History of the Stalybridge Co-op

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WHEN the Jubilee Committee asked me to undertake the writing of this history, I suggested that I should make a better editor than author, and gave expression to a fear that the book would be a very thin one if left entirely to me.  Their answer was, in effect, that the history of Stalybridge Co-operative Society required more at my hands than editing, and here it is.  I still thought that the words should be largely those of others, hence the moderately full reports of addresses of men who attended the early gatherings.  It is thought that the chapters preceding those of the movement in our own town will prepare the reader, and particularly the younger reader, for a better understanding of the ups and downs of the early years.  The person, for instance, who knew nothing of the cotton famine could scarcely appreciate the self-denying efforts of the steadfast co-operators who stuck to their society during the trying years 1861 to 1865.  My acknowledgments are due first of all to Mr. Edwin Wright, the society's cashier, whose ability as a shorthand writer has been of great service.  He not only writes phonography himself, but transcribes my shorthand notes accurately.  Thus, reading each others' notes, we have obtained much information that might, without his assistance, have been missed.

    The staff of Messrs. J. Andrew and Company, of the Reporter Office, Ashton-under-Lyne, has been most helpful and obliging in placing at our disposal files of the Reporter, from which valuable reports of the early meetings, extracts from the society's accounts, and comments have been obtained.

    My thanks are also due to Mr. J. H. Milligan, Central grocery manager, whose recollection of the doings and the people of many years ago is so vivid; and to Mr. Charles Wright, manager of Manchester and Salford Society, who in 1907 revealed a remarkable knowledge of the operations some 48 years before of our pioneers at Stalybridge.  When Mr. Wright was approached he gave hints as to sources of information, and himself sent valuable copy, which, together with his cheery manner, was a great help.

    Mr. Richard Baxter, son of our first secretary, very readily lent a number of his late father's papers, including several letters from the Rochdale Pioneers Society received in 1859 and 1860.

    Mrs. Worsley (nιe Miss Hampshire) gave useful information as to drapery in the early days, and kindly lent the photograph of the staff in the early 'seventies.

    Other acknowledgments are due to members of the staff, particularly to Mr. Ernest Lees, for their putting me in touch with others connected with the society many years ago; and to Mr. T. Emmett, photographer, who turned up negatives by his late father and himself.  The portraits are from photographs almost entirely the work of Mr. Emmett.

    I am indebted, too, to the authors and editors of the following books, &c., for much useful information:—

Mr. C. W. F. Goss's "Bibliography of the Writings of George Jacob Holyoake."  This work involved the reading by him of some 400 books.  When permission was sought, Mr. Goss replied: "Take whatever you desire."
Mr. Lloyd ]ones' "Life and Times of Robert Owen."
Mr. G. J. Holyoake's "History of Co-operation."
The "History of the Rochdale Pioneers," by the same author.
"Industrial Co-operation," edited by Catherine Webb.
"Industrial History of England," by H. de B. Gibbins, Litt.D., M.A.
"Short History of English Commerce by L. L. Price.
"Our Story," published by the Co-operative Union Limited.
The "Co-operative Wholesale Societies' Annual."
The Co-operative News.
"Bygone Stalybridge," by Samuel Hill, printed by Messrs. Geo. Whittaker and Sons.
"A. L." in the Manchester Evening News of October 14th, 1908.
"A Visit to Lancashire in December, 1862," by Ellen Barlee.







The hard lot of the Workers at the end of the 18th Century and the beginning of the 19th. — The First Factory Act — Robert Owen.


George Jacob Holyoake.


Co-operation prior to 1859.


The Cotton Famine.




The Start at Stalybridge.


The Opening in Water Street.


The First Tea Party.


Another Year's Work — Four Branches Opened — A Year's Sales £42,114 — 1802 Annual Meeting — Effect of Cotton Panic — Co-operation in Stalybridge on its Trial.


Dissension — Resignation of Officers — Struggling Departments — Society owns a Dog — Rumours circulated by Opponents — Vote of Confidence.

CHAPTER VI. — 1863-4.

Sales still Lower, but a Better Balance Sheet — 1s. 0d. Dividend — Education and The Co-operator — No Dividend — A Crowded Meeting — Business Transferred to Grosvenor Street — Members of Committee Resign — Proposal to Buy Property — Butchering Given Up — One Grocer's and One Draper's Shop only left.

CHAPTER VII. — 1865.

Influence of Cotton Panic still evident — Co-operation's "Hour of Need" — Losses — Many Steadfast Members — Again a Shilling Dividend — Two Shops Owned — The Dark Days Passing.

CHAPTER VIII. — 1866 to 1808.

Steady Progress — Interesting Addresses by the Revs. J. P. Hopps and J. R. Stephens — Shares at Par — Shopmen's Bonus System — Tailoring Agencies taken up — Represented at Animal Conference — Reporter: Account of Chequered Career and the Great Change — Mr. J. Ridgway becomes Treasurer.

CHAPTER IX. — 1869 to 1874.

Large Gathering of Members and Friends — Other Tailoring Agencies — Making known the Co-operative News — Mr. Greenwood Retires — Mr. P. H. Robinson and Mr. F. R. Beeley Appointed — Miss Hampshire Retires — Miss Woolley Appointed — The Society becomes a Member of the Co-operative Wholesale Society.

CHAPTER X. — 1874 to 1880.

Central Premises Extension — Mr. Seth Charlesworth, Secretary — Copper Pound Checks — Mr. J. Mellor Appointed Manager — High Street Branch Opened — Steam Power — Corn Mill Shares — Reserve Fund £1,000 — Committee and Staff together at Tea — Existing Millbrook Branch Opened — Quarterly Conference Entertained — Loan Account — A Start in the Boot Trade — Coffee Roasting — Excursions.

CHAPTER XI. — 1881 to 1884.

Stalybridge Cotton Mill Shares — No. 3 Branch — Three Shillings Dividend — £50,000 Sales — Thomas Hughes Testimonial — Extension of High Street Branch — Manchester Royal Eye Hospital — Hebden Bridge Fustian Society — Crookbottom Company — Extension, Back Grosvenor Street — Large Gathering, 1884 — First Advance on House Property — Huddersfield Road Branch — Coal Trade Commenced.

CHAPTER XII. — 1885 to 1894.

Boots separated from Drapery — Manchester Ship Canal — Subscription to Co-operative Union — Book Check System Adopted — A Step Forward in Millinery and Dressmaking — Coal Wagons Bought — Stables Erected —Education Fund — Newsroom Opened and Closed — Fire — Butchering Again — Mr. F. E. Maden, Drapery Manager — Electric Light — 3,000 Members — Heyrod Branch Opened — Mr. J. Green takes in hand Tailoring — Distress in Cotton Trade; Weekly Grants — First Soiree.

CHAPTER XIII.—1894 to 1899.

Mr. J. H. Hinchliffe, Secretary — Mr. J. B. Mason, Manager — Members visit the "Wholesale" — Other Excursions — Concerts — Electric Lighting Extended — Cheetham Hill Road Property — Buckley Street Property — Lord Street Property — Wakefield Road, Heyrod, Property — Additional Stables — Building Rules — Infirmary Cot — Indian Famine Funds — Mill Operatives' Distress Fund — Engineers' Lockout Fund — West of Ireland Distress Fund — Small Savings Bank — First Exhibition — Castle Hall Branch — Telephone — Technical School — South African War Fund — Helping Reservists' Dependents — Volunteers' Prize Fund — Death of Mr. John Heap.

CHAPTER XIV.—1990 to 1907.

Cheetham Hill Road Branch — "Climax" Check System — Work for Trade-unionists only — Spectacles Agency — Manchester Royal Infirmary — Children's Hospital — Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children — Children's Gala — Millinery in Melbourne Street — Six Figures of Sales — Increased Production — Death of Mr. Samuel Knight — Abattoir — Defence Fund — Borough Education Committee — Excursion to London — Death of Mr. Wm. Hall — Cotton Shortage and Decrease in Turnover — Cotton Growing Association — Convalescent Homes — Another Local Distress Fund — Delegates — Office of Treasurer Abolished — Sundries Society Directorate — Printing Society Shares — Corn Mills taken over by the Wholesale Society — Premier Mills — Electric Motors — Knitting Machinery — Mr. J. T. Bate Resigns — President a Magistrate — Book-keeping Class — Miss Firth, Milliner — Miss Holt, Dress-maker — Interest on Shares.

CHAPTER XV.—1907 to 1909.

Union New Headquarters — What the Co-operative Union has done — Sundries Society's New Works — C.W.S. Bank Account — Adding by Machinery — "Our Circle" — Death of Mr. J. Bailey — Sales £129,537 — Committee Elections — Canvassing — Co-operative Insurance Society — Ashton District Infirmary — Death of Mr. Thomas Knott — Castle Hall Mill Bought — Story of Drapery continued — Mr. T. Faulkner, Drapery Manager — Stocks Branch, No. 8 — Sundries Society Shares and Loan — Collective Insurance — Jubilee Committee.



Jubilee Celebration.



Past and Present Officers.
Members and Sales at Different Periods.
Balance Sheet as at 5th June, 1909.
Sales, Dividend, and Interest since the Start.



President, Secretary, and Manager.
General Committee.
Jubilee Committee.

Former Members of Committee. . . .
A. Heppenstall and others
J. R. Jackson and others
Thomas Shaw and others
William Hall and others
James Bailey and others

Committee, 1862 to 1864.
Auditors, Treasurers, and Solicitors.
Managers of departments.
Managers, Central Grocery and Branches.
Former Officials.
The Staff in the Early Seventies.
Central Grocery.
Central butchering.
Drapery, Dressmaking and Millinery.
Boot Department.
No. 1 Branch — High Street.
No. 2 Branch — Millbrook.
No. 3 Branch — Mount Pleasant.
No. 4 Branch — Huddersfield Road.
No. 5 Branch — Heyrod.
No. 6 Branch — Castle Hall.
No. 7 Branch — Cheetham Hill Road, Dukinfield.
No. 8 Branch — Taylor Street, Stocks Lane.



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