National Building Society: A Link With Cobden And Bright.

This was from the Times in 1935, entitled:  ” A Link With Cobden And Bright: The  History Of The National Building Society. “ The National Building Society started as the National Permanent Mutual Benefit Building Society founded by two Liberal M.P’s, Sir Joshua Walmsley and Richard Cobden, in 1849. In 1944, the Abbey Road Building Society  and National Building Society merged to become The Abbey National, which it remained until 2004 when it was bought by Santander. At the time, Sir Josh and Richard Cobden were next-door neighbours in Westbourne Terrace. Both houses were slightly larger than the ” modest villa(s) ” they were promoting. Both houses were six storeys, with twenty rooms, and in 1851 the Walmsleys had a household staff of six.



The history of the National Building Society, which dates its beginning from a meeting at the London Tavern, Bishopsgate, in 1849, is related by Mr. George Elkington, F.R.T.B.A., chairman of the society, in “The National Building Society, 1849-1934,” just published (W. Heffer and Sons, Cambridge).

The original meeting decided to form a society for the purchase of land to enable members to qualify as voters by acquiring a plot of land of the annual value of £40. Among the founders were the leaders of the Anti-Corn Law agitation, Richard Cobden, John Bright, Joseph Hume, and Sir Joshua Walmsley.

In its early days the movement had many enemies. Mr. Elkington quotes from an article on the Reform Bill in a magazine published in 1852:-” You have only to walk to Stoke Newington, and at the back of the Coach and Horses Lane you will see the new-fledged free- holders all working like negroes to raise up a modern Utopia.”

The original political object of the movement soon passed, and the society is entitled to look upon itself as one of the pioneers of the great building society movement. The cost of building 80 years ago, when compared with the price of modem houses, seems incredible.

In a circular published in 1854, the directors of the society presented articles and plans descriptive of houses ” suited to the wants of a considerable number of members.” The first of these was a modest villa containing on the ground floor a front and back parlour, hall and kitchen, and on the upper storey a landing and three bedrooms. The cost of erection was estimated, ” in the near neighbourhood of London, at £160.” [ a modern day equivalent of £115,000] “The next design, somewhat more ambitious, was for a pair of houses with, for each house, a half-sunk basement containing two kitchens, a ground floor with hall, dining room, parlour, bathroom, and one bedroom, and an upper storey with three bedrooms and a dressing room. The estimated cost was £700 a pair. [ a modern day equivalent of £500,000]

The period since the War is described by Mr. Elkington as the years of swift expansion. The present time, he says, finds the building society movement with a remarkable history of swift expansion still actively progressing and discovering fresh opportunities of service int its wide field.

from The Times, January 18, 1935

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