Heritage Town

Halifax Building Societies

By Geoffrey Washington

Prior to the last quarter of the 18 th century a person wishing to borrow money for the purpose of buying or building a house, did so on a private basis through a money lender or a mortgage provider, although some Friendly Societies such as the Loyal Georgian Society did lend money to their members for these purposes. The first large scale Building Society was started in the Birmingham area in 1781, soon to be followed by others of a similar nature.

Several Building Societies were formed in Halifax with the intention of financing specific building projects such as the Halifax Union Building Society, also known as the 'Go-Ahead' Building Society (1845) with Edward Ackroyd and Frank Crossley amongst its Trustees the West Mount Building Society (1870) and the Halifax and District Perfect Thrift Building Society (1894). However these all ceased to exist once their particular housing projects had been completed and were known as 'terminating societies'.

In 1853 several members of the Loyal Georgian Society met in the Oak Room of the Old Cock Hotel in Southgate and from this meeting the Halifax Permanent Benefit Building Society was born. Its first office was over a shop in the Union Cross Yard, Old Market and opened for business in February 1853. Branch offices were soon opened in neighbouring districts and in 1854 the Head Office moved to a single room in Waterhouse Street where the staff comprised the Secretary, six clerks and an office boy.

Jonas Dearnley Taylor was the first Secretary a position which he held until his death in 1902, when he was succeeded by Enoch Hill. The latter became Managing Director in 1917 and President in 1928 in which year he was knighted.

In 1873 the Halifax Permanent Benefit Building Society opened its first purpose built office at 7 - 9 Crossley Street on the corner of Princess Street and by 1918 it was the largest Building Society in England. In 1919 the York building in Commercial Street was acquired and became the Head Office. This building had been erected in 1903 for Alexander Scott Ltd a firm of silk mercers and drapers. Subsequently these premises were altered and considerably enlarged when they became know as the Permanent Buildings. Meanwhile in 1871 the Halifax Equitable Building Society had been formed with its Head Office at 9 George Street although this subsequently moved to larger premises at the corner of Silver Street and Central Street later to be occupied by Martins Bank.

By 1927 Halifax possessed the largest Building Society in the world (the Permanent) and the second largest in the UK (the Equitable) and in that year the two Societies merged to form a financial giant The Halifax Building Society with its head quarters in Commercial Street.

Subsequently a new and much larger administrative office was built on the site of the former Ramsdens Stone Trough Brewery which was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 13 November 1974 whilst the Commercial Street building became the Halifax Branch Office.

The Halifax merged with the Leeds Permanent Building Society in 1995 and with the Bank of Scotland in 2001 to become the Halifax Bank of Scotland.

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