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13 November 2014

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You are in: Bradford and West Yorkshire > History > Local History > Halifax's greatest penny-pincher

Halifax's greatest penny-pincher

It's been said that Yorkshireman know a thing or two about saving money. This can certainly be said of Halifax's Edward Akroyd. The penny bank he founded in his home town is celebrating its 150th anniversary as the Yorkshire Bank.

Yorkshire Bank exhibits

The exhibits on show go back to 1858...

Today the Yorkshire Bank is a very large organisation with corporate headquarters in Glasgow but it started right here in West Yorkshire when Colonel Edward Akroyd who owned large mill complexes in Haley Hill and Copley, both in Halifax, founded the West Riding of Yorkshire Provident Society and Penny Savings Bank in 1859.

statue of Edward Akroyd

It all began with Edward Akroyd

Akroyd was one of those Victorian industrialists who saw it as their duty to improve the conditions of his workers and their families. He came up with a scheme for workers' housing right next to his Haley Hill factory.

Akroyden, Akroyd's model village, was built with the support of the fledgling Halifax Permanent Building Society which, much later, was to become the Halifax. Then in May 1859 Akroyd founded his penny bank in Halifax together with branches in Dewsbury and Oxenhope in the same month. June 1859 saw the establishment of branches in Flockton, Methley and Holbeck. By 1861 the bank had abandoned its Provident Society side and - as the Yorkshire Penny Bank - had branches across Yorkshire.

Life in Halifax in the early 19th century was uncertain as people flocked from the countryside to work in the town's mills. It was also a time when there was quite a bit of financial speculation with many small banks going under. Akroyd realised that working people needed safe places to save for times of sickness and unemployment, not to mention old age.

Yorkshire Bank queue

The Yorkshire Bank opens its first 'daily' branch

In the bank's early days branches were usually only open for one evening a week and were based in school rooms and church halls. And it wasn't just workers who were encouraged to save. In 1865 the Yorkshire Penny Bank opened the first school bank in the world.

Akroyd also recognised the need to support small tradesmen and shopkeepers and, as a result of this, in 1872 the bank introduced cheque books. But it didn't stop there - when, in 1870, Bradford was hit by recession, the Yorkshire Penny Bank opened a soup kitchen in the city.

School bank

The first school bank in the world!

In 2009  the Yorkshire Bank has 190 full-time branches - it had 163 part-time branches in 1893 - and it employs 4,930 people, 1,900 of which are based right here in Yorkshire.

Akroyd's own house is now Halifax's Bankfield Museum so it's only fitting that it's the venue for a special exhibition to mark the Bank's anniversary. Following an appeal for memories and memorabilia, items such as money boxes and paying-in books have gone on show as well as some fascinating old photos, some donated by customers. The oldest items on display date back to 1858.

Yorkshire Bank's Leeds HQ

The Yorkshire Bank today - its Leeds HQ

Edward Akroyd became MP for Halifax. As well as the village which took his name, he built several churches in the town, introduced a workers' pension scheme and supported many educational institutions including the first working-men's college outside London.  It's not surprising that 15,000 mourners came along to pay their respects at his funeral at All Soul's Church in 1887 - after all, it was partly thanks to him that many of them had money in the bank.

The Yorkshire Bank's 150th anniversary is at Halifax's Bankfield Museum until May 31st, 2009.

last updated: 30/04/2009 at 17:20
created: 30/04/2009

You are in: Bradford and West Yorkshire > History > Local History > Halifax's greatest penny-pincher

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