Table of Contents for The Early Years of the Huddersfield Building Society (1974):
The society commenced its nineteenth year of operations with assets of over £135,000, mortgage balances of over £128,000 and a membership of 2,670. The annual receipts were now nearly £54,000. The Society was established in its new, excellent ground-floor office at 37 John William Street with agencies at Meltham and Shelley. Both the President and the Secretary enjoyed the advantage of many years of experience in our service.
The Minutes of the Board Meetings of 5 January, 2 March and 30 March 1883, show us that the annual rental of our new office was £80 per annum and that we had spent £434.6.6d. in the necessary alterations and improvements. There is no doubt that a most careful watch was kept on our outgoings. We had an agency of the Scottish Provincial Assurance Co., who had been contributing £5 per annum towards our previous rent of £30 and it was decided that this must be increased, since the Society had ‘removed to ground floor premises and spent a large amount in fitting up the same and at nearly three times the rent of their previous office’. The Assurance Co. agreed to raise their contribution to £15 per annum, thus reducing our net rental liability to £65 per annum. An offer by the landlord, however, to grant the Society a lease for fifteen years (in place of an annual tenancy) at a fixed rent of £90 per annum was declined by the Directors, who evidently had no misgivings about inflation in 1883. It is interesting to notice that faulty construction existed at this period and that the Society was not prepared to tolerate it. On 20 July 1883 it was resolved that ‘in consequence of the bad quality of building and the “jerry” manner in which R. Stringer is erecting his property at Bramley that no advance be made thereon, and that the surveyor’s charges be paid out of the £2.0.0d. he left with the Secretary and the balance, if any, be returned to Mr. Stringer’.
At the nineteenth Annual General Meeting on 27 October 1883, Frederick Crosland reported that the assets had risen to over £141,000. All was well with the Society, except that more borrowers were required to absorb some of the surplus funds. The retiring Directors were all re-elected, and a high compliment was paid to Henry Kaye for his management of the Society’s affairs. During the ensuing year the Directors were determined to achieve the incorporation of the Society under the provisions of the Building Societies Act, 1874, and at the same time to revise the Rules to enable the Board to reduce the existing lending rate of 5% in order to attract more borrowers. A Special Meeting of members was convened by a printed letter dated 17 January 1884, over the names of the President and Secretary, and this took place on 16 February at the Wellington Hall. This was the first of two Special Meetings arranged at this time and was devoted to obtaining the consent of the members to incorporation, and in this it was successful. The following resolution was carried unanimously:
One of the effects of incorporation was that the services of the two Trustees would be almost unnecessary in the future. Mortgages would be prepared in the name of the Society alone, and when the debt was paid off the release would require the corporate seal of the Society instead of the signatures of the Trustees. It is pleasant to record that after the resolution had been carried and an obviously sincere vote of thanks accorded to Wright Mellor and William Mallinson for their work as Trustees of the Society for nearly twenty years, these highly respected gentlemen were asked if they would allow their names to remain on both the Rules and the prospectus of the Society. On page 838 of our continuously paginated Minute Books, the following was recorded, under the heading ‘Certificate of Incorporation’:
The copy of the certificate in the Minute Book reads:
The second Special Meeting of members during these important early months of 1884 was held on 3 May, for the purpose of adopting the amended Rules. The proposed alterations had been prepared by the Society’s solicitor, Jonas Craven, and a sub-committee of Directors, and had been approved by the Board. The appropriate procedures of circularizing all members and making the amended Rules available for inspection at the Society’s office had been followed. The meeting was successful in its object, and the amended Rules were unanimously adopted. The President then observed that over a considerable period the Board of Directors had experienced great difficulty in finding sufficient borrowers, and that because of this the surplus funds now amounted to £15,000. Frederick Crosland said (very fairly, it may be thought) that under the amended Rules the Directors would have power to reduce the existing mortgage rate of 5% and that it was their intention to lower it to 4%, provided that there was a favourable expression of opinion from the present Meeting on the matter. It was proposed by Mr Henry Holland, seconded by Mr Fred Pullan and carried unanimously ‘that it be a recommendation from this Meeting of Members to the Directors to take into consideration the propriety or otherwise of reducing the present rate of Interest to Investing and Borrowing Members’.
There was naturally a fair amount of work to be done as a result of the adoption of the amended Rules and of the incorporation of the Society under the Building Societies Act, 1874. At Board Meetings from May to October 1884, the necessary printing was put in hand, and the Society’s seal was prepared and quite elaborate security arrangements for its use were authorized. The reduced interest rate required new tables, and these were prepared. The amended Rules required that the Society should have ten Directors, and Henry Holland was elected to the Board. Under the Building Societies Act of 1874 five Arbitrators were required in case of dispute and five names were chosen for submission to the next Annual General Meeting. The Certificate of Registration of the amended Rules was sought and obtained from the Registrar of Building Societies.
It is pleasant to record that during all this activity the Directors and Officers of the Society (still without the company of ladies) continued to enjoy the relaxation of their annual outings. So far as the Directors were concerned, these day excursions remained the sole reward for their services to the Society. In 1884, for example, Duncombe Park and Rievaulx Abbey were visited. This was, in fact, the last of these exclusively male outings. If we look forward a year to the Board Meeting of 22 May 1885, when a visit to Castle Howard was being arranged, we see that it was resolved ‘that the Secretary and Mrs. Kaye along with the Solicitor and Surveyor be invited to join the Trustees and Directors and their wives on this occasion’.
At the twentieth Annual General Meeting of the Society, held on 22 November 1884, the President observed that the assets had reached over £145,000, and the Society had now 2,800 open accounts. The reduction in the mortage interest rate had already resulted in a lowering in the level of our surplus funds by over £5,000. The five retiring Directors were re-elected and high compliments were paid to the President, the Board and the Secretary.
In continuing to record the Society’s ever-increasing advertising of its facilities, it is of additional interest to notice occasional references to costs. On 2 January 1885, it was resolved that the Society should advertise in every number of The Weekly News for the whole of the ensuing year, the notice to be in different wording in each insertion at a charge of is. 3d. per week. This was complementary to the Society’s weekly advertisement in The Huddersfield Examiner.
On 22 May 1885, the resignation of Anthony Huddleston was accepted by his colleagues with regret. Mr Huddleston (who had also ceased to be a Town Councillor) had written to Henry Kaye to say that his increased business activities had made it difficult for him to attend to the work of the Society. On 9 October the Board suffered a further loss by the resignation of W. Roberts, because of ill-health and his consequent inability to attend the evening Board Meetings. It was decided to fill these two vacancies by extending invitations to Thomas K. Mellor (who was to be a future President of the Society) and James Haigh to become Directors.
The twenty-first Annual General Meeting, held at the Assembly Rooms in Queen Street, on 21 November 1885, marked the attainment of the Society’s majority, as Frederick Crosland observed in his Presidential address. It also marked the occasion of the total assets of the Society passing the level of £15 0,000. It was pointed out that the policy of reducing the borrowing rate had continued to prove to be effective, the surplus funds having been further reduced to less than £5,000. Messrs Crosland, Slater, and Holland were re-elected to the Board, and the appointments of Messrs Mellor and Haigh as Directors were made. A pleasant feature of the meeting was the attendance of the Mayor of Huddersfield, Alderman J. Varley.
Both the Trustees wrote to the President to congratulate the Society on the completion of its twenty-first year of operations. Wright Mellor said that this was ‘indeed an eloquent eulogium upon the solid judgment of those who laid the foundations of the Society, and upon the energy and skill of those who assisted in building the edifice’. He added:
It is noteworthy that Wright Mellor said that his relations with the official staff of the Society had always been of the most agreeable character.
William Mallinson said that the continued prosperity of the Society must be gratifying to all connected with such an ‘admirably conducted institution, affording as it does a safe plan of Investment for the smaller class of investors, and also giving ready and cheap facilities for those who wish to enter into larger operations in building houses or business premises’. He added:
As an indication of the Society’s confidence in its progress (and as confirmation that the Board continued closely to watch expenses) it is of interest to notice the decision taken at the Board Meeting on 31 December 1885. It was resolved that an order for the printing of 2,000 passbooks ‘be given to Alfred Jubb, providing that he will agree to execute the work at the same price as that which was paid to him for the last lot of similar books'. Alfred Jubb & Son Ltd, as this old-established firm became, have continued to do printing work for the Society from those far-off years to the present time.
There can be no doubt that Henry Kaye put in very long hours at the office in his work as Secretary of the Society. On the front page of the printed twenty-first Annual Report it was stated that the office was open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Mondays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. My old friend, Arthur Lodge, our highly regarded District Manager at Liverpool and Wallasey for many years before his retirement, was engaged as a junior clerk by Henry Kaye in 1911 and has told me that the Secretary was always in the office before 9 a.m. On my calculation it would seem that Henry Kaye worked at least a fifty-four hour week, leaving out of account his extraneous duties, even on the assumption that he left the office concurrently with its closure to the public at the end of the day, which seems improbable.
In March 1886 the Society’s first surveyor died. He was John Kirk, the senior partner of John Kirk & Sons, who had been appointed under the Rules in 1864. His son James had been preparing the valuations for the Society for a number of years, but the Directors appreciated the work of their old servant and mourned his passing. It was agreed that the President should write to Mrs Kirk, which he did in the following terms:
As the twenty-second Annual General Meeting drew near, the Secretary was instructed to insert a notice of it in every local newspaper. In addition, James Kirk was invited to make a sketch of a ‘model cottage’ to be used at the head of a special notice and advertisement in The Daily Advertiser. The meeting, which was an important one as a progress report, was held in the Assembly Rooms on 20 November 1886. The President was able to record an unusually large rise in assets to over £160,000, and a further satisfactory reduction in the surplus funds to under £3,500. The mortgage balances were £156,000 with total arrears of under £300. The Society had now 3,148 open accounts, and had received £67,000 in investments during the year. The working expenses did not exceed 1% of the turnover. The retiring Directors were re-elected and the usual compliments and votes of thanks were carried with acclamation.
At the Board Meeting on 20 May 1887, an important point of principle was established, in circumstances which may have been embarrassing to the Directors because of the Board’s long personal relationship with Wright Mellor. Alderman Mellor, who had given his services to the Society as a Trustee without financial reward since its foundation, was Mayor of Huddersfield in this Royal Jubilee year. A letter had been received from him which tacitly assumed that the Society would subscribe to the Jubilee celebrations in Huddersfield, and invited the Board to say whether their donation should be applied to the Imperial Institute, the Huddersfield Infirmary, the Technical School or to ‘local rejoicings’. The Minutes of the meeting recorded:
The decision was possibly a painful one in the circumstances, but there can be no doubt that the Board acted properly. We still apply the principle today in replying to approaches from charitable organizations.
In August 1887, we lost by resignation the services of Wright Barden, who had been our Agent at Shelley for eleven years. Mr Barden was retiring on account of ill-health. The Directors were anxious to preserve the goodwill shown to the Society in Shelley, and called an evening meeting of our members in the Independent Schoolroom (from which our Agency was conducted) in that village. High compliments were paid to Mr Barden for his promotion of the Society’s interests over many years, and the members were invited to suggest a successor. This ultimately resulted in the appointment of Mr George Cook as the new Agent at Shelley. In this connexion there is another fascinating sidelight on costs in the late nineteenth century recorded in the Minute Book at this time, reporting that the Trustees of the Independent School at Shelley had confirmed that the new Agent might continue to use the accommodation ‘for the sum of 15s. 0d. per annum to include both fire and gas both inside and for the lamp outside the school’.
A pleasant domestic note was evident in the Minutes of the Board Meeting of 9 September 1887. James Kirk, our surveyor, had married, and was evidently proud of both his bride and his house, Ing Lees at Marsden, and wanted the Directors to see both. He respectfully approached the President, inviting the Board to take tea with the newly-weds at Marsden on Saturday, 17 September, a suggestion that the Directors accepted with pleasure.
The twenty-third Annual General Meeting was held on 12 November 1887, and like its immediate predecessor was another milestone in the Society’s progress. The large annual increase in assets to give a total of £175,000 was a record, whilst the successful mortgage policy had reduced the cash surplus to £250. The profit for the year was £1,025.6.9d., and the President said that the Board were considering the forming of a reserve fund of £5,000 in future accounts. A member of the Society, Mr John Dawson, was critical of so large a sum as £5,000 being put to reserve, suggesting that something lower, coupled with the distribution of a larger bonus, would spread the fame of the Society ‘throughout the length and breadth of Huddersfield’. Frederick Crosland, a firm and capable President, was not impressed by this suggestion, and the motion to set aside £5,000 as a reserve was carried.
The President told the meeting that there were now 2,307 Building Societies in the country incorporated under the Act of 1874, and that 122 of these were in Yorkshire, of which our Society was the sixth in size. There were two larger Societies than ours in Bradford, two in Leeds and one in Halifax.
At the Board Meeting on 30 December 1887, it was resolved that the Society’s third Agency should be established at Slaithwaite, ‘as the Directors considered it one of the most thriving villages in the locality of Huddersfield’. This decision was implemented by the holding of a public meeting in the Mechanics’ Hall at Slaithwaite on Saturday evening, 4 February 1888. The President took the chair, supported by the Vice-President and seven Directors, the Surveyor, James S. Kirk, and Henry Kaye. Messrs Crosland, Vickerman, Stuttard, and Webb, spoke of the advantages of membership of the Society, and from the meeting Benjamin Grange and Thomas Cox proposed and seconded a motion that the Directors be requested to establish an Agency at Slaithwaite, which was carried unanimously. As a result, Mr Grange was appointed as the Society’s Agent, and in September 1888 a room was taken for the monthly meetings at the premises of the Huddersfield Bank, Carr Lane, Slaithwaite, at an inclusive rental of 2s. 6d. per night for the monthly subscription meetings.
‘A man, Sir, should keep his friendships in constant repair’, said Dr Samuel Johnson in 1755. The Directors of the Society followed this admirable precept in regard to their existing Agencies, and a public meeting was arranged at Shelley on the evening of 28 February 1888, to hear a lecture by the Rev. Thomas Newton, the Vicar of Shepley, on ‘Thrift’, preceded by a short opening address by Frederick Crosland on the advantages of membership of the Society. The President was supported by six Directors, together with the Secretary, the Surveyor, and the Shelley Agent. A similar meeting to promote the interests of the agency was held at Meltham on 24 March, when a not dissimilar lecture was delivered by the Rev. B. J. Holmes, the Vicar of New Mill. Frederick Crosland was unable to attend the meeting and the chair was taken by the Vice-President, Charles Vickerman, supported by four Directors, the Secretary, the Surveyor, the Solicitor and the Meltham Agent, Mr T. H. Lawford. Mr Lawford gave a brief account of the progress of the Agency, which had started in 1865 with 22 members. He said that there were now 230 members of the Society in the village, and since the establishment of the Agency no less than £39,707 had been invested in the Society by the working men and women of Meltham. Henry Kaye closed the meeting with a short address on the objects of the Society, remarking that the need was still for more applications for mortgages.
On 19 February 1888, George Slater died. He had been a Director since 1876, and a faithful attender at the Board Meetings. The vacancy was filled by the election of John Greenwood, a Taper Hanging Merchant’ of High Street, Huddersfield, on 15 June 1888. An interesting point of policy arose at the Board Meeting on 2 3 March 1888, which demonstrated that 8 6 years ago the Directors still regarded the Society as essentially local in its operations, in contrast with our ever-increasing nationwide presence today of 39 fully-manned branches and over 360 agencies. An application for a loan of £450 on a ‘villa residence’ at Llandudno, introduced by Mr W. H. Woodcock, a former Director of the Society and the brother of the applicant, was considered by the Board. It was decided that problems might arise over surveyors’ and solicitors’ charges on an advance so far away from Huddersfield, ‘and that Llandudno was altogether outside the scope of the Society’s operations’. The application was declined.
If the reader of this account of the early years of the Huddersfield Building Society considers that my interest in costs in the latter half of the nineteenth century is obsessive, I tender my apologies. I confess that the subject fascinates me. When I read, therefore, that on 5 October 1888 it was solemnly resolved by the Board that George Cook, our Shelley agent, should be allowed is. 2d. per month for railway fares (presumably for journeys between Shelley and Huddersfield) I cannot resist the temptation to record it.
Our twenty-fourth Annual General Meeting was held on 10 November 1888. Frederick Crosland was able to report a rise in assets to over £189,000 and a total of 3,561 open accounts. The receipts of over £83,000 and the mortgage advances of over £42,000 in the year were both records in our history. For the first time a reserve fund of £5,000 was shown in the accounts. The President reported that £6,756.8.0d. had already been distributed as bonus, and that for the fourteenth year in succession the Directors were declaring a bonus of 10%. The customary agreeable compliments were paid to the Board and to the Secretary, and the five retiring Directors were all re-elected. The progress of the three Agencies was reflected in the following figures of receipts for the year:
|Meltham.||£2,816 from 233 members.|
|Shelley.||£782 from 55 members.|
|Slaithwaite.||£131 from 26 members.|
A Mr Moore suggested from the Meeting that the Society should establish an agency in Holmfirth.
The tenure of office of Benjamin Grange as our Agent at Slaithwaite was short-lived, for his death was reported at the Board Meeting of 22 March 1889. It was resolved that a letter of condolence be sent to his widow and that until another agent could be appointed the Secretary and the clerks should manage our affairs in Slaithwaite. At the Board Meeting of 9 August 1889 it was resolved that C. Lewis Berry be appointed as the Society’s agent at Slaithwaite in place of the late Benjamin Grange, subject to his depositing £100 with the Society as security for the proper and faithful discharge of his duties. That this was done was demonstrated by the next printed Annual Report, which showed Mr Berry in situ at Slaithwaite.
At the same Meeting a loss of another valued servant of the Society was recorded with sorrow. It will be recalled that in 1872 the Society’s solicitor, Jonas Craven, had taken a young solicitor into partnership and the firm had become Craven & Sunderland. Mr C. S. Sunderland had died suddenly and prematurely ‘in the prime of his manhood’ to the distress of both his partner and the Board, who regarded him as ‘an able adviser and most sincerely devoted to the interests of the Society’. It was resolved that a deputation should attend the funeral, and that letters of condolence should be sent to Mr Sunderland’s father and Mr Craven. The twenty-fifth Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 16 November 1889. Mr Crosland was able to report the passing of yet another milestone, in that the assets of the Society were now over £204,000, with 3,879 open accounts. The receipts during the year of over £90,000 were a new record. The President said that the Society was in as sound and healthy condition as it could possibly be. All the retiring Directors were re-elected.
On 29 Novenber 1889 it was decided that the President, the Vice-President and T. K. Mellor should meet Mr Benjamin Allen, the Manager of the Huddersfield Banking Company, to negotiate if possible more advantageous terms for the Society’s account. This deputation reported to the Board on 13 December that the Bank had agreed to allow 3½% on credit balances of £3,000 and more, and 2½% when the balance was below £3,000. The Bank was to be allowed a commission of 2s. per £100 on the turnover. These were regarded as excellent arrangements, and the three gentlemen responsible for their negotiation were congratulated on the success of their mission.
At the same Board Meeting of 13 December 1889, it was reported that the President had received a letter from a member of the Society, Mr John Whiteley, suggesting that in order to attract borrowers the Society might pay the costs of preparing mortgages. In retrospect this turned out to be a significant event, but naturally the Directors were not prepared to take a decision without advice and further information. At a meeting on 27 December the Secretary reported that he had learned that one Yorkshire building society prepared its mortgage deeds in such a form as to allow borrowers to obtain further advances without incurring legal charges. It was resolved that the Society’s solicitor be instructed to look into the whole matter, as the Directors were anxious to offer every possible facility to borrowing members.
It is of interest to record that at the Board Meeting on 24 January 1890 it was resolved that the Secretary should order for the use of the Directors The Building Societies Gazette, a magazine devoted to the principles of thrift and home-ownership, which Messrs Franey & Co. had been publishing in London since 1869. The supplying of this valuable journal to the members of the Board each month has continued to the present day.
The beginning of a historical change in the auditing and preparation of the Society’s accounts occurred on 21 February 1890, when the question of employing professional accountants was discussed for the first time, on this occasion in a special context. The minutes of the Board Meeting recorded the following:
On 18 April, the President and Vice-President were asked to discuss the matter with Armitage and Norton, chartered accountants, of 23 John William Street, Huddersfield, and to report back to the Board at its next meeting on 16 May. The Directors were told that Armitage and Norton would charge between £30 and £50 for the Special Audit, and it was resolved that they be instructed to proceed. On 31 October 1890, a fortnight before the twenty-sixth Annual General Meeting, the Report of the Special Audit (which was entirely satisfactory, as will be seen) was available to the Directors, and a sub-committee consisting of F. Crosland, C. Vickerman, J. E. Webb, and T. K. Mellor, was appointed to examine the Report on behalf of the Board.
In the Minute Book is a letter from Armitage and Norton dated 13 November 1890, addressed to the President and Directors of the Huddersfield Equitable Permanent Benefit Building Society. It is a historic document, being the first professional pronouncement of its kind upon the Society’s accounting methods, its financial position and the diligence and skill exercised by the Directors and the Secretary in their management of the Society’s affairs, and is therefore worth reproducing:
Turning back to matters of less magnitude decided in 1890, the Society continued to increase its publicity during the year, and on 21 March, it was resolved additionally to advertise our facilities for one year in The County Advertiser. Another important move forward was taken on 18 April, when the Board resolved that the Society should join the Building Societies’ Association and that the annual subscription of two guineas should be paid out of the contingency fund.
A Special Board Meeting was held on 14 October 1890 to examine the possibility, which we recall had already been the subject of some preliminary discussion, that the Society should have the right to pay the legal and valuation costs of mortgages, in order to increase the number of borrowing members. The Directors unanimously favoured the proposal, which it was hoped would help to reduce the surplus fund of £10,000 in the Huddersfield Bank, and the Society’s solicitor was made aware of this decision. On 18 October Jonas Craven recommended that an added Rule (No. 22a) should be made, which would read:
It was decided, on the advice of Mr Craven, to call a Special Meeting of members at the close of the next Annual General Meeting to consider and (if agreed) to adopt the proposed new Rule 22a.
In the early years two non-professional auditors, one of whom was a schoolmaster, had been appointed to act for the shareholders, an arrangement that had been entirely satisfactory when the Society’s operations were limited. It had now become obvious, however, that in the face of the Society’s expansion, John W. Sykes and Joseph Bate, the present auditors, could not be expected to carry such an increasing responsibility. It seems probable that an ingredient in this decision was the calibre of the Special Audit prepared by Armitage and Norton. Be that as it may, although the Society’s Accounts from 2 September 1889 to 1 September 1890 were signed by John W. Sykes and Joseph Bate on 15 October 1890, the Notice dated 21 October 1890 of the twenty-sixth Annual General Meeting to be held on 15 November 1890 included in the business an item covering the election of W. H. Armitage and G. P. Norton, who had been nominated as the Society’s Auditors.
The twenty-sixth Annual General Meeting was held on 15 November 1890. Frederick Crosland reported that the assets had risen to nearly £217,000. The President was frank to say that the Board was anxious to see the cash surplus of £10,000 taken up by new borrowers, and that further steps were being taken to stimulate the flow of new mortgages. He reported on the special Audit prepared by Armitage and Norton, and read the report of that firm to the meeting. Mr Crosland spoke warmly of the able and faithful manner in which Henry Kaye had performed his duties as Secretary during the last 23 years, a compliment that was greeted with applause.
J. W. Sykes, one of the two retiring Auditors, complimented the Society upon the neat and admirable manner in which the Accounts were kept. He further observed that both he and Mr Bate were of the opinion that the Society had now become so large and important that the auditing should be in the hands of professional accountants, and therefore had great pleasure in moving that W. H. Armitage and G. P. Norton be appointed Auditors, which was seconded by Mr W. Bower and carried unanimously. Mr George P. Norton acknowledged the appointment of his firm, and reiterated his praise of the manner in which the Society was managed. J. H. Stuttard moved that the best thanks of the meeting be given to the retiring Auditors for the great care they had exercised in the discharge of their duties over a period of many years, and that the meeting desired to place on record its deep sense of the valuable services rendered to the Society by these gentlemen. J. E. Webb seconded the motion which was carried with applause. The Special Meeting followed and after a short discussion the new Rule 22a was unanimously adopted.
The other retiring Auditor, Joseph Bate, was unable to attend the Annual General Meeting due to indisposition, but I think that his letter to the Secretary, written on the same evening, should be recorded:
An interesting reflection of the Directors’ devotion to duty was contained in a Resolution at the Board Meeting of 28 November 1890, when the next meeting was fixed for 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 24 December. The Minutes of the latter show that it was by no means a short meeting, and that among other matters, it was decided that the Society should advertise the advantages to prospective borrowers of the new Rule 22a. At the Board Meeting of 20 March 1891, it was resolved that some minor alterations to the Society’s bookkeeping system, recommended by Armitage and Norton, should be adopted, and that a clerk from that firm should be temporarily employed by the Society to prepare indexes for the investors’ and borrowers’ ledgers.
The Directors’ excursions continued to be a regular event, and in June 1891, a visit was made to Newstead Abbey. At the Board Meeting of 15 May, however, it was resolved that out of the amount voted to the Directors for the outing at the Annual Meeting, 20s. should be paid to the office staff, being 10s. to the senior clerk and 5 s. to the two junior clerks. One of the latter, as I have mentioned earlier in another context, was the Secretary’s son, William Henry Kaye.
At a Special Board Meeting on 9 October 1891, it was resolved that the method used since 1875 of paying a bonus of 10% on annual interest should be amended to an allowance of 2s. 1d. per borrowing or investing share. It was also resolved that no bonus would be paid to any member who had not been a shareholder for a full financial year. This arrangement was to continue until 1907 inclusive.
The twenty-seventh Annual General Meeting was held on 14 November 1891. The President reported an increase in assets to over £233,000 and explained the new and more convenient basis on which bonus was to be paid. Mr Crosland was able to report that receipts were up and withdrawals down. In the printed Report it was noteworthy that Armitage & Norton were shown as the Society’s Auditors, and that the certificate of the examination of the mortgage securities was signed by them.
The last Board Meeting in 1891, like that of 1890, was held at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. J. H. Stuttard gave notice that at the next Board Meeting on 22 January 1892, he would propose that £5 be donated to Huddersfield Infirmary out of the honorarium voted to the Directors for their annual excursion. This Resolution was carried. I do not think that this decision was necessarily at variance with the Board’s earlier refusal to make any contribution from the Society’s funds to the Royal Jubilee, since the money spontaneously voted to the Directors each year was expressly for their private use. On the other hand, the Board Meeting of 22 January was marked by a definite change of policy in regard to operations distant from Huddersfield, for it will be recalled that in 1888 an application for a mortgage in Llandudno had been turned down out of hand. George P. Norton, one of the partners of Armitage & Norton, sought an advance for himself on a house in Bournemouth. It was resolved that subject to Mr Norton paying a fee to Mr J. S. Kirk to overlook the matter, together with a fee to a surveyor in Bournemouth to be chosen by Mr Kirk, the Board would give the application favourable consideration. The formal offer of the advance was made in February 1892.
The Annual General Meeting of the Building Societies’ Association was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel in London on 3 February 1892. J. E. Webb, a Director of the Society, who was in London on business at the time, attended as the Society’s representative. He reported to the Board that he had been impressed by the care with which the Association was watching any legislative measure affecting building societies that might be placed before Parliament. This reassurance was opportune, in view of the ominous events in the immediate future that were to lead directly to the Building Societies Act, 1894.
On 22 March 1892, Jonas Craven died. Mr Craven had been the Society’s Solicitor since its establishment in 1864. At the Board Meeting on 23 March high tribute was paid to Jonas Craven’s work for the Society over nearly thirty years. It was resolved that as many Directors as possible would attend the funeral, and that the President would write to Mrs Craven. Thirteen Huddersfield solicitors applied to succeed Mr Craven, and on 13 April it was decided to appoint Mr Joseph Bottomley of 52 New Street, Huddersfield. A condition imposed by the Board, which Mr Bottomley accepted, reflected the Directors’ concern for the widow of a man who had served the Society for more than a quarter of a century. We may presume that Jonas Craven’s death, following so closely on that of his younger partner, caused the extinguishment of the firm of Craven and Sunderland. Be that as it may, Mr Bottomley agreed to allow Mrs Craven £100 per annum for five years from the fees he received from the Building Society. Inevitably the appointment of a new solicitor brought new ideas, and on 5 August 1892, it was resolved that Joseph Bottomley be allowed to have the Society’s mortgage deeds printed rather than written out individually as Jonas Craven had done. It was, however, decided that tradition should be followed to the extent that the printed deeds would still be on parchment.
The twenty-eighth Annual General Meeting was held on 5 November 1892. The President reported that the assets had risen to nearly £247,000. The receipts for the year had been over £99,000, which was a record in the history of the Society, and 594 new members had been enrolled. The mortgage balances had risen to over £237,000. The five retiring Directors were re-elected after a ballot with acclamation, despite an unsuccessful additional nomination of a Mr D. D. Shirtcliffe. It was noteworthy that the following announcement appeared in large print on the last page of the report:
In the early months of 1893 the Society lost the services of two more of its oldest servants. Wright Mellor and William Mallinson, who had been the Trustees of the Society since its establishment in 1864, both expressed a wish to resign on account of advanced age and impaired health. T. Walker Brooke, Esq., J.P. and J. E. Willans, Esq., J.P. were appointed in their stead at the Board Meeting of 17 March 1893, when it was agreed that a copy of the following Resolution, signed by the President, should be sent to the two retiring Trustees:
At the Board Meeting of 7 July 1893, it was resolved that the Secretary ascertain the cost of fitting up the offices with ‘the Electric Light’ (as it appeared in the Minutes). The ultimate estimate, to include the outside lamp in John William Street, was £11.0.0d., and this was accepted in September and the work put in hand.
The Building Societies’ Association meeting in London on 13 July was attended by 160 delegates including Frederick Crosland, Charles Vickerman and John E. Webb from our Society. The gathering was an important one, to consider the amendments to the Bill which was to become the Building Societies Act, 1894, especially the clauses relating to the publication of advances over £5,000, borrowers in arrear and properties in possession. At the Board Meeting on 1 September the following was unanimously resolved:
Before I give an account of the Annual General Meeting of the Society in November 1893, it is appropriate for me to refer briefly to the momentous events that had caused such damage to the building society movement at this time and had led directly to the Act of 1894. Unlike some others less fortunate, our Society weathered the storm, as will be seen, due to the essential soundness of its finances, its high reputation and (I am convinced) to the courage and frankness of Frederick Crosland’s speech to the shareholders at the Annual General Meeting.
The collapse of the Liberator Permanent Benefit Building Society in 1892 was the largest catastrophe in building society history. It is true to say that in its later years it was only minimally involved in genuine building society operations, its 200 or so borrowing members accounting for less than £65,000 (representing less than 2%) of its ‘mortgage assets’ of £3,432,000 shown in the last published balance sheet. The rest had gone in wildly speculative ventures by such companies as the Lands Allotment Co., the House and Land Investment Trust, the Building Securities Co. Ltd, J. W. Hobbs & Co. Ltd, and the Real Estates Co. Ltd, in all of which the dominant and controlling figure was Jabez Spencer Balfour, the founder and managing director of the Liberator Permanent Benefit Building Society.
Balfour was convicted and given two consecutive sentences of seven years’ penal servitude for making secret profits by fraud, and issuing false accounts and balance sheets. Although it was recognized that the Liberator disaster was not the collapse of a true building society but of a company engaged in highly speculative ventures, it was natural that dismay and consternation was caused throughout the building society movement. Within a year the membership of incorporated building societies decreased by over 50,000 (8%), whilst the total assets of £51,000,000 decreased by over £8,000,000 (16%). According to one authority, ‘it was not until two or three decades had passed that it could be said with assurance that the movement had fully recovered, and surpassed, its 1891 position’.
The twenty-ninth Annual General Meeting was held on 11 November 1893. The President was able to report a very modest rise in assets to over £251,000, despite the fact that there was a decrease in receipts and an increase in withdrawals. Against the background of the situation of the movement as a whole, however, the Society’s performance in a difficult year was very satisfactory. The total membership of the Society now stood at 4,442 open accounts.
Mr Crosland said that the Board had decided to increase the reserve fund to £7,000. He reported the representation of the Society at the meeting of the Building Societies’ Association, and referred to the proposed legislation which would amend the Building Societies Act, 1874, and give increased protection to members. He was frank to tell the meeting of the attitude taken by the Board in regard to the Government’s proposals that details of possession cases and other matters of obvious delicacy should be published. Mr Crosland said that in any event at the end of the Financial Year the Society had only three properties in possession with an estimated debt of £2,150, covered by securities valued conservatively at £3,150. One of these properties had since been satisfactorily sold. These observations by the President were received with applause.
Mr Crosland said that our Society was one of the soundest in the kingdom, and that the Board was determined to maintain that position. He spoke in the highest terms of his colleagues on the Board, who were all men of wide experience, and of the Society’s excellent staff, led by Mr Henry Kaye. The President said that although times were difficult nationally, and trade was depressed in the Huddersfield area, he had no fear for the future of the Society. He added that if the published accounts of the Liberator Society had presented the same scrupulous adequacy of information in regard to its affairs as we did, that ill-fated organization would have collapsed a dozen years ago. Mr Crosland successfully moved the adoption of the Report amid applause, seconded by Mr Vickerman.
In replying to a vote of thanks to him, the President revealed a fact of historic interest. After referring to himself as the only Director left of the original Board, he said that he was also the only survivor of the three gentlemen who early in 1864 had met morning after morning from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. to draw up the original Rules of the Society and make all the other necessary arrangements for its establishment.
The Board’s confidence that all was well with the Society was exemplified by a Resolution at the Board Meeting of 21 December 1893, when the printing of 10,000 new prospectuses of the Society was approved. The printers, Alfred Jubb & Son, had quoted a price of £7, which was accepted.
1894 was a year of comparative quiet in the Society’s affairs. On 10 May the President, already in London on business, prolonged his stay to attend the Annual Conference (as it was now called) of the Building Societies’ Association. The Association was giving its final consideration to the Bills now before the House of Commons in connexion with building societies. At the next Board Meeting Mr Crosland was thanked for his trouble in attending the Conference, and the Directors invited him to accept £1 as a contribution towards his expenses.
The thirtieth Annual General Meeting was held on 10 November 1894. Frederick Crosland observed that against a background of depression of trade in the district a diminution in receipts of £6,000, such as the Society had experienced during the year, was not unexpected. Equally, the fact that there were about 2,000 empty properties in the Borough and that the building trade was virtually at a standstill, accounted for a drop in mortgage lending of £10,000. The assets, however, had been maintained at rather over £252,000 and the profit allowed the Directors once more to declare a bonus of 2s. 1d. per share.
The President read to the Meeting a letter from Mr G. P. Norton of Messrs Armitage and Norton, which contained the following paragraph:
Mr Crosland observed that the Annual Report before the Meeting was the thirtieth, and that he considered that thirty years of steady progress showed that the Society had a sound constitution. His own personal investment in the Society had never been higher than at present, and he was very satisfied that this should be so. Looking back over the life of the Society, he had found that it had been the medium in helping Huddersfield people to save £1,500,000 in the last thirty years, which divided by a population of 100,000 amounted to £15 per man, woman and child. The President concluded by referring to the Building Societies Act, 1894, which was now on the Statute Book and which offered sound protection of the interests of shareholders.
Mr Herbert Sykes of Messrs Armitage and Norton said that the new Act would cause little alteration in the Society’s accounting system, since the existing procedure embodied most of the legal requirements. Mr J. E. Willans, J.P., one of the Society’s Trustees, remarked that the new Act was nothing less than a considerable compliment to the Huddersfield Society, incorporating as it did so many of our Rules. Joseph Bottomley, the Society’s Solicitor, said that if the members took the trouble to go through the 1894 Act and compare it with our Rules and the Annual Reports that had been presented to them over the years, they would find that what Mr Sykes and Mr Willans had said was no empty boast. All three gentlemen bore testimony to the deep debt of gratitude the Society owed to Frederick Crosland for his devoted work during 13 years as President. In his reply, Mr Crosland said that he was proud to understand that the drafting of the 1894 Act had been largely based on the Rules and methods of the Halifax, Leeds Permanent and Huddersfield Societies.
The year 1895 started sadly for the Society. At a Special Board Meeting on 9 January it was moved that the Board was distressed to record the deaths of two Directors since the Board Meeting of 21 December. Henry Holland, who had joined the Board on 18 July 1884, died on 26 December 1894. John Greenwood, who died on 5 January 1895, had been a Director since 15 June 1888. The Board felt that they had lost the services of two valued friends of great experience who had been devoted to the welfare of the Society. The President undertook to write to Mrs Holland and Mrs Greenwood.
The third blow fell when Charles Vickerman, the Vice-President of the Society (who had been president at the Special Meeting on 9 January) died suddenly on 26 January. At a Board Meeting on 15 February it was moved that a copy of the following Resolution be sent by the President to Mrs Vickerman:
At the same meeting John H. Stuttard was appointed Vice-President, and it was resolved that Messrs Richard Riley, Richard S. Dyson, and Alfred Jubb be appointed Directors to fill the three vacancies caused by the deaths of Charles Vickerman, Henry Holland, and John Greenwood. As I have had occasion to remark, the Minutes of the Board Meetings in the early years were not informative about the staff, and I have not been able to discover any earlier reference to the name of the chief clerk until 5 July 1895, when his departure from the Society after 14 years service was recorded:
This Minute shows that William Henry Kaye entered the Society’s service in 1887, the year in which he left King James’s Grammar School, Almondbury at the age of 16, and not 1890, as was stated in his obituary in The Huddersfield Examiner on 1 November 1928, headed ‘Thirty-Eight Years with Huddersfield Building Society’. William Henry Kaye’s period of service was 41 years.
At the Board Meeting at 2 August 1895 an application for an advance in London was declined. It did not seem that this decision was necessarily taken because of the London location per se, since the security was not a very desirable one. It was described as a warehouse in Bermondsey, held on a ground lease which had only 65 years to run and was subject to a ground rent of £150 per annum.
A Special Board Meeting was called by the President on 8 August 1895 to consider a demand for income tax made on the Society for the first time in its history. The amount involved was £33.6.8d., being at the rate of 8d. in the pound on an assessment of £1,000. This is not the place to record the complicated story of the early years of Building Society taxation, which is readily available in the literature of the movement as a whole. Suffice it to say that Mr. Crosland reported that he had already consulted the Secretary of the Halifax Building Society, to find that no decision had been taken in regard to a similar demand. The Leeds Permanent Building Society, for its part, was threatening ultimately to resist a demand for tax by taking the matter to the House of Lords if necessary. In August Mr Crosland headed a deputation to interview the Surveyor of Taxes, who explained the negotiated alternative taxation requirements available to societies under the ‘1895 scheme’, but enquiry showed that none of the larger Yorkshire societies had yet been persuaded to accept either. One imagines that the Surveyors of Taxes must have regarded these West Riding building society men as intransigent persons with whom to deal. The building society leaders, on the other hand, argued that profit was not their primary aim, and that few Directors in the movement received any financial reward for their services.
The protracted difficulty experienced at this time by our Society in obtaining sufficient borrowers to absorb the large flow of investments had resulted in the accumulation of surplus funds of over £30,000, which had produced an attendant problem of its own. On 2 September 1895, the Manager of the Huddersfield Bank gave notice to Henry Kaye that he had no alternative but to reduce the interest on the Society’s credit balance over £3,000 from 3½% to 3%. In the face of these circumstances, a Special Board Meeting was called on 31 October 1895, so that careful but urgent consideration could be given to the matter of interest rates. It was decided that in view of the continued cheap rate of money and the large surplus lying idle at the Bank at a reduced rate of interest, the depositors’ rate should be reduced to 2½%, and both the investors’ and borrowers’ rate to 3½%. The local press reports on this decision were favourable. The Huddersfield Examiner applauded the reduction in the mortgage rate as realistic in the prevailing circumstances, and remarked of the investing rate that it still compared very favourably with that of other institutions when the factors of the ‘unimpeachable security’ of the Society and the regular distribution of bonus were properly taken into account.
The thirty-first Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 9 November 1895. The President was able to report a substantial rise in assets to nearly £270,000, and an increase in receipts of nearly £6,000 to over £90,000. Withdrawals were reduced by over £12,000 compared with the previous year. The Society had 4,467 open accounts. Mr Crosland was frank to say that the Board was still concerned over the large surplus funds, but that it was hoped that the reduction in interest rates combined with recommendations from existing members to prospective borrowers would remedy the situation.
The President referred to the imposition of income tax upon building societies, including their own. He said that after constant correspondence and several interviews with the Surveyor of Taxes, the Directors believed that they had come to an arrangement that would be satisfactory to the members, having done their best under the present regulations. The agreement they had made was to pay income tax on half the amount of interest allowed to investors and depositors, which would exempt all these members from payment of income tax on their investments with the Society. The President said that borrowers were also exempt from property tax in respect of interest paid to the Society, if their income from all sources did not exceed £160 per annum, adding that if any of the members had difficulty in the matter, Mr Kaye would be pleased to give them advice on the subject. In conclusion the President remarked that the year had not been free from anxiety, but that they were glad to be able to report progress. Mr G. P. Norton, in responding to a vote of thanks to the Auditors, congratulated the Directors and Staff on the excellent way in which the affairs of the Society were managed. A hearty vote of thanks was accorded to the Chairman for presiding, and for the deep interest he had taken in the Society from its establishment over thirty-one years ago. The retiring Directors were all re-elected, and at the next Board Meeting it was resolved that Frederick Crosland be re-elected President as usual, and that John H. Stuttard be re-elected Vice-President.
An interesting Minute was recorded at the Board Meeting on 10 April 1896, which indicated the affectionate esteem in which both Henry Kaye and his son were held by the Board:
The thirty-second Annual General Meeting was held on 7 November 1896. The President reported that the assets had risen to over £279,000. Notwithstanding the reduction in interest rates, the receipts in both the deposit and share departments had increased. The lowering of the mortgage rate had caused the hoped for rise in lending, and at the date of the Meeting the surplus funds were down to £17,000. Mr Crosland observed that 871 properties were in mortgage to the Society and that only one of these was in possession, whilst only five were subject to arrears of over twelve months.
Alderman F. Calvert, who seconded the adoption of the Report, paid a high compliment to the President for the care and thought he continuously bestowed on the affairs of the Society. All the retiring Directors were re-elected. It was remarked in The Huddersfield Examiner of 14 November 1896:
At a Special Board Meeting on 29 January 1897, an application for a mortgage was considered for a loan of £600 on a chemist’s shop and house at Boscombe, Bournemouth. The precedent of Mr G. P. Norton’s earlier mortgage in the same town was followed, and favourable consideration was undertaken by the Board subject to valuation fees being paid both to Mr Kirk to overlook the matter, and to a surveyor in Bournemouth to be appointed by Mr Kirk. At the same meeting the view was expressed that the fire insurance premiums paid by members each year was far in excess of the claims made, and that it would be profitable for the Society to become its own insurers ‘in order to receive the benefits which have been so long enjoyed by the insurance company’. The President and T. K. Mellor (with commendable patience, it may be thought) promised to look into this suggestion. The death of the President within a matter of weeks naturally interrupted considerations of this kind, but it can be said now that the Registrar of Friendly Societies pointed out that ‘a Building Society cannot lawfully carry on the business of fire insurance’, and that the idea was abandoned.
March 1897 was a tragic month for the Society. At the Board Meeting on 12 March it was moved by Mr Crosland and seconded by Mr Stuttard that a copy of the following Resolution be sent to Mrs Goodwin:
During the same month the Society also suffered the grievous loss of its President. A Special Board Meeting was held on 27 March, the day following Frederick Crosland’s death, when it was recorded:
At the regular Board Meeting on 9 April 1897, the Minutes recorded:
It was resolved that John H. Stuttard, the Vice-President, be elected President of the Society, and that the election of the new Vice-President be postponed until the next Board Meeting.
Pasted into the Minute Book is a letter dated 13 April 1897 from Frederick Crosland’s daughter, Mrs S. L. Dyson. She wrote:
The Directors had held Frederick Crosland in the highest regard and affection, as was shewn by their decision to have a portrait of their late President prepared by Mr John E. Shaw, at a cost of twelve guineas, to be hung in the office in memory of a man who had served the Society with devotion for over thirty-two years.
At a Special Board Meeting on 23 April 1897, John E. Webb was elected Vice-President of the Society following John H. Stuttard’s appointment as President. At the same meeting four gentlemen were suggested as being suitable and eligible persons to become Directors of the Society in connexion with the two vacancies on the Board occasioned by the deaths of Frederick Crosland and Joseph Goodwin. They were Lewis Radcliffe, Robert Nelson, James Brook and J. Stottart. Messrs Radcliffe and Nelson were elected and attended their first Board Meeting on 17 June 1897.
The Directors continued to concern themselves with the good appearance of the offices in John William Street. In August 1897 steps were taken to remove loungers who were in the habit of sitting and smoking on our window-sills, and in September it was resolved that the offices should be thoroughly cleaned, painted and papered by Mr Stuttard’s firm. The Directors, as always, continued to keep a close watch on costs. At the Board Meeting on 22 October, 1897, it was resolved that to save postage as many of the printed Annual Reports as possible should be handed to the members by the auditors on the last subscription day in the Financial Year.
The thirty-third Annual General Meeting was held on 6 November 1897. The new President, John H. Stuttard, was able to report on the operations of the most successful year in the history of the Society. The assets had risen to over £282,000, and for the first time the receipts were over £100,000. The advances of nearly £69,000 during the year were also a record, proving the success of the Board’s mortgage policy by the reduction of the surplus cash (other than the reserve fund of £7,000) to under £3,300. The President reported with justifiable pride that the Society had not a single property in possession.
Mr Stuttard spoke of the deaths of Frederick Crosland and Joseph Goodwin, and paid high tribute to the work of the late President. He said that the Society’s present position was due in no small degree to Frederick Crosland’s tact, sound judgement and untiring devotion, and that the Directors felt that they could not pay too high a tribute to his memory. The retiring Directors were unanimously re-elected. Mr G. P. Norton spoke in the most complimentary terms of the work of Henry Kaye, and observed that he had never audited books that were more accurately kept.
The meeting was an historical one in that it was proposed and carried unanimously that the Directors should be paid an honorarium of a hundred guineas for their services, which it was agreed at the next Board Meeting should be divided as to £15 for the President and £10 each for the other nine Directors. These modest fees remained constant from 1897 to 1904.
At the Board Meeting on 17 December 1897, the resignation from the Board of John E. Webb was accepted with the utmost regret. It was resolved that a letter should be written thanking Mr Webb for the service he had given to the Society over a period of 29 years, and expressing the sorrow of the Directors that the claims of business had become too exacting for Mr Webb to continue as a member of the Board. He had been replaced as Vice-President by T. K. Mellor during the previous month.
At a Special Board Meeting on 28 January 1898, it was resolved that James Brook be appointed a Director in place of John E. Webb. At the same meeting the resignation from the Board of Alfred Jubb, on account of increasing pressure of business, was accepted with regret.
At the Board Meeting on 11 March 1898 the resignation of C. Lewis Berry, our Slaithwaite Agent, was accepted, and the selection of a suitable successor was left with the President and Vice-President. Alderman Richard H. Inman, a Mineral Water manufacturer (who was to be a future President of the Society) was elected a Director in place of Alfred Jubb at the Board Meeting of 7 April. From 1869 to 1897 the Annual Conferences of the Building Societies’ Association had always been held in London. In 1898, however, the meeting was to take place on 11 May in Bradford, and at our Board Meeting on 7 April it was resolved that the President and Vice-President be appointed as the Society’s delegates to attend the conference.
At the Board Meeting on 6 May 1898, on the recommendation of the President and the Vice-President, Charles W. Sykes was appointed as the new Agent of the Society at Slaithwaite. Mr Sykes was required to invest £100 with the Society as security for the faithful discharge of his duties. It was additionally resolved that an advertisement of the Agency should be inserted in The Slaithwaite Guardian.
On 30 June 1898, William Henry Kaye, the Head Clerk in the office, had married Louisa Longbottom. At the close of the Board Meeting on 29 July 1898, the President, on behalf of the Board, presented W. H. Kaye with a handsome mahogany bureau to mark this happy event. It was recorded in the Minutes that he thanked the Directors not only for the generous gift, but also for the kindly feeling towards him that was expressed by the President and other Directors when the presentation was made.
The thirty-fourth Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 5 November 1898. Mr Stuttard was able to report that the Society was continuing ‘its upward course of prosperity and success’, with record receipts of over £105,000 and assets of over £287,000. Over £47,000 had been advanced during the year, and the President was again able to report the absence of any properties in possession. Mr J. E. Willans, J.P., one of the Trustees, remarked upon the sound and flourishing condition of the Society, its admirable management, and the guarantee of the ‘eminent auditors’ that all was in order. The usual compliments were paid, and all the retiring Directors were re-elected. At the next Board Meeting on 18 November the President and Vice-President were re-appointed.
A Special Board Meeting was called on 24 February 1899 to consider a letter from the Society’s Surveyor, James S. Kirk, on the subject of his scale of fees, which had remained constant since 1864. Comparisons were made with the fees paid by five other Yorkshire societies, and it was agreed that Mr Kirk should be paid on a more generous basis.
On 6 August 1899, Joseph Bottomley, the Society’s Solicitor, died suddenly in Kendal. He had no partner, and a Special Board Meeting was called on 21 August, to consider 24 applications for the appointment from Huddersfield solicitors. It was decided to employ Messrs Armitage, Sykes & Hinchcliffe, of 13 Westgate, Huddersfield, subject to three months’ notice of termination of the appointment at any time. The partners in the firm were James Sykes and Arthur E. T. Hinchcliffe, and in the Minute Book is a letter from the Solicitors dated 28 August 1899 accepting the terms of the engagement, and stating that Mr Hinchcliffe would be mainly responsible for the work of the Society.
The tenure of office of James Brook as a Director of the Society was a short one. He was appointed, it will be recalled, on 28 January 1898. At the Board Meeting on 22 September 1899 the President read a letter from Mr Brook tendering his resignation owing to his continued and prolonged absences from Huddersfield on business, and his consequent inability to attend the meetings. The resignation was accepted with regret.
The thirty-fifth Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 11 November 1899, and Mr Stuttard was able to report another year of progress, and record receipts of over £107,000. The assets had risen to over £296,000. Over £58,000 had been advanced on mortgage during the year, and the Society had no property in possession on its books, and no borrower whose payments were 12 months in arrears. The President said that in order to strengthen still further the position of the Society, the reserve fund had been increased from £7,000 to £10,000. All the retiring Directors were re-elected, and among the compliments paid, Mr Herbert Sykes of Armitage and Norton said that the position of the Society must be the envy of all other building societies.
At the Board Meeting of 17 November 1899 J. H. Stuttard and T. K. Mellor were re-elected as President and Vice-President, and it was decided to fill the vacancy on the Board caused by the resignation of James Brook by extending an invitation to Alderman William H. Jessop to become a Director of the Society. In view of the number of mergers taking place among building societies as this paragraph is written (December 1973) it is of interest to record another matter mentioned at this meeting, despite the fact that in the event, nothing came of it. A letter had been received from Alfred Pontefract, the Secretary of the Huddersfield and County Permanent Building Society, a small local organization which was evidently in difficulty and wished to transfer its engagements to our Society. A Special Board Meeting was held on 13 November 1899 to receive a deputation of two Directors and the Secretary from the Huddersfield and County, who ‘explained the position of their Society’. They were courteously received by Mr Stuttard, but it was decided at the next Board Meeting on 15 December 1899 that all that could be offered was a willingness to consider individual applications from borrowing members of the Huddersfield and County Building Society as if they were new intending mortgagors of our Society. It will be recalled that the same procedure was adopted in earlier years in the matter of the Huddersfield and District Self Help Permanent Building Society, to use its final title before it was wound up.
At the Board Meeting of 6 April 1900, the important decision was taken to raise the deposit rate to 2¾%, and to meet the cost by suspending the payment by the Society of the legal charges on mortgages. This was a re-orientation of policy, aimed at increasing investment intake and damping down the demand for mortgages. It is interesting to record that an operation of this kind (which is all too frequently needed today through no fault of the building society movement) was necessary as long ago as the turn of the century. The reason for it was that the Society had attracted so much mortgage business that it was having to receive some support from the Bank, which had been willingly given. It was resolved, however, at the Board Meeting of 1 June 1900, that the President, the Vice-President and J. Haigh should see Mr T. H. Stott, the Huddersfield Manager of the London, City and Midland Bank (which had taken over the old Huddersfield Banking Company Ltd) with a view to improving the terms of the Society’s account. The meeting with the Bank took place on 20 June, and the deputation reported a satisfactory outcome to the Board on 29 June. The Society was to receive 3% on credit balances of £3,000 and over, and 2½% when the balance was under £3,000. When the Society’s account was overdrawn, the Bank would charge over bank rate, with a maximum of 4%. The Bank agreed to reduce its commission on turnover from 2s. to is. per £100, and to continue to pay for the printing and stamping of the Society’s cheques.
The thirty-sixth Annual Meeting was held on 3 November 1900. Mr Stuttard was able to report record receipts of nearly £108,000, and total assets of over £307,000. The Society had 5,869 open accounts held by 1,502 depositors and 3,771 borrowing and investing members, showing that the practice of members having more than one account was developing. There were no properties in possession and no borrowers’ accounts 12 months in arrear. The retiring directors were unanimously re-elected. In replying to a vote of thanks to the auditors Mr G. P. Norton was reported in The Huddersfield Examiner of 5 November 1900, as saying that he ‘personally wished to suggest that as far as possible the directors should throw more responsibility on the shoulders of Mr Henry Kaye’s son, though of course he hoped that the present secretary would have health and strength to fill the office for some years. He thought that the infusion of young blood would be beneficial’. It may be thought that a public Annual Meeting was hardly the time and place for an opinion of this kind to be voiced by the Society’s Auditor, particularly in view of the fact that Henry Kaye, despite his long service to the Society, was still under sixty. However that may be, the President was reported by The Huddersfield Examiner as replying that ‘the question raised by Mr Norton had not been lost sight of and in fact was being taken into consideration by the Directors on the lines indicated by Mr Norton’. It was reported for the first time that the Directors’ honorarium of one hundred guineas was free of income tax.
The first Minute of the Board Meeting of 8 February 1901 was headed ‘Death of Queen Victoria, Tuesday, 22 January, 1901’. It read as follows:
At the Board Meeting of 28 June 1901, the Directors resolved that the deposit rate should be raised to 3%, the second increase in little over a year. At the same meeting the question of the fire insurance of properties mortgaged to the Society was again raised. All the business went to the North British and Mercantile Insurance Co., who in return made a contribution of £25 to the Society’s office rent. The County Fire Office was anxious to secure the Society’s fire insurance business, and it was resolved that the Secretary should write to the Leeds Manager of the North British and Mercantile Insurance Co. to ascertain if the annual payment of £25 could be increased. It was recorded at the Board Meeting of 26 July 1901 that the Directors ‘were not pleased’ at the response of the North British and Mercantile, and the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Solicitor were invited to negotiate a settlement with the Manager of the County Fire Office. As a result, the latter company agreed to pay to the Society at seven-year intervals 25% of all fire premiums remitted through the Society during that period. These terms were accepted, and the Society’s fire insurance business was transferred to the County Fire Office.
It was resolved at the Board Meeting of 23 August 1901, that the resignation of Mr T. H. Lawford, the Society’s Agent at Meltham, be accepted. Mr Lawford, who was 83 years of age, was the first Agent appointed by the Society, his 36 years employment dating back to 1865, during the short tenure of office of the first Secretary, John Smith. The Society had always appreciated (as it continues to do today) the devotion of its old servants, and it was resolved that the following letter to be sent to Mr Lawford:
It was resolved that Mr William Carter, an architect and surveyor in Meltham, be appointed as Mr Lawford’s successor, subject to his entering into the usual bond for the faithful discharge of his duties.
In the autumn of 1901 Henry Kaye, who had never missed a Board Meeting since his appointment in 1867, was unable to attend the office on account of illness. At a Special Board Meeting called on 5 September it was resolved that William Henry Kaye be empowered to act as Secretary and to sign and endorse all cheques and other negotiable instruments until further notice, as a result of the Secretary’s illness and consequent inability to attend to business. By November 1901, Henry Kaye was restored to health, but at the Board Meeting of 15 November he requested that his son should be appointed Assistant Secretary. It was resolved that the matter be left in the hands of the President and Vice-President, who made their recommendation a week later on 22 November. It was that William Henry Kaye be appointed Assistant Secretary at a salary of £200 per annum, and that the sum of £1,936.9.0d. standing to the credit of Henry Kaye with the Society should stand as joint security for both the Secretary and Assistant Secretary. The Directors accepted the recommendation, subject to the formality of an Agreement being prepared by the Society’s Solicitors and approved by the Board. It may be thought that the series of events recorded in the Minutes suggest that W. H. Kaye owed his appointment to his father, and to the accident of Henry Kaye’s illness, rather than to the suggestion made by Mr G. P. Norton a year previously at the Annual Meeting.
The thirty-seventh Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 30 November 1901. J. H. Stuttard was supported by the whole Board and by Alderman E. Woodhead, the Mayor of Huddersfield. The President was able to report a rise in assets to over £333,000 and record receipts of over £120,000. The membership had increased to 6,282 open accounts. The mortgage balances totalled over £333,000, the Society having no properties in possession, no borrowers twelve months in arrears, and no mortgage exceeding £5,000. Mr Stuttard remarked that in circumstances where difficulties had to be glossed over and losses explained the task of a Chairman could be a difficult one. In the case of the Society, however, where every department was in the best possible condition and could scarcely be better for the wishing, the President’s duty was greatly simplified. He referred with thankfulness to Henry Kaye’s recovery from his recent illness, and to the appointment, at the Secretary’s request, of W. H. Kaye as Assistant Secretary. All the retiring Directors were re-elected, and the Mayor of Huddersfield congratulated the members on such a splendid Report as that placed before them. He added that in some quarters it was said that Huddersfield was on the decline, but that it seemed to him that on the basis of the state of the Building Society, the Borough was going up and going forward.
The Society’s move in 1902 into part of Britannia Buildings in St George’s Square, backing on to St Peter’s Street, was fortuitous, in that it was precipitated by the receipt of a six months’ notice to quit dated 30 December 1901, served upon the Secretary by the owner of 37 John William Street. At the Board Meeting on 15 January 1902, it was resolved that a Committee, consisting of the President, the Vice-President, R. Riley, and W. H. Jessop, be invited ‘to look out for suitable premises, and make the best arrangement they can to secure the same’. On 15 January the Committee inspected available properties in New Street, Kirkgate and elsewhere, but came to the conclusion ‘that the most suitable offices for the Society were those occupied by the Commercial Union Assurance Co. across the way in St Peter’s Street, and the Secretary was instructed to write and ask what they would require for the ground floor and basement portion only’. The Committee met again on 20 January 1902, to consider the response to Henry Kaye’s letter, which was an offer of the required part of the ground floor and basement of Britannia Buildings at a rental of £150 per annum for the unexpired six years of the existing lease, the Society to be responsible for rates. The Committee was empowered to settle the matter by its terms of reference, and as the proposed terms were considered to be satisfactory the Secretary was instructed to accept them, and to confirm that the Society’s liability for the rent would commence on 1 July 1902.
The historic move to Britannia Buildings apart, 1902 was an active year for the Society. Its continuing expansion involved the negotiation of an increased audit fee, and this was settled at 70 guineas with Armitage and Norton and approved by the Board on 4 April. On 2 May the Board resolved that new Agencies be established at Honley and Marsden as soon as possible. John Thornton, a newsagent of 21 Westgate, Honley, was considered to be a satisfactory Agent, and at the Board Meeting of 22 August 1902 he was appointed with effect from 12 September. The opening of the Honley Agency on the latter date was preceded by a public meeting in the Cooperative Hall in that village, John H. Stuttard taking the Chair. The President spoke with pride of the 38 years of the Society’s progress, exemplified by the receipt of investments of £2,250,000 over the period, and mortgage advances of over £1,000,000. Of Henry Kaye it was said that he had given his life to the work of the Society, and that his son, as Assistant Secretary, was following in his father’s footsteps. John Thornton was described as a man qualified in every way to occupy the position of trust as the Society’s Agent in Honley.
The thirty-eighth Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 29 November 1902. Mr Stuttard reported that the total assets were now over £354,000 and that receipts for the year were over £142,000, representing a record increase of over £21,000 compared with the previous year. Mortgage advances were over £57,000, and once again the President was able to report that there were no properties in possession, no borrowers twelve months in arrear and no mortgages over £5,000. The mortgage balances were now nearly £340,000.
The President commented on the Society’s move during the year ‘to more commodious premises in Britannia Buildings, St Peter’s Street’, and said that the Board had decided to open more Agencies, exemplified by Honley. William H. Armitage, the senior partner of Armitage and Norton, said that the Society was one of the soundest in the United Kingdom. He was reported in both The Huddersfield Examiner and The Huddersfield Chronicle of 1 December 1902, as saying that ‘he knew personally the auditors of five building societies, and not one of them came up to the Huddersfield’. The retiring Directors were all re-elected.
A Special Board Meeting was held on 28 January 1903, following the death of T. Walker Brooke, J.P., one of the two Trustees of the Society. The number of Trustees was increased to three by the election of W. Wrigley, J.P. and T. K. Mellor, the distinguished Vice-President of the Society. J. E. Willans, J.P. continued as the third Trustee.
A further Special Board Meeting was called on 12 June 1903, to consider Agency development. The President, Vice-President, R. Riley, and L. Radcliffe were invited to visit Barnsley to report back to the Board on the possibility of opening an Agency in that town. It was resolved that Mr C. A. Goodall be appointed as the Society’s Agent at Marsden, with accommodation at the Congregational School. On 3 July the now traditional public meeting was held at the Mechanics’ Institute, Marsden, and the new Agency was duly launched with effect from 17 July 1903.
The thirty-ninth Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 28 November 1903. John H. Stuttard reported a rise in assets to nearly £386,000, and total receipts for the year of over £155,000. The amount lent on mortgage was over £87,000, an impressive increase of £30,000 on the performance of the previous year. Once again, the Society had no properties in possession, no twelve-month arrears cases and no mortgage in excess of £5,000. The President remarked on the progress made in the establishment of new Agencies, which was constantly under review by the Board.
Mr Stuttard said that the Directors had decided to strengthen the position of the Society and the shareholders by investing the Reserve Fund of £10,000 in carefully selected Trustee Securities, rather than retaining it in the Society’s account. High compliment was paid to the memory of the deceased Trustee of the Society, T. Walker Brooke, J.P., and pride expressed in the fact that a Director of the Society, Alderman Richard H. Inman, had been elected Mayor of Huddersfield for 1903-4. The retiring Directors were re-appointed. It is of interest to record that not a single question was asked at the Meeting in regard to the Report and Accounts.
At the Board Meeting of 11 December 1903 it was resolved that the Society’s advertisements should be considerably enlarged, and that a new prospectus be issued. The question of an Agency at Barnsley was again discussed, together with the possibility of one at Doncaster. An application for an Agency was received from a Leeds firm of Solicitors, but at the next Board Meeting it was decided that this should be declined in view of the number of Leeds building societies in active operation.
The resignation of William Radcliffe, for reasons of advancing age and infirmity, was regretfully accepted at the Board Meeting on 8 January 1904. The Directors placed on record their sorrow at losing the invaluable services of so old a friend. William Radcliffe had been a Director for over 31 years, having been appointed in August 1872. John J. Booth, a Huddersfield auctioneer and surveyor, was appointed a Director to succeed Mr Radcliffe, on 4 March 1904, and attended his first Board Meeting on that day.
For many years James S. Kirk, like his father before him, had served the Society as its Surveyor, enjoying an excellent relationship with the Board and with no record in the Minutes of any criticism of his work. At the Board Meeting of 5 February 1904, however, the first of two adverse comments was made. The Secretary was instructed to write to Mr Kirk drawing his attention to the considerable divergence between his valuation and the purchase price in connexion with a mortgage application by a Mrs Crisp. On 30 March a more serious criticism was recorded. Mr J. D. Barlow had applied for a mortgage of £300 on four houses in course of construction in Blackhouse Road, Fartown. Mr Kirk had provided an interim valuation, and Mr Lewis Radcliffe expressed the opinion that Mr Kirk’s estimate of the value of the work done was too high. It was resolved that no grant be made until an inspection of the property-had been made by Mr Radcliffe and Mr Booth. Mr Kirk was vindicated, for according to the Minutes there had been some confusion as to the identity of the properties concerned.
At the Board Meeting of 27 May 1904 it was resolved that the Assistant Secretary, W. H. Kaye, should accompany the President and the Vice-President to the Annual Meeting of the Building Societies’ Association to be held in Leeds on 8 and 9 June. At the same Board Meeting it was resolved that from 1 June the traditional practice of charging ‘office expenses’ on investing shares would cease. To meet the expense of this abandonment of a source of revenue enjoyed by the Society since its establishment, it was resolved to raise the mortgage rate to 4%, also with effect from 1 June. As a further example of the gradual but purposeful change of attitude of the Directors towards the operations of the Society in regard to properties distant from Huddersfield, it was resolved at the same Meeting that an application for a mortgage on a house in Reading by Mr Herbert Taylor be accepted, subject to a satisfactory valuation by a local surveyor of good standing.
The Board Meetings of 22 July and 16 September 1904 were concerned with a suggestion that the mortgage deeds might be prepared in such a way that further advances could be made at little or no expense to the borrower, following the reported example of the Leeds Permanent Building Society. The Society’s Solicitor, Mr Hinchcliffe, said that in his view it was illegal to make further advances without incurring stamp duty. It was resolved at the July meeting that the Solicitor and the Secretary should investigate the matter and report to the Board. At the September meeting it was disclosed that five Head Offices had been visited by Mr Hinchcliffe and Mr Kaye, being those of the Leeds Permanent, Leeds and Holbeck, Leeds Provincial, Bradford Second Equitable, and Bradford Third Equitable Societies, and that in each case both the Secretary and the Solicitor to the Society had been interviewed. Only the Leeds Permanent was in the habit of making further advances without taking any memorandum or paying duty, the sole charge being a 5 /-Solicitor’s fee. The other four Societies were following the same procedure as ourselves. It was resolved that no alteration be made in our existing practice of having the memoranda of further advances prepared by the Solicitor and duly stamped.
The fortieth Annual Meeting was held on 26 November 1904. John H. Stuttard reported a rise in assets to nearly £425,000, and record receipts of over £168,000. Another record was that of mortgage advances, which totalled over £101,000 during the year. The President was again able to claim that the Society had no properties in possession, no twelve-month arrears cases and no mortgage in excess of £5,000. It was noteworthy that the new Marsden Agency had done extremely well, having slightly exceeded the Honley Agency in both membership and receipts. Compliments were paid both by the President and the Vice-President to William Radcliffe for his devoted service to the Society over so many years, and a welcome extended to the new Director, John J. Booth, of whom it was said that ‘no man could have a better knowledge of the value of property’. Richard Riley, in supporting the adoption of the Report, said, amidst applause, that Henry Kaye had been the Secretary for nearly 40 years, and had been assisted by his son for 19 years. Both the President and the Surveyor seem to have been carried away by these adventures in nostalgia. Mr Stuttard said that he was the only person living who was on the first Board of Directors, whilst James Kirk claimed that he had been the Society’s valuer for over 40 years. Be that as it may, the meeting was highly successful. All the retiring Directors were re-elected, and the Board’s fee was raised to £200, free of tax, with acclamation. This level of remuneration was to continue for six years.
In April 1905 John Stuttard’s only son died. At the Board Meeting of 28 April the Directors resolved to write a letter to the President expressing their sorrow and sympathy in this ‘heavy bereavement’. Whether this tragedy was an ingredient in John Stuttard’s relinquishment of the Presidency at the end of the year I do not know, but it can be said that from April 1905 Mr Stuttard played a less active part in the affairs of the Society than had been his habit. When, at the Board Meeting on 23 June 1905, it was resolved to appoint Mr Harry Lockwood of Town End, Golcar, as our Agent in that village, the President and Vice-President were invited to make the necessary arrangements. The Minutes indicate, however, that Mr Stuttard took little part in the establishment of the Agency. The President did not attend the Annual Meeting of the Building Societies’ Association, which was held in Bristol in 1905. Lewis Radcliffe, accompanied by the Assistant Secretary, represented the Society. When, at the Board Meeting of 28 August, the important policy decision was taken actively to seek an Agent in Doncaster, the Sub-Committee appointed consisted of T. K. Mellor, L. Radcliffe, and J. J. Booth. It was T. K. Mellor and Richard Riley, moreover, who negotiated the agreement for a new lease of the portion of the ground floor and basement of Britannia Buildings occupied by the Society.
In the latter connexion it will be recalled that the Society held its offices under an existing lease due to expire on 31 December 1907, a date that was not too distant. At the Board Meeting of 10 November 1905, Messrs Mellor and Riley reported the result of their discussions with the owner, T. P. Crosland. They had suggested that the landlord should agree that from January 1908 he would grant the Society a new lease for 7 years at the existing rent of £150 per annum, with an option to renew for a further 7 or 14 years at the will of the Society, without any increase in the rent. The owner was willing to accept this proposal, subject to the rent during the future (possible) 21-year term being £170 per annum. In the event, the agreement for the lease was settled at £160 per annum, after discussions extending into December and culminating in the landlord attending a Board Meeting. The owner additionally agreed that the Society could construct a strongroom in the basement in which to store its mortgage deeds and other securities, which he would take over ‘at a valuation’ should the Society ever vacate Britannia Buildings.
At the same Board Meeting of 10 November 1905, it was resolved that Mr F. J. Clarke, Accountant, of Oriental Chambers, Doncaster, should be appointed as the Society’s Agent in that town. This was a significant milestone in the Society’s development, since all the earlier Agencies had been established in villages around Huddersfield. It was also resolved that T. K. Mellor, L. Radcliffe, and J. J. Booth should continue to act as a Sub-Committee for the appointment of new Agents ‘in such suitable places as they think best’. This active trio followed their instructions by appointing forthwith a Barnsley firm of auctioneers and valuers, A. E. Wilby & Son, as the Society’s Agents for the area containing the villages of Denby Dale, Scissett, Clayton West, Skelmanthorpe, and Penistone, all within reasonable reach of Huddersfield.
The forty-first Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 25 November 1905. John H. Stuttard, presiding for the last time, reported a rise in assets to nearly £445,000, and receipts of over £161,000, being a slight reduction on the previous year’s record performance. Advances were also reduced to rather under £69,000, with total mortgage balances of nearly £428,000. For the eighth year in succession, the President was able to report that the Society had no properties in possession, no borrowers 12 months in arrear and no mortgage in excess of £5,000. The President drew attention to the fact that of 1,423 properties mortgaged to the Society, no less than 1,215 °f these were under £500 in amount, ‘thus proving that the Society is carrying out its main object of helping a man to own his own house rather than pay rent’. Mr Stuttard also reported that the investments comprising the reserve fund had appreciated during the year by £217. All the retiring Directors were re-elected.
At the Board Meeting on 8 December 1905, Thomas K. Mellor, the Vice-President of the Society, was elected President, and was succeeded by James Haigh as Vice-President. John H. Stuttard remained a Director. This was a climacteric in the life of the Society, for it was the first occasion upon which a President’s term of office had terminated except by death. The Minutes were silent both as to the reason for this change in Board policy and as to any future intentions, but it can be said now that T. K. Mellor and his six successors as president were each to hold their high office for a period of two years. The warm thanks and high appreciation of his fellow Directors to John Stuttard for successfully guiding the fortunes of the Society since 1897 were recorded in the Minutes. At the same Board Meeting it was resolved that the President, the Vice-President, R. Riley, R. S. Dyson, and L. Radcliffe should form an Emergency Committee empowered to deal with urgent mortgage applications and other routine matters between the monthly meetings, should it be inconvenient to summon the whole Board.
The Annual Meeting of the Building Societies’ Association in 1906 was held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 20 and 21 June, and at the Board Meeting of 27 April it was resolved that the President, Richard Riley and the Assistant Secretary should attend as representatives of the Society.
At the Board Meeting of 25 May 1906, the matter of the Auditors’ fees (against the background of the Society’s continuing expansion) was discussed, following correspondence with Armitage and Norton. Increased fees for 1906 and 1907 were agreed, together with an arrangement thereafter which linked the fee on scale to the Society’s turnover, the formula being entirely acceptable to Armitage and Norton.
Due to the significantly reduced lending in the previous year’s operations, the Society was again faced in 1906 with the problem of surplus funds. In consequence it was resolved at a Special Board Meeting on 3 July (following correspondence with the Borough Treasurer of Huddersfield culminating in a letter from him on 2 July) that the Society should lend Huddersfield Corporation £20,000 at 3⅝% for one year certain, thereafter subject to six months’ notice on either side.
By August 1906, the strong-room in the basement of Britannia Buildings was completed. At the Board Meeting on 17 August it was resolved that the boxes of securities in the custody of the London City and Midland Bank be lodged in the Society’s strong-room. It was an historic removal, for it meant that after 42 years in the bank vaults the mortgage deeds and other securities would henceforth be kept on the Society’s own premises.
This is not the place to offer any account of the history of leasehold tenures in Huddersfield and their ultimate acquisition by the Corporation. Suffice it to say that in 1906 much leasehold land in the town was held on 99 years’ leases from the estate of Sir John W. Ramsden. The Directors realized that property subject to leases of this kind would depreciate in value as the leases progressed, and the matter was discussed at the Board Meeting of 9 November 1906. It was resolved that the Halifax Building Society should be reminded of the situation, so that a joint approach might be made to the Ground Landlord. 
The forty-second Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 24 November 1906. It started sadly, for the President, T. K. Mellor, said that before dealing with the business of the meeting it was his sorrowful duty to report the death that morning of Robert Nelson, a member of the Board. After paying a high tribute to an old colleague and a devoted servant of the Society, the President asked the members to join in a resolution expressing regret at Mr Nelson’s death, and of sympathy with Mrs Nelson and the family.
T. K. Mellor reported a rise in assets to over £493,000 and record receipts of almost £188,000. Nearly £92,000 had been advanced on mortgage during the year. For the ninth year in succession, the Society had no properties in possession, no borrowers who were twelve months in arrear and no mortgages in excess of £5,000. For the thirty-third year in succession a bonus to borrowers and investors was declared, and as had been customary for a considerable period the rate was at 2s. 1d. per share.
Despite the moderate increase in mortgage business the Society still had surplus funds of over £6,000 in the bank, in addition to the Huddersfield Corporation loan of £20,000 and the reserve fund. In order to remedy this situation, it was announced that the Board was prepared to consider applications for non-reducing mortgages at simple interest only at a rate of 4%, and it can be said now that for a few years a limited amount of such business was transacted. As matters turned out this additional outlet for surplus funds proved unnecessary.
All the retiring Directors were re-elected. Despite the silence of the Minutes on the subject, in moving a vote of thanks to T. K. Mellor for presiding J. Sykes, one of the Society’s Solicitors, revealed that the Board ‘had adopted the principle of letting the office of President rotate, hence they might see a succession of Presidents, as there were fully qualified and capable men on the platform’. T. K. Mellor, in his reply, said that he would be very pleased to see others occupy the position of President. At the next Board Meeting on 7 December T. K. Mellor and J. Haigh were re-elected President and Vice-President.
At the Board Meeting of 4 January 1907, Percy F. Holmes was appointed a Director of the Society to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Robert Nelson. This was the beginning of a year of high activity in the Society’s affairs, including a welcome and very considerable upsurge in mortgage lending and some Agency development. On 1 February, following the death of our Shelley Agent, his son Harold Emmott was appointed as his successor. At a Special Board Meeting called on 14 February, it was resolved that George H. Beall be appointed as the Society’s Agent in Darlington, with Messrs Kitching and Lee of the same town as the Surveyors. The former appointment was, unfortunately, doomed to early disaster. At the Board Meeting of 27 March it was resolved that the indefatigable Agency Sub-Committee should visit Stockton-on-Tees to prepare the ground for establishing an Agency in that town. On 26 April 1907, as a result of the Sub-Committee’s report, Richard Jewitt was appointed as the Society’s Agent in Stockton-on-Tees, Ralph Apple-ton and Son of the same town being appointed as the Surveyors. At the same Board Meeting the Assistant Secretary reported that the father of the newly-appointed Darlington Agent had become bankrupt, and that in the circumstances W. H. Kaye had suggested that in the Society’s interests George Beall should resign as Agent. Mr Beall had written to the Board seeking to retain the Agency, but the Directors accepted the Assistant Secretary’s recommendation, subject to Mr Beall being caused as little embarrassment and inconvenience as possible.
At the same meeting it was reported that the Annual Meeting of the Building Societies’ Association in 1907 would take place in London. It was resolved that the President and the Assistant Secretary would attend as the Society’s representatives.
On 24 May Watson & Heslop, Accountants, of 8 Priestgate, Darlington, were appointed as the Society’s new Agents in that town. It was also resolved that ten guineas be paid to the unfortunate George H. Beall in recognition of his brief services to the Society.
As I have indicated, 1907 was a year of highly successful mortgage lending, which meant that if the Board had been given the capacity to foresee the future the loan of £20,000 to Huddersfield Corporation would not have been necessary. As matters stood, the Society was considerably overdrawn at the Bank, and in consequence two decisions were taken at the Board Meeting on 21 June. It was agreed that the President and R. Riley should see the Bank Manager to ascertain by what ultimate amount the Society’s account could be overdrawn on the existing terms. It was also resolved that a letter should be written to the Borough Treasurer explaining the Society’s position, and asking if the Corporation would be willing to repay part or the whole of the loan without insistence on the agreed terms of notice. At a Special Board Meeting on 26 June a further corrective measure was discussed. It will be recalled that from the date of the first decision to pay an annual bonus, this had been distributed to borrowers and investors alike. It was now decided that no bonus should be paid to new borrowers from 1 December 1907, and that steps should be taken to revise the Rules to give the Directors full discretionary power to deal with surplus profits as the situation demanded.
Whilst it could be urged that subsequent events proved that the decision to invest £20,000 with Huddersfield Corporation in 1906 was an error of judgement on the part of the Directors and the Officers of the Society, it has to be remembered that over a long period of years the Society had become conditioned to an ever-recurring problem of surplus funds (the precise opposite of the difficulty encountered by the movement today) and that the sudden reversal of the situation in 1907 could scarcely have been foreseen. However that may be, both the Corporation and the Bank clearly entertained the highest regard for the Society, and were very willing to be helpful. On 28 June 1907 the Borough Treasurer wrote to Henry Kaye to say that in the circumstances his Committee had authorized him to say that the whole £20,000 would be repaid to the Society on 1 July, subject only to our paying the Stamp Duty of £25, because the period of the investment had been less than a year. The relevant part of the letter from the Manager of the London City and Midland Bank of 6 July to Henry Kaye is worthy of reproduction, since it demonstrates the trust placed in the Society’s financial situation:
The ever-increasing business of the Society resulted in an important decision at the Board Meeting of 19 July 1907. From the establishment of the Society in 1864 the Directors had met once a month, but it was now agreed that it was necessary for the Board Meetings to be held once a fortnight.
The forty-third Annual Meeting was held on 23 November 1907. T. K. Mellor reported a rise in assets to over £5 39,000, with record receipts of nearly £191,000. Most satisfactory of all, however, was the rise in mortgage advances during the year to over £142,000, an increase of nearly £51,000 on the figure for 1906. Despite this greatly enlarged lending, giving mortgage balances of over £530,000, the President was able to report that for the tenth year in succession there were no properties in possession, no borrowers who were twelve months in arrear and no mortgages over £5,000. The retiring Directors were all re-elected. On the subject of the Society’s finances, The Huddersfield Examiner of 25 November reported the President as saying:
The Huddersfield Examiner also reported some remarks by the Auditor:
It can safely be said, I fancy, that at the close of a not uneventful year, all was well with the Society.
At the next Board Meeting on 6 December 1907, the death of John H. Stuttard two days subsequent to the Annual Meeting was recorded with warm tributes to the former President, and a resolution that a letter be sent to Mrs Stuttard expressing the Board’s deep sympathy with her and her family in their sad bereavement. In accordance with the principle of rotation agreed upon, Richard Riley was elected President of the Society, James Haigh continuing as Vice-President.
Although the Minutes are silent on the point, I think we must assume that James Haigh (like my old friend the late Colonel Reginald Rippon, J.P.) was either too modest to accept the high office of President of the Society, or was possibly experiencing the early stages of the deterioration in health that was to lead to his retirement from the Board in 1909. It will be recalled that James Haigh, appointed to the Board concurrently with T. K. Mellor in 18 8 5, was a Director ten years senior to Richard Riley, who joined the Board in 1895. It was resolved at the same meeting that T. H. Moore, J.P., be appointed a Director in place of the late John H. Stuttard. Yet another Board Matter was decided on 21 February 1908, when it was resolved that only two Directors (or three at most) should retire each year, instead of five.
A point of principle in connexion with mortgage advances (which has been standard practice ever since) was established at the Board Meeting of 24 April 1908. It was resolved that the Surveyor must satisfy himself that streetage charges had been paid in cases where the road was not adopted, and that if necessary the Secretary should retain such a sum from the advance as in the opinion of the Surveyor would cover any such future liability. At the next meeting on 24 May the Minutes recorded that this procedure ‘was intended to apply particularly to speculative builders’.
At the same Board Meeting of 24 May 1908, the Society’s Solicitor attended to go through the proposed alterations to the Rules, which were approved by the Directors. It was resolved that the Secretary should convene a Special Meeting of members to obtain the necessary approval, and that a draft of the proposals be sent to the Chief Registrar for his examination and approval before the meeting. At the same Board Meeting it was resolved that the President, accompanied by T. K. Mellor and the Assistant Secretary, should represent the Society at the Annual Meeting of the Building Societies’ Association at Halifax on 24 and 25 June 1908.
The Special Meeting of members was held on 30 July 1908, and the proposed alterations to the Rules were presented and explained. They were few and simple in character. In the main, they consisted of the retirement of two instead of five Directors each year, the granting to the Board of the right to issue Paid Up Shares, and the power to determine how much of the profit at the end of each year should be added to the reserves and to distribute the residue ‘by way of bonus amongst the members, or any class of members, in such manner as [the Directors] may in their discretion think fit’. The last clause was the most significant, in view of the Board’s ultimate determination to limit the bonus to investing members. A formal alteration was the change of address of the Head Office from 37 John William Street to ‘Britannia Buildings, St. Peter’s Street, Huddersfield’. The proposals were submitted to the meeting and carried unanimously.
At the Board Meeting of 9 October 1908, it was resolved that the Directors would henceforth retire in order of seniority, and since under the new Rules only two Directors would retire, T. K. Mellor and J. Haigh would do so at the next Annual Meeting. The forty-fourth Annual Meeting was held on 21 November 1908. Richard Riley, the President, said that the year had been one of the most successful in the history of the Society. The assets had increased to nearly £560,000, and the receipts had reached a new record of over £213,000. Almost £105,000 had been advanced on mortgage during the year. For the eleventh year in succession, these results had been achieved without any properties in possession, arrears cases of twelve months or mortgages exceeding £5,000. At the date of the Annual Meeting the Bank overdraft had been paid off. High tribute was paid to the late J. H. Stuttard’s work for the Society. The two retiring Directors were re-elected, the usual compliments were paid and the Board awarded its customary £200.
At the Board Meeting on 31 December 1908, the final stage of the Board’s policy in regard to the payment of bonus to borrowers, foreshadowed in November 1907, was implemented. It was resolved that the payment of bonus should henceforth be made only on investing shares, that is, subscription shares. Thus ended a procedure that had been followed during a long period of the Society’s history.
A Minute of the Board Meeting of 29 January 1909 disclosed that our Surveyors in the Huddersfield area, John Kirk & Son, had hitherto been paid on a scale based on the amount of the advance and not upon the figure of valuation. This had been a not uncommon practice in the early days of the movement, but the unfairness and lack of logic of this basis of fees was being recognized by the larger Societies, including our own. It was resolved that in the future the fee collected from the applicant would be based on the valuation, with a minimum charge of 10s. 6d.
On 25 March 1909 the Board accepted with regret the resignation of our Agent at Honley. John Thornton, who had represented the Society in that village since September 1902, had been appointed Rate Collector for the district, and was not allowed to follow any other employment. His successor, Percy Charlesworth, was appointed on 5 May. At the following Board Meeting on 20 May 1909, it was resolved that Robert Craig & Son, Accountants, of 20/22 York Street, Sheffield, be appointed our Agents in that city.
It would seem that the health and energy of Henry Kaye was restored in 1909 for we may notice that he, and not the Assistant Secretary, accompanied the President to represent the Society at the Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association. The Meeting was held at Ramsgate.
In April 1909 Richard S. Dyson died. He had been a Director since 1895. Two months later the Society suffered a further loss, for at the Board Meeting of 17 June the resignation of James Haigh for reasons of failing health was accepted with great regret. At the same meeting it was resolved that Edward J. Bruce, J.P. and Joseph Blamires be appointed to the Board, and that Lewis Radcliffe be elected Vice-President in succession to James Haigh.
From the earliest years of the Society’s history the Board had met in the evenings, and it can therefore be said that 1909 was a significant year of recognition of the ever-increasing pressure on the Directors of the work of the Society, and a move towards present-day procedure. On 15 July it was resolved that from thenceforward the Board Meetings (which it will be recalled had been held fortnightly since 1907 instead of monthly) would take place at 4.30 p.m.
The Agency Sub-Committee continued to be active and successful in extending the operations of the Society into other districts, and at the Board Meeting of 12 August 1909 it was resolved that James Gibson, Accountant, of Regent Street, Barnsley and H. G. Liversidge, Accountant, of Main Street, Rotherham, be appointed our Agents in those towns. The Board most properly continued to give the closest attention to the employment of suitable surveyors to report on properties offered as mortgage securities in the new locations of our activity. At the Board Meeting of 7 October 1909, for example, a Sheffield Surveyor, H. L. Paterson, was invited to attend. Only after he had been interviewed and asked to retire to allow the Directors free discussion of his experience and qualifications, was he formally appointed as the Society’s valuer for Sheffield and Rotherham.
As a sidelight on central property values in 1909 it is of interest to notice that at a Special Board Meeting on 14 October an application for a loan on the security of Britannia Buildings by the owner, T. P. Crosland, was considered. He sought to borrow £12,700 at interest only at 4%. Since 1907, the year when earlier difficulties in finding sufficient outlets for mortgage advances had vanished, the Board had ceased (in general terms) to grant this type of mortgage. In the case of Britannia Buildings and their own landlord, however, they offered to meet the application by advancing £10,000 on interest only for five years and the balance of £2,700 on an ordinary reducing mortgage, ‘subject to the Surveyor’s Valuation being satisfactory’. In the event, this offer was not accepted by Mr T. P. Crosland.
The forty-fifth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 20 November 1909. The President, Richard Riley, reported a rise in assets to over £592,000, with total receipts of over £218,000 and mortgage advances of over £101,000. The mortgage balances totalled over £569,000, and for the first time for many years the Society suffered the casualty of a single property in possession. It was, in fact, an awkward case in that it was an instalment advance on a property in course of construction, and when £900 had been advanced on our ultimate valuation on architect’s plans of £2,740, the borrower was unable to complete the building. High tributes were paid by the President to the work of James Haigh and R. S. Dyson. The two retiring Directors, R. Riley and L. Radcliffe, were re-elected.
At the next Board Meeting on 2 December, following the policy of a two-year rotation, Lewis Radcliffe was elected President of the Society and Richard H. Inman, Vice-President. It was resolved that an invitation be sent to the Building Societies Association’ to hold the Annual Conference at Huddersfield in 1911, a suggestion that in the event was not to be accepted until 1913. The widow of the late Richard S. Dyson had presented the Society with a portrait of her husband, and it was resolved that this should be hung in the Boardroom.
The matter of the issue of Paid Up Shares, provided in the new Rules, was discussed at the Board Meeting of 28 January and 24 February 1910, and the Secretary and the Solicitor recommended that sums of not less than £500 be accepted in the first instance at 3½%, and that subsequent additions be in sums of not less than £100. If the money was invested with the Society for less than a year, the interest would be reduced to 3%. At a Special Meeting on 28 February the recommendation was accepted, but subsequent experience showed that the minimum initial figure of £500 was too high, and it was ultimately reduced by stages to £100.
In 1910 the Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association was held in Bradford. It was resolved on 19 May that the President, Vice-President and Assistant Secretary should attend as the Society’s representatives. The year was to be a record in mortgage advances, and as early as 15 June it was resolved that against a background of heavy demands for mortgage accommodation, applications from Agencies in excess of £500 per case should be declined. The complementary need to encourage investments was reflected in the decision on 14 July to reduce the required initial payment in Paid Up Shares to £300. By 6 October 1910 the situation was sufficiently acute for the Board to resolve as a matter of temporary expediency that no further applications from the Agencies be entertained, an embargo that was in fact lifted in a matter of weeks.
The forty-sixth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 22 November 1910. The President, Lewis RadclifFe, was able to report that the assets of the Society had risen to nearly £670,000, the mortgage balances having increased by nearly £91,000 during the year to a record figure of over £660,000. The amount advanced during the year was nearly £161,000, an increase of over £59,000 on the previous year. The receipts were nearly £219,000. All this had been accomplished at the expense of only one property in possession and one account over 12 months in arrear. High compliments were justifiably paid and acknowledged, and the two retiring Directors were re-elected. It was proposed, seconded and carried that the Board’s fee be increased to £400 free of tax, which was to continue for four years.
This is not the place to discuss in any detail the effect of the Finance Act of 1910 upon the Building Society movement. It has been written of it:
At the Board Meeting of 29 December 1910 a letter from the Rock Permanent Building Society of Newcastle upon Tyne, in which our support was sought in opposing some of the proposals in the 1910 Act, was considered. It was resolved that our Society should co-operate with the Rock Permanent in the matter, and that a letter, to be drawn up by the President, the Secretary and the Solicitor, be sent to the Secretary of the Building Societies’ Association. It is to be presumed that this action was an ingredient in the decision to hold a special conference of the Association in London devoted to this single subject, to which our Society was invited to send a delegation consisting of the President, the Vice-President, and the Secretary.
The conference achieved some of its objects, for the Annual Report of the Association for 1910, prepared by the Chairman, Edward Wood, and the Secretary, Robert Marsh, contained the following sentences:
At the first Board Meeting in 1911, on 26 January, the final stage of the amendments of the original proposals in regard to Paid Up Shares was reached. It was resolved that the lower limit of the initial investment be reduced to £100, to which sums of £10 and upwards might be added. On 15 March, the Society suffered the loss by death of an old friend and servant, James S. Kirk, the Huddersfield Surveyor. It was resolved at the Board Meeting of 23 March that a letter of condolence be sent to his widow. James Kirk’s firm, founded by his father John Kirk, had been the Society’s valuers since our establishment in 1864. The remaining partner, Frederick Kirk, James’s brother, continued to act for us until his death in 1914.
At the Board Meeting of 18 May 1911 a letter from the Secretary of the Huddersfield Incorporated Law Society was considered. This communication complained (a) that our Solicitors’ special scale of charges for conveyances and mortgages completed at the same time was too low and (b) that business was being diverted to our Solicitors by undue influence on the part of the Society’s Officers. The Directors were asked to receive a deputation to enlarge on these matters. The complaint was dealt with briefly. It was resolved that a letter of reply be sent saying (a) that the scale of charges would not be altered, for this would be at the expense of the members (b) that the charge of undue influence was without foundation in fact, and (c) that the Directors were not prepared to receive a deputation from the Huddersfield Incorporated Law Society. The Minutes do not record any subsequent reference to the matter. At the same meeting it was resolved that the Society would be represented at the Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association, to be held at Burnley, by the President, accompanied by W. H. Jessop and the Assistant Secretary.
The forty-seventh Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 21 November 1911. The President, Lewis Radcliffe, reported a rise in assets to over £725,000 and receipts that constituted a record in the history of the Society, totalling over £246,000. Mortgage balances had risen by nearly £57,000 to over £717,000. Due to the alteration of the Paid Up Share limits, following the lesson of experience, the receipts in this department had more than doubled, and the balances now totalled over £141,000. High tribute was paid to the memory of James Kirk. The two retiring Directors, J. J. Booth and P. F. Holmes, were re-elected. W. H. Armitage of Armitage and Norton said that the Society was unquestionably one of the best in the country and that no society was better managed, whilst Alfred Sykes said that Henry Kaye had read the notice convening the meeting at every Annual Meeting of the Society, which was well meant if not entirely accurate.
At the Board Meeting on 30 November 1911, Richard H. Inman and William H. Jessop were elected President and Vice-President of the Society. At the same meeting a further extension of the Society’s investment facilities was discussed. It was resolved that information in regard to ‘Home Safes’ be obtained for examination at the next Board Meeting, and in the event a Home Safe department was opened, with a preliminary order of 250 such safes at a cost of 3s. 3d. each. A further supply of 250 was ordered on 18 April 1912.
On 28 December, 1911k was resolved that the President, the Vice-President, L. Radcliffe and J. J. Booth form a Sub-Committee to interview the Surveyor, Frederick Kirk, ‘with reference to his Valuations, which the Directors consider in several cases are too high’. The meeting took place on 4 January 1912 when Mr Kirk was instructed to bear in mind the following points, the third of which reads oddly in the light of the original criticism:
At the Board Meeting of 25 January 1912, the resignation of Percy Charlesworth, our Agent at Honley, who was removing to Holmfirth, was accepted. A letter from Mr Arthur Smith, offering to open an Agency at Longwood, was considered. It was resolved that the application be accepted, and that the Agency be opened as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made. A pleasant domestic note was recorded in the Minutes of this meeting, when it was resolved that a present of £5 be made to Harold L. Haigh, a clerk in the office, on the occasion of his marriage.
1912, Henry Kaye’s last year as the Secretary of the Society, was a period of quiet progress in our affairs. He was evidently in reasonable health, despite his affliction, for happily he was able to accompany the President and Vice-President to the Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association, held in Cardiff on 29/31 May. It was on this occasion that the Association accepted our invitation to hold the Conference in Huddersfield in 1913, a long awaited event that Henry Kaye, sad to relate, did not live to see.
The Board continued to interest itself in Agency affairs, and on 16 May resolved to extend the operations of our Marsden Agency by the establishment of sub-agencies at Delph, Saddleworth, and Upper Mill. Mr P. A. Hinchcliffe, a Barnsley surveyor, had applied to act as our valuer in that area, and after he had been interviewed by the President and Vice-President, who declared him to be ‘eminently suitable for the position’, Mr Hinchcliffe was appointed as the Society’s surveyor for Barnsley and district on 13 June 1912. On 11 July, following the retirement from practice of H. J. Ward, our surveyor at Doncaster, P. A. Hinchcliffe was also invited to act as our valuer in that town and district.
At the Board Meeting of 13 June 1912, the almost perennial question of the terms offered by the London City and Midland Bank was raised, with particular reference to our credit balances. Discussions with the Manager seem to have continued from June to October without any result that satisfied the Board. Finally at a Special Board Meeting held on 22 October 1912, the decision was taken to transfer the whole of the Society’s business to the Bradford District Bank Ltd, which offered better terms. It is interesting to reflect that this change resulted in the National Westminster Bank (which as the National Provincial Bank took over the Bradford District Bank) being our principal Bankers today.
The forty-eighth Annual Meeting of the Society was held in Huddersfield Town Hall on 20 November 1912. The President, Alderman Richard H. Inman, offered the congratulations of the meeting to his colleague on the Board, Councillor Joseph Blamires, on his election as Mayor of Huddersfield. The President then referred with great warmth of feeling to the work of Henry Kaye. It was said in the printed Report, over the signature of the President:
Henry Kaye was presented by the Directors with a large framed portrait of himself and a silver rose bowl. In his thanks, he said that he would like the picture to be hung in the offices of the Society, in which he had worked for so long. Mrs Kaye was presented with a silver salver and an afternoon tea service. Many sincere tributes were paid to the retiring Secretary, both at the Meeting and in the Press. The Huddersfield Chronicle said:
The figures for the year reported by the President were almost an anti-climax, and were in themselves a tribute to Henry Kaye. By a happy coincidence the receipts exceeded a quarter of a million pounds for the first time, being nearly £259,000, whilst the assets had risen to over £772,000 and the mortgage balances to over £742,000. The comparison between the receipts at the beginning and end of Henry Kaye’s period of service as Secretary of the Society was made in his obituary in The Huddersfield Examiner of 5 March 1913, the day following his death. It is, however, appropriate to use the words of W. H. Kaye, his son and successor, in the final sentences of his address to the Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association at Huddersfield in May 1913. I paraphrased them in the first paragraph of my account of Henry Kaye, and I offer no excuse for now quoting them verbatim. W. H. Kaye said: