Following the Bank's establishment in 1919, sites were sought for branches throughout Birmingham as residential development expanded towards the city boundaries. After the passing of Sections 56 and 57 of the Birmingham Corporation (General Powers) Act, 1929, it became possible to open branches outside the city. Many Birmingham branches were established as the city expanded with the development of extensive housing estates. As these estates were initially planned, Birmingham Corporation asked the Bank's Committee of Management if they wished to have a plot reserved for the construction of a branch. Such reservations resulted in a large number of permanent branches. This article describes a number of sites that were offered, purchased, or considered for branches, both inside and outside Birmingham's boundaries, but did not come to fruition.
In 1927, the City Surveyor drew the Bank's attention to a site in Tyseley that he thought might be suitable for a branch. In the early years of the 20th-Century, Tyseley developed as a good working-class district, an extension of Sparkhill along the Stratford Road. The opening of Tyseley Station in 1907 gave added impetus to building development. Farmland south of Formans Road was developed after Yardley amalgamated with Birmingham in 1911. Land east of Reddings Road was subsequently developed by the city council for municipal housing.
At this date, branches had already been opened nearby in Sparkbrook and Springfield to the west of Tyseley, and Acocks Green to the east.
The General Manager requested the City Surveyor to supply information regarding the various building developments in progress or contemplated in the area to guide the Bank Committee in considering sites for branches.
After receiving this information, visits were paid to several sites by members of the Committee in both the Yardley and Tyseley districts resulting in recommendations being made by the General Purposes Sub-Committee on May 9th 1927 that the following sites should be secured:
(a) Land at the junction of Church Road, Hobmoor Road, Stoney Lane and Yew Tree Lane (Yardley) and
(b) Land fronting Warwick Road between Reddings Lane and Knights Lane (Tyseley).
In due course, Yardley branch was opened at the junction of Church Road and Hobmoor Road, but the Bank was informed of a restrictive clause in the Conveyance of the Tyseley plot to the effect that no buildings other than dwelling houses or retail shops could be erected on the land. The General Manager suggested that the consent of the owners to the erection of a bank should first be obtained. However, the Town Clerk informed the City Surveyor that the restriction was an ancient one and that it was impracticable to try to get it removed. Despite the Town Clerk's advice the Bank Committee anticipated that exception would not be taken to the building of bank premises, and it was decided to proceed in the ordinary way and to take the risk.
The General Manager was therefore instructed to arrange for the land to be transferred from the City's Estates Department. However, on September 5th 1927, the following report was produced by the General Manager:
Report on Land at Tyseley
Arising out of the site plan of land fronting Warwick Road, submitted by the City Surveyor, on which it was proposed to erect a branch bank, the Chairman and General Manager have visited the site, and are of opinion the decision to purchase should be reconsidered. The site is much below the level of the footpath and adjoins a stream, and fears are entertained that the ground might be waterlogged as the area is liable to floods. The City Surveyor states that the site would have to be raised to the level of the footpath but that it can be made perfectly dry, and that he is told the stream has not flooded that area. From a building point of view he sees no difficulty.
The Estates Committee approved the transfer of the land to the Bank, and prepared a report to the City Council, but at the request of the Bank's Chairman the report was held back until the Committee had reconsidered the matter. At the same time, the Estates Department revised their estimate of the size of the area from 495 square yards to 641 square yards, and an alternative site on Olton Boulevard West was also suggested, which the City Surveyor considered admirable. It was appreciated that it would be a few years before Olton Boulevard West was completely finished, but it was realised that it would be an important thoroughfare. After visiting the site, it was decided to secure the site on Olton Boulevard West (890 square yards at the corner of Tynedale Road) and abandon the purchase of the Warwick Road site. The decision to switch interest to Olton Boulevard West was based on the understanding that building developments in the next twelve months would result in a population sufficient to justify the erection of a branch. Additionally, another application for the site had been put forward to the Public Works Department, resulting in the Bank Committee desiring to purchase the site without delay, although having no plans to develop the site for some time.
Following the purchase decision, the Chairman and Councillor Gelling made a special visit to the site. According to the plan furnished by the City Surveyor the site measured 890 square yards, but owing to the extraordinary set back fixed by the building line, it was discovered that there would only be 385 square yards available for actual building purposes
Consequently, the Bank's agent, Frank Wilde, was instructed to inspect the site and furnish a full report, together with his valuation of the land. This report stated that a great part of this area was "made up" land to an average depth of 4ft and would therefore entail additional cost in respect of buildings. Frank Wilde pointed out that at the moment the new Olton Boulevard West practically came to a "dead end" with an outlet opposite to a Council School. He did not consider the site to be in an important market position, and pointed out that a good shopping centre was developing near to Tyseley Station on the main Warwick Road, and within a few minutes' walk of the site in question.
The fact that the set back would mean that the front elevation of the Bank would be 46ft 6" from the inside edge of the footpath was seen as a serious drawback. Frank Wilde placed the value of the freehold site at 12/6d per square yard, as against 15/-d per yard fixed by the District Valuer.
After consideration, the Chairman and Councillor Gelling recommended the Bank Committee not to proceed with the contemplated purchase of the land, as in their judgement there was not a sufficiency of population in the area to justify the erection of a permanent branch, and they were also of the opinion that the price which would have to be paid for the land made the proposition unattractive.
The Bank first began to look for a suitable site for a branch at Salford Bridge in October 1925. Salford Bridge is not a district of Birmingham but the name of the road crossing of the River Tame that is now subsumed by the mass of the Gravelly Hill Interchange (Spaghetti Junction) on the M6 Motorway. Historically, the road carried by the Salford Bridge was an important route from Worcester to Lichfield, and is less than 2-miles from Birmingham's city centre.
Early in 1927, the City Surveyor drew the Bank's attention to a site at the corner of Tyburn Road and Gravelly Hill that was owned by the Corporation who planned to utilise part of it to construct public conveniences. The City Surveyor was asked to produce a plan and he responded with a design for a single-storey branch with a curved frontage. The General Manager thought that a curved frontage would involve the Bank with additional costs, but the City Surveyor felt that this was the only possible design for the limited space available. The Bank Committee approved the plan and decided to take the necessary steps to purchase the land. The General Manager was instructed to obtain tenders, but in December 1927, produced the following report:
Report re Proposed Bank at Salford Bridge
The Committee have approved plans prepared by the City Surveyor for a one-storey Bank to be erected on land at the corner of Gravelly Hill and Tyburn Road, such plans also showing the erection of public lavatories at the rear. The City Surveyor was asked to give his estimate of the cost of the bank buildings before further steps were taken in the matter. The estimate has now been received and shows the cost to be £2,040, after taking into account the wishes of the Committee that the woodwork should be in deal instead of mahogany and that a cheaper type of flooring should be provided for, and also that the front elevation should be in cement stucco instead of Hollington stone.
The only one-storey Bank, which is in every way satisfactory, is that erected at Spring Hill which cost £1,641. Having regard to such price the Chairman requested the City Surveyor to look into the matter again to see if a less costly Bank could be erected.
The City Surveyor has done so, but points out that the area of the Spring Hill Bank is 953 superficial feet as compared with 1,200 proposed for Salford Bridge and that proportionately the price works out the same. Other points to which attention is drawn are:
(1) That the frontage of Spring Hill Bank is only 17 feet with very little expensive face work, while at Salford Bridge there is 79 feet of frontage.
(2) At Spring Hill a 4½ inch wall on one of the long sides was found sufficient and a perfectly plain wall on the other side.
The City Surveyor points out that a less costly Bank could, of course, be erected at Salford Bridge but having regard to the prominence and importance of the site it would spoil the amenities of the immediate vicinity. A smaller type Bank would give more room for public lavatories, which, from the Public Works Committee point of view, would be acceptable.
Application was made to the Public Works Department for this particular land to be transferred to the Bank, and on the 16th May 1927 the City Surveyor was informed that the Bank Committee would be willing to give an undertaking that the land should be re-transferred to the Public Works Department, when required for street widening purposes, at the same price as is arranged in connection with the first transfer. On the 27th July 1927 the City Surveyor reported that the transfer would involve 150 square yards, and the price would be £3 per square yard. On enquiry it was learned from the General Manager of the Estates Department that the price of £3 per square yard had been fixed after consultation with independent professional valuers in the City.
The question of proceeding with the scheme under these circumstances causes concern. While it is not questioned that the site is an important one from many points of view, it is doubtful whether the Bank at this point will pay its way. The district cannot be regarded as an important shopping area nor is it likely to become one owing to restrictive house building on one side of Tyburn Road.
Having regard to the banking facilities at Six Ways, Erdington and at Pype Hayes the General Manager doubts whether there will ever be a sufficient population to justify the Bank at Salford Bridge. In his opinion the Bank in the neighbourhood of Aston Station, where there is a greater density of population would be more successful. Figures as to population in the two areas will be submitted to the meeting of the General Purposes Sub-Committee.
Consequently, the projected branch at Salford Bridge was abandoned. No branch was opened in the close neighbourhood of Aston Station but there were already branches not far away at Aston Cross and Nechells.