Miss D E Blackwell -
Chief Cashier
 
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At a meeting of the Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank (BCSB) Consultative Committee on July 20th 1917 the following resolution was passed:
 
That Miss Blackwell be appointed Cash Clerk and that her salary be increased 5/- per week as and from 23rd instant.
 
This extra Five Shillings (25-pence) per week raised Miss Blackwell's pay to 32/6d (1.62 per week, 85 per annum). The report of the Bank's Manager (J P Hilton) to the Consultative Committee gives the background to Miss Blackwell's appointment:
 
The question of securing a higher standard of efficiency in Cash dealing and the proper keeping of records and accounts is urgently necessary. Councillor Appleby and myself have interviewed the Cashier and it would appear that a sub-division of labour is needed. The importance of the Cashier being constantly at the Counter will be apparent and it would relieve me of numerous inquiries which he could well deal with. The administration of Branch banks should also be in separate hands. I think without incurring much expense a rearrangement  of existing staff could be accomplished. It is essential that I should obtain closer supervision of the Cash and coupons and to enable me to do this I propose to transfer Miss Blackwell from her present  post and make her responsible for the cash and coupons. I think, having regard to the happy relationship of the Staff, some rearrangement on the lines indicated would be preferable to the engagement of an additional officer. The rough times through which we have passed and the pulling up of the arrears of work which the present staff have accomplished has been marvellous during the past month.
 
The Bank's minutes do not give any detail as to the duties that were required of Miss Blackwell, but a further meeting of the same committee on February 10th 1919 resolved that:
 
an electric heater be fixed in the office used by Miss Blackwell
 
suggesting that Miss Blackwell performed her duties in a separate office, rather than on the branch counter. The system employed by the BCSB was mainly based on depositors purchasing coupons through their employers, the coupons then being affixed to a card that was then used to make a deposit to an account with the Bank. In addition to the sale of coupons by deduction from the employee's pay packet, branches, or 'work banks' were set up in factories and the coupons sold for cash. This cash would then have to be brought to Head Office. Presumably, an onerous task would be required to reconcile the sale (and stock) of coupons to the cash collected and the cash deposited by employers to Joint Stock Bank accounts. In addition, an amount of cash was held at the Bank's Head Office to meet withdrawal demands. It seems likely that the responsibility for these tasks was held by Miss Blackwell. With a coupon system being employed, there must have been thousands of these small, flimsy pieces of paper to be dealt with - overall, a very exacting job. In January 1918, Miss Blackwell's pay had been increased to 2. 10s. 6d. per week (131 per annum).
 
Miss Blackwell was one of the members of staff of the BCSB who transferred to the employment of the Birmingham Municipal Bank (BMB) on September 1st 1919, at which date she was given the position of Chief Cashier. The extent of the responsibilities of the job may be gauged from the fact that (in 1923) only three other members of staff had greater Fidelity Guarantee cover than Miss Blackwell.
 
The problems emanating from the coupon system, and the difficulties in which the staff of the BCSB operated whilst occupying temporary (and shared) accommodation in the Council House's Water Department are illustrated by the following extract from the minutes of the Savings Bank Consultative Sub-Committee meeting of February 10th 1919:
 

183     The following Minute of the General Committee was received:-

 

"The Manager reported that between the balancing of cash on January 18th and January 20th the sum of 10 was missing from the Bank. Every effort had been made during the week to trace the missing 10 but without success and he had provisionally notified the Guarantee Society that a claim would be made. The Society's representative had looked into the matter and was acquainted with all the circumstances arising during that period in the Bank.

214     RESOLVED: That the matter be looked into by the Consultative Sub-Committee, reporting to this Committee again in due course."

 

Mr Councillor Appleby had investigated this matter and presented a report thereon. After considering the report and hearing the Manager's opinion it was

183A   Resolved That report be made to the General Committee that there is distinct evidence that all the money of the Bank duly received by the Chief Cashier (Miss Blackwell) from the Counter Cashiers and Branch Bank Clerks during the period in question and from Lloyds Bank, and that the books and records therein appear to be correct, but that there is no satisfactory evidence as to how the loss occurred from the time the money was received by Miss Blackwell up to the time of her discovering the loss and reporting to the Manager. The Sub-Committee recommend that the matter be held in suspense until the winding-up of the Bank. The Sub-Committee further recommend that the thanks of the Committee be accorded to Councillor Appleby for his investigation and report.

 

185     The Manager dealt with the Auditor's report of the 21st November and explained the position in regard to the coupon account and the short cash.

 

186    RESOLVED: That this Sub-Committee recommend the General Committee to make representations to the Water Department with a view to access to the Bank premises being discontinued after Bank hours and that the Manager have an interview with Alderman Lloyd thereon.

 
The nature of the job may have had an impact on the health of Miss Blackwell, as the minutes of the meeting of the BMB's General Purposes Sub-Committee held at The Council House on December 10th 1923 included the following:
 
The General Manager presented the following report with reference to the illness of Miss Blackwell, Cashier at Head Office:-
 

The General Manager regrets to report that the Medical Attendant of Miss Blackwell has certified her to be suffering from Chronic Duodenal Ulcer which requires prolonged treatment, and he advises six months' leave of absence.

 

The illness is a recurrence of the trouble this officer had in the Spring of this year, when she was away from duty for two months. Having regard to the advice of the doctor that she should undertake treatment immediately, the General Manager conferred with the Chairman and on his authority granted her six months' leave of absence.

 

Owing to the fact that Miss Blackwell has been associated with the old and the present Bank since the same was established in September 1916, also considering the excellent service which she has rendered, and after taking into account the fact that during the two months she was away in the Spring her full salary and bonus was paid, it is recommended that during her absence she be granted payment after the rate of half salary and bonus.

 

November 26th 1923

 

445.    RESOLVED:- That the General Committee be recommended to grant Miss Blackwell six months leave of absence at half salary and bonus.

 

Miss Blackwell returned to work on May 1st 1924.

 

In 1923 there were 29 female staff employed by the BMB (out of a total of 97 full and part-time bank officers); Miss Blackwell, with an annual salary of 150, was the highest paid of these ladies.

 

Prior to the Second World War, it was the Corporation's policy that female staff had to leave the employment of the Council on marriage. As a consequence of Miss Blackwell's pending marriage in 1926, the General Manager presented the following report to the General Purposes Sub-Committee on March 8th 1926:

 

Resignation of Miss Blackwell

 

Miss Blackwell has intimated that she will be resigning her post as Chief Cashier, consequent upon her intended marriage.

 

Having regard to the fact that Miss Blackwell is severing a connection which started on the first day the temporary Bank was opened in 1916, the General Manager feels it would be the desire of the Committee to record their appreciation of the efficient and faithful service she has rendered. She entered the Service as the only ledger clerk, and in twelve months' time was called upon to fill a breach in the position of cashier. Although she was only discharging the duty in a temporary capacity, the present Chairman of the Bank Committee and the General Manager were so satisfied with the quality of her work that they decided to retain her in that capacity, and on the establishment of the permanent Bank in September 1919 she was unanimously appointed Chief Cashier. This important position calls for great care and accuracy, and throughout the period Miss Blackwell has displayed those qualities and given every satisfaction. It is difficult to estimate the amount of cash, coupons, etc for which she has been responsible, but the greatest testimony to her sterling work lies in the records of the Bank which show remarkably few occasions on which she has been under or over in her cash.

 

The General Manager would like to place on record his appreciation of the loyal service which Miss Blackwell has rendered, in particular during the difficult period of 1916 to 1919, when circumstances called for long hours of service and strenuous work. Throughout Miss Blackwell has given of her best ungrudgingly, and set an example in ability and enthusiasm for other Members of the Staff to copy.

 

It would be convenient to Miss Blackwell if she could leave at the end of May or during the first week in June. It is accordingly recommended that her resignation be accepted to take effect at the 30th June, but that the General Manager be authorised to arrange to meet her wishes as regards the date of leaving the service.

 

March 5th 1926.

 

The members of the Sub-Committee accepted the General Manager's report and the minutes continued:

 

891     RESOLVED:-  That the resignation of Miss Blackwell be accepted to take effect on the 30th June next, and the Chairman of the General Committee with the General Manager be requested to have prepared a scroll suitably inscribed with a reference to the services provided by Miss Blackwell, for presentation to her.

 

This esteem with which Miss Blackwell was held by the General Manager, was repeated in his 1927 book Britain's First Municipal Savings Bank. In Part One (Chapter 10) of the book, J P Hilton singled out two members of staff of the BCSB for ....

 

special mention, viz., Mr. A. J. Smith and Miss D. E. Blackwell. Both these officers commenced their service with the Bank on its establishment; the former is still an officer, and the latter was an officer up to June, 1926, when she resigned on marriage. Mr. Smith has always been an enthusiastic and energetic officer, ever ready to help, ever willing to discharge any duty he was called upon to undertake; a valuable and loyal colleague. Miss Blackwell coming to the Bank as the ledger clerk, rose to cashier and ultimately chief cashier. Exceptionally able, reliable and trustworthy, she was a splendid officer. The bigger the task the greater her determination to accomplish it.

 

The Sub-Committee meeting of March 8th 1926 then received a further report from the General Manager:

 

Appointment of Chief Cashier

 

Consequent upon the retirement of Miss Blackwell, a vacancy arises in the appointment of Chief Cashier; and after carefully considering the merits of the various Members of the Staff, the General Manager recommends that Mr A F Lambeth (at present Branch Manager at Small Heath) be promoted to the post. Mr Lambeth has performed his duties at various Branches with every satisfaction, and can be depended upon.

 

The General Manager suggests that the appointment should be "on trial" until the next revision of salaries, when a report will be made on the manner in which Mr Lambeth has discharged the duties attaching to the office.

 

The Committee will appreciate that this appointment involves other promotions, which the General Manager will deal with and submit his recommendations to the next Meeting of the Committee.

 

March 5th 1926.

 

Interestingly, the General Manager recommends that Mr A F Lambeth be "promoted" to the post of Chief Cashier, although he was currently the manager of the Bank's busiest branch: Small Heath. His annual salary in 1926 was 300, probably twice the amount paid to Miss Blackwell. It was standard practice for male employees to be paid at a higher rate than females on the same grade, but this discrepancy seems excessive.

 

 

(NOTE: the Bank's archive records do not reveal the full names of Miss Blackwell, but Birth and Marriage Indexes contain the following:

 

 - John Baker married Miss Dora E Blackwell in 1926 - registered at Birmingham;

 

 - Dora Ellen Blackwell was born in 1893 - registered in Kings Norton.

 

Additionally, a Mrs D E Baker is listed on the Attendance Register of those staff who undertook wartime inspection of aircraft parts in Head Office's Stationery Department - suggesting that she rejoined the staff during the Second World War, or just assisted with this voluntary work as an ex-employee.)

 
Staff