The Early Years of the Huddersfield Building Society (1974) - Henry Kaye Part I: 1867-82

© Trevor Henry Hall
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Henry Kaye 1867-1912

PART I. 1867-82

Henry Kaye’s long period of service as the chief executive of our Society was of the greatest historical importance. His son and successor as our Secretary, William Henry Kaye, in an address delivered to the Annual General Meeting of the Building Societies’ Association[1] held in Huddersfield in May 1913, two months after his father’s death, pointed out that the Society’s receipts during the first and last years of Henry Kaye’s term of office were respectively £9,660.7.11d.[2] and £258,705.12.2d. These figures speak for themselves. They show that Henry Kaye saw the opportunity presented to the Society in the early years of his appointment, which broadly coincided with the beginning of the period of real impetus in the growth of permanent building societies,[3] from their small local beginnings to the immensely important position they now occupy as part of our social and economic life.

For ordinary working men and women the grim poverty of the early nineteenth century had been replaced by a growing consciousness, doubtless influenced to some extent by the spread of elementary education as well as improving circumstances, of new opportunities and rewards. In the manufacture of woollen and worsted cloth, for which Huddersfield was chiefly noted, hand labour was being displaced by machinery, trade was expanding and wages were increasing. For the first time the man in the street could see that a margin of his growing earnings could be available for saving after the necessities of life had been provided, an opportunity for thrift that could offer some measure of security against the uncertainties of illness and old age.

Looking at the complementary aim of the pioneers of the Building Society movement, as exemplified by our original Directors, in the middle of the nineteenth century it was still a fairly revolutionary concept that the ordinary man should own his own house. Such an ideal, however, had established itself in the reforming, humanitarian movement of the period, a movement that found natural roots in the fast-growing, prosperous, industrial towns of the West Riding of Yorkshire, of which Huddersfield, like Halifax, Leeds and Bradford, was entirely typical.

Henry Kaye was born of humble parentage in the village of Almondbury, near Huddersfield. It is to be presumed that he was educated at one of the ordinary day schools in the vicinity, for the excellent records of King James’s Grammar School, Almondbury, contain no mention of his name. I have not been able to trace any details of his life before he entered the service of the Society as John Smith’s assistant some time prior to February 1865, at the age of about twenty-one. When Henry Kaye married Hannah Ibberson, a schoolmistress, at Almondbury Parish Church on 6 September 1871, however, he described himself as an ‘Accountant’, so that it seems probable that he received some training in that profession before devoting his life to the Building Society movement, and to our Society in particular.

In Henry Kaye’s obituary in The Huddersfield Examiner of 5 March 1913, it was said that he had lived all his life in Almondbury. He devoted much time to his duties as a churchwarden of the Parish Church, and he was one of the principal participants in meeting the cost of the church restoration in 1882.[4] Henry Kaye was an honorary manager of the day schools in Almondbury, and honorary treasurer of the Mechanics’ Institute. In June 1912 he was presented with an easy chair which had been subscribed by the scholars to mark the completion of his fifty years’ work for the Sunday School at Almondbury. In the Parish Church there is a memorial window, the inscription of which reads:

To the glory of God and in Commemoration of the life long connection of Henry Kaye of Kirkroyd (1843-1913) and of Hannah his wife (1845-1914) with the Church and Sunday School of this Parish.

His enthusiasm and devotion to the Society apart, Henry Kaye was a solid man, and I do not think that there can be any doubt that his fine personal character was a contribution of first importance to our early success. Men and women trusted him. It is probably true to say that many of our small investors of those days knew little about business — but they knew Henry Kaye, and that was sufficient. At the meeting of the Building Societies’ Association in Huddersfield in May 1913, to which I have already referred, the toast of ‘The Huddersfield Building Society’ was proposed by the late David Lewis, J.P., of Cheltenham,[5] who said of the town and our Society:

As regards respectability, it needs no words of mine to say that that is the very mildest term that could be used to describe the people we meet. In such a soil it would perhaps be almost inevitable that Building Society work should flourish; and when the time came, and the man was found in the person of the late Secretary, Henry Kaye, to commence the work of this Huddersfield Society, success was certain. One has only to talk with those who worked with him to hear of the labour, the interest, and the enthusiasm that he put into the work, and if it can ever be said that the Secretary made the Society, I believe those who worked with Henry Kaye would be the first to acknowledge that his influence had perhaps more to do with the building up of this great Society than almost any other factor that was called into operation. We have but to look at the figures showing the growth of this Society during the last ten years to see what wonderful progress has been made.

Unfortunately, we have now no word picture of Henry Kaye in his early years available to us, but some stories of him have been recalled by old friends of mine, now retired, from my own days on the staff of the Society long ago. It was said of Henry Kaye that he constantly strove with energy and persistence to attract investing accounts to the Society, and that this unrelenting pursuit included both small savers and their children. It was said to be fatal for a member to bring an infant into the office, for if the Secretary failed to persuade the parent to open a savings account for his or her child, Henry Kaye would issue a pass-book himself then and there with a shilling out of his own pocket. Withdrawals were a different matter. In every case the member was seen by the Secretary and invited to confide in him why the money was needed, with the suggestion that a smaller amount would suffice. It is actually said of Henry Kaye (admittedly third-hand) that if the proposed sum was small and the case was needy, he would sometimes give the member money out of his own pocket rather than record a withdrawal from the Society’s funds.

Henry Kaye must have greatly impressed the Directors by his personality and his work as John Smith’s assistant to cause them to appoint him as Secretary of the Society in March 1867, when he was still in his early twenties. The Board, however, did take some precautions ‘to lessen the responsibility’ of so young a Secretary, as it was tactfully resolved at a Board Meeting held on 10 September 1867. The instruction was given that whenever the amount of money in the hands of the Secretary reached £30 (and on Saturdays irrespective of the amount) it should forthwith be paid into the Bank. Money received on the monthly subscription nights, the Board decreed, must be taken to the Bank on the following morning by a Director. The day book was to be balanced every night, and no alteration was to be made in the method of keeping the Society’s books of account without the permission of the Board. The new Secretary was required to find security in the sum of £600.

The Minutes do not record the date of the move to the Society’s new and larger first-floor offices at 19 John William Street, but it was presumably shortly after Henry Kaye’s appointment.[6] We were certainly installed there when our third Annual Report was drafted. We had three fine windows, facing what in 1867 were the premises of Messrs Thomson & Dodds, Woollen Manufacturers, and at least two rooms.

It will be recalled that during John Smith’s period of employment there had been some changes in the composition of the original Board. On 29 March 1867, when Henry Kaye became the Secretary, Messrs Hirst, Crosland, Scholefield, Shaw, and Woodcock remained of the earliest Directors, augmented by Messrs Tindall, Vickerman, Wood, and Stuttard. On 16 May 1867, Henry Shaw, another of the original Directors, resigned from the Board and was replaced on 24 June of the same year by H. G. Duggan.[7]

The Society’s third Financial Year closed on 2 September 1867, the assets having risen to over £13,000, including mortgage balances of slightly over £12,500 and cash in the Bank of over £370. It was reported that 224 new members had been enrolled during the year. The Annual General Meeting was again held in the Wellington Hall, Queen Street, Huddersfield, under the chairmanship of the President, Joseph Hirst. It is of interest to notice that the new Secretary, despite his youth, was allowed to read the Report and Accounts, after which the Chairman ‘made a few observations respecting the steady progress made by the Society during the past year’. In accordance with Rule 9, which required the retirement of four Directors at each Annual General Meeting in rotation, Messrs Hirst, Crosland, Vickerman, and Tindall retired but were re-elected. The operation of Rule 9 seems to have depended upon a simple vote and was not devoid of hazard, as was to be demonstrated on a later occasion. As I have mentioned, Robert Wood resigned and Charles Smeeton came back on to the Board on 2 November 1867 under Rule 12, which allowed the Board to fill vacancies during the year by co-option.

On 29 November 1867, a somewhat ominous, if guarded, Minute recorded that the five Directors present felt that before any action was taken in regard to the Society’s Solicitor, as many members of the Board as possible should meet on 11 December to consider the matter. The latter meeting was a special one to deal with this single item, which was again to consider complaints by borrowing members in regard to ‘private bills’ presented by Mr Jonas Craven ‘over and above the authorised charges for examination of Title and drawing up Mortgages’. It was decided that in two cases the Solicitor had ‘exceeded his duty in causing expense to the parties without first being authorised by the Board of Directors’. It was resolved ‘that in future no action shall be taken by the Solicitor to the Society causing expense to any Borrower, without the direction of the Board, but the Solicitor shall in all cases report upon the Title Deeds as handed to him by the Secretary of the Society’. This moderate resolution, it may be thought, showed considerable tolerance on the part of the Board, for it will be recalled that only a year previously in the face of a similar complaint the Directors had decreed that all Mr Craven’s ‘bills for extra charges’ should be submitted to the Board. Jonas Craven must have been a capable lawyer, persuasive and disarming in defending his position, for he continued to serve the Society as its Solicitor for many years to come, on terms of restored mutual goodwill with the Board.

On 16 June 1868, the Board suffered the loss by resignation of G. Tindall, and the vacancy was not filled until 27 October, the date of the fourth Annual General Meeting of the Society. The meeting was again held, as it was to be held for many years to come, in the Wellington Hall.[8] The President, who was now referred to with added deference as ‘Mr. Councillor Joseph Hirst’, took the Chair. It will be recalled that as early as 24 July 1865, the Sub-Committee appointed to examine the Rules had expressed some concern over Rule 9, and the fourth Annual General Meeting underlined its dangers. The principal matter of note about this meeting, which marked the end of a successful if fairly uneventful year of ‘steady and satisfactory progress’, in the words of the President, was the election of no less than four new Directors, J. E. Webb,[9] J. Sykes,[10] W. Fawcett,[11] and T. Armitage.[12] These gentlemen displaced Messrs Duggan, Scholefield (the Vice-President), and Woodcock, and filled the vacancy caused by the resignation of G. Tindall. Fortunately, this was the last of these early upheavals on the Board. In the event, the future stability of the Board was assured by the regular re-election of the President, Joseph Hirst, the two future Presidents, Frederick Crosland (who was elected Vice-President on 30 October 1868) and John H. Stuttard who, with C. Vickerman and C. Smeeton formed what might be termed the ‘old guard’ of the Board and tended from then on to dominate its proceedings, assisted as the years passed by the increasing influence of the Secretary.

The continued expansion of the Society evidently began to cause problems in office space. On 27 November 1868, the President was asked ‘to wait upon Mr. Wright, the Landlord, for the purpose of taking the whole of the premises into the Society’s hands’. If this suggestion had borne fruit and we had additionally acquired the ground and second floors of 19 John William Street, it is interesting to speculate how long we might have remained at that address instead of moving to 37 John William Street in 1882. Mr Hirst was unsuccessful in his mission, however, for a Mr Jubb had forestalled us by taking a lease of the premises. This disappointment (which was to be repeated in a few years in curious circumstances) did not deter the Society from a determination to enlarge its operations, and on 6 August 1869, a Committee was formed consisting of the President, the Vice-President and the Secretary to consider ‘the Society’s present advertisements in local papers, with regard to the alteration thereof, and to take any further steps they may deem advisable in order to bring before the public the many advantages of the Society’.

The fifth Annual General Meeting was held on 26 October 1869 ‘when a larger number of members was present than on any previous occasion’, according to the Minutes. The assets of the Society were now over £21,000, and the Secretary was highly complimented ‘on the creditable manner in which the books were kept’. The Board, evidently now enjoying the complete confidence of the members, encountered nothing but calm water and the retiring Directors, Messrs Hirst, Crosland, Vickerman, and Stuttard, were unanimously re-elected. A month later, on 26 November 1869, W. Fawcett attended his last Board Meeting. His death is only indirectly recorded in the Minutes of the meeting of 22 April 1870, when it was resolved ‘that Mr. Joseph Radcliffe[13] be appointed a Director of this Society in place of Mr. William Fawcett, deceased’. Mr Fawcett, it will be recalled, was one of the four Directors elected together under Rule 9 at the Annual General Meeting on 27 October 1868. John H. Stuttard was Mr Radcliffe’s principal sponsor, so that it may be presumed that he was acceptable to the senior Directors.

During the ensuing Financial Year, the Board became dissatisfied with what were considered to be the excessive charges made by the West Riding Union Banking Company for the conduct of the Society’s account, and critical Minutes on the subject were recorded on 21 January, 22 February, and 22 March 1870. Negotiations with the Bank were attempted by the President, but the Bank proved obdurate. On 24 March 1870, by a resolution of the Board, the Society’s account was transferred to the Huddersfield Banking Company. In retrospect, the obstinacy of the Society’s original Bankers over the amount of their charges seems surprising, since it resulted in the loss of a customer whose business was increasing every year.

By 31 August 1870, the end of the Society’s sixth Financial Year, the assets had increased to nearly £25,000. At the Annual General Meeting on 25 October, Frederick Crosland, the Vice-President, deputised for the President who was indisposed. In presenting the Annual Report and Accounts, Mr Crosland observed that the year had been ‘one of unprecedented success’. Once again the Secretary was praised for his work, and the four retiring Directors, Messrs Smeeton, Armitage, Webb, and Sykes, were unanimously re-elected. Mr Jonas Craven, our Solicitor, who had survived the criticisms of his charges two years previously, proposed a vote of thanks ‘in complimentary terms’ to all concerned. As had now become customary, Joseph Hirst and Frederick Crosland continued as President and Vice-President.

The seventh Annual Report and Accounts, presented by Joseph Hirst at the Annual General Meeting on 31 October 1871, was clearly regarded by the Board as a natural milestone in the affairs of the Society. The President observed with pride that the Society had ‘completed its seven years apprenticeship, without having incurred one penny of loss’. No specific claim was made for the operations of the seventh year itself, other than that there had been ‘an increase in each department of the Society’s business’ whilst withdrawals were satisfactorily down by approximately £1,000 compared with the previous year. What was claimed, and in my view rightly claimed, was that ‘every year of the Society’s history has been one of steady progress’. A new feature of the printed Report was headed ‘Progress of the Society from its Commencement’, showing each year’s increasing gross intake of investments. The assets were nearly £32,000 and ‘the Society was never in a more prosperous condition than at present’. Almost as a matter of routine, it would now seem, the retiring Directors, Messrs Hirst, Crosland, Vickerman, and Radcliffe, were re-elected ‘with acclamation’.

During this seventh year of the life of the Society, one or two matters of interest had been recorded in the Minutes, together with one hitherto unsolved mystery in connexion with the Society’s premises. On 17 March 1871, the Board showed commendable compassion in a serious eight months arrears case of a borrower named Sims, where the stage had been reached of stern letters from the Society’s Solicitor. On learning that Mr Sims was recovering from an illness, the Board instructed Mr Craven ‘to desist from further action’. Advertising the facilities of the Society continued to occupy the attention of the Directors and on 12 May 1871, the Secretary was instructed to prepare ‘a placard suitable for posting in order to bring the Society more prominently before the public’.[14] On the other hand, an application by a Mr Thomas Jessop ‘for an Agency at Kirkheaton [was] declined, as the Directors are of opinion that it would not be desirable to open a branch of this Society there at present’.

On 15 August 1871, the following important Minute was recorded:

On the motion of Mr. Vickerman, seconded by Mr. Stuttard, resolved that Messrs. J. Hirst and F. Crosland be deputed to wait upon Mr. Wright [the Society’s landlord] and ascertain the lowest terms upon which he will let to the Society the shop and cellar underneath also our present offices and the rooms over, the whole of which is now let for £72 per annum. Should Mr Wright decline to reduce the present rent the said deputation are hereby empowered to offer £65 per annum and if this offer be refused then other premises for the Society are to be looked out for.

Since the Accounts showed that the Society was paying £30 for its first-floor offices, the balance of £42 that Mr Wright was receiving for the basement, the ground floor shop and some second-floor accommodation may, in retrospect, be thought to have been exceedingly reasonable. However that may be, the Directors considered that £65 per annum for the whole property was enough.[15] On 1 September the President reported that he and his co-Director ‘had waited upon Mr. Wright on Tuesday evening, the 29th August, 1871 when Mr. Wright informed them that he would be glad to accept the Society either for the rooms they now occupy or the whole of the premises’. It was resolved that the deputation ‘be again requested to wait upon Mr. Wright and take the whole of the premises on the best terms they could’.

As the Board’s authority to settle the terms for the Society’s occupation of the whole building, including the all-important ground floor, was open-ended, it is most difficult to understand why agreement was not reached with Mr Wright. That it was not is demonstrated by the fact that the Accounts show that the Society continued to pay the original rent of £30 per annum. More perplexing still is that no further reference of any kind to the matter was made in the Minutes.

As had been previously demonstrated in the case of W. Fawcett, it was not the habit of the Board in these early years to record with precision the deaths of Directors in the Minutes. Thus the passing of C. Smeeton (whose last attendance had been at the seventh Annual General Meeting) was first mentioned in a resolution on 19 January 1872, that the President and Vice-President ‘be deputed to wait upon Mr. T. K. Mellor and request him to become a Director of this Society in the place of Mr. C. Smeeton, deceased’. On 16 February it was reported that Mr Mellor (who was to be a future President of the Society) felt himself unable to accept a seat on the Board at present, and Joseph Goodwin was therefore elected as a Director.[16] The date of death of J. Radcliffe was similarly not recorded. It evidently occurred shortly before 30 August 1872, for on that day it was resolved ‘that a letter of condolence be sent to the Widow of our late Director Mr. Jos. Radcliffe’. At the same meeting it was resolved that ‘Mr. William Radcliffe be elected a Director in the place of his brother Jos. Radcliffe, deceased’.

At the eighth Annual General Meeting held in the Wellington Hall on 29 October 1872, Joseph Hirst said from the Chair that it was a source of considerable satisfaction to the Directors that they could come before the members yet again with such a good report on the position of the Society. The assets were now nearly £37,000, and not one penny had been lost during eight years of ever-increasing operations. One of the auditors, W. E. Thomas, reported ‘that the books of the Society were kept in admirable order and reflected great credit on the Secretary, Mr. Kaye’. It would seem that the Society’s solicitors (now Messrs Craven & Sunderland, Jonas Craven having taken in a partner) had completely emerged from the past troubles over their fees. In seconding the resolution to adopt the Report and Accounts, F. Crosland remarked that the solicitors’ charges ‘were the lowest of any Society in the neighbourhood’. Messrs Stuttard, Webb, and Goodwin were re-elected to the Board but J. Sykes, one of the four Directors elected under Rule 9 at the Annual General Meeting in 1868, was himself displaced at the 1872 meeting by J. Christie.[17] In general terms, however, the existing order of things persisted and at the Board Meeting on 22 November 1872, J. Hirst and F. Crosland were re-elected President and Vice-President without any other nominations.

The ninth Annual General Meeting was held on 31 October 1873. The assets had risen to nearly £42,000. Mr Hirst, in moving the adoption of the Report and Accounts, spoke with satisfaction of the high standard of the Society’s securities, which he described as the keystone of its excellent position. The President claimed that there was not a healthier Building Society than the Huddersfield, for out of some £66,000 advanced to borrowers since the commencement of the Society’s operations, not one penny of loss had been incurred. A member of the Society, Mr John Dawson, wished to know (against the background of this prosperity) when the Directors proposed to declare a bonus, as the surplus in the accounts was nearly £1,000. Answering for the Board, Mr Crosland said that in view of the Society’s turnover, the Directors did not consider that a reserve of £1,000 was too high, but that he and his colleagues would be willing to declare as profits any amount over that sum in the future.[18] Mr Vickerman also made some Very appropriate observations with reference to the reserve fund, and remarked that the Directors had never received or wanted to receive one farthing for their services’.

Mr W. E. Thomas, responding to a vote of thanks to the Auditors, observed that he had served the Society in this capacity since its establishment, and ‘expressed his unqualified satisfaction with the accounts of the Society, and the admirable manner in which the books were kept’. An agreeable feature of the ninth Annual General Meeting was that Wright Mellor, J.P., one of our two Trustees, was present in his dual capacity as Mayor of Huddersfield.[19] Messrs Hirst, Crosland, Vickerman, and Armitage were re-elected as Directors, and at the next Board Meeting, Messrs Hirst and Crosland were reappointed as President and Vice-President.

An informative feature of the Minutes of both the years 1873 and 1874 was that the Secretary’s remuneration was capable of precise calculation. At Board Meetings on 29 August 1873 and 28 August 1874, it was resolved that the Secretary’s commission should be at the rate of 15 s. per cent on the total receipts of the Share and Deposit departments. Henry Kaye’s remuneration for these two years would therefore amount to £178 and £228 per annum respectively, which one supposes was not unreasonable for a man of thirty in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The tenth Annual General Meeting was held as usual in the Wellington Hall, on 27 October 1874. The assets of the Society were now over £51,000. The President announced that the Directors had pleasure in recommending a bonus of 2s. in the pound on the interest for the past year to be paid equally to investors and borrowers. The payment of the bonus would still leave a reserve fund of over £1,000. Two members of the Society, Messrs Holland and Ellam, respectively proposed and seconded a vote of thanks to the Board, coupled with a resolution that a present of £20 be made to the Directors for their valuable and efficient service to the shareholders. Replying for the Directors, J. H. Stuttard said that both he and his fellow members of the Board respectfully declined any payment for their work. Speaking for himself, Mr Stuttard said that so long as it was the pleasure of the members that he should hold the appointment of Director, he would endeavour to do his best for the Society. Together with Messrs Webb, Goodwin, and Radcliffe, he was unanimously re-elected, and at the Board Meeting on 22 November 1874 the President and Vice-President were reappointed.

The Society continued its steady and uniform progress, and at the eleventh Annual General Meeting held on 29 October 1875, Joseph Hirst was constrained to say, after reporting an increase in assets to over £62,000:

From its establishment the career of the Society has been so uniformly progressive, and at the same time so absolutely free from loss, that each Report has been very like its predecessor.

The President added that on this occasion, however, there were some new features which the Directors considered were worthy of special notice. In cases of instalment advances on houses in course of construction it seemed that some Societies were charging interest on the whole advance sought from the date of the first instalment, whereas our Society was charging interest only on the amounts actually received. An innovation was the examination of every title-deed held by the Society by the two Trustees, Wright Mellor and William Mallinson, and their certificate formed part of the printed Report. As at the end of the previous year a bonus was declared for the benefit of both investors and borrowers, this time of 10% on the interest during the year.[20] Messrs Hirst, Crosland, Vickerman, and Christie were unanimously re-elected as Directors, and the President was especially thanked ‘for the care and attention he had bestowed on the Society from its commencement in 1864’.

The Society’s new year started quietly and traditionally with the re-election of the President and Vice-President on 19 November 1875. At the next Board Meeting on 18 December it was resolved that the village of Shelley be visited at the earliest opportunity to report on the establishment of an Agency, and this task was undertaken on 30 December by the President, the Vice-President, and the Secretary. A meeting was arranged at the Shelley Liberal Club Rooms, and the portents were considered favourable. A suitable agent, Mr Wright Barden, was available, and the Society’s second Agency duly opened at the Liberal Club Rooms on 28 February 1876.

At a Board Meeting on 14 January 1876, the fact that Thomas Armitage was no longer a member of the Society and therefore was unqualified to sit on the Board, was noted with regret. This was a sad business, for Mr Armitage had been a Director since his election at the Annual General Meeting on 27 October 1868. George Slater[21] was co-opted in his place, and took his seat on the Board on 11 February 1876.

During the year the Society’s advertising was increased to weekly notices in The Huddersfield Examiner (from advertisements in alternate weeks) and the Secretary was asked to draw up a new Prospectus of the Society. A shrewd resolution was adopted on 23 September 1876, that no bonus be allowed to borrowers whose arrears were brought to the notice of the Board, unless these were paid off previous to the Annual General Meeting.

The twelfth Annual General Meeting, marking a rise in the assets of the Society to nearly £74,000, was held on 31 October 1876. Joseph Hirst presided, but was described as not being in a good state of health, and in consequence the Vice-President moved the adoption of the Report and Accounts after these had been read, as always, by Henry Kaye. A noteworthy observation was that 3,447 members had joined the Society since its inception, and that the past year had shown a greater increase than on any previous occasion. The members were urged to assist the Directors particularly in attracting new borrowers to take advantage of the facilities offered by the Society, which now included a repayment term of up to twenty-four years. Messrs Stuttard, Goodwin, Webb, and Slater were unanimously re-elected Directors.

A suggestion with which the Board had previously dallied, as will be recalled, was now publicly proposed by Jonas Craven, the Solicitor, and James Kirk, the Surveyor.[22] This was that the next Annual General Meeting should be preceded by a knife-and-fork tea. On this obviously popular proposal being put to the meeting, it was carried with applause. It is appropriate in this context to look ahead to the next (thirteenth) Annual General Meeting of the Society held on 27 October 1877, and to notice that it ‘was the best attended and most successful meeting ever held in connexion with the Society’, according to the report in The Huddersfield Examiner of 30 October 1877.

The year leading up to this meeting had not been eventful. The assets amounted to over £87,000 and there was a corresponding increase in the turnover of every department of the Society’s business. After an absence of several months, possibly connected with the indisposition mentioned in the report of the twelfth Annual General Meeting, Joseph Hirst resumed his attendance and chairmanship of the Board Meetings on 29 June 1877, and presided over the thirteenth Annual General Meeting on 27 October. He remarked with satisfaction that the introduction of the longer repayment term of twenty-four years had attracted more borrowing members, and that most of the surplus funds had now been advanced. Messrs Hirst, Crosland, and Vickerman were unanimously re-elected to the Board, but J. Christie was displaced by Anthony Huddleston.[23]

Mr Heywood, in moving a vote of thanks to the Directors, paid a high compliment to the Board for the manner in which they conducted the affairs of the Society. He further observed that the thanks of the members ought to take a more substantial form, and therefore had great pleasure in pressing that a present of twenty guineas be accepted by the Directors and Officers for them to spend as they thought fit. Mr Charles Vickerman, replying for the Board, spoke of the way in which the Society encouraged to the greatest possible extent habits of thrift, upon which the working classes must greatly depend for provision against sickness and old age. He made an urgent appeal for more people to join the Society and commence saving, be it ever so small, as it was only a beginning that was required. In so doing they would not only contribute to their own interest, but would encourage in others those habits of thrift and self-dependence which lie at the very foundation of a man’s success in life.

In paying a compliment to the Surveyors, Mr J. H. Stuttard referred to the large amount of business Mr John Kirk had himself introduced to the Society, and concluded by moving that the best thanks of the meeting be tendered to his son, Mr James Kirk, for the very great care he exercised in preparing the valuations of properties, on which the Directors made advances. The President, in reply to a vote of thanks to himself, remarked that he had been the President of the Society from its commencement, and that so long as it was the pleasure of the members to elect him, he would continue to do his best for the Society. As was now a matter of routine, the President and Vice-President were re-appointed at the Board Meeting on 14 December 1877.

It may be thought that the ultimate decision on the spending of the twenty guineas voted to the Directors and Officers of the Society was perhaps tinged with a lack of gallantry. On the other hand business was business (especially in hard-headed Huddersfield) and even in 1878 there were limits on what could be done with twenty guineas if it was to be assumed that in no circumstances were the Directors to spend any money of their own. The first decision at a Board Meeting on 31 May was that the money be spent on a visit to Fountains Abbey, each gentleman to take a lady. A sub-committee appointed to make the arrangements, met on 4 June 1878, however, and decided to recommend that in addition to the Secretary and the Surveyor, the Auditors, the Treasurer, and the Melthamand Shelley Agents, and not the ladies, should accompany the Directors on the excursion. At a special Board Meeting on 7 June it was resolved that the latter recommendation be accepted, and that the portion of the Minute of the earlier Board Meeting relating to the ladies be rescinded.

The visit to Fountains Abbey on 28 June 1878, was reported at length in The Huddersfield Examiner of 6 July. All nine Directors and seven officers left Huddersfield at 6.37 a.m. in perfect weather and travelled to Ripon in a private saloon railway carriage. They were driven in two wagonettes from Ripon station to the Crown Hotel, where a hearty breakfast was taken. After an inspection of the Cathedral, the party proceeded in its wagonettes to Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey. After lunch, a visit was made to Hackfall. Dinner was also served at the Crown Hotel, Ripon.

The somewhat flamboyant report contributed to The Huddersfield Examiner was unsigned, but I suspect that the author may have been James Kirk, the Society’s Surveyor, to whom the arrangements had been entrusted and whose interest in food and drink had already been demonstrated by his recommendation of a knife-and-fork tea at the Annual General Meeting. Referring to the dinner party at Ripon it was said:

How we dined on viands rich and rare — how we toasted the Queen and the Royal Family — what speeches were made by Mr. Fred Crosland, Vice-President, Mr. Jonas Craven, Solicitor of the Society, and others — how success was drunk to the Society, to the Town of Huddersfield &c. cannot now be narrated. How a number of middle aged and elderly gentlemen renewed their youth on the home journey, and sang songs that were popular in the days of poor Delavanti, and have never been heard in public since — all these are things which words are inadequate to describe. And when these ebullitions of a revival of youthful feeling had subsided, and the speech making was once more resumed, and the Society’s prospects were reviewed, every one felt strengthened and encouraged in his resolve to labour still more earnesdy in future for the promotion of societies which have done such an immense amount of good in encouraging habits of thrift, economy, and foresight among the middle and working classes of this district. This first holiday, during a period of fourteen years, had been a genuine holiday, and had proved an unbounded success. May the next be equally successful and equally well deserved.

The Society’s fourteenth Annual General Meeting was held on 26 October 1878. The printed Report and Accounts had been doubled in size, and for the first time the names of the Directors and Officers were listed. The assets had risen to over £99,000. It was noticed with satisfaction that the Meltham agency had now 194 members and that the new Shelley agency had already attracted forty-four members in that village. The Directors urged upon the members present the importance of inducing new borrowers to avail themselves of the advantages of the Society. £6,000 was available for immediate lending, and in view of the period of repayment now being as long as twenty-four years, coupled with the bonus and the very reasonable solicitors’ and surveyors’ charges, it was felt that there should be no difficulty in finding new mortgagors. All the retiring Directors were re-elected unanimously and a vote of thanks to the Chairman, Mr Joseph Hirst, referred as usual to the interest he had manifested in the Society from its first establishment. It was resolved as at the previous Annual General Meetings that the sum of twenty guineas be presented to the Directors and Officers to spend as they wished.

The Minutes of the period showed that the Board were constantly seeking to improve the offices of the Society. At a Board Meeting of 7 February 1879, Messrs Hirst and Radcliffe were invited to enquire about the adjoining premises occupied by Messrs Bentley & Shaw as it was understood that this firm might be giving up possession on 1 June. Unfortunately, at the following Board Meeting of 7 March it was reported that Messrs Bentley & Shaw proposed to continue their occupation. This was a disappointment, because the Society would have been willing to take the additional accommodation on a lease of up to ten years. At the same Board Meeting the resolution on the Secretary’s commission showed that Henry Kaye’s remuneration had now risen to over £400 per annum.

After discussions at Board Meetings on 30 May and 17 June 1879, it was decided that the Directors and Officers would visit the Dukeries on 25 June, travelling by private saloon railway carriage and taking refreshments at either the Lion or the Station Hotels at Worksop. Unfortunately, if this visit was reported in The Huddersfield Examiner, no cutting has been preserved in our Minute Book and we can only assume therefore that the day’s holiday was enjoyable and successful.

The fifteenth Annual General Meeting was held on 25 October 1879 and can be regarded as a milestone in the Society’s affairs in that the assets, now over £110,000, had reached six figures. The retiring Directors were unanimously re-appointed, and the now customary twenty guineas was voted to the Directors and Officers for their annual trip. Mr W. Mallinson, one of the Trustees, remarked that he had every confidence in the Society, and complimented the Directors on being able to place before the members in difficult times so highly satisfactory a report. He considered, however, that the time had arrived when the Directors should make every effort to find more suitable premises than those now occupied by so successful a Society.

At the Board Meeting of 28 May 1880, it was resolved that the Directors and Officers should spend the twenty guineas voted to them on a visit to Chatsworth House on Wednesday, 16 June, and a report of this excursion appeared in The Huddersfield Examiner. The President was not able to accompany the party because of illness, and Frederick Crosland therefore presided over the day’s activities. The party of fourteen gentlemen left Huddersfield at 6.50 a.m. in a first-class saloon railway carriage bound for Sheffield, and left that town for Derbyshire in two wagonettes amid a continuous drizzle, which changed to a Scotch mist when Bakewell was reached. It was remarked in the press report that ‘the Society exists for the sake of making provision for a rainy day in a metaphorical sense, and on Wednesday the first of the kind was encountered literally’. Breakfast at the Rutland Arms no doubt restored the cheerfulness of the travellers before the visit to Haddon Hall and Chatsworth House. The report said that ‘good humour was the order of the day, possibly to compensate for the dampness of the atmosphere’. The party returned to the Rutland Arms at Bakewell, where ‘a superb dinner was placed on the table’. At six o’clock the party once more took the road to Sheffield and the reserved saloon carriage to Huddersfield. It was said in the report that every single member of the party made one speech at least (and some more than one) and that the day came to a happy end amidst mutual good wishes and an increased desire on the part of all present to do their utmost for the best interests of the Society.

It may seem remarkable to us, living nearly a century later, that a day’s excursion of this kind could be arranged at a total cost of well under £2.00 per head. The Directors’ decision that is. 6d. was too high a price to pay for a knife-and-fork tea will be recalled in this context, however, and it is of similar interest to read a Minute of the Board Meeting of 23 July 1880. The stewards at Meltham, through the agent, Mr T. H. Lawford, had petitioned for an increase in remuneration at the subscription meetings, because of the enlarged membership. It was resolved by the Board that the stewards’ fees should be raised from is. to 2s. per night, commencing at the beginning of the Society’s financial year in September.

At the Board Meeting on 20 August 1880, it was resolved that F. Crosland and W. Radcliffe be asked to make enquiries regarding the ground-floor premises 37 John William Street, at the corner of St Peter’s Street [obliquely opposite our present rear entrance to Britannia Buildings], occupied by John Chapman & Son, music dealers. The Directors considered that the position of this excellent ground-floor property was very suitable for the Society should it become vacant.

The sixteenth Annual General Meeting was held on 30 October 1880. Although Mr Joseph Hirst had been absent from a number of Board Meetings, due to ill-health, he did take the Chair at the Annual General Meeting. In consequence, however, of his ‘not being in a good state of health’, Mr F. Crosland, the Vice-President, moved the adoption of the Report.[24] The assets of the Society had risen to over £123,000 and the Chairman thanked the members for the manner in which they had responded to his appeal for an increase in borrowers at the previous Annual General Meeting. All the retiring Directors were re-elected, and Charles Vickerman, who was to be the next Vice-President of the Society, was now referred to as Mr Councillor C. Vickerman. A sad note at this meeting was the retirement of the auditor, Mr W. E. Thomas, who had served the Society in this capacity since 1864. His place was filled by the appointment of Mr J. Bate. Once again, twenty guineas was voted to the Directors for their summer excursion.

The following Minute was recorded at the Board Meeting of 27 May 1881:

Death of President. The Directors regret to have to record the decease on 1 May of their esteemed President, Mr. Councillor Joseph Hirst, who was one of the founders of this Society and was appointed its first President on 19 August 1864,[25] which office he held up to the time of his death. The Directors feel that they cannot pay too high a tribute to the memory of one whose sound judgment and business qualities have been of so much value to the Society in aiding it in its early struggles and guiding it to its present success. They would also tender to his widow and family their sincere sympathy and condolences on their sad bereavement. Copy of the above sent to Mrs. Hirst on 28 May 1881.

Election of President and Vice-President. On the motion of W. Radcliffe, seconded by G. Slater, resolved that F. Crosland (present Vice-President) be elected President (in place of Joseph Hirst deceased) and on the motion of J. H. Stuttard, seconded by W. Radcliffe, resolved that C. Vickerman be appointed Vice-President.

Shortly before the seventeenth Annual General Meeting, held on 29 October 1881, a printed circular dated 16 September was pasted into the Minute Book. It had been sent to all members over the name of the Secretary, and said that in consequence of the long and continuing cheap rate of money, the Directors had resolved to reduce the rate of interest on Deposits from 3½% to 3%. That this adjustment was necessary was demonstrated by the Society’s large balance of £6,757 at the Huddersfield Banking Company. Frederick Crosland[26] presided at the Annual General Meeting. He reported a rise in assets to nearly £132,000, and in declaring the usual bonus of 10% on interest to investors and borrowers, observed that nearly £2,730 had already been paid to the shareholders in this way. The members were urged to do their best to introduce new borrowers. Messrs Crosland, Vickerman, and Huddleston were re-elected as Directors, and William Roberts[27] was appointed to fill the vacancy on the Board caused by the death of Joseph Hirst. The now customary twenty guineas was voted to the Directors and Officers for their annual excursion, which in the event was a visit to Welbeck on 12 July 1882.

The matter of the proposed move by the Society to 37 John William Street appeared again in the Minutes of the Board Meeting of 3 February 1882. Matters had evidently progressed favourably since the first mention of the proposal on 20 August 1881, for it was resolved that the President, the Vice-President and W. Radcliffe be appointed to wait upon the owner of the property, Joseph Crosland, ‘with reference to the taking of his premises, now occupied by Messrs Chapman, which will become vacant in June next’. That the Society’s tenure was satisfactorily negotiated (although not reported in the Minute Book) was demonstrated by a report of the Board Meeting of 12 July 1882, when it was resolved ‘that the work required to be done in altering and fitting out the new offices be let to the following contractors, under the direction and supervision of James S. Kirk, the Society’s Surveyor’. Among the five contracts, the tenders for the mason’s, plumber’s and painter’s work by the firms owned by three Directors of the Society, respectively W. Radcliffe, G. Slater, and J. H. Stuttard, were evidently the most competitive and satisfactory. The alterations were completed and the removal accomplished in good time for the eighteenth Annual General Meeting, held on 28 October 1882. This is demonstrated by the fact that the printed Report and Accounts, circulated before that meeting, bore the new address, together with the following announcement:

The Society has now removed to ground floor premises 37 John William Street. The Directors readily seized the opportunity which so good a position offered, and many members have expressed themselves highly satisfied with the new offices, which are easier of access and otherwise more suitable to the requirements of the Society.

The year 1882, when we established ourselves in our new ground floor offices in a commanding position in John William Street, seems to me to be a natural milestone in the history of our Society. It is a point in our affairs at which to pause, before taking up the story of the remaining thirty years of Henry Kaye’s period as our chief executive. Joseph Hirst, our first President, had died in office during the previous year, after leading the Society with distinction for seventeen years. He had lived to see the Society achieve its first £100,000 of assets, which in those far-off days of small beginnings doubtless seemed an impressive and magical figure. He had lived to see, probably with mingled feelings, the members of the original Board disappear one by one until only he and Frederick Crosland remained of the nine Directors appointed under the Rules in 1864. Our first two Presidents had survived the test of this entirely natural period of evolution and selection in the Society’s affairs, and had been joined on the Board by equally solid men, typified by Charles Vickerman, John H. Stuttard, and William Radcliffe. Henry Kaye, a young man in his twenties with only two years’ experience in the Society’s service when the Board took the decision to appoint him as Secretary in 1867, was now, at the age of nearly forty, a skilled and devoted chief executive whose experience and ability was to grow concurrently with the progress of our Society, which he was to serve until 1912.


  1. For simplicity’s sake I have used the title ‘Building Societies’ Association’ throughout this book. Originally formed as the Building Societies’ Protection Association (1869-86) it became the Building Societies’ Association (1886-1926), the National Association of Building Societies (1926-36) and finally in 1936, under new rules, The Building Societies’ Association as it exists today.
  2. These were the receipts for the year ending 2 September 1867, during which John Smith was the Secretary for the first half of the Financial Year.
  3. As opposed to terminating societies, typical examples of which are known to have existed as early as 1793 in Horbury (which is in the West Riding of Yorkshire between Huddersfield and Wakefield), in 1795 in Birmingham, in 1809 in Greenwich, and in 1825 in Kircudbright. Both types of Society are defined in the Building Societies Act, 1874. Seymour J. Price places the date of the first small reference to terminating building societies in the Journal of the House of Commons as 2 May 1836, and the beginnings of ‘the coming of the permanent type of society’ as 1845. The latter development was largely if not wholly due to the work and influence of Arthur Scratchley, the distinguished actuary and secretary of the old Western Life Assurance and Annuity Society, whose book Treatise on Benefit Building Societies was first published in 1847, its seventh and last edition appearing in 1891. (S. J. Price, op. cit., pp. 77, 80 and 119-21.)
  4. C. A. Hulbert, Annals of the Church and Parish of Almondbury (London, 1882), p. 261.
  5. David Lewis, who died in 1939 at the age of 85, was the sometime Secretary of the Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society, and ultimately its President. He was a member of the Council of the Building Societies’ Association from 1898 to 1934.
  6. The accounts for refitting the new office and the removal were passed for payment in June 1867. They included an amount of 8s. for ‘cleaning and moving safe’.
  7. H. G. Duggan was a Flock Dealer at 15 Market Street, Huddersfield.
  8. The locations of the Annual and Special Meetings of the Society are tabulated in Appendix XIII.
  9. J. E. Webb was a Woollen Merchant in Station Street, Huddersfield.
  10. J. Sykes was probably a Woollen Merchant. This initial and name was very common in Huddersfield in 1868.
  11. W. Fawcett was a Timber Merchant in Viaduct Street, Huddersfield.
  12. T. Armitage was a partner in Lidster & Armitage, Plumbers, of John William Street, Huddersfield.
  13. Joseph Radcliffe was a partner in the firm of John Radcliffe & Sons, the Huddersfield building contractors. At his death in 1872, his brother and partner William succeeded him as a Director of the Society. In 1897 William Radcliffe’s son Lewis, a future President of the Society, was elected to the Board. My friend and fellow-Director, Herbert Radcliffe, is the grandson of William Radcliffe and the nephew of Lewis Radcliffe.
  14. This interest in advertising was continuous, and on 24 November 1871, it was resolved that a card be designed ‘suitable to hang in Mills or any public place in order that the advantages of this Society may be more generally known’.
  15. The Board could apparently be stubborn over money matters. On 15 August 1871, for example, it was decided to explore the possibility of having ‘a knife-and-fork tea* for the nourishment of those who attended the forthcoming Annual General Meeting. On 22 August the New Market Dining Rooms quoted a price of is. 6d. per head. It was firmly resolved on 1 September that this was a heavy charge, and the idea was abandoned. On the other hand, on the 29th of the same month, the Secretary was empowered to purchase an umbrella stand and a rug for the office.
  16. Joseph Goodwin was a Director of William Goodwin & Sons, Slate Merchants, of Chapel Hill, Huddersfield.
  17. J. Christie was a Builder and Joiner in West Parade, Huddersfield.
  18. This undertaking was honoured the following year, but not without careful preparation. On 28 August 1874, the Secretary was requested to visit both the Leeds and Bradford Building Societies in order to ascertain their method of declaring profit. At the next Board Meeting on 25 September a sub-committee was formed to decide the amount of bonus to be declared in the tenth Annual Report.
  19. Alderman Wright Mellor, J.P., D.I., was the Managing Director of Wright Mellor & Co., Woollen Manufacturers and Merchants, of Northumberland Street, and one of the leading citizens of Huddersfield. He was President of the Chamber of Commerce, President of Huddersfield College, a County and Borough magistrate, and Chairman of the Huddersfield School Board.
  20. A bonus of 10% on interest during the year was paid to investors and borrowers from 1875 to 1890 inclusive, and need not be mentioned in the reports of the Annual Meetings. The bonuses paid by the Society are tabulated in Appendix XI.
  21. George Slater was a Master Plumber of Horsfall’s Yard, Huddersfield.
  22. The only parallel to this provision of food and drink for supporters of the Society in the pattern of our current activities nearly a century later, is on the occasion of the opening of new branches. As an old Building Society man I can claim to have a large experience of these festivities, and I think it only fair to record that enthusiasm for them among our professional and business friends does not seem to be limited to solicitors and surveyors.
  23. Anthony Huddleston, who later became a Councillor, was a Director of Wilson, Travis & Co., Carriage Manufacturers, of Brook Street and Fountain Street, Huddersfield.
  24. This was to be Mr Hirst’s last Annual General Meeting. His courage and his devotion to the Society, which he served to the end of his life, cannot be doubted, for in his last years he must have been a very sick man indeed. He was to die on 1 May 1881, at the age of 57, of ‘Bright’s kidney disease, anasarca [dropsy] and epilepsy’, according to his death certificate.
  25. This was not quite right. Joseph Hirst was in the Chair at the meeting on 19 August, and was elected President on 30 August 1864.
  26. Frederick Crosland was to be the President of the Society from 1881 to 1897, only one year less than his predecessor Joseph Hirst.
  27. William Roberts was a Leather Merchant and Currier in John William Street, Huddersfield.