The first permanent branch to be opened was at Sparkbrook
. The Bank procured a shop unit at 163 Stratford Road, and this was
used as temporary premises for the daily branch that commenced BMB operations from September 1st 1919. The Bank then purchased the
greengrocer's shop adjoining (number 161) and a reconstruction scheme was carried out. The architect responsible for the design was
Gerald McMichael, ARIBA of Colmore Row, Birmingham. These reconstructed premises were formally opened by Neville Chamberlain on July
25th 1921. Britain's First Municipal Savings Bank
The design avoids undue elaboration, yet it gives a feeling of stability.
The design has, in the main, been followed in other alteration schemes and for new erections.
In general, the development of the early
branches of the Bank followed this pattern; existing premises were reconstructed with a familiar facade of white, lined Hollington
stonework and imposing oak door and vestibule at ground level, and the upper elevation largely unchanged. In almost all cases, customer
demand soon required the purchase of adjoining premises to accommodate an extension.
The first purpose-built branch was Handsworth
where a vacant plot on the corner of Grove Road and Soho Road was used to build a substantial office that was formally opened on May
17th 1924. The reconstruction carried out at Stirchley
in 1923, used the City Surveyor as architect. The majority of branch reconstruction
schemes and new builds subsequent to Stirchley, were probably carried out by the City Surveyor; other architects used included John
B Surman, W H Humphries, H Stewart Evans, Harry W Weedon, J A Swan, and Peacock & Bewlay. As the city expanded in the late
1920s and through the 1930s, the Bank constructed more purpose-built branches than made reconstructions of existing properties;
in many cases, the Bank purchased a building plot on a new housing estate from the Estates Committee. A chronological list of
the opening dates of permanent branches
is shown on a separate page.
Almost all branch premises built before the Second World
War had a similar appearance, both externally and internally, that would have made them instantly recognisable to depositors moving
to a new district. The frontage faced with white Hollington stone, referred to above, surrounded windows with screens of lead
lights whose glass was engraved with the Bank's key logo, references to the Corporation (including the city's Coat of Arms in
coloured glass) and its guarantee of deposits, and the hours of business. The key logo was also attached to the branch exterior in
the form of an illuminated sign; these signs were removed at a later date - presumably during the War as part of the Blackout requirements.
A newspaper illustration of April 14th 1924 shows the new premises nearing completion
The branch's pair of heavy external doors opened inwards, folding back inside a small vestibule. A pair of swinging doors separated
this vestibule from the Banking Hall. The Banking Hall floor was surfaced with a hardwearing terrazzo, and this covered the area between
a wide, highly polished counter, and a shelf on an external wall that was constructed as a series of small-screened desks that customers
stood at to complete deposit or withdrawal slips in privacy. The ceiling was generally decorated with a low plaster relief.
of Honduras mahogany, whose width was the main form of security for the branch staff - as no barriers or anti-bandit screens
were fitted to it, was a major feature of excellent craftsmanship; its surface was interspersed with a desk at each cashier's position.
At one end of the counter, a frosted-glass, screened area created a semi-private office for customer interviews; a part of the counter
in this office contained hinged sections for staff access purposes. Behind the counter, above parquet flooring, were a series of ledger
desks or ledger bins. One of the walls had a tablet
fixed to it that commemorated the official opening of the branch.
Each branch had
a strongroom to hold ledgers and other paperwork requiring secure storage. Bank notes were held inside the strongroom within a small
safe. Staff facilities consisted of a mess room with limited provision for creature comforts. Heating for the branch was supplied
by an efficient gas-fired boiler, and a few gas lamps provided an emergency backup to the electric lighting system.
In the first
ten years of the Bank's existence, almost 40 new builds and reconstructions were carried out; the average cost of each of these premises
was just over £4,000.
The only branch opened before 1939, whose external appearance did not match the general design, was Ladywood
The fewer branches that were built from 1940 onwards had varying facades, some completely different from pre-war designs.
November 9th 1960, Billesley branch was subject to an armed raid
. Earlier that year, Duddeston had also suffered a raid in the previous
July. Following the Billesley raid, the Bank's Head Office issued circulars to branches that included the following:
November 11th 1960: Messrs Richard Hunt & Sons have been instructed to fit a Door Chain to the front door of your branch,
also to inspect the Counter Flap and Door to see that the fasteners and bolts are in working order
- December 29th 1960: It
has been decided to have an extension telephone installed in the Banking Hall at your branch
- January 3rd 1961: The question
of fitting a remote control lock to the door to the Private Office .... is under consideration
- January 27th 1961: It
has been agreed with the Chief Constable of Birmingham that night-lights should be re-introduced
These 'security measures' were probably
the first network-wide alterations to branch design specifications in forty years. In general, unless a branch needed an extension
due to an increase in the volume of business, its original design would remain unchanged. However, most branches required alterations
to comply with the Offices, Shops, and Railway Premises Act, 1963, which specified that separate toilets were necessary for male and
female staff. Minor improvements, such as the installation of more modern lighting systems, were also made.
were also required when computer terminals and other equipment were installed in anticipation of the computerisation of customer accounts;
counter security screens and alarm systems were provided; and private offices were constructed for customer loan interviews.
Examples of designs etched on branch windows
(above: Billesley branch - July 5th 1930
right: photo by Ned Trifle)