We take a look at Bradford & Bingley, from its separate origins to its recent demise.
The Bradford & Bingley Building Society was only formed in 1964 with the merger of Bradford Equitable Building Society and Bingley Permanent Building Society. The origins of these two separate societies in these neighbouring towns, can both be traced back to the middle of the nineteenth century.
There had actually been earlier societies in both Bradford and Bingley – the Bradford Union Building Society in 1825, and a terminal Building Society in Bingley as early as 1807. A terminal society was usually wound up as soon as it had raised the funds needed to build the scheme, while a permanent society continued to build funds.
The Bradford Second Equitable Building Society was formed on 18th August 1851 with 503 investors, each buying £120 of shares
When the Bradford Union was wound up in 1858, the Bradford Second Equitable moved to new premises in Darley Street. Over the next two decades, more working class people started to save with them, and by 1880 they had a profit of over £40,000. After Bradford was granted city status in 1898, a programme of slum clearance began and the society prospered. In 1911, they were able to purchase a typewriter and also install a telephone, and by the following year their assets were more than £1million.
The Bradford Second Equitable’s reputation as a major financial institution was cemented during the First World War, when the society loaned large amounts of money to the government to finance the war effort. This enabled them to open new premises in Bank Street in 1920. Further government confidence came during World War two, when they became an official agent for the sale of National Savings Certificates and Defence Bonds. By the end of the war they had assets of over £10million and had opened branches in both Manchester and Glasgow.
In 1946 the society became the Bradford Equitable Building Society after mergers with several smaller societies, so that when Churchill’s 1951 Conservative Government set a target of building 300,000 new homes, the society had increased their assets to over £22million. This increased further through the next decade so that by the time of their merger with Bingley they were worth £56million with 23 branches across Britain.
The Bingley, Morton and Shipley Permanent Benefit Building Society also started in 1851, although it was much smaller than the Bradford company, having just £5,000 of investment and lending to just 9 members. It was to be successful in the first few decades though, thanks to a building scheme of 42 new streets in Bingley, and Sir Titus Salt’s model village at nearby Saltaire. They were able to purchase their own offices at Queen Street, Bingley in the 1890s.
In 1929, they became simply the Bingley Building Society with assets of £3million. Their first office away from the North of England was opened in London in 1935, and by their centenary year in 1951, their assets totalled £17million. By the time of the merger with the Bradford they had 29 branches nationally and assets of £46million.
The Bradford & Bingley building society officially opened on 1st July 1964 with assets of over £100million and over 50 branches, making them the country’s eighth largest society at the time. By 1967, they were lending a record £37million and had increased their assets to £178million. In 1973, the society’s assets had reached £500million and were able to build brand new head offices in Bingley. The year 1974 also saw the introduction of the famous bowler hatted ‘Mr Bradford and Mr Bingley‘ advertising campaign.
By 1999, the society was the second largest in Britain with over 2.5million members and assets of £18billion. In 2000 the board of directors decided to float the company on the Stock Exchange and so Bradford and Bingley Plc was formed in December of that year.
By 2008, the credit crunch in Britain had led to a dramatic fall in the company’s assets and the loss of 370 jobs. The company
was part nationalised, with the government taking on the mortgage and lending concerns, while the savings side of the business was sold to the Spanish Santander Group who also took over the Abbey National as well as Alliance and Leicester. The branch network of all three were renamed Santander, while the name Bradford & Bingley still remains for the section of the business under government ownership. In January 2015 the old Bradford and Bingley offices were demolished, to the delight of local residents in the town.
In the next post in this series, we will look at postcard printers, Bamforths.