They were men with ordinary jobs in bustling, Victorian Huddersfield.
And the work put in by the draper, the plumber and the shoemaker among others means they have left a multi-billion pound legacy.
Now the history of the Yorkshire Building Society, which began life in the heart of Huddersfield, is being remembered.
The Society marked its 150th year with the unveiling of a plaque to mark its birthplace and also put on an exhibition of Victorian memorabilia outside its original headquarters.
The Society’s roots go back to 1864 when the Huddersfield Equitable Permanent Benefit Building Society was founded.
King Street, Huddersfield, was a bustling Victorian street, full of life and colour. Market traders mingled with Evangelists and thieves, and businesses made their way in a newly made, very modern world.
That was the setting for a bold self-help venture on the corner of the street: the Huddersfield Equitable Permanent Building Society.
In August 1864, the first floor of 28 King Street in Huddersfield became the headquarters of the Huddersfield Equitable Permanent Benefit Building Society. It opened for business with office hours of 10am – 4pm, (10am – 1pm on a Saturday), with a monthly subscription night from 7 – 9pm.
It was where the draper Joseph Hirst, first president of the Society, met with other directors in the light corner rooms of the office, producing handwritten notes to set up a Society that would still be here 150 years later.
Yorkshire Building Society’s Chief Executive Chris Pilling said: “Our founders back in 1864 were people with ordinary day jobs, such as a plumber, a dentist and a shoemaker. What united them was a belief in better lives for all, and an aspiration for ordinary people to achieve status in life. Through owning a property, people had a reason to work hard and make progress. In those days, only property owners were allowed to vote, so this was also a way of letting people have a say in their society.
“We have been serving communities for the last 150 years and are proud to have reached this milestone anniversary. Everything we have done over these six generations has always been with our members’ best interests at heart. Whether it’s through the products and services we provide or the charities and worthy causes we support. Times may have changed but our values haven’t.”
Huddersfield Civic Society’s Chairman Chris Marsden said: “Huddersfield Civic Society appreciates that since 1864 Yorkshire Building Society has contributed directly and indirectly to the fabric and prosperity of the area. I am delighted to welcome the plaque that commemorates this heritage.
“Huddersfield developed as a market town; a place of commerce, industry and individual and collective enterprise. That the roots of the Yorkshire Building Society were from the heart of the town 150 years ago should come as no surprise; our forebears were industrious and prudent folk valuing economic self-help.”
The Society is now the second largest building society in the UK. It includes Barnsley Building Society, Chelsea Building Society, Norwich & Peterborough Building Society and Yorkshire Building Society, in addition to intermediary only lender Accord Mortgages and share plans provider YBS Share Plans. It also owns the Egg brand.
The Group has 231 branches, 96 agencies and assets of £34.5 billion. It employs approximately 4,300 staff and has 3.4 million customers.