Smethwick Telephone: September 14th 1929
There were some significant references to the relations between Smethwick and Birmingham, upon the occasion of the opening of the new premises in Sandon Road for the Bearwood Branch of the Municipal Bank. In the circumstances, this was quite natural, for, in addition to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and other representatives of the City, there were present the Mayor and Mayoress of Smethwick (Alderman and Mrs Morris), Alderman and Mrs G F Betts, Mrs Frank Jones, Mr and Mrs G T Ryder, Mr Leslie Jones, Mr and Mrs R Winchurch, etc.
There were also present Councillor Hume, Councillor Gelling, Councillor Spragg, Councillor Dempster, Councillor F W Daniels and Mrs Daniels, Mr J P Hilton (General Manager) and Mr F Ellison (Assistant General Manager).
Prior to the formal opening of the Branch, tea was provided in the Barnsley Road Schoolroom. Sir Percival Bower (chairman of the Committee) referring to the presence of what he described as the Smethwick contingent, observed that he could only come to the conclusion that, having regard to the fact that a very large proportion of the depositors at that branch resided in the Smethwick district, the Mayor was present in his official capacity to protect their interests, as a good Mayor would do. (Laughter). Nevertheless, they were delighted to see them all.
There was another outstanding feature in connection with the Bearwood Branch. The position had not been altogether an easy one, for they had carried on at the old Branch under considerable difficulties, both on account of the large depositorship and from the point of view of the staff, who were not working under the conditions that were desirable. But when they turned their attention to the provision of more commodious premises they found that they were up against considerable difficulties. They secured a parcel of land, and then it was discovered that there was a covenant – inserted in the dark ages by probably the Abbot of Warley Abbey – (laughter) – by virtue of which they were precluded from erecting any business premises on that site. Objections were raised, resulting in arbitration proceedings, and eventually they had to pay about £500 to appease the objectors. However, they did overcome the difficulty and (he hoped) to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned. They were anxious to start with the goodwill of those living in the vicinity and were genuinely desirous of appeasing everybody.
The development of Municipal Banks was well known to them. They had arrived at a stage in its history which must give satisfaction to every right-minded citizen and to the depositorship of the Bank. There was an aspect of that institution to which he had referred on previous occasions. It was understood it had been recommended that no further enabling Powers should be given to Municipal Authority for a number of years. Several of the larger Municipalities up and down the country were contemplating the promotion of Parliamentary Bills for the purpose of obtaining the necessary power to establish Municipal Banks. He (Sir Percival) had given considerable thought to the matter, and although it was extremely difficult to proffer advice, yet he would suggest that it would be far better for the authorities concerned to act, as it were, collectively, rather than separately. It was for those to whom he had referred to consider whether it was not possible to arrange for some united action.
So far as Birmingham was concerned, they were in a very happy position – a position of which they had every right to be proud. He had always advocated that, when any extension was to be carried through, there should be adequate safeguards. In Birmingham, the institution had been a huge success, and it was a success that reflected itself in many ways. It must, in his judgement, develop a spirit of independence to know that, in a time of difficulty, instead of having to depend upon charity, they could rely upon their own right arm and that they could fall back upon the fund which they had accumulated.
In paying a tribute to the work of the Committee, Sir Percival Bower said that all the members had given liberally of their time and energy. Particularly he wanted to thank the Staff, right down from the General Manager to the humblest office boy, for the magnificent service they gave on the administrative side of their Bank activities. He felt sure that the results which had been secured through the Bearwood Branch up to the present time, would be largely augmented, now that there were more commodious premises and increased facilities for the work. There were in connection with the Bearwood Branch 9,625 depositors and the balance standing to their credit amounted to £381,000. (Hear, hear). A large proportion of the depositorship was drawn from Smethwick. Therefore, it was a very pleasing fact that, on opening that new Bank, on the borders of their friendly neighbours, the Mayor and others who were actively associated with the public life of Smethwick, had come along that afternoon to give their support in that new venture.
As a memento of the occasion, a blotting pad, to which was attached an ornamental key, the Bank’s emblem of “Security,” was presented to the Lord Mayor (Alderman W Byng Kenrick).
In acknowledging this gift the Lord Mayor said that it would be a very useful adjunct to the inkpot, which was presented to him sometime ago. So he thanked the Committee for the ingenious kindness with which they had selected the memento. He heartily welcomed the presence of the Smethwick representatives, because they were very old friends of Birmingham. The Chairman (he said) had referred to one or two questions of general interest. Speaking of the function of a Municipal Bank, the Lord Mayor said that it was of the nature of a Trustee Savings Bank. It belonged to that family rather than to any other family. It was distinctly and originally concerned with providing opportunities for saving rather than with the question of letting out money at interest for various purposes. He thought they must bear that in mind. He had no doubt whatever about the security. It had never been suggested that they should enter into the same family as the ordinary Joint Stock Banks and, he thought, it would be very undesirable. Certainly, having regard to their origin, it would not be exactly fair that they should develop in that direction. There was a greater service that they could render in encouraging among all classes of the community the habit of saving any temporary surplus amounts, and particularly in the facilities they were offering for the advance of money for housing purposes.
There was further speech-making at the new Bank. The Lord Mayor opened the door, and a good number joined the friends who had been present at the earlier proceedings. A tablet, bearing an inscription, was unveiled by Sir Percival Bower, who remarked that the name of Kenrick needed no tablet to be erected in order to remind the citizens of Birmingham of the very eminent public service which had been rendered by that family. Still, it was very fitting that there should be something to indicate that the Lord Mayor was associated with the opening of that Branch. He took the opportunity of congratulating the architect (Mr Stewart Evans) upon designing them what he regarded as one of the best buildings they had got in connection with the Municipal Bank. It was a very pleasing elevation. The contractor (Mr Mobbs) had carried out his work very satisfactorily.
The Mayor of Smethwick (Alderman A T Morris) proposed a vote of thanks to the Lord Mayor for his services that afternoon. He remarked that Sir Percival Bower had been somewhat concerned as to the attitude which might be taken up by “the people over the border.” He could assure him that they were “quite a friendly tribe.” (Laughter). What they could not do for themselves, they did not object to their neighbours doing. (Hear, hear). He understood that about 7,000 of the depositors at that Branch came from Smethwick. Less significance was being attached to boundaries, both by Municipalities and nations, and it was all to the good.
Councillor Hume, in seconding, also congratulated the architect and the builder on that handsome building, which was within the Edgbaston Ward, of which he was a representative.
Councillor F W Daniels, JP, a member of the Municipal Bank Committee, also spoke to the vote of thanks, observing that no family had done more for Birmingham than the Kenrick family.
In replying, the Lord Mayor said he was glad to have the opportunity of being associated with that Bank, on the borders of Smethwick, which was halfway between Harborne and the Black Country. This was exactly the route he traversed on his way to business at West Bromwich. Referring to the new building, he said that it was a credit to the City and an adornment to the neighbourhood.
A tribute was paid to the work of Sir Percival Bower as Chairman of the Committee.