History and Redevelopment

The redevelopment of the former Municipal Bank began in 2018. Our aim was to celebrate the remarkable heritage of the Bank, while creating an inclusive and welcoming space for modern visitors. Three years on, we are delighted to share our progress in restoring this much-loved building back to the city.

Free standing safety deposit boxes (left) and a stained glass window (right)

History of the Birmingham Municipal Bank

The Birmingham Municipal Bank was opened after the First World War as a means for people of the city to rebuild their lives. The Bank's headquarters moved to several different locations in the city centre before eventually settling at 301 Broad Street, Centenary Square. The building was opened on 27 November 1933 by Prince George.

The Bank's status changed when it became a Trustee Savings Bank (TSB) in 1976. Following the departure of TSB, the landmark building was empty and for almost two decades. During this time, it was occasionally used to host public exhibitions, television advertisements and BBC TV productions such as Hustle, Line of Duty, Survivors and Toast.

Banking Hall iron gate
Birmingham Municipal Bank crest
Banking Hall ceiling on which the words 'Saving is the mother of riches' is inscribed

You can find historical images and more information on the history of the Bank on The History of the Birmingham Municipal Bank website.

Redevelopment

In 2018, the University of Birmingham purchased the Grade II listed former Municipal Bank on a long-lease from Birmingham City Council. It had been without a permanent tenant for almost two decades. The video below shows the progress of the complex capital project, which is due to be completed in summer 2021. Several rooms in The Exchange will be named after inspirational figures whose lives are part of the story of Birmingham.

Transformational figures to be named in The Exchange

The Benjamin Zephaniah Room

Dr Benjamin Zephaniah (1958 - ) is a poet, writer, lyricist, actor and musician. Born in Handsworth, Birmingham, he finished full-time education at the age of 13 but continued to write poetry, publishing his first book, Pen Rhythm, aged 22. Zephaniah is now an award-winning poet whose works are a stunning combination of rhythm, realism and politics. He continues to use his voice and his pen as tools of transformation and illumination, inspiring people across the globe to write about the reality of their contexts. Benjamin Zephaniah holds several honorary degrees and was awarded a doctorate from the University of Birmingham in 2008.

The Dhani Prem Room

Dr Dhani Prem (1904–1979) was a medical practitioner and political activist. Born in Aligarh, India, he was part of the national movement for Indian independence before moving to the UK to continue his medical studies. Prem arrived in Birmingham with his family on the eve of the Second World War and for the remainder of his life, worked as a general practitioner in some of Birmingham’s poorest districts. He remained politically active, becoming Birmingham’s first councillor of Asian origin, and was author of ‘The Parliamentary Leper, A History of Colour Prejudice in Britain’.

The MACE archives feature a 1968 interview with Dhani Prem discussing the Race Relations Act.

The Graham Turner Entrepreneurship Centre

Dr Graham Turner graduated from the University of Birmingham in 1958 in Botany. Following his passing in 2018, Dr Turner left his assets to the University, for them to be used in a manner that would benefit the students and the city of Birmingham. His generosity supported the establishment of this Entrepreneurship Centre and reminds us of the enduring qualities of philanthropy and its role in creating opportunities for the future generations.

The Mary Sturge Room

Mary Sturge (1865 – 1925) was a medical practitioner, progressive educationalist, and philanthropist. Born in Yardley, Birmingham, she was one of the first four women scholars at Mason College (the institution from which the University of Birmingham was founded). Sturge was a doctor at Birmingham Women’s Hospital and wrote extensively on preventative medicines and the ill effects of alcohol on the human body. Throughout her life, she was a campaigner for women’s rights, joining the woman’s suffrage movement and advocating for local nursery education.

The Stuart Hall Room

Professor Stuart Hall (1932 – 2014) was a teacher, writer, and cultural studies pioneer, whose work put questions of power and inequality at its centre and insisted on the need for a divided Britain to interrogate narrow definitions of race and identity. Stuart was born in Jamaica and lived in Birmingham for 17 years with his wife, Catherine and their two children. While in Birmingham, he directed the UK’s first Centre for Cultural Studies. Stuart would go on to teach at the Open University and to work closely with a new generation of Black British artists.

Stuart Hall's work continues through the Stuart Hall Foundation and his archive is held at the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library.

The Winifred Hackett Room

Dr Winifred Hackett (1906 – 1994) is the first female Engineering graduate from the University of Birmingham. Born in Kings Norton, Birmingham, she received a first class degree in Electrical Engineering in 1929, winning the prize for Best Engineer in the University of Birmingham. Hackett completed a PhD at Birmingham before going on to be an Aeronautical Engineer. She was involved in the Women’s Engineering Society and was its President from 1946-47. In this role, she campaigned for equal pay amongst engineers and regularly lectured on Engineering Womanpower.

Read more about Winifred Hackett and other magnificent women in Engineering.

The Exchange - Virtual Tour