Leeds Permanent Building Society

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Not to be confused with Leeds Building Society.
Picture of the former Leeds Permanent Building Society HQ on The Headrow in Leeds City Centre

The Leeds Permanent Building Society was a building society founded in Leeds, England in 1846 and was commonly known in a shortened form as The Leeds. It should not be confused with the still existing Leeds Building Society (formerly Leeds and Holbeck Building Society)

Originally the Leeds was known as The Leeds Building and Investment Society which was to have been a temporary terminating society which would have been disbanded but demand soon outstripped the society's ability to build and The Leeds was converted to a permanent status.

On 8 November 1848, the new permanent Society, known as the Permanent Second Leeds Benefit Building Society, was officially founded. By the end of its first year, 1,200 members had enrolled, and £14,286 had been advanced on mortgages – nearly £700,000 today.

The Society's first offices were located in Exchange Buildings in Lands Lane, where business was conducted from 10am to 4pm, and also 7pm to 9pm on Tuesdays. They later moved to 32 Park Row, and then in 1876, to premises at the corner of Park Lane and Calverley, where the Society was to remain for the next 50 years.

In 1930, head office moved to newly constructed premises at 18 Park Lane – Permanent House - designed by local architect C.W. Atkinson. Permanent House was the Leeds’ home until the move to new premises in Lovell Park in 1992.

The founders of the Leeds Permanent were 'not men who let the grass grow under their feet'. Within six months, the Society had opened more than eight agencies across neighbouring towns, including Wetherby, Barnsley and Huddersfield. By the time of its tenth birthday in 1858, the Society had 3,500 members and was proudly proclaiming itself to be the largest building society in the world.

The competent management of the Society won it a high reputation at national level, and in 1871, the Society was asked to give evidence to a Royal Commission in London, which was gathering evidence on the operations of friendly societies. The Leeds was specially commended by the Commission as a model society.

By the early years of the 20th century, the Leeds had assets of almost £2 million, and the first telephones and electric lighting had been installed at its head office.

The interwar years saw a period of unprecedented growth. Agents were appointed all over Britain and branch offices opened in virtually every major city, including London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester.

Between 1920 and 1940, total assets increased to over £40 million, while membership increased more than tenfold to over 200,000. Sir Charles Davies, one of Leeds’ best known public figures, oversaw much of the growth and charted the future direction of the Leeds during this time.

The 1940s onwards saw the Leeds involved in a series of mergers with other societies, including the London North Eastern Railway Building Society, the Doncaster Building Society and the Midland Building Society. The 1950s and 1960s also saw another phase of branch expansion, with the Leeds' 100th branch opening in 1970. Expansion to its Leeds Head Office took place in this period which included the construction of various adjacent annexes to its 1930s HQ including the 61 m tall Leeds Permanent Tower (these annexes were demolished as part of the works to create The Light around 2000).

HBOS offices in Lovell Park, Leeds, formerly that of the Leeds Permanent Building Society, before their takeover by the Halifax Bank in 1995.

Technology too was beginning to make an impact. In 1964 the board approved a research project to investigate the conversion of mechanical accounting to electronic data processing. The Society's first computer was subsequently installed in 1967.

Like many other Building Societies, the Leeds later took advantage of changes bought by the Building Societies Act 1986, diversifying its business into share-selling, off-shore banking, estate agency and property development.

Further amalgamations were considered in the 1980s and early 1990s including the Southdown Building Society which proceeded, but others were not forthcoming. It had a notable television advertising campaign featuring George Cole in the same period which featured the slogan Laughing all the way to The Leeds. In 1993 a new head office at Lovell Park replaced the Leeds's previous head office on The Headrow which was eventually replaced with The Light shopping and leisure complex.

Then in 1995, the Leeds merged with the Halifax Building Society, which shortly afterwards converted to plc status. After its merger with the Halifax the use of the Leeds Building Society name had ceased. In turn the Halifax had merged with Bank of Scotland to form HBOS in 2001 which in turn became part of Lloyds Banking Group in 2009 due to the collapse of its share price and exposure to the credit crunch.