The County Express – December 21st 1940
MUNICIPAL BANK PREMISES OPENED AT HALESOWEN
Branch of Birmingham Scheme
Additional facilities for depositors in the Birmingham Municipal Bank in the Halesowen borough were provided on Tuesday, when new premises in High St., were opened by the Mayor (Councillor Walter Hodgetts, JP). For some considerable time depositors in the Halesowen district have been enrolled at the Quinton branch, and the decision to open a branch, was taken with the full support of the Town Council. Premises which were purchased were demolished, and the new building was erected by Messrs. Dare and Son, contractors, from the plans prepared by the architects Messrs. Peacock and Bewlay.
The Lord Mayor of Birmingham (Councillor Wilfred Martineau, MC., TD.), supported by the Lady Mayoress, presided over the gathering, and the Mayor of Halesowen was supported by the Mayoress. There were also present the Chairman of the Bank Management Committee (Alderman O. Morland), the General Manager (Mr J P Hilton, CBE.), Deputy Mayor of Halesowen (Alderman H J Cox, JP.), Town Clerk (Mr A Basterfield), and members of the Town Council, and leading residents.
Opening the door of the branch, the Mayor said he was pleased to see that there were so many people showing an interest in the bank.
The company then went inside the building, and at the request of the Lord Mayor, Councillor Hodgetts unveiled a plaque which commemorates the event. In a short address he described the opening of the bank as just another step in the advance of their borough. He said that that was something which lifted one's mind from the sordid things all around us, and took one somewhere into the future when we might be able to look forward to the peaceful times which we all hoped were getting near, after the war. Their borough had set its mind on the idea that it was going to advance and expand, and that was just one of those little steps in that direction. He wanted to appeal to the people of the borough to go on saving.
Our country was fighting the greatest war which it had ever faced in its history, and because finance was going to play an important part in paving the way to victory and future security, he asked them to go on saving to achieve that end, whilst they could also do something to provide for rest, comfort, and independence in their old age.
THE FIRST DEPOSIT
The first deposit was made on behalf of Alderman J B Downing, OBE., the first mayor of the borough, by his daughter, Councillor Mrs Harrison.
Following the official opening, a luncheon was given at the Council House, and among those present were the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Mayor of Halesowen, Deputy Mayor and members of the Town Council, Mr J P Hilton, CBE. (general manager of the Birmingham Municipal Bank), Mr F Ellison (assistant general manager). Alderman O Morland (chairman), and other members of the management committee, which comprises the Lord Mayor, Aldermen Sir P Bower, JP., Harrison Barrow, R R Gelling, JP., A P Morely, JP., Councillors A H Cooper, G F Godrich, L C H Alldridge, JP., G H W Griffith, A W Gurden, H James, JP., and A H Wright, JP.
Alderman Morland submitted the toast of what he described as "our aged but by no means infirm relative, the Borough of Halesowen". He said they liked to think of Birmingham as an old city, and they were proud of their past. Those in Halesowen had still more reason for pride in the antiquity of their borough. He believed the earliest record of the borough was when a certain man named Owen had a salt pan at Wick, worth 4s. per year. He recalled several interesting features of the history of Halesowen, and referred to the period when Halesowen was part of Shropshire. He said it remained in Shropshire for many years, but later King John granted the Manor of Hales to the Bishop of Winton, who founded the Abbey, and the people of Halesowen were given the same rights as the citizens of Hereford, and placed on the records as a borough. Halesowen was also mentioned in the Domesday Book. Among other interesting records was an inscription found on the fifth bell of the Parish Church: "Be it known to all that doth me see, Joseph Smith in Edgbaston made all we". The Churchwardens' book also recorded a sum of 10s. "paid in repeyling the organ to the organ maker at Bromwycncham". Another bell at the Parish Church bore the inscription "At proper times my voice shall raise, and sound to my subscribers' praise".
GIFT TO MAYOR
Alderman Morland presented to the Mayor of Halesowen a silver salver to commemorate the occasion. Describing the Municipal Bank as a unique institution, he said that no other town or city in the country possessed one. They owed it very largely to a very great Birmingham citizen who had passed away, Mr Neville Chamberlain. They had 65 branches, and it was an organisation of considerable magnitude. The question of a branch at Halesowen was discussed a little time ago with Alderman J B Downing who they were very sorry was unable to be present, and as a result, consent of the Halesowen Council was given for the erection of the building. He thought they would agree with him that the building was not detrimental to the architecture around it, and that that temple of finance would hold its own with other buildings. They had in the bank close on 480,000 subscribers, and they aimed at Halesowen to provide the remaining 20,000 in a short time. Something like 33½ millions was invested. The people of Birmingham and Halesowen had proved themselves of a saving and thrifty nature.
WORK OF REBUILDING
The Mayor replied and added historical facts on the borough. He said that Halesowen was mentioned as a borough in 1876 and 1895, but somehow or other the status was lost. In the records of the history of Halesowen was found the name of Hodgetts, one who had published the private letters of Shenstone in 1775, and later there came another Hodgetts who was transported for seven years for robbing nail shops in Halesowen - (laughter). Halesowen set itself up some years ago to grow and improve, and from a rural area became an urban district, and in a matter of another 10 years became a borough. That was characteristic of Halesowen and its people. There was only one aim in view now, and that was to win the war and create a lasting peace. After that they would set themselves out to continue their building. The work of rebuilding which they had in mind was unfortunately stopped by the war. Halesowen was not the town they wished it to be, and they pledged themselves to do what they set out to do in the days of peace. Offering best wishes to the city of Birmingham, the Mayor said if they could help them in their troubles by providing a "Spitfire" it was theirs. Largely due to the work of the Deputy Mayor, Halesowen now found itself in a position to be able to say to the country "We can give you a 'Spitfire' to help win the war".
SPIRIT OF GOODWILL
Proposing the toast of "The City of Birmingham" Alderman H J Cox remarked there was a time when in Halesowen and district they regarded the city as a sort of octopus, stretching out its great tentacles and grasping all it possibly could. At the moment a spirit of goodwill existed between them. He referred to the loss the city had sustained by the death of Mr Neville Chamberlain, and assured them that their sympathy went out to them in their trials. They were proud of the citizens of Birmingham for the way they were standing up to the fierce trials and persecution and fearful ordeal they were being called upon to endure. In their robust neighbour they had an example of courage and endurance, and if they were called upon to face similar suffering, the people of Halesowen would endure it with the same courage and determination.
Responding, the Lord Mayor remarked that he was glad that a branch of the Birmingham Municipal Bank had been provided in Halesowen. He hoped that it would be supported at all times, and that it would give the same service to them as their own branches within the city had given to their own citizens. A large portion of the Lord Mayor's address was devoted to an appeal to support the country's national savings scheme in the various forms in which it was offered, and he said he was very sorry that the former Charter Mayor of Halesowen (Alderman Downing) was not able to be with them that day; he had written to Mr Hilton apologising for his absence through illness, and enclosing a cheque for £5 as a deposit for starting the new branch in the way it should go. He (the speaker) had been taken round to see him for a minute or two, and he hoped that he would soon be fully restored to health and happiness.
In the previous month to the publication of the above article, the following letter to the Editor was printed:
The County Express: Saturday, November 16th, 1940
Tribute to Mr Neville Chamberlain
Sir, - On two previous occasions you have allowed me the privilege of your columns for short obituary notices. These both concerned political opponents of mine, and men who I admired - the late Mr Arthur Henderson, whose son defeated me in the 1935 election at Kingswinford, and the late Mr George Lansbury, who was my friend.
May I now write about one who was until so lately my political leader and my friend as well. We all know the distinguished work which Neville Chamberlain carried out in past years in Birmingham, his native city, at the Ministry of Health, and at the Treasury; of his services in these directions both history and the people who lived in his time will have but one verdict, namely, that he brought great distinction to these tasks, that in spite of great difficulties he obtained most memorable results, and that he served the people well.
As Prime Minister I always like to think of him as he was in the days immediately before Munich. You, sir, and all of us will remember that tremendous occasion. The people rose with one voice to praise the courageous man, no longer young, who, defying all convention had flown to Germany to speak in person with the Chancellor and who had come back with peace when war seemed inevitable, and who had given us a respite, at least, from all that we most direly feared. Who can forget the paeans of thankful praise which were poured upon him by every man, woman and child in this country at that time. Many who then praised him with thankful hearts have turned against him since and have refused to co-operate with him, with what justification and with what benefit to this country, history alone will tell.
The plain fact is that at and before Munich, Chamberlain expressed the feeling of the people; their dread of war and their love of peace: and though that mission was, within a year, to prove useless, his failure was not his alone but also the failure of the desires of the people; and through it he at least obtained a period of respite for his country without which, who knows, we might by now have been beaten by our foes.
I like to remember, also, that kindly man as he was to his friends. Gentle and humorous, loving the countryside, and proud of his distinguished family circle; a man in whose presence one had no other thought but that he had no interest in self and did but wish to do his duty to the best of his ability. To Mrs Chamberlain, who not so very long ago was with us at a great gathering in Dudley, our hearts go out at this sad moment. No man in a great position ever had a more sympathetic or kindly consort, and in the momentous days of the Chamberlain Administration the kindly and cheerful help of his wife will always be remembered.
ALAN STUART TODD.