Black and white image of a group of workers who built The Exchange building in 1933

Thrift Radiates Happiness

The Exchange was once the headquarters of Birmingham Municipal Bank. Thrift Radiates Happiness is a photographic display of images of the bank, when it was first opened in 1933.

What is Thrift Radiates Happiness about?

Birmingham Municipal Bank (BMB) was the only bank in the country operated by a local authority. Set up to assist the war effort in 1916, it became permanent in 1919. After outgrowing several premises a new purpose built head office was opened in 1933, when there were 54 branches across the city.

Birmingham Municipal Bank was the working man and woman’s bank ‘where pennies were welcome’ – no amount was too small to be saved. Throughout the building there are inscriptions reminding bank users of the benefits of being prudent. ‘Thrift Radiates Happiness’, can still be seen today on the frieze in what was The Banking Hall and is today the café.

This building was part of grand plans for a large civic complex in the area now known as Centenary Square. Those plans were never fully realised and only this building, The Hall of Memory and Baskerville House were built.

The images include the laying of the foundation stone by the Bank’s chair Neville Chamberlain alongside architect T Cecil Howitt, the grand opening event day attended by Prince George, the team of construction workers ‘The Gang’ and a series of interior images of the fine new bank ready to open its doors to the public.

Images have been reproduced courtesy of the Library of Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library, Lloyds Banking Group Archive.

Explore it for yourself

Exhibition in the South Entrance

From February 2024

Open Monday to Saturday, 10:00 - 16:00

Free Admission