66 High Street, Smethwick, Warley, West Midlands B66 1DS
The Bank's 1939 Annual Report stated that plans had been approved for the erection of a branch in the County Borough of Smethwick.
Prior to the construction of a purpose-built branch, temporary facilities at 130 High Street, Smethwick, were opened on December 1st
1939. A search then began to find a suitable site on which a permanent branch could be constructed. The delicensed premises
known as 'The Golden Cross' (owned by Smethwick Corporation) were considered but the Bank's architect (John Sturman) stated that the
premises could not be satisfactorily adapted for Bank purposes without an unwarranted outlay, and that the price required for purchase
of the premises with a view to demolition and the erection of a building to the prescribed building line was more than could be justified.
opportunity occurred to acquire premises at 143 High Street which could be economically adapted to Bank requirements. The freehold
premises comprised a large shop, with basement, and first and second floors, with a frontage to High Street of 28' 3" and an average
depth of 48 yards. The property was valued at £3,125 and although not in quite as good a position as 'The Golden Cross' site, the
Bank commenced negotiations to purchase. It appears that a reasonable price and satisfactory conditions could not be agreed, as the
Bank then commenced to build at 66 High Street.
Early in 1939, the Bank's Finance and General Purposes Sub-Committee discussed
the plans prepared by the architect. The committee decided on a two-storey, rather than a three-storey structure; that a flat
should be incorporated that could be converted (if necessary) into office accommodation; and to some modifications to the ornamentation
of the frontage. These amendments to the frontage can be seen by comparing the architect's drawing (below) with the photograph of
the newly opened branch.
It appears that the committee would have preferred to have had office accommodation above the branch,
but the prevailing economic conditions suggested that demand for such a let would be limited. However, as detailed below, the accommodation
was taken by a solicitor who, in 1943, required some internal changes to be made. That solicitor was William Hodgkiss who was granted
a lease of 7 years from March 25th 1941, at a rental of £75 per annum.
The impact of the recently declared War were considered
by a meeting of the Finance and General Purposes Sub-Committee on October 16th 1939. At this date, the demolition of the existing
property had been completed and the foundations of the new building had commenced. The contractors (Messrs H Dare and Son Ltd, of
Broad Street, Birmingham) were asked to bring the foundations up to damp course level, and it was then proposed to suspend the contract.
A wood building had been purchased for £250, and it was intended to place this on the site and use it as a daily branch as soon as
possible. Suspension of pre-war contracts, by giving seven days' notice, was provided by the War Risk Clause of such contracts. However,
the contract was not suspended and the work was completed by October 1940.
The building was formally opened on October 23rd 1940,
by the Mayor of Smethwick (Alderman C W Taylor). The branch, at 66 High Street, continued as a daily branch with the standard opening
hours that were adopted for the temporary office.
As noted above, the accommodation above the branch was leased to a solicitor
(William Hodgkiss) who used it for professional purposes. In 1943, he sought the Bank's permission to convert the flat's bathroom
for use as a waiting room or interview room, by removing the bath and covering over the basin, taps, etc. The Bank agreed to the alterations
provided it was done by a first class contractor at the tenant's expense. Mr Hodgkiss's lease was extended for a further 7 years from
March 25th 1948 at an increased rental of £140 per annum.
The Mayor of Smethwick opens an account on the first day of business (December 1st 1939) in the temporary premises that were
advertised in the Smethwick Telephone on November 25th 1939
Although advance notices had advised that the new branch would be located at 68 High Street, the address of the permanant premises
was actually 66 High Street. Note that the photograph of the new premises was taken prior to the affixing of any signs identifying
the building's purpose, but may be compared with the architect's drawing below. The architect was John B Sturman, FRIBA of 19 Cannon
Street, Birmingham. The building was described as being designed 'in a free Georgian manner with stone dressings and grey brick facings,
and with a green slated roof'
below (October 23rd 1940):
The Mayor of Smethwick arrives to open the new premises.
the former branch building now houses
a Funeral Parlour
Below: Architectural details on first floor elevation
The town of Smethwick, located three miles to the west of Birmingham's city centre on the road to Oldbury and Dudley, became a County
Borough in 1907. In 1925, Smethwick was one of 19 town councils who made representations to the Government to establish a Municipal
Bank. That representation failed, but Smethwick became the fifth town outside Birmingham's boundaries to have a BMB branch, after
it became possible to do so under the provisions of Sections 56 and 57 of the Birmingham Corporation (General Powers) Act, 1929.
joined with the nearby Oldbury and Rowley Regis in 1966 to form the County Borough of Warley. In 1974, the Metropolitan Borough of
Sandwell was created when Warley merged with West Bromwich County Borough.
= location of branch at 66 High Street
1939 - J E Chapman
1958 to 1961 - (Miss) D I Gregory
1963 to 1967 - H G Corles
1969 to 1972 - N R Barnsley
1972 to 1974
- A Green
Smethwick branch was located in temporary premises from December 1st 1939 to October 22nd 1940. The images reproduced below record
the first day of business
During part of the Second World War, the branch was one of twenty-two offices that were opened on a restricted basis due to a
shortage of staff. Details at Combination of Branches
= temporary location at 130 High Street