The Early Years of the Huddersfield Building Society (1974) - Preface
The purpose of this book is to offer some account of the progress of the Huddersfield Building Society from its establishment in 1864 to the death of the third Secretary, William Henry Kaye, in 1928. The latter year was the end of an era and a natural milestone in our history, as I hope to show, marking the accumulation of our first nine million pounds of assets, the proud ownership of our new Head Office at Britannia Buildings, Huddersfield and the success of our earliest experiments in Branch Office development.
Perhaps even more importantly (from my point of view, at least) 1928 was also a year of anxiety and difficulty for the Society, from which it emerged unscathed, but with a Board determined upon a change from the old ways. The events of 1928 had convinced the Directors that the administrative methods that had served the Society well from its first small beginnings as a local institution, through more than sixty years of growth, were no longer adequate for a large organization operating on a nationwide scale. In the final chapter of this book, ‘Epilogue’, which looks briefly at the Society in the years following 1928, I have tried to show the significance of this time of change. I believe that I am qualified to do so, for I joined the staff of the Society in 1934 when all this was taking place. I was (to use an expression of C. P. Snow’s) one of ‘the new men’, but I was fortunate enough to gain the friendship and the confidence of some of those who had served the Society for many years.
Historical investigation is congenial to me, and it was therefore of particular interest to ascertain some details of our earliest years and those Huddersfield Victorians who laid the foundations of our great Society over a century ago. The pleasure of the research, however, was not free from occasional melancholy, for the history of an institution such as ours must inevitably be an anticipation of experience; an account of life and work and the human limitations of both. Men like Joseph Hirst, Frederick Crosland and Henry Kaye became familiar personalities to me, and as the old heroes moved inexorably into the evening of their lives and passed away one by one, to be mourned and replaced by their younger colleagues, it almost seemed as if I was losing a succession of old friends.
The principal sources of information upon which I have relied have been our Minute Books and Annual Reports, together with articles in The Huddersfield Examiner and The Building Societies Gazette, and the commercial directories of the period. I have gleaned much information in regard to the movement as a whole from Seymour J. Price’s building Societies. Their Origin and History (London, 1958), a reliable work of reference that it has been an added delight to me to use because my copy was presented to me by my friend the late Andrew Stewart, and bears his inscription and signature. Valuable facts and impressions have come to me from the recollections of former staff colleagues, now mostly retired, with whom I have talked and corresponded. It has been a great pleasure to me to renew old friendships in this way.
I have resisted suggestions that I should bring the story of the Society up to date. Adequately to describe the last forty-six years of our history, including the damage and hardships of the Second World War and the far-reaching economic, social and political pressures on building societies that have developed since that immense upheaval, would mean a much larger book than is intended at the present time. Such an extension of the period, moreover, would involve discussion of events and persons that are too recent for any fair and final assessment yet to be made. Lastly (and of least importance) I would face the problem of describing my own work and long association with the Society, which is a difficult assignment for any writer. A second volume would obviously be of great value and interest, but not for some years.
It remains my pleasant duty to acknowledge with gratitude the assistance I have received in the preparation of this book. Of our staff, past and present, who have provided me with information I am especially indebted to Mrs Freda Clemence, H. S. Andrews, N. B. Buckley, H. Dransfield, K. Davis, B. Jowett, G. O. Knight, A. Lodge, A. Porritt, and A. C. Russell. Outside our Society (but still in the orbit of the movement) my obligation to William Robinson, the General Manager of the Wakefield Building Society, John Hainsworth, the General Secretary of the Halifax Building Society, and Keith Brading, the Chief Registrar, will be apparent in the text. I am grateful to H. F. Longbottom of Armitage, Sykes & Hinchcliffe, Solicitors, of Huddersfield, who most kindly read and approved my references to his firm, and to Messrs Franey & Co., the publishers of The Building Societies Gazette since 1869, who allowed us access to their early files of that journal, which are now collector’s items.
Mrs Pat Burke, our General Manager’s secretary, has been my right hand in Huddersfield, solving all the diverse problems I sent to her, ranging from the finding of an obscure private Minute Book to the discovery of the death certificate of a nineteenth-century President of the Society. I am most grateful to her for her help, as I am to my own secretary, Mrs Susan M. Spriggs, who took great interest in the work from the beginning and typed with scrupulous care a text not free from intricacies. The book would have been noticeably the poorer without the many suggestions of my friend Hartley Thwaite, a distinguished Yorkshire antiquarian, who for many years was the highly regarded Manager of Lloyds Bank in Huddersfield. The fact that the Society entrusted the entire production of the book to A. Stanley Maney of Leeds, a master of the printer’s craft with whom I have worked on other projects, has been a source of great pleasure and assistance to me.
My special gratitude is due to my friend Denis K. Macnaught, our General Manager, who has been my kindly and constructive critic from the beginning, patiently reading each instalment of the typescript as it was completed and correcting my frequent errors. He suggested, and has prepared, the Appendices, which are invaluable adjuncts to the chronological text. My recollection of the many hours we have spent together on the book will always be very pleasant.
- July 1974