The Town of Huddersfield, which has risen to its present importance within the last fifty years, was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1868, and the Borough was divided into twelve wards, two of which return six, and the remainder three Councillors each.
The Arms granted by the Heralds’ College to the Borough of Huddersfield are as follows :— Or, on a Chevron between three rams passant, sable as many towers argent Crest — A Barn’s head couped argent, armed or, gorged with a collar sable, in the mouth a sprig of cotton tree slipped and frueted proper. The appropriateness of these Arms is obvious : the Rams indicate the staple trade of the District, and the Castles on the Chevron point to the Castle Hill, which forms the most conspicuous object in the Borough. Although the Castle was dismantled centuries ago, the earthworks are still quite clear, and cannot fail to strike the most inexperienced observer. The rising trade in cotton is indicated by the sprig of the cotton plant in the Crest. We cannot help commending the common sense of this newly-incorporated Borough in going to the fountain head for a proper Coat of Arms for their Seal, and in not adopting a sort of omnibus design, intended to commemorate doubtful legends, fantastic stories, coupled with the feudal history of the Town, which is neither heraldry nor anything else.
Sir Charles W. Sikes, Managing Director of the Huddersfield Banking Company, on whom Her Majesty has recently conferred the honour of knighthood, in recognition of the important part taken by him in introducing of Post Office Savings Banks, is the second son of the late Mr. Shakespear Garrick Sikes, banker, of Huddersfield, who died in 1862. His mother was Hannah, daughter of Mr. John Hirst, also of Huddersfield ; and he was born in the year 1818. When at school, he received, as a prize, a copy of Dr. Franklin's "Essays and Letters," which he read with great interest. This book implanted in his mind the germs of many useful thoughts, and exercised a powerful influence in giving a practical turn to his life. Having' seen a number of men begging when out of work, young Sikes wondered whether they had ever heard of Dr. Franklin and of his method of avoiding beggary or bad times by saving their money when trade was brisk and they were well paid.
In 1833 Mr. Sikes entered the service of the Huddersfield Banking Company, which was the second joint stock bank that had been established in England. The prudence and success with which Scotch banking companies had been conducted induced the directors to select a Scotch manager; and one of the first resolutions the directors adopted was to give deposit receipts for sums of ten pounds and upwards, for the purpose of encouraging the working classes in habits of providence and thrift. Mr. Sikes, being somewhat of a favourite with the manager, often heard from his lips most interesting accounts of the provident habits of the Scotch peasantry, and was informed by him of the fact that one of the banks at Perth paid not less than twenty thousand pounds a year, as interest on deposits, varying from ten to two hundred pounds each. In 1837, Mr. Sikes became one of the cashiers of the Huddersfield Banking Company. This brought him into direct contact and intercourse with the very class which, from the direction his mind was taking, he so much wished to understand namely, the thrifty portion of the industrious classes. A considerable number of them had sums lying at interest. As years rolled on Mr. Sikes often witnessed the depositor commencing with ten or twenty pounds; then, by degrees, making permanent additions to his little store, until at length the amount would reach one, two, or, in some few instances, even three hundred pounds. Mr. Sikes would often imagine the marvellous improvement that would be effected on the condition of the working classes, if every one of them became influenced by the same frugality and forethought which induced these exceptional operatives to deposit their savings at his bank. Mr Sikes was convinced that national prosperity, as well as national adversity, might be attended with great evils, unless the masses were endowed with habits of providence and thrift, and prepared, by previous education, for the "good time coming."
Many discussions with working men, in his homeward evening walks, convinced Mr. Sikes that there were social problems, with which legislation would be almost powerless to grapple, and of these the thriftlessness of the masses of the people was one. An employer of five hundred hand-loom weavers had told Mr. Sikes that, in a previous period of prosperity, when work was abundant and wages were very high, he could not, had he begged on bended knee, have induced his men to save a single penny, or to lay by anything for a rainy day.
It was at this period that Mr. Sikes was reading the late Archbishop Stunner's "Records of Creation," and met with the following passage : "The only true secret of assisting the poor, is to make them agents in bettering their own condition." Simple as are the words, they shed light into Mr. Sikes' mind, and became the key-note and the test to which he brought the various views and theories which he had previously met with doles and charities, though founded frequently on the most benevolent motives, were too often deteriorating to their recipients. On the other hand, if self-reliance and self-help could only be made characteristics of the working classes generally, nothing could retard their onward and upward progress. Mr. Sikes observed, that, until the working-classes had more of the money power in their hands, they would still be periodically in poverty and distress. He saw that if provident habits could only be generally pursued by them, the face of society would immediately be transformed ; and he resolved, in so far as lay in his power, to give every aid to this good work. From his own reading and observation, stimulated by what he had learnt as to the facilities offered in Scotland for the cultivation of habits of providence, Mr. Sikes became impressed with the necessity of extending and multiplying the then existing Savings Banks, so as to bring them into closer connection with the daily life and requirements of the people
In 1850, Savings Banks were only open a very few hours in each week. In Huddersfield, where more than 400,000 a year was paid in the Savings Bank, after having been established over thirty years, had only accumulated 74,332. In the same year, Mr. Sikes addressed an anonymous letter to the editors of the Leeds Mercury, to which, by their request, he afterwards attached his name. In that letter he recommended the formation of Penny Savings Banks in connection with mechanics' institutes, mills, workshops, and schools. In simple words, but with many telling facts, he showed how the young-men and the young women of the working-classes were growing up deprived of almost every opportunity of forming habits of thrift, and of becoming depositors in Savings Banks. The letter was received with general approbation. The committee of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes gave their cordial sanction to it ; and Penny Banks were established in connection with nearly every Mechanics' Institute in Yorkshire. Mr. Sikes personally commenced one at Huddersfield ; and down to the present time it has received and repaid about 30,000. In fact, the working people of Huddersfield, doubtless owing, in some measure, to the practical counsel of Mr. Sikes, have become most provident and thrifty ; the deposits in their Savings Bank having increased from 74,000 in 1850, to 383,000 in 1880.
In 1854, Mr. Sikes published his excellent pamphlet on "Good Times ; or the Savings Bank and the Fireside," and the success which it met with indicated by a sale of over 40,000 copies induced him to give his attention to the subject of Savings Banks generally. He was surprised to find that they were so utterly inadequate to meet the requirements of the country. He sought an interview with Sir George Cornewall Lewis, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and brought the subject under his consideration. The Chancellor requested Mr. Sikes to embody his views in a letter, and in the course of a few months there appeared a pamphlet, addressed to Sir Cornewall Lewis, entitled, "Savings Banks Reform." Mr. Sikes wished to insist on the Government guarantee being given for deposits made in Savings Banks, but this was refused. He next proceeded to ventilate the question of Post Office Savings Banks, being disappointed that no measure for the improvement of Savings Banks in general had been adopted by Parliament. The day appeared very distant when his cherished wish would be realised that the Savings Bank would really become the bank of the people. But the darkest hour precedes the dawn. When he had almost given up the notion of improving the existing Savings Banks, the idea suddenly struck him that in the Money Order Office there was the very organisation which might be made the basis of a popular Savings Bank. Mr. Sikes communicated his plan in a letter to his friend, Mr. (now Sir Edward) Barnes ; then member for Leeds, whose life-long services to the best interests of the working classes are so widely known. The plan was submitted to Sir Rowland Hill, who approved of the suggestion, and considered the scheme "practicable, as far as the Post Office was concerned." In the recent "Life of Sir Rowland Hill, K.C.B.," the following- just and highly complimentary tribute has been paid to Mr. C. W. Sikes, as the originator of the Post Office Savings Bank system :—
Mr. Gladstone, in 1861, carried the Bill through Parliament, for the establishment of Post Office Savings Banks throughout the country. Mr. Sikes, when predicting, at the Social Science Association, the success of the Post Office Savings Banks, spoke in the following words : "Should the plan be carried out, it will soon be doing a glorious work. Wherever a bank is opened and deposits received, self-reliance will to some extent be aroused, and with many, a nobler life will be begun. They will gradually discern how ruthless an enemy is improvidence to working men ; and how truly his friends are economy and forethought! Under their guidance, household purchases could be made on the most favoured terms for cash ; any wished-for house taken at the lowest rent for punctual payment ; and the home enriched with comforts, until it is enjoyed and prized by all. From such firesides go forth those inheriting the right spirit — loving industry, loving thrift, and loving home. Emulous of a good example, they, in their day and generation, would nobly endeavour to lay by a portion of their income. Many a hard winter and many a slack time would be comfortably got over by drawing on the little fund, to be again replenished in better days. And if the plan were adopted, remembering that it would virtually bring the Savings Bank within less than an hour's walk of the fireside of every working man in the United Kingdom, I trust that it is not taking too sanguine a view to anticipate that it would render aid in ultimately winning over the rank and file of the industrial classes of the kingdom, to those habits of forethought and self-denial, which bring enduring reward to the individual, and materially add to the safety of the State." The working classes have not yet, however, taken full advantage of the facilities in saving afforded them by the Post Office Savings Banks ; the institution being still too young to have fully taken root. We believe that the living generation must pass away before the full fruits of the Post Office Savings Banks can be gathered in ; and that Sir Charles William Sikes' name will ever hold a distinguished place in connection with those valuable institutions.
The results of the Post Office Savings Banks Act have so far proved entirely satisfactory ; and the Money Order Offices have been largely extended. They are now over 6,000 in number, consequently the facilities in saving have been multiplied ten-fold since, the banks were established, there being only 597 Savings Banks in 1859 in the United Kingdom. The number in the London district is now about 560, so that from any point in the thickly populated parts of the Metropolis a Savings Bank may be found within a distance of a few hundred yards. The number of the depositors at the end of 1880 reached 2,185,000, while the amount of deposits amounted to £33,744,637 sterling. At the same time the amount deposited with the original Savings Banks remained about the same.
It appears from the 26th report of the Postmaster-General, issued on the 14th August, 1880, that from September, 1861, to 31st December, 1879. the number of Post Office Savings Banks opened was 6,016. Within the same interval there have been 40,250,430 deposits, amounting (including interest) to £121,643,088, and the total amount repaid to depositors has been £89,630,954, leaving the amount still deposited £32,012,134, belonging to 1,988,477 depositors. The total amount of deposits, with the interest due, had on the 31st of December 1880, reached £33,744,637, showing an increase of £1,732,503 over the amount recorded on the corresponding day of 1879. Whilst the management of the old Trustees Savings Banks has resulted in a heavy loss to the country, the amount of net profits of the Post Office Savings Banks to 31st December, 1879 after paying all expenses, and £97,084 on account of the new building in Queen Victoria Street in addition has been £1,131,000. The importance and full significance of these enormous totals, as indicative of the genuine progress and increased social well-being of our people cannot easily be over-estimated. Therefore, early this year, a memorial was sent to the Premier from the mayor and leading- inhabitants of Huddersfield suggesting that some public acknowledgment should be made of their townsman's highly-deserving services. Before this memorial reached Mr. Gladstone, that right honourable gentleman had already written to Mr. Sikes, informing him of Her Majesty's intention to confer a knighthood upon him. This was hailed with pleasure, not only in financial and commercial circles, but also by Sir Charles Sikes' numerous friends in Yorkshire, and by others of his countrymen who rejoice to see public services fitly recognised.
The class of private bankers have furnished many illustrious recruits to the nobility and titled gentry ; but Sir Charles William Sikes is the first and only Joint Stock bank manager who has received the honour of knighthood. We are not surprised to learn that the shareholders of the bank have already altered its constitution, to allow Sir Charles being appointed the managing director. The new knight is not only a banker of high repute for ability, shrewdness, and spotless integrity, but is also a gentleman of large information and culture, having taken from youth upwards a keen delight in the works of great authors.
It has been proposed in Huddersfield to have a portrait of this public benefactor placed in one of the public institutions of that town and also to raise a sum of .3,000 for the endowment of local scholarships or prizes, in honour of Sir Charles Sikes, and in association with his name for the encouragement of deserving students.
Though somewhat tardy, Sir Charles Sikes's reward has come last, and that from a statesman of great repute as a financier, and one moreover, to whom party spirit has never imputed selfishnes and indiscrimination in his distribution of honours. We may further express the hope that Sir Charles William Sikes will long live to enjoy his knighthood. The honour, we feel convinced, is nothing in his estimation compared with the gratification of knowing that he has been of great service to his country, by employing the talents with which he is endowed, and which his own industry improved, in benefiting the pockets, and therefore promoting the happiness, not only of thousands unknown to himself, but of millions yet unborn.