Devon & Exeter Savings Bank
Devon & Exeter Savings Bank was established in 1815. It was one of the very first in England and Wales. The impetus behind it came from local philanthropist, Samuel F. Milford. He had studied the workings of the Scottish savings banks, set up a few years earlier. Milford went on to serve as a trustee of the Bank. Others included the Bishop of Exeter and the Earl of Morley.
The Bank’s first office was based in the High Street, Exeter. Within its first year, it attracted deposits of more than £4,000. By 1825, some 12,000 accounts had been opened. The Bank went on to forge a network of agencies throughout Devon. These were mainly run by local clergymen, who actively encouraged their congregations to save. By the mid 19th century, Devon & Exeter was one of only two savings banks in the UK whose deposits topped £1 million. The other was Glasgow Savings Bank.
Towards the end of the century, the Bank began to open penny banks in schools. The aim was to encourage the habit of saving from a young age. Penny banks were more accessible than savings banks, since customers could deposit as little as a penny. When they had saved up a £1, they could open an account at the parent bank.
The Bank continued to grow during the first half of the 20th century. It was helped, in part, by the Government’s savings drive during the First World War, in support of the war effort.
During the Second World War, Exeter was bombed heavily by the German Luftwaffe. In 1942, the Bank’s head office was completely destroyed. Despite the scale of the devastation, staff were able to transfer all operations to the nearby St Thomas branch. Head Office was up and running again just eight hours after the air raid.