Impressed with the results achieved by Manchester, the Bank decided in May 1922
that they should be introduced in Birmingham. The Bank committee, however, had one reservation: Manchester's home safes were foreign
made, although, before the First World War they had been manufactured in Birmingham - by Kynoch at Witton. Obviously, it was unacceptable
that Birmingham should purchase an item made from metal, other than in the world's 'metal bashing' capital!
Although the safes proved
to be very popular with adults, the initial publicity in relation to home safes emphasised their beneficial use in developing
the saving habit in children, as the text of a contemporary newspaper report of a Bank Committee meeting stated:
decided, at an early date, to introduce a system of savings by means of home safes. By this means the committee hope to develop thrift
among children. The safe will be of steel, manufactured in Birmingham. The Manchester and Salford Savings Bank introduced a similar
system some years ago, and over half a million pounds has been paid into the bank through safes.
The Bank therefore approached several
local firms with a view to placing its initial order for these strongly-made steel receptacles. However, the costs of making tools
and installing the necessary machinery, together with the risk of not receiving repeat orders, caused several engineering firms to
decline an order to produce the safes.
Eventually, Wilkins & Wright of Kenyon Street agreed to make 2,500 safes. These safes were
quickly taken up by depositors, and repeat orders followed. Later, safes were also manufactured for the Bank by Taylor, Law &
Co of Adams Street.
Each Home Safe was individually numbered, commencing at 1. The images (right) show the base of one of
the earliest Home Safes (Number 1913), produced by Wilkins & Wright Ltd
The first 50 safes were delivered to the Bank from
the manufacturers on November 16th 1922. The Home Safes Received and Distributed Record Book shows that the first 1,650 safes were
delivered over a period of about seven weeks:
The Home Safes Received and Distributed Record Book indicates that the Bank maintained a very detailed record that monitored the whereabouts
of each individual home safe. For example, the note in red ink against the entry for Home Safe No 1 (above) is: This safe transferred
to Hall Green 22 April 1928. AGMs instructions. Amazingly, maintenance of these records at this level of detail continued for
many years - the record for Home Safe No 1648 is annotated: transferred to Sandwell, June 1937; transferred to Kingstanding February
To qualify for a Home Safe, a depositor signed a form
agreeing to pay 1/- (5 pence) and to keep a balance of at least
6/- (30 pence) in their account -
this latter amount was increased to 8/- from December 8th 1952. The initial fee was dropped
later, but the retention sums were the amounts to be charged to a depositor for a Home Safe that was lost or wilfully damaged.
maintenance of detailed records for Home Safes at branch level was abolished in May 1966 when Head Office informed branches that:
new procedure for dealing with Home Safes is instituted by the re-drafting of Instruction number 9; it will be noted that all Record
Book entries for returned, re-issued and transferred Home Safes now cease and that the compilation of the annual return MB 78 and
the maintenance of Home Safe History Cards is no longer necessary; these latter can be removed from the file and should be set aside
for destruction in due course. The use of the Home Safe cash book will also be discontinued.)
The issue of Home Safes was marked
by the following verses appearing in the Birmingham Mail, and the insertion of an advertisment:
The Song of the Home Safe
I am modest in proportion,
Quite a miniature affair;
But I show you how to treasure
Ev'ry copper you can spare.
From the smallest of beginnings
You will find I quickly teach
How to climb by gentle stages,
How the topmost rung to reach.
For, remember the old adage
That a penny saved is earned,
There can be but sad refelctions
On the money that is burned.
Take me, therefore, to your bosom,
And wherever you may roam
You will find a friend if need be
In your little safe at home.
the first four months (December 1922 to March 1923) following
their introduction 2,469 safes were issued.
The popularity of the safes
is illustrated by the following table
of Number of Safes in Issue at March 31st:
- 1925 ...... 11,052
- 1930 ...... 55,417
- 1935 ...... 92,520
- 1940 .... 108,830
- 1945 ....
- 1950 .... 116,607
- 1955 .... 120,861
- 1959 .... 128,030
the last year that Home Safe statistics were detailed in the Annual Report. In prior years, comprehensive figures
demand for safes must have exceeded demand on may occasions. In July 1955, a letter from Thrifty of Great Barr was published in the
We are constantly exhorted to save more, but many prospective savers are handicapped through the shortage of home
For the past nine months I have regularly asked for one at my own bank, the Municipal, only to be told that there are none available,
new or returned.
A home bank teaches children the value of thrift besides accumulating those odd threepenny pieces, coppers and small
silver that soon amount to pounds.
What is the reason for the shortage?
[A Municipal Bank official comments:
"There has been a shortage
of home safes, and some of our 67 branches may have had difficulty in supplying one. If your correspondent will apply direct to Head
Office, stating his pass book number, we will see that one is provided for him immediately."]
The Bank's records show that, in
May 1938, the purchase of 10,000 additional Home Safes was approved. These were to be purchased from Messrs Wilkins & Wright Ltd
at a cost of 2s 11d (15 pence) each. Based on the above statistics, it would seem that these additional safes met demand until the
mid-1950s when the above correspondence occured.
Periodically, Home Safes needed to be returned to the manufacturer for repair.
A report to the General Manager in 1947 stated that 1,081 safes were with Messrs Wilkins and Wright Ltd for this purpose. But the
process was not proceeding smoothly - the safes had been dismantled but repairs had been delayed due to a shortage of labour. Wilkins
and Wright stated that the cost of repairing, reassembling, re-coppering and re-bronzing would be 5/- (25 pence) each. They would,
however, be prepared to undertake the repair of a further 500 (at a cost of 2/6d (12½ pence) each) if the finish was by cellulose
spraying in black instead of re-bronzing. The cheaper cellulose spraying alternative seems to have subsequently been the standard
method of repair, resulting in many safes having this finish.
The Bank's home safe incorporated a slot at the top of one end,
through which the saver deposited coins; the safe's mechanism preventing the coins being extracted via the slot. Emptying the safe
was only possible through a locked door on the bottom - the key being held by the Bank. Periodically, therefore, the depositor took
the safe into the Bank for its contents to be credited to his or her account. Opening the safe would sometimes reveal non-monetary
items: small objects pushed in by infants; or even earwigs.
In due course, a small hole was added to the home safe at the opposite
end from the slot; this was used to deposit rolled-up bank notes. Later issues of home safes included a smaller, oval design
in nickel, and a book-shaped version. These were manufactured by Automatic Recording Safe Co Ltd (of London), and Pearson-Page-Dewsbury
Co Ltd (of Birmingham), respectively.
Each safe was stamped with the unique number recorded in the Home Safes Received and
Distributed Record Book, which was recorded on the depositor's ledger sheet and passbook when the safe was issued, following completion
of the appropriate form. When the home safe was presented at the Bank to be opened, the cashier marked the deposit slip (eg "H/S")
to indicate the source of the cash. Each day, at each branch, the number and amount of deposits by home safe was required to be entered
into a record book - this record forming the basis of the annually reported statistics. These statistics can only be regarded as a
rough guide, given the propensity of bored junior clerks to make up the figures when the task had not been done for a few days!
was the task of each branch to balance its stock of home safes each month. This almost universally loathed task was accomplished with
the aid of the Home Safe Agreement Form (MB 76) - new forms representing issues, and cancelled forms denoting returns.
humble home safe was a very popular facility that introduced and encouraged the savings habit to many depositors. It became outmoded
as the Bank moved away from its savings roots. The issuing of free safes which could only be opened by the Bank was discontinued in
1974. A few years earlier, plastic 'thrifty boxes'
(complete with a key) were introduced for sale at branches.
discontinuation of issuing the original style of Home Safes, a stock of surrendered safes accumulated. Although, Britain's First Municipal
Savings Bank had described the safes as being of steel construction (and an Annual report saying they were 'neat little steel receptacles'),
it was generally understood by bank staff that they were made of bronze. An attempt was made to cash in on the redundant stock by
selling them as scrap metal, but they were found to be made of a bronze alloy, and were thus worthless.