Halifax Equitable Benefit Building Society

(1871-1928)

Early Days

When the Halifax Equitable Benefit Building Society was founded in 1871, there were already two well-established societies in the town.  Even so, it did brisk business from the start.  Its founding committee was made up of local businessmen. These included Henry Haley, an official at the Halifax Union Bank, and Walter Common, who became the Society’s first secretary.

Walter Common, Secretary 1871-1897.
Walter Common, Secretary 1871-1897.

At its annual meeting a year later, the Society reported 652 shares on the books, and a profit of £57: 1s: 6d. By 1876, its annual expenses (for salaries, stationery, agents and auditors etc.) amounted to 'a trifle under £500'.

Head office at Silver Street.
Head office at Silver Street.

The Equitable’s first offices were located at 25 Waterhouse Street, but within a month, it had moved to Bank Buildings.  The secretary, clerks, auditors, and directors all shared a single room! The Society moved office on two further occasions: to George Street in 1877, and to a purpose-built head office at Silver Street, in 1898.

Branching Out

A branch network was begun in 1873, with offices in Queensbury, Ovenden, Sowerby Bridge, West Vale, Elland and Brighouse. Initially, the Equitable pursued a cautious expansion policy. In 1921, 40 of its 55 branches were within a 12 mile radius of Halifax. Only five of these were open daily and staffed by Equitable employees; the others functioned as agencies.

It was under the leadership of Joseph Harger Mitchell, appointed Secretary in 1897, that the Society embarked on a period of unprecedented growth. Between 1897 and 1921, the membership increased from 3,600 to more than 23,000, while assets rose above £3 million.

The Halifax Equitable saw the small-scale borrower as its primary market. Indeed, the annual reports repeatedly stressed how few of its mortgages were for large sums. In 1901, the average lent was £286, while a 'large sum' was more than £3,000.

Halifax Equitable advert, 1917.
Halifax Equitable advert, 1917.

The Equitable was the first building society to move into the banking sector.  It opened the Equitable Bank Limited on 1st January 1900.  While this was a successful venture, it ultimately amalgamated with the Bank of Liverpool and Martins, in 1927.

Halifax Wedding Bells

By the time of its 50th anniversary in 1921, the Equitable was the third largest building society in the UK. It was also recognised as the fastest growing.

In 1928, the directors of the Halifax Equitable and the Halifax Permanent Benefit Building Society decided to merge. The new company, five times larger than its nearest rival, was known as the Halifax Building Society.

 Return to the Halifax family tree.

Booklet advertising the 'marriage' of the two Halifax societies, 1928.
Booklet advertising the 'marriage' of the two Halifax societies, 1928.

Further Information

  • The Halifax Equitable Benefit Building Society. Jubilee. 1871-1921 by Messrs J. W. Alderson and A. E. Ogden, (Halifax Weekly Courier and Guardian, Halifax, 1921).
  • A small number of archives relating to the Halifax Equitable (mainly regarding its amalgamation with the Halifax) are held by Lloyds Banking Group Archives in Edinburgh - for further information see our archive collections.