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283 High Street, Birmingham B17 9QH
021-427 1564
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February 2nd 1924: The branch's official opening ceremony, with the Lord Mayor speaking on the doorstep, and the General Manager speaking inside the office.
see Newspaper Report of the occasion
The interior of the branch in 1924.
Above the strongroom door, on the right, is the
Police Night Light that enabled patrolling police officers to verify the security of the strongroom at night via a clear space in the branch's frosted glass windows.
See Memories by Len Wright
the branch is now a Chinese restaurant, but otherwise
shows few changes from its appearance in 1924
The village of Harborne, situated 2-miles southwest of Birmingham, became part of the city in 1891, when its population had reached about 10,000. The opening of the Harborne railway line to the city in 1874 contributed to the growth of lower-middle-class housing that was occupied by people working in central Birmingham. By this time, the centre of Harborne had moved to the High Street, near to the railway station.
Also near the station, in January 1908, building work commenced on the 54-acre Moor Pool Estate - a garden suburb of 500 houses to be developed by Harborne Tenants Ltd. Chairman of this organisation was John Nettlefold, who was also chairman of Birmingham's Housing Committee. The Moor Pool Estate was an attempt to prove that it was possible to provide good quality, working-class housing to replace the inner-city back-to-backs, on a commercially viable basis; this task was eventually undertaken by the City Council on a huge scale.
Harborne branch began its life on September 2nd 1919, operating as a part-time evening branch on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, in the Public Library in High Street, Harborne. (The provision of this library was one of the factors that persuaded Harborne residents to become part of Birmingham). During this period, whilst part-time opening hours prevailed, the branch was worked in conjunction with Bearwood branch. However, a change was soon made (July 19th 1920) by switching to evening opening on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
This early 20th-Century view shows Harborne's High Street, looking west from the junction with Station Road. The Bank purchased premises on the right side of the street, near where two sweepers are cleaning the road
The branch following reconstruction of 283 High Street in 1924
OpenStreetMap contributors
= location of branch in Harborne's High Street
1919 - H G Wright
1922 - D R Noon
1926 - C Danks
1928 & 1929 - F H DeVille
1930 - A H Read
1931 - A T Guest
1934 - L H Hurdman
1937 - S G Brotherton
1958 - H J T Bayliss
1959 to 1966 - J A Duff
1967 to 1971 - A H F Giddings
1972 - D Crowley
1974 - P H Baulcombe
1975 - H W Powell

In the Financial Year to March 31st 1921, the amount due to depositors increased from 9,462 to 19,492. The Number of Open Accounts at March 31st 1921 was 705 (an increase of 239), and the Annual Transactions numbered 4,045. This increase in business encouraged the Bank to think of establishing a permanent branch in Harborne, but the General Manager reported to the General Purposes Sub-Committee in July 1921: The branch is conducted in the Public Library, which is an unsatisfactory arrangement. Up to the present it has not been possible to obtain other premises. It is therefore proposed to continue as at present at Harborne until suitable premises are obtained, when the branch could then be made into a daily branch.


In accordance with the usual practice, the Bank's Valuer Frank Wilde, sought to find a property that would be suitable as a branch. In a letter dated February 5th 1923, he reported:

I have made an inspection of the shop and premises No 283 High Street, Harborne. The accommodation comprises:-

On the GROUND FLOOR: Retail Sale Shop which by the removal of two short studded partitions would leave an open floor 24' wide by 26' deep with an iron column in the centre. Sitting room, Kitchen with h & c water on Sink and Pantry.

On the FIRST FLOOR: Landing, Five Bedrooms, Linen closet and combined Bathroom and WC.

On the SECOND FLOOR: Large Attic.

Outside in small garden is a Coal House.


This Freehold Property the building of which was completed early in 1914 is of very fair construction and stands on a plot of land having a Total Area of about 300 sq. yds. with a frontage of 34ft, part of such frontage being occupied by an 8' Gateway over which is built the upper storey of the adjoining Property. The Buildings are set back about 8 feet from the footpath.


I consider the position is a good one, likely to improve, and the buildings lend themselves admirably to your purpose.


I am of opinion that the Market Value of the Property is TWO THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS (2,250. 0. 0.)


I have had an interview with Mr Southam the Owner, and after some discussion he reduced the figure of 3,500 he was asking, to 3,000, but I informed him that my Client would not be likely to entertain the proposition at anything like this amount.


I understand from Mr Southam that he has offered his Property to the Birmingham Co-operative Society, who occupy a Shop adjoining, and are also the Owners of the Freehold on either side, but they have decided not to purchase it.


The General Manager duly reported that the property had been offered to the Bank and also that Councillor Appleby was of the opinion that property at 355 High Street Harborne might be obtained. With Councillor Appleby the General Manager visited both the sites, and it was considered that the latter site was the most suitable for the Bank. This property was in the middle of a block between Lordswood Road and Serpentine Road and came within a proposed widening scheme of the Corporation who were already the owners of two properties in the area. Councillor Appleby was of the opinion that as the whole of the property was in a poor condition, and the necessity for widening at this part of High Street was becoming urgent, it was desirable for joint action to be taken by the Public Works Committee and the Bank Committee in the matter. However, after consultation with the Public Works Department regarding their scheme for this section of High Street, it was decided that it was impractical from the Bank's point of view. Attention therefore returned to 283 High Street which the City Surveyor thought would not require very much alteration for adaption as a branch.


Frank Wilde reported on April 9th 1923:

283 High Street, Harborne

I have had considerable correspondence and several interviews with Mr Southam the Owner of the above Property, and have a letter from him to-day to the effect that his price for the Property is 2,700 or very near that figure.


I cannot induce him to place the Property on sale at a lower figure, and it will therefore be necessary to make him a firm and final offer, which he can either decline or accept. You will remember my valuation was 2,250, and having regard to the fact that there would be a certain value attached to his business, you might be prepared to pay a little in excess of our valuation, but I think after all the circumstances into consideration the very outside figure for a final offer should not exceed 2,500.


I have no instructions from you to make any firm offer for the Property, and I think whatever your decision might be as to price, it will be necessary for me to make the next move if you wish to acquire the same.


In June 1923, the Co-op offered to exchange 287 and 289 High Street for 283, but the Bank declined and after paying 2,450, possession was obtained on July 31st 1923. The cost of reconstruction and fitting-out is not known, except that electric lights cost 27 (plus 10 for the flat above the branch); heating 88 (less 10% discount in the price of the radiators); leaded lights from Messrs Pearce and Cutler 19; foot plates, name and letter plates, and the branch's commemoration tablet (all by Bronamel Signs Co) 21. The cost of the fencing between the branch and the neighbouring Co-op were equally divided between the Society and the Bank.


The first tenant of the flat above the branch was a branch manager, W E Jackson. He took up the tenancy in an unusual manner, after submitting a letter to the General Manager requesting permission to (1) fix to the door of his apartment a notice to the effect that his wife was an agent for a firm of corset makers, and (2) that his wife be allowed to purchase and carry on the business of a dressmaker in Hagley Road. The General Manager and the Bank's Committee expressed disapproval of these projects, whereupon Mr Jackson stated that if he could have the tenancy at Harborne he would prefer that to his wife taking up any business arrangements.


At January 31st 1924, the branch had 1,450 accounts with balances amounting to 50,120. The formal opening of the new premises took place on February 2nd 1924, the event being recorded in Britain's First Municipal Savings Bank:
To Councillor Appleby, the chairman of the committee and one of the local representatives, fell the honour of opening this branch on .... a day of coincidences. The newspapers announced that Councillor Appleby had been elevated to the magisterial bench, along with others closely associated with the Bank, viz, the Lord Mayor (Alderman T O Williams), Councillor J Fryer, Councillor F W Daniels, and Mr Theodore D Neal (auditor of the Bank).
The Lord Mayor spoke in eulogistic terms of the work undertaken by Councillor Appleby. As a professional colleague he could say, with full knowledge of his subject, that Councillor Appleby's services had been magnificent. He seemed to live for the Bank, and spared no effort to make everyone else realise that we had a Municipal Bank in Birmingham.


The design of the refurbished premises included a gateway to the side of the branch - an unusual feature that was shared with the design of Spring Hill branch. In July 1927, the Bank declined a request from a Mr G H Ward that he be allowed to use the gateway adjoining Harborne branch for the purpose of garaging his motorcar.


The location of the branch at Number 283 placed it on the north side of the High Street, between Ravenhurst Road (to the west) and Station Road. Kelly's Directory showed the Bank's neighbours in 1936 to be (east to west): 275 - Joseph Billingham (lawnmower repairers); 277 - Mrs Rhoda Mary Ashforh (fancy repository); 279 - Birmingham Co-op; 285 - Gwendith (milliners); 287 - William Henry Parker (confectioner); 289 - South Staffordshire Laundry; 297 - David Cairns (watchmaker); 303 - George Davis (greengrocer)
In July 1945, the General Manager reported to the Bank's Committee regarding the accommodation at the branch:
Accommodation is very limited, and causes much concern. There is only a small length of counter, and working conditions are such that extra help cannot be arranged.
It was agreed some years ago that the City Surveyor should reserve a site for a new bank in connection with the High Street development. The scheme would probably have proceeded had it not been for the War. It may be some years before the scheme is carried out, but in the meantime the business of this important branch must be carried on.
There is a tenant in the living accommodation, protected by the Rent (Restrictions) Act. Recently he applied for internal decorations to be done. I instructed Mr Wilde [the Bank's Valuer] to ascertain if we could obtain part of the ground floor accommodation with a view to bringing it into the bank premises. The tenant is agreeable, providing we construct a satisfactory kitchen, etc on the first floor. The City Surveyor is of the opinion that additional accommodation can be provided by taking in rooms on the ground floor at the rear, and will prepare a plan for a suitable alteration.
In 1951, the Bank purchased a site measuring 330 square yards adjoining the Duke of York public house in Harborne. This site was owned by the Public Works Department, and was transferred to the Bank at a cost of 1,650. The site was purchased with the intention of utilising it to build a replacement Harborne branch, as outlined in the General Manager's report, above. However, the site was never utilised, and ownership of it reverted to the City Council when the Bank became a Trustee Savings Bank in 1976.
= location of Harborne's Library