A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 35




A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 35

Up on the mantlepiece we will probably find a metal box with rounded ends. This is a money box that was provided by the Birmingham Municipal Bank.

The bank was unique. Birmingham was the only place to have its own bank. It was established in 1916 by Neville Chamberlain, to help the city support the war effort and existed until 1976 when it became part of the Trustee Savings Bank.

The box had a slot in one end that would have been big enough to take the largest coin – the half crown. For the benefit of anyone who was not around to experience pounds, shillings and pence, a half crown was – as you expect worth half of a crown. A crown was a denomination that was rarely used in the 20th century and was five shillings – a quarter of a pound. So, a half crown was worth two shillings and sixpence. AH! The delights of pre-decimal currency. You can almost hear folk who have only experienced decimal currency screaming “WHAAAT!!”

At the other end of the box was a small circular hole that was ideal for shoving a ten bob note into – if you were ever lucky enough to have one! By the way, ten bob was ten shillings.

So, you’ll learn the value of thrift and when the box was full or you needed money to buy your mom a birthday present you’d find there is a key hole on the bottom to open the box. BUT – you don’t have the key. It has to be taken to the bank to be opened, and you could pay the money into your savings account.

Some folk think you can get the cash out by putting a knife through the slot and easing a coin out. But those bank people are clever. There are metal shutters inside prevent you from doing that!

Let’s imagine for a moment that some bloke living nearby is ready for a pint, but it’s Thursday evening and there is no money in the house. So, he waits patiently for the children to go to bed. He quietly picks up their money box puts it under his coat and sneaks round to George Mitchell’s house, knocks on the door and says “Oi mate, can yer open this this up and get us a few bob out for a beer?” George was of course a lock maker and would have no trouble picking the lock!!!

George Mitchell’s – Birmingham Municipal Bank money box
The Birmingham Municipal Bank HQ in Broad Street – 1966
A branch of The Birmingham Municipal Bank, this one is in Bordesley Green