Wesleyan - 175 Years in Birmingham
On 23 April 1841, a group of Birmingham churchgoers got together in a room above a chapel on Cherry Street and decided it would be a good idea to help local workers save for their future by collecting a few pennies from them each week.
175 years later, the company they founded, Wesleyan, is still based in the heart of Birmingham city centre, but now employs more than 1,600 people around the country, with 1,300 of them at its landmark city centre head office.
When Wesleyan was founded in the mid-19th century, Birmingham wasn’t actually a city – it had barely a population of 138,000 people and was made up of just 27,000 houses – but it was already leading the world into the Industrial Revolution.
Over the years Wesleyan has moved around the city centre, from Cherry Street, to Temple Row, to Moor Street, to Corporation Street, eventually to Steelhouse Lane, where the roads were rebuilt around it to create Colmore Circus. The way it does business has changed, with its army of door-to-door ‘insurance men’ collecting premiums being succeeded by specialist financial consultants providing expert advice to its professional customers of doctors, dentists, lawyers and teachers.
Nevertheless, its founding principles remain the same – to look after its members’ and customers’ finances throughout their lives, to retirement and beyond.
Wesleyan’s archive of photographs shows how working for the company used to be, in days when paperwork was completed by hand and computers filled rooms. There are also pictures of a lost Birmingham, with Wesleyan’s old Chief Office neighbouring the famous Gaumont Cinema and facing the old Grey’s department store.
We’ve been at the heart of the city and one of its major employers for 175 years – and we’re looking forward to staying here for many years to come.