Our History

Over 160 years of expertise

  • A mutual society, owned by and run for the benefit of our 500,000 Members.
  • The UK’s 6th largest building society.
  • Over 60 Principality outlets - a network of branches and agencies across Wales.

1860 to 1899


Our story begins

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In 1860, at a time when the population of Cardiff, then just a market town, was 33,000, Principality was established in Church Street and was known as Principality Permanent Investment Building Society. Income for the first year amounted to a modest £367.

In 1862 Alderman W Sanders was appointed Principality's Managing Secretary.


Early growth

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In 1870, after 10 years of having no permanent home, Principality opened its first official headquarters at 8 Royal Arcade, Cardiff. In 1872, Principality opened in Newport and in 1873 a Principality agency opened in Ebbw Vale.

In 1874 the Building Societies Act came into effect, giving building societies the power to borrow money.

In 1876, Robert Day became Principality's Chairman.



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In 1881, the Welsh Rugby Union was established and in 1883, Cardiff University was founded.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) was founded at the National Eisteddfod in Aberdare in 1885.

In 1886 the Cardiff stock exchange opened and at this time Principality's assets stood at £355,227.


Largest by far

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In 1894, Principality’s then Chairman, Charles F Saunders, described the Society as the largest by far in Wales and the West of England, with total assets of over £300,000 and an annual income of £130,000 a year. The estimated value of property then in possession was £5000.

1900 to 1929


£1m cheques

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Edward Edwards joined Principality's Board of Directors in 1901.

In 1905, Cardiff was declared a city.

Two years later In 1907, the National Library and the National Museum of Wales opened. The world's first million-pound cheque was reckoned to have been signed at Cardiff's Coal Exchange in 1909.


Jubilee celebrations

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Principality celebrated its 50th jubilee in 1910. In its first 50 years the Society had advanced two million, two hundred thousand pounds and helped in the purchase and erection of some 15,000 houses. The first of these social housing projects involved the building of 200 houses at Cefn-y-Fan near Port Talbot.

In 1910, the Society’s name was shortened to Principality Building Society. Alderman George Greenland was appointed to Principality's Board in 1912 and in 1913, Principality’s assets exceeded £540,000. In 1914, more than 280,000 Welshmen shared trenches with soldiers from across Britain and the Empire in the First World War. The same year saw the opening of Principality's official headquarters – Principality Buildings, Queen Street, Cardiff.


£1 million assets

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Following the war, demand for houses grew and once again Principality prospered, reaching its first milestone of £1 million assets in 1924.

In 1925, the actor, Richard Burton, was born and in 1926, Principality created a policy of leniency in light of the Coal Strike, allowing certain borrowers to be exempt from 6 months’ repayments.

The number of motor vehicles in Wales exceeded 100,000 for the first time in 1929.

1930 to 1959


Westward bound

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Extending its presence west, Principality opened branches in Swansea and Barry in 1934.

In 1935 Principality's Ammanford agency opened at 6 High Street.

Shirley Bassey and Anthony Hopkins were born in 1937.

In 1939 the first Welsh language primary school was established in Aberystwyth.


Birth of the NHS

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In 1940, Welsh men and women were engulfed in World War II.

The Welsh National Opera company was founded in Cardiff in 1943 and in 1945; Barry John, Gerald Davies and Max Boyce were born. In 1946, Harry Greenland was appointed to the Principality Board.

Welshmen, James Griffiths and Aneurin Bevan produce the National Insurance Act of 1946, which sets up the UK's welfare state, known today as the National Health Service (NHS).


Assets grow

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In 1950, Alex Saunders became Principality's General Manager and in 1952, the Society's assets reached £3 million.

Dylan Thomas died in 1953 and Bonnie Tyler was born.

Cardiff was chosen as the capital city for Wales in 1955 and in 1956, the Gower Peninsular became the first place in the UK to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

In 1959 the red dragon on a green and white background became the official flag of Wales.

1960 to 1989


Centenary celebrations

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In 1960, Principality staff and agents celebrated the Society's centenary at the Angel Hotel, Cardiff. In the same year Principality opened its Chester branch at 14 Bridge Street and in 1963 Principality opened a branch in London.

Following the Society taking over Maesteg Building Society in 1968, Principality opened a further branch in Maesteg. In the same year, Principality's Pwllheli branch opened.

In 1969, Principality's assets reached £33.7m. At the beginning of the 60s, they had stood at £9.3m.


New branches

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The 1970s was characterised by a wave of acquisitions. In 1974, Principality took over the Aberavon and Carmarthen Building Societies. In 1977, Principality took over Aberdare Building Society. In 1978, Principality took over the District Building Society and in 1979, Principality took over Gorseinon Building Society.

In the 1970s Principality opened branches throughout Wales: Penarth, Whitchurch, Port Talbot, Canton, Caerphilly, Neath, Llanelli, Rhiwbina, Treorchy, Rumney, Abergavenny, Blackwood, Fishguard and Llandeilo, Aberystwyth, Ebbw Vale, Pontypool, Llandaff, Denbigh, Abertillery and Gorseinon.


Eisteddfod sponsorship

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In 1980, Principality began its long-term sponsorship of the National Eisteddfod of Wales.

Principality continued opening branches throughout Wales: Morriston, Llanishen, Machynlleth, Mumbles, Porthcawl, Llantwit Major, Birchgrove, Lampeter and Llandrindod Wells.

In 1986, John Mitchell became Principality's Chief Executive. In 1987, Principality acquired Peter Alan and Parkhurst Estate Agency and in 1989, the site for Principality's head office, Principality House was acquired.

1990 to 2009


£1 billion assets

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In 1991, Principality celebrated the achievement of £1 billion assets with a dinner at City Hall, Cardiff and in 1992, Principality House on the Friary, Cardiff, was opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.

In 1997, Cardiff Arms Park was demolished to make way for a new stadium and Principality opened a new branch in Pontypridd. In 1999, Wales' Millennium Stadium opened - the first stadium in the UK with a retractable roof.


New era

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In 2002, Principality formed a Commercial Lending Division. In the same year, a new era was ushered in with the appointment of Peter Griffiths as Group Chief Executive.

In 2003, Principality launched its website and in 2004 Principality acquired the financial brokerage, Loan Link, later becoming Nemo Personal Finance.

In 2005, Principality began sponsoring WRU's Principality Building Society Premiership. In 2006, Principality relocated the Flint branch to Mold and in 2009, Principality opened its 51st branch in the new St David's Development in Cardiff.

2010 to 2029


Over 150 years old

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In 2010, Principality celebrated its 150th Birthday. In the same year Principality gave its support to Only Boys Aloud, the initiative to find the next generation of male choral singers from the Welsh valleys.

In 2011, plans were approved for 700 homes to be built on the site of the Old Ely Mill in Cardiff, creating quality affordable housing and hundreds of jobs, in a deal led by Principality Commercial and the Welsh Government.

In 2012, Graeme Yorston was appointed Chief Executive Officer and we raised over £72,000 for our charity of the year, Cancer Research Wales. 2012 also saw Principality Commercial fund our first low carbon homes in St Fagan’s, Cardiff. 

2015 saw the announcement of our 10-year partnership with the Welsh Rugby Union, which was marked by the renaming of the national stadium of Wales to Principality Stadium in early 2016.

Later in 2016, the Society’s branding was given a fresh lick of paint to reflect how the Society has evolved and to better illustrate our values and purpose.  

In 2017, Steve Hughes was appointed Chief Executive Officer, while we were recognised for our outstanding service to our Members, commercial customers and our brokers through awards and endorsements from the likes of Which?, Wales Business Insider and Investor in Customers. 

In 2019, we were endorsed as a Which? Recommended Provider for mortgages – for the second year running - while also winning the Volunteering Impact award by Business in the Community. 



Making History

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In 2020, Julie-Ann Haines was appointed Chief Executive Officer – the first female CEO in the Society’s history.  We also placed 11th in the ‘super large employer’ category of the UK Best Workplace™ awards by Great Place to Work®. 

In 2021, Sally Jones-Evans was appointed Chair, becoming the first female chair in the Society’s 160 years. The Society reached a fabulous milestone of raising £1 million for charities in Wales (since 2014).

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