Credit union history flying high says Save and Sound

By cunews posted 18-09-2020 15:05:07


Details of a Credit Union operating in Britain as early as 1958 have been uncovered by Save and Sound, the credit union oral history and heritage project recently launched by the Credit Union Foundation, with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund

Until this discovery, it has been generally thought that the first credit unions in Britain were formed in 1964, by groups in Hornsey and Wimbledon.  Research in the archives of the London Gazette has shown that a credit union for employees of TWA staff was operating six years earlier. 

The T.W.A. United Kingdom Employees' Credit Union Limited was registered as a company in March 1958 by airline employees.  Their founding members, as reported in the TWA staff magazine Skyliner, included account executive Gustave Barnett as Chairman and accounting manager W H Kite as treasurer.  Also, on the committee were maintenance foreman F Lister, supervisor of stores George Gray, and cargo sales supervisor Cyril Howard. 

In response to Skyliner article about the US credit union for TWA employees in 1959, Gustave Barnett updated the magazine’s editor with details about the London credit union.  By then, 137 out of the 167 TWA staff on the payroll in Britain were members and 69 loans had been made to the value of over $13,000.  In their first year of operation they paid out 3 ¾ % in interest on savings. 

Over twenty years before the Credit Unions Act 1979, the Credit Union was operating as a limited company, with exemption from the Moneylenders Acts obtained from the Board of Trade.  They were operating at least until 1983, when the exemption from the Acts was obtained for a final three years.  The company was dissolved in 2005.

Oral History Project Manager, Abbie Shelton said: “This is a really exciting discovery which shows that credit unions were operating in Britain earlier than we thought.  Like many other credit unions in Britain, it was inspired by examples from abroad – this time in the US, where the TWA Club Credit Union had been in operation for 15 years and was lending nearly $10 million a year. This was 35  years before a group of British Airways engineers formed what is now the Plane Saver Credit Union

“The Save and Sound project wants to make sure that the efforts of people who worked to set up and run credit unions in the early days of the movement are not forgotten.  The history of British credit unions is a diverse and inspiring one and the project wants to hear from anyone who was involved with a credit union in whatever way.  Anyone with any information about the TWA UK Employees Credit Union or any other early credit unions is also encouraged to get in touch. 

“By collecting and sharing the unique personal memories of a diverse range of credit union pioneers, Save and Sound will help many more people learn about the history and heritage of British credit unions.”

Save and Sound is currently funded to collect 40 oral history interviews across the north of England but the Credit Union Foundation hopes to expand the project across Britain in the future.  The project is currently recruiting for volunteers to be trained as oral history interviewers or to assist in the development of a new website. 

For more information, please visit or contact Abbie Shelton at