Table of Contents for The Early Years of the Huddersfield Building Society (1974):
When W. H. Kaye became Secretary of the Society in 1912 he was forty years old. It will be recalled that he had joined the Society as a junior clerk in 1887, and had been promoted to Head Clerk in 1895. In the following year he had been admitted to the Board Meetings, and in 1901 he had been appointed Assistant Secretary. His experience and ever-increasing knowledge of the Society’s work therefore extended over quarter of a century, and his appointment as chief executive in succession to his father was entirely justified and appropriate. He enjoyed the full confidence of the Board.
In the earlier sections of this work the information I was enabled to give in regard to the staff of the Society was limited entirely to very occasional references to employees in the Minute Books, from which some legitimate inferences could be made. I was fortunate enough in regard to the period covered by the present chapter to discover from a Minute in 1912 that in that year W. H. Kaye started a separate Minute Book devoted to staff matters, which has been preserved. We know therefore that the new Secretary commenced his duties at a salary of £700 per annum free of tax, and that his principal assistant was the Managing Clerk, Lewis Blackburn, who received £200 a year. There were six other clerks, ranging downwards from H. L. Haigh at £144 per annum to W. Lodge, the most junior clerk, at £24 a year. In November 1912, the monthly salaries of the office staff, excluding the Secretary, totalled £56.13.4d. Of the four intermediate employees, I later came to know three extremely well. Frank Netherwood (a considerable organist) was Chief Cashier when I joined the Society in 1934, whilst Stanley Lockwood was the Manager of Branches. Arthur Lodge (the only survivor, alas, of these three old friends) was our District Manager at Liverpool. The staff was exclusively male.
Thanks to another old colleague, A. C. Russell, now retired, who joined the staff in 1927 and ultimately became our District Manager at Stockport, we have available to us a first-hand word-picture of William Henry Kaye at the height of his career with the Society. He was above average height, distinguished in appearance and with prominent features. He wore a pince-nez, and favoured suits of medium grey and a high, white stiff collar. Typically of that period in the movement, neither W. H. Kaye, nor any of his staff, possessed any professional qualifications.
‘Chris’ Russell tells me that one of W. H. Kaye’s impressive traits was to appear wherever help was needed. If, for example, the counter was busy he would be found working among the cashiers. The old heavy Paid Up Share and Deposit Ledgers, leather bound and measuring approximately 30 inches by 18 inches, now curiosities of former days and methods, were his especial pride and they are full of his clear and distinguished writing and figures. The staff was devoted to him, and there can be little doubt that two ingredients in this loyalty and affection were W. H. Kaye’s invariable kindness and courtesy, and his readiness to work as hard as any member of the staff. If he required the attention of any employee, the calling of his or her name in the General Office (there were no inter-office telephones in those days!) was invariably accompanied by the phrase ‘when you’ve a minute’. At the time of the annual balance and audit (in the absence of mechanical aids) overtime was normal until 11 p.m. each night in return for ‘tea-money’, and Chris Russell recalls that on one occasion work went on throughout the night. W. H. Kaye himself led these marathon labours, and one remark attributed to him at the time is still remembered. ‘If we can dance until 3 a.m. in the morning, we should be just as able to work.’
Returning to the last months of 1912 and the chronological account of the progress of the Society, on 28 November Richard H. Inman and William H. Jessop were re-elected President and Vice-President. At the Board Meeting of 23 January 1913 a small change was made in the hours in which our office was open to the public. From 1 March the office would be open daily during the week from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
It will be recalled that the Building Societies’ Association had accepted our invitation to hold the Annual Conference in Huddersfield in 1913. The provisional programme was discussed at the Board and Emergency Committee Meetings of 20 and 26 February, and on 10 March it was resolved that the detailed arrangements be left with the President, the Vice-President, Lewis Radcliffe, and the Secretary.
At the Board Meeting of 18 March it was resolved that the President, on behalf of the Board, would write to Mrs Kaye offering deep sympathy to her and the family on the passing of Henry Kaye on 4 March, coupled with the Board’s high appreciation of the late Secretary’s life-long devotion to the Society. At the Meeting of 4 April it was learnt that Edward Wood, the distinguished Chairman of the Building Societies’ Association, proposed to retire at the end of the Conference, and it was agreed that we should subscribe towards a Testimonial. A further resolution at the same meeting threw some interesting light on the cost of our Agencies in those far-off days. F. J. Clarke, our Agent in Doncaster, had applied for an increase in his part-time salary. The President reported ‘that he had gone into the matter of this Agent’s request for an increase of £10 or £15 in his remuneration. After comparing his receipts with those from other Agencies and then comparing the remuneration, he had arranged for Mr Clarke to have an increase of £15, thus making his allowance £40 per year’.
On 14, 15 and 16 May 1913 the long awaited Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association was held in Huddersfield, the Directors of our Society acting as the hosts. It will be recalled that by a happy coincidence a member of our Board, Councillor Joseph Blamires, J.P., was the Mayor of Huddersfield at this time. I reproduce below from the printed brochure the official programme of the proceedings:
Earlier in this account of the early years I have quoted from the speech of David Lewis, J.P., of Cheltenham, and I think that some further informative comments on the situation of the Building Society movement in 1913 made by him at the Annual Dinner on 15 May are worthy of reproduction:
Our Secretary’s paper ‘A Short History of the Huddersfield Building Society’ consisted of four pages of the printed brochure devoted to the town of Huddersfield and twelve pages about our Society. It was of interest to discover from the first section that the Vice-President of the Society, Alderman W. H. Jessop, J.P. and a former Mayor, was the Chairman of the Gas Committee and the ‘Father’ of the Town Council. The President, Alderman R. H. Inman, J.P., was the Chairman of the Sewage Works Committee of the Council.
W. H. Kaye’s account of our Society from its first beginnings was not intended to be detailed, but contained some interesting figures and not unamusing anecdotes suited to the occasion. Two examples of each are sufficient to indicate the style of the Secretary’s address:
After the Conference was over the Sub-Committee appointed to make the arrangements, consisting of the President, the Vice-President and L. Radcliffe, reported that an examination had been made of the accounts and that the cost to our Society amounted to £173.17.3d.
At the Board Meeting of 14 September 1913, the death of C. A. Goodall, our Agent at Marsden since 1903, was reported. It was resolved that a letter of sympathy from the Directors be sent to his widow. On 2 October it was resolved that the appointment of a successor to Mr Goodall be left to W. H. Jessop and E. J. Bruce. On 14 October, the two Directors met Frederick Russell of Market Place, Marsden, and agreed that he should take over the Agency on the same terms as Mr Goodall.
The forty-ninth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 19 November 1913. The President, Alderman Richard H. Inman, J.P., reported a rise in assets to over £848,000 and record receipts of over £290,000, the latter being an increase of over £31,000 compared with the previous year. Mortgage balances had risen to nearly £815,000. The President referred to the great success of the Building Societies’ Association Conference, and to the deaths of Henry Kaye and C. A. Goodall. The retiring Directors were re-elected.
At the Board Meeting on 27 November 1913 Alderman W. H. Jessop and J. J. Booth were elected President and Vice-President. It was resolved that the Secretary’s salary be increased as from 1 September 1913 to £800 per annum, with yearly increases of £50 until £1,000 per annum be reached.
It was becoming increasingly clear that the Society needed more office space, and at the Board Meeting on 23 December 1913 it was resolved that the Secretary should write to the owner of Britannia Buildings, T. P. Crosland, to say that the Society would be willing to take over the office occupied by the Royal Insurance Company at the expiry of the lease, at the same rent. On 22 January 1914, it was resolved that the President, the Vice-President, and L. Radcliffe form a Sub-Committee to meet Mr Crosland, and this was arranged on 10 February. At the end of an agreeable discussion it was settled that the Society could have the extra accommodation sought, plus the offices it already occupied, without any increase in the rents currently paid, for a new period of 21 years without a break, and with an option for the Society to renew the lease for a further seven years, again without any increase in rent. Mr Crosland’s solicitor prepared a draft lease incorporating these arrangements, and it was approved, after slight amendments, on 26 March 1914.
During the years from 1910 to 1914, as building societies successfully pursued their encouragement of thrift and home-ownership, the international situation steadily deteriorated, culminating in the first war against Germany in August 1914. For a short time optimism in regard to an early victory prevailed, and the slogan ‘Business as Usual’ became popular. The raising of bank rate from 3% to 4% on 30 July, to 8% on 31 July and temporarily to 10% on 1 August 1914, however, caused wide disorganization in the financial system. The Banks and Stock Exchange were kept closed, by Government edict, for three days beyond the normal August Bank Holiday, and the Government declared a moratorium of a month (extended for two further months) which ultimately became applicable to all liabilities exceeding £5. The Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, 1914, passed by Parliament at the end of August in that year, made the recovery of debts extremely difficult.
Building Society leaders faced the situation with quiet determination and confidence. Most societies re-opened immediately after the Bank Holiday, and refused to take advantage of the Government’s moratorium. With the banks closed, the societies paid out reasonable withdrawals without notice, thus providing their members with the cash which they could not obtain from the banks. By this action the building societies relieved the anxiety of their members, and helped to restore public confidence generally. By midsummer 1915 this was almost wholly accomplished.
How did our Society fare? Since our financial year-end was 31 August, our 50th year of operations was only minimally affected by the War. The Minutes of the Board Meetings between the end of the financial year and the Annual Meeting, moreover, showed only occasional indications of changing conditions. At the Board Meeting of 1 October 1914, for example, it was noted that one of our Auditors, G. P. Norton, had been called to active service. It was resolved that W. H. Hughes, of Armitage & Norton, be appointed in his place. It was also resolved that as one of our clerks (the first of half our staff) had left us for the same reason, a replacement be engaged.
At the same Board Meeting, the Society suffered a loss not attributable to the War in the news of the death of Frederick Kirk, our Huddersfield Surveyor, and the last survivor of the old firm of John Kirk & Sons, who had served us faithfully as Valuers since 1864. A Special Board Meeting was held on 5 October 1914 to appoint a new Surveyor. Out of six applications, it was resolved ‘that Mr John J. Booth (of the firm of Eddison, Taylor & Booth) be appointed Valuer for the Society, and accordingly ceases to be a Director. The appointment is to be subject to six months’ notice, and in accordance with an agreement to be drawn up by the Society’s Solicitors’.
At the Board Meeting of 29 October 1914, it was resolved that the mortgage rate be forthwith raised to 4½% for all advances, an inevitable result, it may be thought, of the general increase in interest rates. The Directors were still thinking in terms of enlarged representation and progress, however, for at the same Board Meeting the question of opening an Agency at Cleckheaton was discussed.
The fiftieth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 18 November 1914. The President, Alderman W. H. Jessop, reported that the Society’s ‘Jubilee Year’ had been the most successful in its history. The assets had risen to nearly £922,000, with record receipts of over £337,000, an increase of over £47,000 on the previous year. Mortgage balances were over £898,000, with only one property in possession and no arrears cases in excess of twelve months. The two retiring Directors were re-elected. The Board was voted an increased honorarium of £500 free of income tax. The Huddersfield Examiner commented:
At the Board Meeting of 27 November 1914, W. H. Jessop was re-elected President. Following the resignation from the Board of John J. Booth on his appointment as Surveyor, T. H. Moore was elected Vice-President in his place. The President reported that he and the Secretary had interviewed George B. Hartley of Cleckheaton, and had appointed him as our Agent in the Spen Valley, the remuneration for the first three years to be £40, £45 and £50 per annum. On 23 December the effect of the general rise in interest rates was again demonstrated by the decision to offer 4% interest on a new ‘Class C’ Share for sums of £1,000 and more, to be invested for a minimum of three years.
At the first Board Meeting in 1915, on 22 January, Arthur E. Walker was appointed a Director of the Society in place of John J. Booth. In March, Richard Riley, one of the most senior Directors, had the great misfortune to lose his wife, and became ill as a result. The Directors expressed their deep concern for him at the Board Meeting on 19 March, and an appropriate letter was written. Happily, Mr Riley was able to attend the next Board Meeting on 16 April 1915.
At the same meeting a resolution was passed, resulting from war conditions, which foreshadowed a significant change in the composition of the staff in the years to come. The President and the Vice-President had released two more of the clerks for active service and had temporarily engaged two ladies in their place. The Board approved the action. For the first time in the history of the Society the tradition of an exclusively male staff had been broken. At the same meeting a further resolution indicated the inevitable decline in mortgage applications due to the War. It was decided to invest £25,000 in Huddersfield Corporation at 4% for six months, and afterwards at one month’s notice.
Further effects of the War were evident in the Minutes of the Board Meeting of 14 May 1915. It was reported that no Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association would be held in 1915. The Secretary explained, moreover, that the usual practice of handing out the Annual Statements to members would not be possible due to the absence on active service of members of the staffs of both the Society and the Auditors. It was resolved that in this situation all the Statements would be sent by post. Authority was given for the engagement of a third lady clerk. More difficulties became evident at the Board Meeting of 11 June. The Solicitor reported that several actions against borrowers in arrear had resulted (as a result of the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, 1914) in the Court merely ordering the arrears to be added to the debt. Despite the loan to Huddersfield Corporation our bank balance continued to grow, and it was resolved to move £10,000 to a Deposit Account.
Interest rates continued generally to increase, and at the Board Meeting on 6 August, it was decided to continue to charge 4½% to occupier-borrowers but to charge 4¾% in all other cases. On 3 September 1915, a letter was considered from our Doncaster Agent on the subject of his remuneration of £40 per annum against a background of rising costs and of his receipts of £6,000 a year. The President and Vice-President were empowered to settle the matter, and Mr Clarke’s fee was doubled to £80 per annum. Increased running expenses were also evident in a cheque drawn on 29 October 1915 for £108.18.4d. in respect of one month’s office salaries, compared with £56.13.4d. in 1912. On the same date it was resolved that because of War conditions the office would be closed at 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. until further notice.
The fifty-first Annual Meeting was held on 17 November 1915. The President, Alderman W. H. Jessop, was indisposed and the Chair was taken by T. H. Moore, J.P. The assets had risen to over £961,000, with mortgage balances of over £912,000, the unusually wide gap being accounted for by the reserve fund, the loan to Huddersfield Corporation and a large bank balance. Receipts had receded minimally to nearly £332,000. It was, it may be thought, a remarkable performance after over a year of war, when to the figures recorded are added the facts that the number of shareholders had increased during the year from 8,913 to 9,521 and the Society had successfully sold its only property in possession. Mr Moore reported that five members of the office staff were now on active service, and that their places would be held open for them pending their return. Everything that was possible to make their minds easy had been done. The retiring Directors were re-elected.
At the Board Meeting on 26 November 1915, T. H. Moore, J.P. and E. J. Bruce, J.P. were respectively elected President and Vice-President of the Society, following the agreed procedure of a two-year rotation. The question of the large and constantly increasing bank balance and dearth of mortgage applications was discussed, and it was agreed to consider a further reinvestment. As a result, on 3 December £15,000 was deposited with the Union of London and Smith’s Bank at 4½% free of tax for not less than three months and subject to 28 days’ notice. On 28 January 1916 a further £15,000 was invested with the same bank on the same terms, and our Deposit Account with our Bankers was increased to £50,000 at 4¾% with effect from 1 January 1916.
The War was again in evidence at the Board Meeting on 18 February 1916. The Secretary reported that he had discussed with the President the advisability of asking each Borrower to insure against damage by aircraft. It was resolved that this should be done, and that the Secretary should arrange with our Insurance Company to keep all the mortgaged properties covered as an interim measure. A Minute at the same meeting was both written and signed by the President and read as follows: As Chairman I mentioned the long hours now being worked by the Secretary and the consequent strain upon his health. It was unanimously resolved that he should be instructed to take one extra afternoon per week for outdoor recreation. The Secretary was informed and instructed accordingly. (Signed) T. H. Moore.
Arthur Smith, the Society’s Agent at Longwood, had offered his resignation on account of ill-health in February 1916. On 14 April, it was resolved that he be replaced by Abraham Brook at a salary for the first three years of £25, £30 and £35.
A Special Board Meeting was called by the President on 15 September 1916, to give urgent consideration to the Society’s now large investments. Our Deposit Account with our Bankers, the Bradford District Bank, now amounted to £70,000. The Bank was willing to pay us an increased interest rate of 5 % free of tax, and it was resolved that this be accepted. We had £30,000, it will be recalled, invested with the Union of London and Smith’s Bank, who offered to raise the rate to 4¾% free of tax, subject to bank rate remaining at its present level of 6%. These terms were also accepted. On the other hand, whilst the Huddersfield Corporation was paying us 5% on our investment of £25,000, this was subject to tax, and it was resolved that the required one month’s notice be given to withdraw the whole amount. It was resolved to invest in £70,000 of twelve months’ Treasury Bills (purchase price £65,800) in the names of the President, the Vice-President and the Secretary. These large dealings in our surplus funds were augmented on 29 September by a resolution to purchase £25,000 worth of six months’ Treasury Bills (purchase price £24,314.6.6d.) in the same three names.
Amid all this necessary financial activity brought about by the War, which had so greatly reduced our normal business of mortgage lending, the Society continued to look to the future. At the Board Meeting of 24 November, the question of establishing an Agency at Wallasey was discussed.
The fifty-second Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 29 November 1916. It was an historic occasion, for our assets had passed the milestone of a million pounds. The actual figure, as reported by the President, Thomas H. Moore, was nearly £1,106,000, with record receipts of nearly £414,000, an increase of over £82,000 on the previous year. On the other hand, as a result of the decline in lending, the gap between our total assets and our mortgage balances, represented mainly by our investments and cash, was more than £197,000.
The President was reported by The Huddersfield Examiner of 30 November 1916, as saying:
At the Board Meeting on 22 December 1916, T. H. Moore and E. J. Bruce were re-elected President and Vice-President. A letter was read from Richard Riley tendering his resignation from the Board after nearly twenty-two years as a Director. It was resolved that a letter be written to him expressing his colleagues’ appreciation of his long service to the Society. The Secretary reported on a visit to Wallasey in connexion with our proposed Agency in that town. He recommended the appointment of C. B. Collinson & Son, Accountants, of 4 Church Street, Wallasey, and it was agreed after an interview at Huddersfield on 2 February 1917, with the President and three Directors, that this firm should become our Agents, at a commencing salary for the first three years of £40, £50 and £60 per annum.
At the first Board Meeting in 1917, on 19 January, the Directors resolved that our Bankers be instructed to invest £50,000 in the New War Loan on the instalment system. As a complementary arrangement, it was resolved on 16 February that notice be given to the Union of London and Smith’s Bank Ltd to withdraw our investment of £30,000 (plus interest), to be placed to the credit of our Bank account. Interest rates continued to rise, and on 16 March 1917 the Board resolved that in the Paid Up Share Department 4¼% would be paid free of tax to both new and existing members with accounts of £250 and upwards. It was also resolved that the mortgage rate for occupier-borrowers be increased to 4¾%, and to 5% for all other borrowers. Costs were also rising, and by April 1917 the monthly salaries of the staff totalled £136.8.4d.
The War continued to have its effect, and in 1917 the Minutes contained many resolutions that mortgagors in difficulties be allowed to pay interest only ‘for the duration’. In May the son of Arthur E. Walker, J.P., a member of the Board, was killed in action. The Society still looked to the future, however, and at the Board Meeting on 31 August 1917, it was resolved that the President, L. Radcliffe and W. H. Jessop form a Sub-Committee to arrange the alterations and extensions of the offices, consequent upon the extra accommodation having been obtained in Britannia Buildings.
The fifty-third Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 27 November 1917. The President, T. H. Moore, J.P., reported a rise in assets to over £1,153,000 and a new record of receipts of over £422,000. Mortgage balances, which had risen modestly by nearly £27,000, totalled over £935,000, the remainder of our assets being almost wholly represented by some £218,000 of investments and cash in the Bank. The President said that when members wished to withdraw money to invest in War Loan, the normal notices had been suspended. The Society itself had invested £50,000 in this way. The retiring Directors were re-elected.
At the Board Meeting of 19 December 1917 Percy F. Holmes was elected President, E. J. Bruce remaining Vice-President. It would seem that strict seniority was followed as regards the election of the President. P. H. Holmes had joined the Board in 1907, two years before the appointment as Directors of E. J. Bruce and J. Blamires.
Local ‘Tank Weeks’ were in vogue at this time to encourage investment in 5% National War Bonds repayable in 1923, and at the suggestion of our Agent in Doncaster the Society invested £10,000 in this way during the Doncaster ‘Tank Week’, which was 22-29 April. A sign of better times to come was indicated by the renewal in a subdued fashion of the Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association for the first time since the beginning of the war. It was a two-day meeting in London on 23-24 May 1918, and was attended only by W. H. Kaye as the Society’s representative.
Money continued to flow plentifully into the Society (our total receipts for the year were to be an all-time record of over £600,000) and on 7 June 1918 it was resolved that we should invest no less than £200,000 in 5% National War Bonds repayable in 1923.
As early as February 1918 the question of preparing revised rules had been discussed, and our Solicitor had been given preliminary instructions in the matter. A controversial point was a proposal that the Board should be empowered on occasion and at its discretion to employ what the Minutes termed ‘outside Valuers’, if such ‘outside Valuers’ introduced business to the Society. At the Board Meeting on 5 July 1918 the matter (which had clearly become an issue) was fully discussed, following a proposal by the President, Percy F. Holmes, that the Board should be given such power. The resolution was carried on a majority vote, L. Radcliffe dissenting and R. H. Inman remaining neutral. It is the first Minute I have discovered in a period of fifty-four years recording a disagreement between the Directors. The meeting ended, however, on a pleasant domestic note, with everyone in complete accord. In 1917, when he was President of the Society, T. H. Moore had suffered the cruel misfortune of the death of his wife. At the close of the meeting of 5 July 1918, Percy F. Holmes, ‘on behalf of the Directors and Secretary, had the pleasure of handing to Mr Moore a silver rose bowl (on the occasion of his marriage) as a slight token of their esteem and regard for him’. The Society continued to support the war effort. On 10 July 1918 it was resolved to invest a further £25,000 in War Loan during War Weapons Week, and £5,000 in support of Aeroplane Week at Honley. The Directors learnt with sadness on 30 August that Stanley Wilkinson, one of our clerks on active service, had died of wounds in a French military hospital. A letter of condolence was written to his parents. On a happier note, on 27 September his colleagues were able to congratulate Alderman W. H. Jessop on being made a Freeman of the Borough of Huddersfield.
At the Board Meeting on 1 November 1918 the Directors discussed the proposed new Rules, which were generally approved after some amendments. A Special Board Meeting was called on 8 November to record the great loss to the Society by the death on 5 November of Alderman Joseph Blamires, J.P., who had been a Director since 1909. At the same meeting it was resolved that the Society should support the Teed the Guns’ week in Doncaster by a further investment of £10,000 in National War Bonds. A similar amount was invested on 22 November in support of a similar Teed the Guns’ week in Meltham.
The fifty-fourth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 28 November 1918. The President, Percy F. Holmes, J.P., referred with feeling to the death of Alderman Joseph Blamires. The assets of the Society now totalled over £1,441,000, whilst the receipts were over £607,000, an increase of nearly £185,000 over the previous year. Mortgage balances amounted to nearly £980,000, the difference between this figure and the total assets being mainly the Society’s large holding of War Loan and Bonds of £400,000, which the Chairman announced would be increased by a further £50,000 in the coming week. The Society had only one property in possession. The President announced that under the new Rules the name of the Society would in future be simply ‘The Huddersfield Building Society’. The retiring Directors were re-elected, and the Board was voted an increased honorarium of £1,000 free of tax.
At the end of the Annual Meeting a Special Meeting was held to obtain the approval of the members to the revised Rules, which had been on deposit at the office for inspection. The alterations were brief and simple, and were passed unanimously. Rule I, as I have foreshadowed, said that ‘The name of the Society (which was established in the year 1864, under the title of the Huddersfield Equitable Permanent Benefit Building Society) shall be “The Huddersfield Building Society”. Its chief office shall be at St. Peter’s Street, Huddersfield, in the County of York, or at such other place as the Directors shall from time to time determine’. Rule 111 said that the Annual General Meeting would in future be held in March, the reason being that it was the intention to make the Society’s financial year end 31 December. Rule V said ‘The Seal of the Society shall bear the name of the Society and the device of the coat of arms of the County Borough of Huddersfield’. Rule XIX provided that the Board would consist of not less than seven nor more than nine Directors including the President and Vice-President.
At the Board Meeting on 20 December 1918, Percy F. Holmes and Edward J. Bruce were respectively re-elected President and Vice-President. At the first meeting of the Board in 1919, on 17 January, a letter was read from the Bradford District Bank Ltd, informing the Society that our Bank had now amalgamated with the National Provincial and Union Bank of England Ltd, and that our account would continue under the same terms and conditions as before. A letter from our Doncaster Agent, F. J. Clarke, was considered, suggesting that the Society open an Agency at Scunthorpe, under his management. It was agreed that the Secretary should visit Scunthorpe, and report back to the Board.
On 31 January 1919, it was resolved that Horace Broadbent be invited to become a Director of the Society in place of the late Alderman Joseph Blamires, J.P. The Secretary reported on his journey to Scunthorpe, and it was resolved that the Society’s first post-war Agency be established there under F. J. Clarke, the arrangements to be left with the Secretary.
At the Board Meeting on 28 February 1919a letter was read from a Solicitor in Scunthorpe, a Mr Symes, which foreshadowed events in future years. Mr Symes said that unless Solicitors willing to introduce applications for mortgage were allowed to act for the Society ‘all through’, business could not be expected from the legal profession in Lincolnshire. It was resolved that in the circumstances Scunthorpe solicitors introducing applications be allowed to act for the Society, subject to the Title being found satisfactory by Armitage, Sykes & Hinchcliffe.
On 11 April 1919 the Secretary suggested that as a matter of policy and where possible, new Agents should be Surveyors and Estate Agents, since what was required was mortgage business. This was good advice and one wonders why so many of our early Agents were accountants, since in those years we only infrequently experienced difficulty as regards our investment intake. However that may be, it was resolved that T. Turnbull & Sons, a firm of Estate Agents of repute with an office at 88 Mosley Street, Manchester, should be appointed as our Agents in that city.
At the Board Meeting on 23 May the question of the alteration in our financial year was discussed. The Secretary reported on his correspondence with the Chief Registrar, who had suggested that the new arrangement should run from 1920, with an additional four months of operations and a consequent Annual General Meeting after sixteen months of trading in March 1921. It was resolved that this recommendation be accepted and that 1919 would therefore be our last financial year ending on 31 August. On 12 and 13 June 1919 the President, Vice-President and the Secretary attended the Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association at Cheltenham. Both our staff and their salaries continued to increase, and the monthly cheque approved at the Board Meeting on 26 September 1919 amounted to £285.
The Society had received a letter from the Huddersfield Incorporated Law Society on the subject of the Society’s ‘Scale of Charges at present in force for Conveyances and Mortgages as they are of the opinion that the same is now inadequate by reason of the great increase in office and general expenses’. The matter was considered by the Board on 10 October, and the following Minute was recorded:
At the Board Meeting on 7 November 1919 it was resolved that the minimum rate of interest to be charged to new borrowers be 5¼% for advances up to £1,000, and 5½% for advances over £1,000 and not exceeding £2,000. Applications in excess of £2,000 were to be treated as inquiries. It was also decided that 4½% interest be allowed on Paid Up Share accounts of £1,000 or more. Our Doncaster Agent had died suddenly early in November 1919, and at the Board Meeting on 21 November it was resolved that Mr Clarke’s partner, F. Mahon, be appointed in his stead. At the same meeting the mortgage rate for all new advances not exceeding £2,000 was fixed at 5½%. It was also resolved on this date that the future tenure of office of the President would be one year instead of two.
The fifty-fifth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 27 November 1919. The President, Percy F. Holmes, reported a rise in assets to over £1,880,000, and greatly increased mortgage balances totalling nearly £1,205,000. The bulk of the remaining assets was represented by the Society’s large investments in War Bonds repayable in 1923. Fortunately for our mortgage lending, the receipts for the year constituted a new record of over £869,000, an increase of £262,000 on the previous year. The Society had one property in possession, and no arrears cases over twelve months. The retiring Directors were re-elected.
In December 1919, it became increasingly obvious that the Society had invested so much money in 1923 War Bonds in its support of the war effort that our ability to meet the post-war mortgage demands made upon us was being seriously impeded. It is a duty and a pleasure to record that the Bradford Second Equitable Building Society willingly offered to help us out of this temporary embarrassment by providing us with £50,000 for a minimum period of three months at 5%. We deposited a certificate for £70,000 worth of 1923 War Bonds with that Society as security. This circumstance was recorded in the Minutes of the Board Meeting of 19 December, at which it was also resolved that Percy F. Holmes should continue in office as President until the end of March. At the Meeting on 19 January 1920, cheques totalling nearly £32,000 were drawn in respect of mortgage applications, which indicates the level of lending at this time. At the Meeting of 16 February the corresponding amount was over £5 3,000, including Further Advances.
On 15 March 1920, it was resolved that the rate of interest in the Paid Up Share department be increased on a sliding scale to a record interest rate of 5% free of tax for amounts over £3,000. At the same meeting it was resolved temporarily to reduce mortgage demands by taking no applications at our Agencies. These corrective measures had their effect, and on 29 March we were able to record our repayment of the temporary loan of £50,000 to us by the Bradford Second Equitable Building Society in December, coupled with our sincere expression of thanks. At the same meeting E. J. Bruce and L. Radcliffe were elected President and Vice-President.
A coming event cast its shadow at the Board Meeting of 12 April 1920. It was resolved that the President, the Vice-President, W. H. Jessop and P. F. Holmes form a Sub-Committee to discuss the purchase of Britannia Buildings. On 17 May it was reported that the owner, T. P. Crosland, had said ‘that unless the Directors would give him his price, that is £36,000, it was no good going into the matter’. It was resolved not to proceed further at that time, but as some years later a bargain was concluded, I think it right that the Board’s early interest in so important a milestone in our history should be recorded.
Turning to a matter which was by now almost routine, the Secretary reported on 19 July 1920 that he had received a letter from the Huddersfield Incorporated Law Society asking the Directors to receive a deputation to discuss the question of fees. It was resolved ‘that a letter be sent stating that as the Board had no intention of altering the Scale of Charges, they considered that no useful purpose would be served by receiving a deputation’.
Interest rates continued to rise, and on 20 August 1920, the Society raised its mortgage rate to new borrowers to 6½%. On 9 September, after advice from our Bank Manager, the decision was taken to convert as necessary sections of our War Loan into Bearer Bonds, for which cash could more readily be obtained, and this procedure was commenced by a resolution on 13 September that £20,000 of War Loan should be so converted. A complementary decision taken at the same meeting was to allow our Doncaster Agency to start lending again with a preliminary limit of £1,000 per month. On 20 September it was resolved to convert an additional £30,000 of War Loan to Bearer Bonds. On 8 September there was a further amelioration of the restricted lending policy. It was, however, at a price. It was resolved ‘that a limited number of applications for advances up to £500 from the Agencies be entertained at 7%’. Favoured treatment was still extended, however, to applications in the Huddersfield area, where the rate remained at 6½%.
It was of great interest to me to see that on 31 January 1921, an application for £5,600 by Thomas L. Ramsden on a ‘Leasehold Residence known as Broomfield, Fixby, Huddersfield’, was considered. Broomfield was subsequently the home of the late Andrew Stewart for all but a few years of his whole period in Huddersfield. I had the privilege of preparing a report, valuation and plan of the house for him in the 1930s, and in the later years of our friendship of nearly forty years I spent many pleasurable hours at Broomfield.
The Secretary’s suggestion that where possible new Agents should be Surveyors, Valuers and Estate Agents was followed at Southport, where Ball & Percival of 132 Lord Street were appointed to represent us. Soon after becoming our Agents at the beginning of 1921 this firm introduced to us a Manchester organization known as the Equitable House Property Co. Ltd, trading in mortgages and insurance. A suggestion that we might purchase the company was declined by the Board.
The fifty-sixth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 31 March 1921. The Report and Accounts covered a period of sixteen months from 1 September 1919 to 31 December 1920. The President, E. J. Bruce, reported a rise in Assets to over £2,401,000 and mortgage balances of nearly £2,000,000. Receipts had risen to nearly £1,575,000 over the extended period. Since the last Report the Society’s only property in possession had been sold with an excess of £435. The Huddersfield Examiner of 2 April 1921, reported:
The retiring Directors were re-elected, and at the next Board Meeting Lewis Radcliffe and Richard H. Inman were elected President and Vice-President.
On 26 August, Alderman William H. Jessop died. The President and Vice-President, supported by T. H. Moore, E. J. Bruce, the Secretary, Solicitor and Surveyor represented the Society at the funeral. The following tribute was included in the Annual Report: The Directors have, with very deep regret, to report the loss of one of their colleagues, Mr. Alderman W. H. Jessop, J.P., who was appointed a Director on 15 December 1899, and had served the Society with marked ability for nearly twenty-two years. His sound practical knowledge and unfailing genial and kindly nature will long be remembered not only by his fellow Directors, but by all who came in contact with him.
The spring and summer of 1921 had showed an easing on the restrictions that had been necessary on lending, and applications from our Agencies were now received without embarrassment. On 12 September 1921, for example, substantial advances were approved on properties at West Derby, Sheffield, New Brighton, Sutton, and Carshalton. At the same Board Meeting it was resolved that we sell £60,000 worth of 1923 5% National War Bonds at 100-&, which with interest less brokerage, increased our Bank Balance by £60,376.13.3d. At the Board Meeting on 7 November 1921, the mortgage rate was reduced to 6% to local occupier-borrowers on advances not exceeding £1,000 and 6½% in all other cases, with effect from 1 January 1922.
In November 1921, our Agent at Cleckheaton, G. B. Hartley, had died suddenly. At the Board Meeting on 16 December, it was reported by the Secretary that A. France & Co., Accountants, of Leeds had acquired our late Agent’s business and wished to continue our representation in the Spen Valley area. It was resolved that A. France & Co. be appointed on the existing terms.
At the first Board Meeting in 1922, on 2 January, the Board approved the action of the President in allowing £30 to be divided among the staff at Christmas. A further measure of goodwill was demonstrated in the matter of Harold L. Haigh, a married clerk in the office whose name has been mentioned before in these annals of our Society. Haigh had been guilty of insubordination to the Secretary and discharged from our service. It was properly decided that he could not be reinstated, but in recognition of his twenty years work for the Society a grant of £100 was made to him. At the same meeting the Directors were shown our Coat of Arms, mounted and in oxydized silver at a cost of £3.3.0d., to be hung in the Board Room.
The trend of reduced interest rates continued. At the Board Meeting on 30 January 1922 it was resolved that 6% be charged on all advances to occupier-borrowers, both locally and at the Agencies. On 21 February the Secretary reported that the National Provincial and Union Bank had reduced the rate of interest on our Deposit Account from 4½% to 4% from 16 February, the date of the reduction of Bank Rate to 4%.
The fifty-seventh Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 21 March 1922. The President, Lewis Radcliffe, in moving the adoption of the Report, said that notwithstanding the considerable depression in industry, the Accounts were the most satisfactory in the history of the Society. Assets had risen to over £2,710,000, and the total receipts exceeded £1,186,000. Mortgage balances had risen to nearly £2,337,000. Over £115,000 stood to our credit at the Bank, and our investments, although being steadily reduced from the abnormal figures at the end of the war, were still large. We had no properties in possession. The President paid a moving tribute to the memory of Alderman W. H. Jessop. The retiring Directors were re-elected.
At the Board Meeting on 27 March 1922, following the agreed procedure of yearly rotation, Richard H. Inman and Percy F. Holmes were elected President and Vice-President of the Society. At the same meeting an important financial decision was taken on the advice of our stockbrokers, Robert Ramsden & Co., and our Bank Manager. We still held £250,000 worth of 5% National War Bonds, repayable in 1923 at 102 as against their worth of 103 in March 1922. It was resolved that this investment be transferred to £150,000 5% National War Bonds 1929 and £100,000 5% War Stock 1929-47, the profit on the transaction amounting to £7,869.7.6d. It was also decided at the same meeting that the President, the Vice-President, L. Radcliffe, and the Secretary would attend the Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association at Margate on 7-9 June.
As the year 1922 advanced, interest rates continued to fall, and in consequence it was resolved on 24 April that 5½% be charged on new advances to occupier-borrowers not exceeding £1,000. On 1 May the National Provincial and Union Bank reduced our Deposit rate from 4% to 3½%. On 19 June it was resolved that mortgage rates would be reduced in the case of local occupier-borrowers to 5% up to £1,000 and 5 over £1,000. Advances at our Agencies would be at 5¼% up to £1,000 and at 5½% for larger sums.
At a Special Board Meeting on 5 July the Directors interviewed R. J. Speechley, Accountant, of Penrhyn Road, Colwyn Bay, who was appointed our Agent in that town.
At the Board Meeting of 14 August 1922 a letter was read from T. P. Crosland, offering to reduce the price of Britannia Buildings to £35,000. The total net rental was stated to be £1,640. It was resolved that the price was still too high, and that a letter be sent to Mr Crosland stating that the Society was willing to discuss purchase at ‘a fair market price’.
As early as 30 March 1922, James Burns, an Estate Agent and Valuer, of 5 Birley Street, Blackpool, had been referred to in the Minutes as ‘Mr. Burns our Blackpool Surveyor’ in connexion with an application for £25,000 on properties in Talbot Square, Blackpool, which was granted on the basis of Mr Burns’s valuation of £45,000. For some reason the date upon which James Burns’s employment by the Society was extended to that of Agent is not recorded, but by 29 January 1923 he was described without ambiguity as our ‘Blackpool Agent’ in connexion with an advance of £16,000 on a shop property in Talbot Square, Blackpool ‘on his valuation of £25,000’. It would seem from this that Mr Burns was acting in the dual capacity of Agent and Surveyor in Blackpool. Such an appointment, which at Buxton a few years later helped to make possible the fraudulent conduct of our Agent, would not be tolerated today.
At the same Board Meeting of 29 January 1923, a letter was read from our distinguished Director and Trustee, Thomas K. Mellor, who had served the Society for 37 years and was a Past-President. The Board learnt with sorrow that their old colleague had moved from the town, was not in good health and wished to offer his resignation as a Director, which was accepted with deep regret. At the same Board Meeting the Minutes showed that the partner of Eddison, Taylor & Booth of Huddersfield, responsible for our local valuations, was E. G. R. Sykes and no longer J. J. Booth.
The fifty-eighth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 23 February 1923. The President, Richard H. Inman, spoke with esteem and affection of Thomas K. Mellor and his very long period of service with the Society. Mr Inman was able to report another record year, with a rise in assets to over £3,205,000 and mortgage balances of nearly £2,854,000. The gap between these two figures had been greatly reduced by increased mortgage lending and a much lower bank balance of £93,000 in consequence. Receipts had increased by nearly £208,000 to over £1,394,000. The Society had no properties in possession. The President said that the Huddersfield Building Society was one of the strongest and most progressive societies in the country, and had entirely fulfilled the objects for which it was established in 1864. G. P. Norton, for the Auditors, paid tribute to the efficiency and courtesy of the Secretary and his staff. The retiring Directors were re-elected, and the usual compliments were paid and acknowledged.
At the Board Meeting of 26 February 1923 the yearly change of President was implemented, and P. F. Holmes and H. Broadbent were elected President and Vice-President. It is of interest to notice that the increased level of lending resulted in advances being approved at this meeting of over £115,000. On 12 March it was resolved that the Society should take steps to open an Agency in Bournemouth, and at the Board Meeting on 26 March it was resolved that the Secretary should visit Grimsby to report on the possibility of our being successfully represented in that town. In the event, the latter project did not materialize for some years. An unusual mortgage application was approved, subject to valuation, on 23 April 1923. Marsden Urban District Council sought to borrow £18,000 on fifty freehold Council houses costing this amount, offering as collateral security a charge on the rates. At the same Board Meeting it was resolved that the President and the Vice-President, accompanied by L. Radcliffe, R. H. Inman, and the Secretary, would attend the Annual Conference of the Building Societies’ Association at York on 23-5 May.
At the Board Meeting on 4 June 1923 the death of our Agent at Meltham was reported, together with an application by his son, William R. Carter, who had assisted his father in our work for a considerable period, to continue as our Agent. It was resolved that William R. Carter be appointed. The establishment of our Bournemouth Agency was approved, our representative being a Solicitor, N. H. Arter, with Jackman & Masters as our Surveyors. A letter was read from T. P. Crosland’s Solicitor in regard to Britannia Buildings (the Minutes were not informative in regard to its contents) which resulted in a Sub-Committee being formed to deal with the matter of purchase. The members were the President, the Vice-President and L. Radcliffe. The Sub-Committee met on 15 June 1923 ‘and after considering the matter fully, decided that an offer of £21,500 be made’.
At the Board Meeting of 18 June Lewis Radcliffe was appointed a Trustee of the Society in place of T. K. Mellor, who had submitted his resignation. At the following meeting on 2 July, J. J. Seal, a conveyancing clerk with a leading firm of solicitors in Oldham, was appointed as our Agent in that town.
On 30 July 1923 the response to the offer of £21,500 for the purchase of Britannia Buildings was placed before the Board. Through his solicitor, T. P. Crosland replied ‘that the offer of £21,500 was quite out of the question, and that the minimum figure Mr Crosland will accept is £30,500’. The Sub-Committee was invited to continue to give consideration to the matter. In view of the difference in the figures it is perhaps not surprising that the Sub-Committee made no further report to the Board during 1923. The last half of the year was not distinguished by any major events. Lending continued actively both in the Huddersfield area and throughout the Society’s now sizeable network of Agencies. A pleasant Minute on 19 November recorded the congratulations of the Board to Lewis Radcliffe on his appointment as a Justice of the Peace.
At the second Board Meeting in 1924, on 28 January, it was reported that the President, the Vice-President and L. Radcliffe had again discussed the purchase of Britannia Buildings with T. P. Crosland, who had finally agreed to accept a price of £30,000. The contract was signed, and completion fixed for 1 March 1924. A letter from Armitage and Norton saying that Herbert Sykes, one of our Auditors, had retired from the firm due to ill-health, was considered. It was resolved that another partner in the firm, G. F. Douglas Walker, should be appointed as joint Auditor with G. P. Norton. On 11 February it was resolved that the forthcoming completion of the purchase of Britannia Buildings be financed by the sale of £30,000 of War Stock.
The fifty-ninth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 7 March 1924. The President, Percy F. Holmes, reported a rise in assets to over £3,960,500, with greatly increased mortgage balances of nearly £3,702,000, an upsurge of over £848,000 due to active lending throughout the year. This had been accomplished without any property in possession having to appear on the schedule. The receipts had increased to over £1,747,000. It was a record year of achievement of which the Society had every reason to be proud. The retiring Directors were re-elected.
At the Board Meeting of 10 March 1924, Horace Broadbent and Arthur E. Walker were elected President and Vice-President of the Society. It was of interest to see from a Minute of 24 March that the monthly salaries of the staff, excluding the Secretary, now amounted to £360. On 5 May it was decided that the President, the Vice-President and the Secretary would attend the Building Societies’ Association Conference at Birmingham on 11/13 June. It was also resolved at the same meeting that the President, the Vice-President, L. Radcliffe and P. F. Holmes would form a Sub-Committee to deal with the alterations to Britannia Buildings, now owned by the Society. On 30 June Messrs Paul & Michael Waterhouse and Messrs Stocks, Sykes and Hickson were jointly appointed as the Society’s Architects in connexion with the extensive alterations that were contemplated. At the Board Meeting of 25 August 1924, however, it was resolved to dispense with the services of P. & M. Waterhouse, and to employ Stocks, Sykes and Hickson exclusively.
During 1924 the appointment of new Agents was not recorded in the Minutes, and it may well be that the Board was willing to allow the Secretary to use his now very experienced judgement in the matter. Be that as it may, the first mention of ‘our London Agents’ (unnamed in the Minute) occurred in connexion with an application in the record of the Board Meeting of 1 December 1924. My friend H. S. Andrews, our Southern Regional Manager, has told me that in 1924 Mr J. Howard Smith, a Solicitor in Finsbury Square, was appointed as Agent to represent the Society in London. He subsequently went into partnership with a Mr A. Skelt and, under the style of Howard Smith & Skelt, they moved to offices in City Road. On 1 July 1929, on the opening of the Society’s full branch office in Holborn Viaduct, the agency was cancelled. The printed Report for 1924 featured for the first time a full list of our 29 Agencies, which included not only the entry ‘LONDON — Agent: Mr J. Howard Smith, 20 Finsbury Square, E.C.2’ but also the following, all of whom I fancy were appointed by the Secretary during 1924:
In December 1924 Thomas K. Mellor died, and the Board mourned the loss of their old colleague, who had given 37 years of distinguished service to the Society as a Director, and had been both a President and a Trustee. On 15 December it was resolved that a letter of sympathy be sent to Mrs Mellor from the Directors.
On 26 January 1925 a letter from a London firm of Solicitors, Brown, Quayle & Co., acting for the National Association of Local Government Officers (N.A.L.G.O.) was considered. We were asked whether we could offer special terms to members of this organization who wished to buy their own houses, on the assumption that we in return would secure much good mortgage business from salaried persons. On 9 March, Mr Quayle met the Board at Huddersfield and explained that N.A.L.G.O. had a membership of 40,000 all over the country, and that it was desired as a matter of convenience to place all applications for mortgage through one Building Society. It was resolved that favourable consideration would certainly be given to this interesting proposal, and that the Secretary of the Society would arrange to meet the N.A.L.G.O. officials to discuss the details.
The sixtieth Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 11 March 1925. The President, Horace Broadbent, reported a rise in assets to over £4,841,000, and mortgage balances of over £4,537,000, the latter being an increase of over £835,000 on the previous year. The Society had no properties in possession. For the first time our assets proudly included Britannia Buildings at £30,000. The receipts were again a record of over £2,336,000, an increase of nearly £589,000. Our position was exceedingly fluid, with investments of nearly £228,000 and nearly £46,000 in the Bank. On the subject of Britannia Buildings the President was reported by The Huddersfield Examiner of 14 March, as saying:
The retiring Directors were re-elected.
At the Board Meeting of 23 March 1925 Arthur E. Walker and Thomas H. Moore were elected President and Vice-President of the Society. The silence of the Minutes in regard to Agencies in 1924 had been broken on 9 March 1925 by the approval of the appointment of J. William Johnson of the firm of Speakman & Hill, Solicitors, as our Agent at Crewe. The resumption of the recording of these new Agencies was continued on 6 April by the appointment of W. E. Randall & Sons, Auctioneers and Valuers, as our Agents in Chatham and Gillingham. At the same meeting a cheque for £5,000 was drawn in connexion with the alterations to Britannia Buildings, additional to the initial expenditure of £5,150 shown in the 1924 Accounts. On 6 April, also, it was reported that we were offered a transfer of engagements by the Stockton-on-Tees Equitable Building Society.
On 20 April 1925 the Secretary reported that he had met the officials of N.A.L.G.O., and it was decided to operate a ‘N.A.L.G.O. Agency’ attached to our existing representation in London. It will be recalled that N. H. Arter, a Solicitor, had been appointed as our Bournemouth Agent. On 4 May the Secretary reported that he had visited Bournemouth and ‘was not at all satisfied with our representation there’. It was resolved that our Surveyors, Jackman & Masters, who had offices in Bournemouth, Southbourne and Milford-on-Sea, should be appointed as our Agents in that district, in place of N. H. Arter.
Two Minutes of the Board Meeting of 18 May 1925 are indicative of the constant expansion of the Society at this time. It was resolved that in respect of new applications and further advances approved on that day cheques amounting to £127,480 be drawn, and that a cheque be signed for £442.10.0d. for the monthly salaries of the staff, excluding the Secretary.
The planning of the alterations to Britannia Buildings went on apace. Previously our office had fronted on to St Peter’s Street and John William Street, but what was now proposed was a magnificent facade commanding the entire St George’s Square frontage of Britannia Buildings, which would be the first feature of Huddersfield to be seen by the traveller emerging from the Station into the Square. The central entrance would give access to the Banking Hall and Offices, which were described in The Building Societies Gazette of 1 April 1926:
This was the Head Office as I first knew it in 1934. One wishes that our pioneers like Frederick Crosland and Joseph Hirst, who started in one first-floor room in King Street, could have seen it. The total cost of the alterations was estimated at about £40,000, and on 21 September 1925 a cheque for £5,000 was drawn for interim payments to the contractors. Cheques of like amount for the same purpose were approved on 14 December 1925, 8 March, 12 April, 31 May, 23 August and 1 November 1926, as the work proceeded to completion.
On 24 November 1925 the Secretary reported his dissatisfaction with our Agency at St Annes-on-Sea. The Directors accepted his criticisms, and left it to him to suggest what re-arrangements should be made in due course. This was an important decision, for in my view it ultimately set in train the establishment of our District Office in Blackpool, where we were transacting a very large amount of mortgage business. In the early months of 1926 the Directors continued to give close attention to estimates and materials for the alterations to Britannia Buildings, and to receive progress reports from the Architects.
The sixty-first Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 9 March 1926. The President, Arthur E. Walker, J.P., reported a rise in assets to over £5,741,000 with mortgage balances of nearly £5,280,000, the latter being an increase of over £742,000 on the previous year. The receipts, constituting a new record, were over £2,831,000, an increase of over £495,000. Our investments totalled nearly £381,000 and our bank balance was over £40,000. The President reported that the Board had allocated £5,000 to form the nucleus of a Staff Superannuation Fund. The retiring Directors were re-elected.
At the Board Meeting on 22 March 1926, following for the last time for many years the principle of annual rotation, T. H. Moore and E. J. Bruce were elected President and Vice-President. The important decision was taken to dispense with all Sub-Committees, and to allow the full Board to deal with every item of business at this period.
On 3 May 1926, the Secretary reported that the premises occupied by our Blackpool Agent were now inadequate for the volume of business transacted. He said that the owners were willing to sell the whole building at 5 Birley Street, Blackpool, for £4,500 with vacant possession. A Special Board Meeting was called on 7 May to consider this single matter, when it was resolved that the President and the Secretary be empowered to purchase the property on the best terms they could negotiate.
At the meeting of 3 May another matter was considered, but no decision was taken. A letter was read from our Solicitor, A. E. T. Hinchcliffe, complaining that some of the Society’s legal work was not being sent to him, and that in particular business was being given to a solicitor, formerly in his employ, who was now in practice on his own account. This may have been the beginning of some personal feeling between Mr Hinchcliffe and W. H. Kaye which had unfortunate results.
On 17 May 1926 the death of J. E. Willans, who had been one of the Society’s Trustees for many years, was reported. It was unanimously agreed that R. H. Inman be appointed in his place. On 31 May, Parish & Clarke, Accountants, of 3 Branch Road, Batley, were appointed as our Agents in that town. At the same meeting it was reported that the President and the Secretary had visited Blackpool and purchased 5 Birley Street for £4,000, completion to be on 24 June.
On 14 June 1926 our connexion began with the Legal and General Assurance Society, which we still enjoy today. A letter was read from that Society regarding the ‘Combined Scheme’, in which a single life insurance premium was added to the mortgage, enabling the title-deeds to be handed over to the widow in the event of the death of the mortgagor during the repayment term. It was resolved that a representative of the Legal & General should meet the Board to discuss the details of the scheme. As a result, G. W. Bridge, then the Agency Manager of the Legal and General, attended our Board Meeting on 28 June, ‘and fully explained the combined scheme of mortgage insurance. Questions were asked and the matter fully gone into, and it was decided that the matter be considered for a fortnight by the Directors and a decision come to at the next Meeting’. The decision taken at the Board Meeting of 12 July, was that the Legal and General ‘Combined Scheme’ of insurance mortgage be adopted by the Society. The slogan, if my memory serves me, was ‘A Home that will always be Theirs’.
At the Board Meeting of 26 July 1926, samples of a proposed brochure, A Record of Progress, to be published in commemoration of the completion of the Society’s new Head Office, were considered by the Board. On 20 September it was agreed that the sample booklet and estimate of £663 from Burrows and Son Ltd, be approved.
The complaint by A. E. T. Hinchcliffe that some of the legal work of the Society was being given to a Solicitor formerly with his firm came at a time when the Board was already taking the view that the establishment of a panel of solicitors (following the precedent, already discussed, of the use of ‘outside Valuers’ who could introduce business) might be of greater advantage to the Society than the employment of a single firm. As a result, after some correspondence between Mr Hinchcliffe and the Secretary of the Society, which did not improve the situation, Armitage, Sykes & Hinchcliffe’s appointment as Solicitors to the Society was terminated on 4 October 1926. In consequence, in a difficult matter that arose between the Society and its former Bournemouth Agent, N. H. Arter, the Board sought the advice of another Huddersfield Solicitor, J. D. Eaton Smith, who established a close connexion with the Society, and subsequently became a Director.
On 15 November payment for the alterations to the Blackpool Office began with the drawing of a cheque for £500, the first of several sums of money devoted to the improvement of 5 Birley Street, Blackpool, the first premises owned by the Society outside Huddersfield. A further £700 was drawn on 10 January 1927. At the Board Meeting on 21 January 1927, the following Minute was recorded:
On 7 March 1927, the Secretary reported ‘that he had been over to Blackpool and arranged matters in accordance with his suggestions of 21 February, and it was resolved that these arrangements be approved and that the usual power be given to the Representative to sign the necessary cheques’. This meant that James Burns’s duties were limited to those of surveyor, and that the Secretary’s son, H. S. Kaye, was henceforward in charge of our Blackpool office and of the sub-Agencies at Fleetwood and St Annes-on-Sea.
The sixty-second Annual Meeting of the Society was held on 9 March 1927. The President, T. H. Moore, J.P., reported a rise in assets to nearly £6,757,000 with mortgage balances of over £6,105,000, the latter being an increase of over £800,000. The receipts were over £2,790,000. Referring to the arrangement with the Legal and General Assurance Society, the President said:
The President declared the customary Investors’ bonus, with the observation that this was the 53rd year in succession that the Society had paid a bonus. The two retiring Directors, T. H. Moore and P. F. Holmes, were re-elected, and two newly-nominated Directors were elected to the Board to make the number up to nine, the maximum under the new Rules. The two new Directors were Sir H. Gordon Kaye, J.P., M.A., the Chairman of Kaye and Stewart, Ltd, Woollen Manufacturers of Broadfield Mills, Huddersfield and W. H. Kaye, the Secretary of the Society. It must have been a proud moment for the Secretary to know that his work for the Society had been recognized in this way, and one hopes that the memory of it helped to carry him through the trials that awaited him during the short nineteen months of his life that remained.
At the Board Meeting of 21 March 1927, E. J. Bruce was elected President of the Society, a position he was to occupy until 1931. Lewis Radcliffe was elected Vice-President. There is no record in the Minutes of any of the ensuing meetings of an official opening of the new Head Office. The last substantial cheque in payment for the alterations appears to have been drawn on 25 July, with a final payment of a few hundred pounds as late as 15 October 1928. In July 1927 an Agents’ Conference and Luncheon had been held at the suggestion of the President. A Minute on 25 July recorded the Board’s satisfaction at the success of this important event, which was the first of its kind in the history of the Society.
On 14 November T. H. Moore reported the result of his visit to Halifax, accompanied by H. Broadbent and the Secretary, to explore the possibility of our opening a District Office in that town. It was agreed that the matter be left in the hands of these members of the Board. On 2 December 1927, the question of our Manchester Agency was also raised, regarding the desirability of our moving into a very suitably situated prominent ground-floor office in Mosley Street. The matter was left in the hands of T. H. Moore and W. H. Kaye. As the year 1927 drew to its close, it seemed that all was well with the Society, and that 1928 promised nothing but further progress.
Our Agent at Buxton was Victor Hayes, aged 41, an Auctioneer and Estate Agent practising under the style of Hayes & Son at 3 The Quadrant, Buxton and also at New Mills and Marple. Hayes was well known and highly respected in the district. The fact that both the Board and the Secretary reposed complete confidence in Hayes’s integrity was demonstrated by the fact that he had authority to cash cheques drawn by the Society up to a limit of £2,000. He had been our representative in Buxton since 1924, and acted in the dual capacity of Agent and Valuer.
Early in 1928 an observant clerk at Head Office noticed something that was to reveal what was described during the subsequent proceedings as ‘one of the most wholesale and systematic frauds that could be imagined’. A letter addressed to a presumed Buxton borrower from Head Office was returned by the Post Office ‘address unknown’, and an investigation was commenced. It was found that in 12 cases in January 1928 cheques had been issued in respect of mortgage advances on Certificates of Title apparently signed by a Solicitor in Buxton. The Title Deeds had not been received by the Society, and the Solicitor whose name had been forged was entirely without knowledge of the cases.
On the morning of Sunday, 12 February 1928, Hayes was interviewed in his office at Buxton by W. H. Kaye, accompanied by L. Blackburn, the Managing Clerk, and Stanley Lockwood, who later became Manager of Branches. A Special Board Meeting was called on the following day, 13 February, to enable the Secretary to present a report, recorded in the following Minute:
On the same day that this report was received by the Board, 13 February 1928, Victor Hayes appeared in the dock at the Magistrates’ Court at Buxton charged with ‘forging twelve documents (Certificates of Tide) relating to property with intent to defraud at Buxton between 2 January and 11 January 1928’. There were the usual remands, and Hayes made his final appearance before the Buxton Magistrates on 7 March 1928. At this hearing evidence was given by W. H. Kaye and S. Lockwood, both of whom were severely cross-examined at length by Hayes’s Counsel. There can be no doubt from the reports of the case in The Buxton Advertiser & Herald, that W. H. Kaye in particular was subjected to great strain in the witness-box. Hayes was committed for trial at Derbyshire Assizes on bail of £1,000 and two sureties of £500 each. At his trial Hayes pleaded guilty to nine charges of forgery and false pretences, and was sentenced to four years penal servitude.
The total loss suffered by the Society from Hayes’s crimes was £14,408, and this considerable sum of money (by 1928 values) was ultimately wholly recovered from the North British & Mercantile and Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Companies, and the National Provincial and Midland Banks. The Banks did not admit any liability in the matter of the cheques converted by Hayes, but made an ex gratia payment of £3,000. Inevitably the pursuit of these claims involved the Secretary in heavy labour and much anxiety. The settlements were, moreover, exceedingly time-consuming, and were not in fact finally achieved until February 1929, a date which W. H. Kaye tragically did not live to see.
In 1928 the Society continued its normal routine of work and progress, and the sixty-third Annual Meeting was held on 1 March. The President, E. J. Bruce, reported a rise in assets to over £8,000,000, with mortgage balances of nearly £7,268,000, the latter being an increase of nearly £1,163,000 on the previous year. The receipts constituted a new record of nearly £3,396,000, an increase of over £605,000 on the previous year. The President said that during the year a further £100,000 had been put to reserve, making the liquid assets nearly £766,000. Out of a total of 14,940 mortgages, 14,136 (or nearly 95%) were in respect of loans under £1,000. Mr Bruce remarked:
As our former Buxton Agent was not even to be committed for trial until six days later, the case of R. v. Hayes was sub-judice. It may be thought, however, that the President’s assurance was not unconnected with the Buxton affair, and was both timely and entirely justified in the event, since the Society suffered no loss. G. P. Norton, also possibly significantly, said ‘that the Society, in an emergency, could put hands on close on a million pounds of cash, and from the point of view of depositors and investors that was a very strong feature’. The Meeting was a success, and the retiring Directors were re-elected.
At the Board Meeting of 5 March 1928, E. J. Bruce was re-elected President, thus ending the annual rotation, and R. H. Inman was elected Vice-President. Agency development continued, and on 19 March the Board approved the appointment of Frank Shuffle-botham as our new Agent in Buxton, A. France and Co. as our Agents in Leeds and Joseph Binns as our Agent in Mirfield. On 2 April the Secretary reported that in company with Stanley Lock-wood he had visited Coventry and Derby. In the former town J. W. B. Crompton was to be our Agent, and Marston & Sons would act as Surveyors. In Derby our Agent would be T. Stevenson Mclntyre, and Richardson and Linnell were appointed as our Surveyors. Both our Agents in Coventry and Derby were chartered accountants, but I can say from my own experience not many years later that T. S. Mclntyre was a remarkable producer of mortgage business, principally from builders among his large clientele.
Our interest in opening a District Office in Halifax was still evident at the same Board Meeting of 19 March, but the rental quoted for the property in which we were interested was considered too high. On 11 June 1928, however, the rental sought for the accommodation we required in Somerset House, a fine position in the centre of Halifax, was reduced substantially to £150 per annum on a seven-year lease. It was resolved that the Society should enter into a lease, and that estimates be obtained for the necessary alterations. The draft lease was finally approved on 23 July.
On 25 June it was resolved that the Society should open an Agency in Grimsby, and that Baguley (1926) Removals Ltd, of West St Mary’s Gate, would represent us in that town. It was further resolved on 9 July that we should be represented in Stoke-on-Trent, and Sidney R. Williams of Glebe Buildings, Glebe Street, was appointed as our Agent. It seems probable that this rapid expansion was assisted by the devotion of Stanley Lockwood’s whole time to the Society’s activities outside Huddersfield. However that may be, at the Board Meeting of 20 August 1928 John Thornley & Son, of 1 Mawdsley Street, Bolton, were appointed as our Agents in that town.
On 5 October 1928, we opened our District Office at Somerset House, Halifax. The following account appeared in The Building Societies Gazette of 1 November 1928:
My old friend Arthur Porritt (now retired and happily pursuing his avocation as a noted antiquarian) was our highly regarded Manager at Halifax from 1 January 1931 for the remainder of his working life. He tells me that George R. Cartmel was in charge of the new office for a few months before the advent of Henry Gibson in 1929. Arthur Porritt took over from the latter when Henry Gibson became our first Manager at Bristol.
The Board Meeting of 15 October 1928 was the last to be attended by W. H. Kaye. It is of melancholy significance that the Minutes recorded three matters connected with the principal results of his life’s work for our Society. The first was the approval of cheques totalling £123,673 in respect of advances and further advances approved at that fortnightly meeting, which we can relate to the major ingredient of the Society’s total assets, the mortgage balances. It will be recalled that when Henry Kaye retired in 1912 the assets of the Society were rather over £772,000. At the last Annual Meeting of the Society attended by William Henry Kaye in March 1928, sixteen years later, the assets had grown over tenfold to a total in excess of £8,000,000. When Henry Kaye retired in 1912 the Society had (in addition to 7 local Agents in villages around Huddersfield) 6 Agencies at Doncaster, Darlington, Stockton-on-Tees, Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley. On 15 October 1928, S. Murray & Haldane, Estate Agents, of 5 Halford Street, Leicester, were appointed as the Society’s Agents in that town, with Andrew & Ashwell as our Surveyors. It was to be the last of many such recommendations made by W. H. Kaye and approved by the Board. The establishment of the Leicester Agency meant that by 1928, in addition to the local Agencies, the Society had 2 District Offices, 2 sub-Offices (at Fleetwood and St Annes-on-Sea) and 3 3 Agencies in England and Wales.
Finally, on 15 October 1928 a last cheque for £403.11.id. was drawn to complete the payment for the re-modelling of Britannia Buildings, purchased by the Society during W. H. Kaye’s tenure of office, resulting in a Head Office of which we were justifiably proud.
During the next two weeks W. H. Kaye entered a Nursing Home in Trinity Street, Huddersfield, to undergo an operation. He died on 31 October 1928, the cause of death being certified as ‘Pulmonary embolism following operation for inguinal hernia’. He was 56 years old. The informant to the Registrar was CH. S. Kaye. Son. Stanleigh, Warbreck Hill Road, Blackpool’.
The Board met on 1 November, deeply shocked by the unexpected death of the Secretary. A letter was written to Mrs Kaye and the family, and it was resolved that the office be closed from 11.15 a.m. on Saturday, 3 November for the funeral, which was attended by the Directors and the staff. After a service at Holy Trinity Church, where W. H. Kaye had been churchwarden, he was laid to rest in the same grave as his father at Almondbury.
At the sixty-fourth Annual Meeting of the Society, held on 1 March 1929, the President, E. J. Bruce, spoke of the late W. H. Kaye. He was reported by The Huddersfield Examiner as saying:
The Vice-President, R. H. Inman, was reported as saying: