April 2009 Archives
On 20th July 1867, family papers show that one of my great great grandfathers, William Williams, took out a mortgage on his home, a terraced house named Talywaen, in Penmachno. The mortgage was with the North Denbighshire Permanent Benefit Building Society. The Annual Report for 1890-91, which is the only one available at the Denbighshire Archives in Rhuthun, shows that the Society was established in 1866. They had solicitors and agents throughout northern Wales and Liverpool, including an Agent in Penmachno. The accounts show that by 1891 they had built up assets worth over ÃÂ£220,000.
A document dated 1874 in the Denbighshire Archives shows that there were 16 Societies in the county at that time, the earliest being the Abergele Building Society established in 1841. A brief check in the Gwynedd Archives shows that there are numerous papers relating to small building societies throughout Gwynedd in the second half of the nineteenth century.
William Williams's mother was left a widow with 7 children when he was 5 and he had a very hard upbringing, working on farms when he was very young and working in the quarry when he was old enough. He was never a high earner or wealthy but he wanted to do his best for his family and took out a mortgage as did thousands like him during the nineteenth century. The small local Building Societies grew, some no doubt fell by the wayside but many prospered. Most of the small Societies merged with others and so the big Societies like the Halifax, Bradford and Bingley, Northern Rock etc developed and became trusted organisations through which people were able buy houses or invest their savings. This is what they did and they did it effectively.
When people like me took out our first mortgages in the 1960s the limit was two and a half times the earnings and they vetted us very carefully to ensure that we could afford the payments. So it carried on successfully into the 1980s until along came Margaret Thatcher who decided that the Building Societies should be allowed to become banks. These mutual societies, owned by their investors, were allowed to vote as to whether or not they wished to become banks. Many of the members, spurned on by the promised windfall gains, voted for the change. Some unscrupulous people invested the minimum amount required in a number of targeted vulnerable societies with a view to influencing the vote and making a quick profit.
So the steady, well managed, safe mutual building societies became under-regulated banks. Caution was thrown into the wind; they invested in derivatives which they didn't understand and started lending up to 5 or 6 times joint self-certified earnings on up to 125% of the value of the property and the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, sat back, twiddled his thumbs and did absolutely nothing to stop this madness. And he was then surprised that Northern Rock collapsed! And even then it took him six months after the bank was nationalised to put a stop to the totally irresponsible 125% mortgages funded by the tax-payer's money - our money!
The once great institutions like the Halifax Building Society are now in ruins. The greedy, incompetent charlatans who've been running the banks in recent years, motivated only by the thought of how big their totally immoral and unjustified bonuses would be, have ruined the banking system; ruined our economy; bankrupt numerous small businesses and caused thousands to become unemployed. They've also totally betrayed the visionary pioneers of the building society movement in the nineteenth century and the faith of those ordinary honest and thrifty hard working people like my great great grandfather, William Williams, who trusted those societies.
The next Gwynedd Family History Society meetings are:
Bangor, 7 April (first Tuesday of each month) 7.00pm at the Quakers Meeting Hall, Dean Street: Gina Kent and Helen Hughes, two short talks
Caernarfon, 30 April (last Thursday of each month) 7.00pm at The Library, LÃÅœn Pafiliwn:
William Parry , "Hanes modurdy Dinas"
Dolgellau, 9 Ebrill (second Thursday of each month) 7.00pm at the Royal Ship Hotel:
Llandudno, 6 April (second Monday of each month) 7.00pm at Capel Ebenezer, Abergele Road, Old Colwyn (please note new meeting place):
J Bryan Jones, "An American Evening"
Llangefni, 16 April (third Thursday of each month) 7.15pm at Capel Smyrna, Ffordd Glanhwfa: Bethan Wyn Jones, "Planhigion Meddyginiaethol"
Pwllheli, 17 Ebrill (third Friday of each month) 7.00pm at Capel Seion, Lon Dywod:
Y Parch Emlyn Richards, "Bywyd Lloft Stabal"