The 'Halifax Permanent Benefit Building and Investment Society' (soon afterwards shortened to 'Halifax Permanent Benefit Building Society') was founded in December 1852 by a group of local townsmen. The founders included Jonas Dearnley Taylor, a solicitor's clerk, John Fisher, a local bank manager and Esau Hanson, a textile manufacturer.
The purpose of the Society, as the name suggests, was to provide local people with a facility where they could either save small sums of money or borrow money to build or buy a home. Unlike early building societies which were 'terminating' (i.e. they disbanded once sufficient funds had been raised to build homes for all members) the Halifax was a 'permanent' society, which would continue for as long as it was viable. Sums paid in by investors were used to provide loans to borrowers.
A series of preparatory meetings were held in the Oak Room at the Old Cock Inn, Halifax, in late 1852 and early 1853. There the founders drew up a set of Rules to regulate the operation of the new Society, appointed a President (John Fisher) and a board of 14 directors. Jonas Taylor assumed the role of Secretary, a post he continued to hold for the next 50 years. On the 22nd January 1853 an advertisement in the 'Halifax Guardian' announced that the Society's first meeting 'for receiving Subscriptions' would be held on 4th February in an office in the Old Market, between 7-9pm.
Business appears to have been brisk from the start. For a small fee, customers could enrol as members of the Society, and pay regular subscriptions. Those unable to afford these were permitted to save ad hoc sums as and when they could. By early March, almost £600 had been deposited with the Society. The first applications for loans had also been received by this time, though it was some weeks before the first mortgage was actually issued. On 26th May, the directors approved a payment of £121 to Esau Hanson. The loan was for the purchase of a piece of building land in St John's Lane, Halifax - an area that is now part of the Halifax's Head Office on Trinity Road.
By the end of its first year of business, the Halifax had 584 members, and a further 144 depositors. More than £9,000 had been lent, with another £2,000 agreed for homes being built. Branch offices were opened at Sowerby Bridge, Thornton and Queenshead (Queensbury). Others quickly followed, with an office established in Huddersfield in 1862.
The Society's Head Office moved from the Old Market to Waterhouse Street in 1854, and then to Central Buildings on the corner of Crossley Street in 1861. A purpose-built office was subsequently opened on Princess Street in 1873. This was to remain Head Office for the next 50 years.
In 1875, the Halifax was incorporated under the Building Societies Act of 1874. The remainder of that decade was a very prosperous period. Between 1875 and 1881 its assets doubled to over £1 million, and by 1885 it had the largest reserves of all the Yorkshire building societies.
1902 marked something of a watershed. After 50 years in post, the Society's first Secretary, Jonas Taylor, died. His replacement was an energetic individual named Enoch Hill. Hill had a profound influence on the development of the Halifax over the next 35 years, and oversaw a period of dramatic expansion. Very much a local Society when Hill arrived, by the time he retired in 1938, the Halifax was a truly national institution, with branches open throughout the UK. By 1913, the Halifax was proclaiming itself the largest building society in the world, with assets of £3 million.
In 1921, Head Office moved to Commercial Street, and the premises were extended in 1927. An office was opened in London in 1924, followed by offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh four years later. 1928 saw perhaps Hill's biggest achievement: the merger of the Halifax Permanent with its local rival, the Halifax Equitable. The new 'Halifax Building Society' now had assets of £47 million, and was five times the size of its nearest competitor.
The interwar period also brought new challenges and opportunities for building societies. A severe housing shortage following the First World War, saw the government introduce legislation to promote national house building schemes. Under the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act of 1933 and the Housing Act 1936, building societies were encouraged to advance money to builders and developers at very low rates of interest, repayable over exceptionally long periods. The loans were guaranteed by the government and local authorities. The Halifax financed 60% of houses built under this scheme up to September 1937, and some 14,000 for letting in total.
The 1960s and 1970s heralded another period of change and innovation. In 1967, the Halifax was officially 'computerised' and 1973 saw the opening of a new purpose-built Head Office at Trinity Road. The distinctive diamond-shaped building incorporated a state-of-the-art 'Conserv-a-trieve' system for storing and retrieving customer deeds. 1980 saw the launch of Halifax Cardcash, one of the most sophisticated through-the-wall machine networks of the time.
The Building Societies Act of 1986 gave the societies wide ranging new powers and the opportunity to expand their financial services. The Halifax steadily diversified into personal banking, stock broking, insurance and estate agency.
The 1990s saw a number of significant mergers and acquisitions. The most notable of these were the 1995 merger with the Leeds Permanent Building Society, and the acquisition of Clerical Medical the following year.
February 1997 marked a turning point in the history of the Halifax. Its members voted overwhelmingly in favour of conversion to plc status. The subsequent flotation on 2nd June was the largest the Stock Market had seen, creating some 7.5 million shareholders.
A further acquisition was made in 1999 of Birmingham Midshires. A parent company for the expanding group was established in 1999, Halifax Group plc, of which Halifax plc was subsequently a subsidiary.
In September 2001, the Halifax merged with Bank of Scotland to form HBOS plc. Then in January 2009, HBOS plc was acquired by Lloyds TSB, to form Lloyds Banking Group.