Recollections of the Bank's Committee Clerk
Golden Jubilee Reminiscences by Arthur Everall
It was about June, 1919, when Mr W S Body (then Chief Clerk in the Town Clerk's Department) invited me to become Committee Clerk to the new venture, Parliamentary powers for which had just been obtained. So I started in the dual capacity of Clerk to the temporary Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank and the new Committee of Management, which was a separate entity from the Corporation although appointed by them. So these two bodies ran together until September, 1919. During this interim period, Mr J P Hilton showed the power of his dynamic personality in supplementing the very small staff, who operated in a small section of the Water Department, Council House, by inducing all suitable persons who he knew to put their shoulders to the wheel to get the new enterprise off to a good start. I recollect clearly that he arranged for many in authority to address Meetings of towns-people at schools, etc, and these volunteers included Mr Neville Chamberlain himself, Mr Eldred Hallas, MP (a tower of strength in the new venture), the Town Clerk (then Mr Wiltshire), Mr Arthur Collins (City Treasurer) who he had known before and at West Bromwich, Alderman Lovsey of the Conservative Association and many others. All these gentlemen, under Mr Hilton's tactful guidance, did between them a great deal besides in settling documents and preparations for ensuring a good start. Such was Mr Hilton's enthusiasm that, perhaps it was just as well that none of the Royal Family were in the vicinity, for I feel sure Mr Hilton would have sent them a humble Petition to aid the cause.
It is now over 50 years since (after my return from the First World War with 4˝ years unbroken service in the Infantry in France and the Balkans) I was appointed Committee Clerk to the temporary Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank under the Chairmanship of Mr Neville Chamberlain. The following September of 1919, of course, the permanent Birmingham Municipal Bank was established by Act of Parliament; and it was my privilege and good fortune to be Clerk to the Committee of Management of that uniquely successful Municipal enterprise for 30 years until my retirement in April 1949.
I need not remind you that the first Head Office of the bank occupied a very small portion of the Water Department at the Council House, and that the first Branch bank was opened shortly afterwards at Small Heath, closely followed by the Sparkbrook Branch, both officially opened by Neville Chamberlain; and I am sure you will have on your files a very informal photograph of the latter ceremony with Mr Chamberlain discoursing in great form with a cup of tea in his hand.
Then the Bank Head Office moved to temporary premises in Edmund Street until the present magnificent building in Broad Street was completed, which was officially opened by the late Duke of Kent on November 27th, 1933.
The welfare of the Bank was perhaps the most important part of my working life, as I was so closely concerned in the setting up of the Mortgage Dept and the acquisition of premises preliminary to the opening of well over 70 Branches, some outside the City; all of which Openings I attended as Committee Clerk and representing the Town Clerk, who was solicitor to the Bank. I was also closely concerned in the designs of the Bank Key and Home Safes, Savings schemes for Schools and collection of trading accounts and rates.
I am reminded also of the many excellent Chairmen who officiated during my 30 years association with the Bank; especially Councillor Appleby (who followed Neville Chamberlain), Sir Percival Bower, Sir Wilfred Martineau, Alderman Pool (the Chemist), Alderman Morland, Alderman Cooper (Independent), Alderman Harrison Barrow, and the then Councillor Achurch, who was Chairman on my retirement. I would also like to refer to the famous Birmingham Families who were represented on the Committee during my clerkship: the Kenricks, Beales, Lloyds (of Banking fame) and of course the Cadburys with some of their employees: eg Councillor Fryer. Also prominent Labour stalwarts, such as Eldred Hallas, MP (who so staunchly supported Mr Neville Chamberlain), 'Land Tax' Sawyer, MP, Alderman Walter Lewis and Alderman Simpson (Trade Unions). Of many others, I would especially mention Dr Hall Wright (who lost his hands in the cause of X-Ray) and the Councillor who had lost both his legs and whose name I cannot recall.
Many people, both at home and abroad, took much interest in the Bank's activities. For instance, I remember in the early Thirties the Essayist (Mr H V Morton) wrote a series of articles on Birmingham for the then Birmingham Gazette and Express, a morning newspaper. Two of these articles were devoted solely to the Bank under the title 'At the sign of the Golden Key'. I have no doubt that you have these on your files, but certainly the Reference Library would be able to dig them out. There were some humorous incidents described, as well as publicising the Bank in no small degree.
During the Second World War, I recollect that the Bank staff did an immense amount to further the War effort in many directions, even carrying out some of the manual operations for some of the factories; in addition to mounting guard on all the scattered Bank premises.
Under the Chairmanship of Alderman Cooper, followed by Alderman Harrison Barrow and Councillor Achurch, the four years between the end of the War and my retirement in 1949, saw great changes in the personnel of the Bank. Mr Hilton retired, Mr Carver was appointed General Manager; Sir Frank Wiltshire and his successor, Mr Minshull (Town Clerks and Solicitors to the Bank) both passed away; Mr Gregg was appointed Solicitor to the Bank and Mr J P Eames Treasurer to the Bank.
These recollections have been extracted from 1969 correspondence by Arthur Everall with the then Bank's General Manager
(Mr S A Guy) in relation to a possible publication to celebrate the Bank's Golden Jubilee. In fact, Sparkbrook was the first
permanent branch to be opened, not Small Heath; and Small Heath branch was not opened by Neville Chamberlain
One of the articles by H V Morton, referred to above, is reproduced as Memory 045: Let me see my Money.