost could be reduced by 2d
if 10,000 copies were ordered. Blocks would cost about £30 and advertising was estimated at £75. The publishing of the book would
be upon the usual terms, namely, 33% of the sale price. The book would be authorised by the Bank Committee, and the General Manager
would write the same, and receive a royalty of 6d per copy sold. Certain contingencies in the way of distribution expenses and the
issue of free copies would have to be provided for.
The Sub-Committee were of the opinion that a publication of the nature suggested
would have a ready sale if the price were fixed at a reasonable figure, and it was important that no unnecessary delay should occur
in placing the publication on the market. It was accordingly -
RESOLVED:- That the Chairman of the General Committee (Alderman
Sir Percival Bower), Alderman Lovsey and Councillors Gelling and Cooper with the General Manager be authorised to go fully into the
matter and arrange for the printing and publishing of the book on such terms and conditions as they may consider desirable.
Bank Sub-Committee appointed to carry out arrangements for printing and publishing a history of the Bank, held at the Council House
on Monday, March 21st 1927.
Alderman Sir Percival Bower (in the Chair)
Councillors Cooper and Gelling
General Manager explained that it was difficult to give definite figures as to the cost or yield of printing and publishing a History
of the Bank in book form, owing to the uncertainty as to how many books would be sold by publishers and how many over the bank counters.
In the former case there would be a commission of 33% on the sale price of the book to pay to the publishers. With a view to assisting
the Sub-Committee he had, however, prepared the following memorandum:-
Cost of printing and publishing a History of the Bank
in book form.
Basing calculations on the figures submitted to the Finance Sub-Committee at their last meeting, the book can be
printed and delivered for distribution at 2/1d. per copy for 5,000 copies, or 1/7d.per copy for 10,000 copies, the latter figure being
based on half royalty for all sales beyond 5,000.
There then remains the question of publishing, which depends on the number
sold over the bank counters where no publishers' commission would be payable. Assuming half the quantities were sold over the bank
counters and half by the publishers on the usual commission basis, and the sale price was fixed at 2/6d. for 5,000 copies, the cost
and yield would balance each other.
If the price was fixed at 2/-d. per copy for 5,000 there would be an expense to meet of approximately
£125 or if fixed at 1/6d per copy £250.
It is reasonable to assume there would be a considerable advertisement value in such
a book which would find its way into the homes of depositors and others and would be a permanent advertisement of the Bank. To the
extent to which the Committee is prepared to contribute towards the advertisement value so the price of the book can be reduced.
calculations include the sum of £72. 18. 4d for advertising.
The Sub-Committee, after fully considering the matter were of opinion
that the sale price of the book should be fixed at 1/6d. per copy and that 5,000 copies should be ordered. This might mean that a
portion of the expense would have to be met by the Bank, the exact amount being dependent on the sales by publishers. Assuming half
the quantity were sold by the publishers and half over bank counters, the expense would be in the region of £250. The Sub-Committee
considered that having regard to the advertisement value of the book to the Bank, such an expenditure would be worthwhile if all the
copies could be disposed of.
RESOLVED:- That the General Manager be instructed to have 5,000 copies of the book printed and to
make the best arrangements possible for issuing the book at a cost of 1/6d. per copy.
Finance Sub-Committee: April 11th
On Minutes Nos. 35 and 48 (History of the Bank) the Sub-Committee were informed that the Special Sub-Committee appointed
to deal with this matter had instructed the General Manager to arrange for the preparation and publication of a book and to have 5,000
copies printed, the sale price being fixed at 1/6d per copy.
Finance Sub-Committee: May 9th 1927
On Minutes Nos. 48
and 67 (history of the Bank) the Sub-Committee were informed that the printing of the different regulations and rules in the Book
would necessitate a larger number of pages than was originally contemplated. The General Manager was in communication with the Rt.
Hon. Neville Chamberlain MP in regard to the earlier history of the Bank and was dealing with the question of regulations and rules.
He stated that he would endeavour to keep down the cost as much as possible.
Finance Sub-Committee: July 11th 1927
Minutes Nos 48/77 (History of the Bank), the Sub-Committee were informed that the History of the Bank was now on sale in book form.
That Minutes Nos. 48 and 77 be discharged.
show that just over 2,000 copies of the book were sold in the
period to March 1936.
Both editions contained three parts:
Part Two: twenty-eight chapters
detailing the progress of the Birmingham Municipal Bank from 1919 to 1927.
(The Appendix in the Library
Edition contained copies of the Bank's Rules and Regulations; Bills and Acts; and examples of forms relating to savings by way
Both books contained several photographs - many of these were of newly opened branches
and have been
reproduced on the appropriate pages of this website. Also illustrated in J P Hilton's book were some of the personalities
in the early days of both the Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank and the Birmingham Municipal Bank.
Each edition of the Bank's Annual
from 1928 to 1932 advertised J P Hilton's book.
FOREWORD by Neville Chamberlain
In this little book the enthusiastic and
extremely competent manager of the Birmingham Municipal Bank has described its origins, and related its early history. I believe his
record will be found to have more than a local or a passing interest. For this latest development of Municipal enterprise has in a
short time made such astonishing progress, that it has attracted widespread attention, and there must be many students of social conditions,
and of local government, who will desire to obtain a closer acquaintance with its methods, and to trace the sources of its success.
will be observed that, although for convenience its title is abbreviated, the Birmingham institution is essentially a Savings Bank.
Its main object is the encouragement of thrift; its funds are not used for the financing of commercial operations, but are invested
in such a way as to give the maximum return consistent with safety and availability to meet its obligations. The fact that the financial
relations between the Bank and the Corporation are of service to the latter also is an incidental but not an essential feature of
its existence. That section of its functions which is concerned with advancing loans on mortgage, for the purpose of house purchase,
is again merely a corollary of its principal object; it provides facilities for a form of thrift which, as is proved by the marvellous
progress of the building societies, offers special attractions for steady wage-earners, as well as for the "black-coated" workers.
the establishment of the Municipal Bank, there was no savings bank in Birmingham except the Post Office, and such facilities as were
afforded by the joint stock banks. It started, therefore, under peculiarly favourable circumstances. At the same time, I do not think
anyone can read Mr. Hilton's book without coming to the conclusion that it is possessed of some unusual, inherent, vital principle,
not to be found in other comparable institutions, however enterprising and well managed they may be. I believe this unique principle
is to be found in the fact that it is a Municipal Bank. In a great provincial city, with its strong sense of civic pride, its traditions
of public service, and its highly-trained and efficient officers, a savings Bank which is part of the local administrative machine,
inspires general confidence, and even a sort of affection. It is constantly in the public eye; it commands the services of the most
respected citizens; the councillors, the clergy, the magistrates, the teachers, the local leaders of every class and creed vie with
one another in proclaiming its virtues. It is elastic and adaptable in meeting the needs of the people; for any defect in administration
which hampered its use by depositors, would not be long in coming to the notice of the Committee. Constant advertisement, largely
through the medium of other Corporation Departments, and its own numerous branches, familiarises the general public with the opportunities
it offers, and no one appears to feel any diffidence about entering a Municipal building which is recognised as having been provided
for the convenience of the people.
Reflecting on the contents of these pages, certain questions will naturally arise in the minds of
readers. Is this supremely successful experiment to remain unique? Is Birmingham to have the sole monopoly of this fruitful idea which,
in the space of less than eight years has enabled her citizens to accumulate nearly £8,000,000 of savings? Have we indeed reached
the limit of what Municipal enterprise should be allowed to attempt, if we confine it to a single town? For my part, I would as soon
endeavour to imprison a volcano. Not that it would be wise or prudent to give powers like those obtained by Birmingham to any or every
local authority. Birmingham has been the pioneer. She has opened up the mine, and driven shafts which reveal the possibilities before
us. By skill and prudence she has hitherto avoided the perils which must beset such operations. Before others, possibly less fortunate
or less skilful, try their hands, it would be well to mark the danger spots, and to lay down regulations by which disaster may be
avoided. The Departmental Committee now sitting may be expected to give us wise guidance and counsel as to how we are to walk in the
future; and when their report has been received and assimilated, it may be possible to continue the advance.
In the meantime, this
romance, as Mr. Hilton has aptly described it, will perhaps serve to entertain, as I am sure it will encourage, Municipal administrators,
whose motto, like that of Birmingham herself, is "Forward," and who believe with me that, if we are to live up to our faith, we must
not be afraid of creating from time to time a new precedent.
I need only add what Mr. Hilton's modesty would never allow him to say
himself, namely, that no one has contributed more to the success of the Bank than its devoted and indefatigable manager.