Co-operation in Bury (I.)

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Condition of the people before 1850.


THE first half of the Nineteenth Century was a time of great hardship for the working classes.  The prolonged conflict with Napoleon ended in 1815 with victory for England, but peace brought little relief to her over-burdened toilers.

    The history of the years from 1815 to 1845 is a continuous record of distress, periods of scarcity and consequent privation, fluctuating prices alternately starving labourers and ruining farmers, bread riots and disturbances, and in manufactures uncertainty and loss.

    For this state of things the heavy taxation due to the Napoleonic War was partly responsible; the frequent occurrence of bad harvests was another cause.  But ill-regulated industrial changes, and a commercial policy ill suited to the country and the times, and not the war or the niggardliness of Nature was the root of the mischief.

    In the Eighteenth Century, after England had gained possession of extensive Colonies, and had secured a practical monopoly of the trade with India, the demand for manufactured goods could not be met by means of the primitive machinery then in use; and soon, in consequence of the pressure put upon those engaged in her manufactures, there came a long series of great inventions, by which the productive capacity of English manufactures was enormously increased.  Industrial methods and conditions were completely revolutionised; England became a manufacturing instead of an agricultural nation; and the workers were drawn from the country districts and massed together in towns, where population increased with unprecedented rapidity.  Factories superseded the old domestic workshop; the capitalist employer took the place of the old master-workman; the domestic worker, who had once not been far removed in station from his employer, became the factory “hand,” and between the people of this class and the capitalist there was seldom any bond other than a cash payment.

    So swift was the transformation of industry, and so fully occupied was the Government with other and more imperative — though scarcely more important — matters, that the change was allowed to proceed without regulation.  Inevitably, therefore, much mischief was wrought.

    The conditions of labour in many of the factories were unspeakably bad; in nearly all they were of such at nature as to endanger the health of the workers.  Hours were long, the buildings were insanitary, the machinery was unguarded.  The Factory Acts were not very stringent, and even had they been better, the staff of Inspectors was so inadequate that evasion of the law was a very simple matter.   The first ray of light came in with the strengthening of the Acts in 1844.  Evil conditions within the factories, the workshops, the mines, and other places of labour were well-matched by the insanitary homes of a large proportion of the town population, and the towns had grown so rapidly, and the Municipal Authorities in most instances were so inexperienced — if not also incompetent and corrupt — that little or nothing was done to ensure due regard to the health of the people.  Houses overcrowded, jerry-built on the banks of streams fouled by the refuse of works and all manner of domestic filth, streets and courts unpaved and undrained — such were the surroundings in which many, perhaps the majority, of town workers were condemned to dwell.

    Agricultural labourers suffered also, though in a different way.  In agriculture as in manufactures new methods had been introduced, which called for large capital.  Small owners unable to compete successfully with the new style of farmers were obliged to sell their land; some degenerated into farm labourers, or drifted into the towns, to intensify the competition amongst the wage earners there.  The agricultural labourer, moreover, lost heavily by the enclosure of common lands, where he had once been able to feed his cow or his pig, and until 1834 he was degraded by a vicious Poor Law.

    The evils associated with these industrial changes were intensified by other conditions.  Imports were checked by Customs duties, which, in many cases were so heavy as to be prohibitive.  The most obnoxious of them all was the duty on foreign corn, which, without serving the end for which it was said to be imposed, viz.: ― the encouragement of the English farmer — inflicted intense suffering on the wage earners, by raising the cost of food; nor was this the only ill-effect.  The exclusion of foreign goods, and particularly of foreign corn, restricted the market for English manufacturers; for the foreigner could not buy our manufactures because we would not take the only payment he could offer — the produce of his farm, of his sugar plantation, or of his forest lands.  Our industries were disturbed by frequent stoppages and violent fluctuations of prices.  The price of food was high and the wages of the workers were low and irregular.

    The distress was exceptionally severe between 1837 and 1842.  In these years the wages of agricultural labourers was often as low as 7/- per week.  In the manufacturing districts many of the mills were stopped, and many more were working little time, and the amount of pauperism was appalling.  In Manchester, we are told, 116 mills and many of the works were stopped, 2,000 families were so reduced that they had to pawn even their beds, 12,000 families were receiving poor relief, and thousands subsisted on charity.  Out of 50 mills in Bolton 30 were idle, and 6,995 persons whose average earnings were only 1/1 per week were aided in one month by the Poor Protection Society.  In Nottingham 10,580 persons were receiving poor relief.  In Leeds 21,000 persons were earning on an average 11¾d. per week.  In Stockport so many firms had failed that work had practically ceased, and multitudes earned less than 10d. a week.  Bury, Rochdale, and many other towns had a similar record of failure and distress.  While the working classes were on the verge of starvation, British corn was 65/- a quarter, and the duty on foreign wheat was 24/8 per quarter.

    To meet the great distress in Bury a fund was started, called “The Bury Loyal Relief Fund.”  The movement originated in a desire to celebrate with local rejoicings the birth of a male heir to the throne — his present Majesty King Edward VII.  It was at the suggestion of the late Rev. Franklin Howorth, who was the wrong type of man to fiddle when Rome was in flames, that the decision was arrived at to use the money subscribed for the relief of distress rather than for merry-making.

    The committee felt it their duty to make the many subscribers acquainted with the manner in which they had dealt with the monies entrusted to their charge.  To accomplish this object a meeting was called on the 20th November, 1841, at which the Rector of Bury presided.  It was reported that £1,500 had been collected and placed at the disposal of the committee.

    The condition of the working classes of the town may easily he gathered from the following abstract from the report: — “In distributing this relief your committee were anxious to combine liberality with caution.  To assist their labours two persons were employed as Inspectors, and by this means a careful enquiry was made by actual inspection into the condition of the working classes, and a record was furnished to the committee of the names, residences, and occupations, the number of the family, &c. 1,157 families being visited, consisting of 5,371 persons, of whom only 1,487 were at all in work, and many of these only partially, and the average amount of weekly earnings per head was found to he only 1/9¼.”

    Some idea of the condition of the town may be gathered from the fact that the committee of the local Relief Fund decided that families which could show an income of 2/6 per head per week could not receive relief.  To those who were not in this state of comparative affluence assistance was at once given in the shape of flour, meal, and potatoes, also in blankets, sheets, calico, flannel and clogs, and in this way there were relieved:—



Average per family

Average per head

    s.     d.  s.     d.



12    11¼

 2      3¼



 9     5¼

 1      7½



 4     0½

 0       5



 2     4½

0   10½





The amount actually paid away was as follows:―

  £ s. d.

In food

338   17    0

»  Clothing

583 11 2

»  Money

74 17 0

»  Sundries

73 2 8

Balance left over

    459   15    8
  £1530     3    6

    In consequence of the diminished demand for labour, and the very high price of all kinds of provisions, the same committee were again called together to a meeting at the Dispensary in January 1847, when it was proved to their satisfaction that assistance was again urgently needed.  It was resolved to augment the balance left over from the last meeting by another appeal.  This second effort resulted in £908 being placed at the committees disposal; and the money, with the exception of £158, was spent in soup, bread, and other necessaries.

    The Secretaries to the fund were the Rev. H. C. Boutflower, Vicar of St. John’s, and Head Master of the Grammar School; and the Rev. Franklin Howorth, Minister at Bank Street Chapel.  Messrs. John Walker and Wm. Hutchinson were the Auditors.

    The wage-earners suffered in yet another way; in many instances their wages were paid in kind.  This, of course, is tantamount to saying that the Truck Act of 1831 was evaded.  The workman was often compelled to occupy a house owned by his employer, and to buy his goods at a shop kept either by his employer or by an official of the mill or works where he was employed.  The result was that he generally got the worst goods at the highest prices.  Worse still, he ceased to be a free man.  He was often in debt, and the owners of “free shops” were compelled to give long credit ― a proceeding injurious alike to buyer and seller.  A local illustration will be of interest here: In the Ramsbottom district only one mill was without its “Tommy Shop” and in the village of Nuttall there was no independent shop at all.  In Bury itself the “Cottage System” was general, and the “Tommy Shop” not uncommon.

    The intense distress was attributed to this cause and to that, and called forth many schemes of reform.  The more ignorant among the workers took violent measures.  They smashed machinery, and burned farms and ricks.  The more thoughtful fondly believed that Parliamentary Reform would enable them to set matters right.  But the Act of 1832 was far too modest a reform to satisfy those who had clamoured for it.  In plain English, they were bitterly disappointed at it.  The working men resumed their agitation.  They demanded opportunities of realising their position as citizens, and in many parts of the country the dissatisfaction gave rise to the famous Chartist movement.  At one time this movement seemed likely to end in revolution, but finally it was killed, in part by ridicule, but mainly by returning prosperity.

    Chief among the causes which led to its death was the triumph of the Anti Corn-Law agitation.  The repeal of the Corn Laws and the removal of prohibitive imports generally opened foreign markets to our manufacturers, checked violent fluctuations of prices, and gave the workers more regular wages and cheaper food.  The conditions of labour were also much improved through the agency of beneficent factory legislation.  The Factory Acts passed between 1844 and 1852 incorporated many of the proposals which Robert Owen made many years before, but which were then pronounced impracticable.

    The teachings of Owen also gave rise to the Co-operative Movement, the most practical of all the attempts made to improve the conditions of the working classes, and in the long run the most successful.  The earliest experiments in co-operation made by the disciples of Robert Owen failed through bad management and ignorance of true economic principles.  The Rochdale Pioneers, in 1844, avoided the mistake which had proved so fatal to earlier attempts.  Basing their Society on broader democratic principles, they struggled successfully through the many trials which beset the infancy of all great movements, and thereby encouraged imitators in other towns.  By 1851 there were no fewer than 130 “Stores” in England and Scotland.  The motives and the cause of the new departure were well put by Mrs. Webb in her admirable little book, “The Co-operative Movement in Great Britain.”  In some cases the Chartist Club became the Chartist Shop.  In other cases, such as Bacup, the Co-operative Association arose out of an unsuccessful strike, during which the retail traders sided with the masters and refused to allow credit, while a general desire on the part of the factory hands to emancipate themselves from the truck system, and the forced tenancy of masters’ cottages, was an exciting cause of no mean strength.  But viewed in its widest aspect the rapid and successful establishment of Co-operative Societies in certain districts was part of the general transference of the spirit of association from a political into an industrial form.

    Can any of our readers wonder then, that under all these distressing and discouraging conditions, a body of men should spring up who would demand and work for a change.  On the gradual decline of the truck shop, or the “Tommy shop,” there sprang up in Bury a fresh kind of shop, then known by the name of “Badger Shops.”  The owners of these badger shops, who allowed their customers to have goods on credit for varying periods of time, were often of a keen and exacting nature.  The “badger business” was very profitable, and the foundations of the fortunes of more than one family of note in Bury were laid in that trade.

    The system of continually being in debt was always repugnant to the best of the sons of toil of that time, and many were the vows made that they would extricate themselves at the earliest opportunity.  The only hope of escape from this for the majority lay in the acceptance of the principles so strenuously advocated by stalwart Robert Owen — the principles of associated effort; and although many of the men had never known the value of capital, it was resolved to make an effort, and the first form of co-operation in Bury starts from this point.

    They could not afford to stock a shop, and the first effort was to get a week in advance instead of being so far behind.  This object accomplished, a few of the men would meet and arrange among themselves what to purchase for the coming week; having decided this momentous question one of their number would be appointed to buy the articles required, the buyer sometimes going to Manchester, sometimes to Bolton, and sometimes buying off some wholesale dealer in Bury.  The articles thus purchased were very limited in variety, and were confined to the real necessaries of life.  When the goods were purchased, they were brought to the home of one of the number and distributed, the cost of the transaction being arranged amongst all concerned.  This simple effort succeeded, thus presenting a gleam of hope to the heavily burdened toilers of the town, the principle began to be further discussed, and encouragement was held out to others to take advantage of the opportunities which the movement presented.

    The advantages of the new system were many.  There was the prospect of being out of debt, the purchaser had the choice of quality and purity, and the savings effected were considerable.  These advantages were not long in having their effect upon others, and small bands of men organized with a similar purpose in view sprang up in several parts of the town, until, between 1847 and 1850, there were about a dozen organizations of people practising this kind of associated effort or co-operation.

    Thus was the first step taken towards Co-operation as we understand it to-day, and from these modest beginnings we may trace the rise of the great trading concern which now has branches in every part of the town, and numbers among its adherents more than half the householders in Bury.  A great trading concern it is, but it is something more.  Its claims to respect lie not in the multitude of its returns but in the amount of good it has accomplished.  As a social element making for improvement and increased happiness, and as an educational force, it stands without a rival among the agencies of which the nineteenth century, and more particularly the Victorian era, has witnessed the birth and development.  Of that birth and development we shall have more to say in the chapters which follow.


The General Labour Redemption


THE transition from this elementary form of co-operation to one with a wider basis, was both natural and beneficial.  It was seen that if all these various groups of working people could be got to join in one organization a great economy would be effected, and there would be some prospect of their ideas being developed to a much greater extent, and so it came about that after some negotiation, an arrangement was made to try to start a shop on a proper basis, and on Saturday, September 16th, 1850, a Society was formed and styled “The General Labour Redemption Society.”  The shop at No. 50, Stanley Street, was obtained, and was opened on October 20th, 1851.  The rental was £12 per annum, payable quarterly.

    The objects of the Society were of a varied character, and reflected great credit on the promoters.  The first of these objects was to invite labourers of every grade to join for the purpose of carrying out and extending the practice of associated labour.  It was proposed to do this:―

(1) By forming working associations of men and women, who shall enjoy among themselves the whole produce of their labour.

(2) By organizing both among such associations and any others of combined workmen and capitalists, who may be admitted into the Union, the interchange and distribution of commodities.

(3) By endeavouring to reduce the hours of labour.

(4) To purchase and cultivate land upon the co-operative principle, to make provision for the education of children, and to provide for the widows and orphans of deceased members of the Society.

    The education imparted was to be of such at character as to render its possessor a good member of society, understanding his rights, and ready to discharge his duties, the right to live and the duty to labour being considered fundamental.

    The thirtieth rule says, “Co-operative stores or workshops shall be established by the members in every town and village where a branch of this Society many exist.”

    The Society soon became prosperous, its membership being continually increased, and its trade developing, and in order to celebrate its success it was decided to hold a festival and invite some leaders of co-operative thought to be present.  The party was held in the Town Hall, Bury, when upwards of 600 persons took tea together.  The meeting was crowded, and speeches were delivered by His Honour Judge Hughes, Mr. Vansittart Neale, Rev. Charles Kingsley, and other influential gentlemen.  The proceedings were concluded by a cheerful, merry dance.

    At this time the Society had over 500 members on its books in Bury, and its weekly receipts reached 250.  Business went on smoothly for a time, but a feeling of jealousy crept in, owing to the management having failed to establish a proper system of keeping its accounts.  This feeling of jealousy proved fatal to its welfare, and its trade gradually dwindled away.  The total trade done was about £1660.  The Society paid away £59 in dividend, and a bonus of 10,/- per share, which took up £29 14s. 0d.

    Mr. George Watson was first treasurer, and his successors in the office were Mr. William Meadowcroft und Mr. Henry Roberts.

    At the winding up of the Society the following item was posted:― April 23rd, 1853, “To 2 trustees at 4/4½ each and one at 4/5, total 13/2, to 3 trustees for their extra labour at various times previous to the store breaking up,—Timothy Wilkins, Henry Roberts, and Hiram Ratcliffe.”  The Society went out of existence on April 3rd, 1854.


The Rise of our own Society.


AND now we come to the formation of our own Society.  The work accomplished by the now defunct Society, the favourable impression it had left behind, and the knowledge that had been gained as to where its weakness lay, could hardly have failed to point to another effort to plant the standard of Co-operation in Bury, as being likely to effect the overthrow of many of the most formidable obstacles to the material, moral, and intellectual advancement of the masses of the people.  It was customary at that time, as it is to-day, for a working man who has a greenhouse and garden to be visited by a few comrades for the purpose of talking over matters of local or general interest.  One Mr. Richard Sully, who had a garden and greenhouse at a place known by the name of “Adam o’ Heywood’s,” on the south side of what is now Heywood Street, was in the habit of receiving such visitors — men of his own stamp, shrewd, intelligent, hard-headed workers.  Not only was the failure of the previous Society a subject for discussion at these informal conferences, but that failure would be contrasted with the reported success of similar efforts in Heywood, Middleton, Rochdale, and other places, and it is easy to understand that these reports would be listened to eagerly as the potting or grafting went on.  In the summer of 1855, there were about ten regular weekly attenders at Mr. Sully’s garden, and eventually it was agreed to make an effort to establish a Co-operative Society.  The effort was made, and the result. was the formation of the “Bury District Co-operative Society.”  Thus was the old simile, “The gardener for usefulness,” justified in a modern example, recalling the words that Tennyson put into the mouth of Merlin, the sage:—

“I once was looking for a magic weed,
 And found a fair young squire, who sat alone,
 Had carved himself a knightly shield of wood,
 And then was painting on it fancied arms,
 Azure, an Eagle rising or, the Sun
 In dexter chief; the scroll “I follow fame:”
 And speaking not, but leaning over him,
 I took his brush and blotted out the bird,
 And made a Gardener putting in a graft,
 With this for motto: ‘Rather use than fame.’
 You should have seen him blush; but afterwards
 He made a stalwart knight.”

    The enthusiastic gardeners who founded the Bury District Co-operative Society were stalwart knights of industry who had probably never blotted out from their scroll the words "I follow fame,” but none the less they had adopted Merlin’s motto, and right well they lived up to it, as the fifty years’ history of the Society now testifies.

    Having arrived at the decision to found a Society, the next consideration was the raising of the requisite capital, and three pence per week was the sum which it was agreed each person wishing to assist and become a member should pay.  Mr. Richard Sully was intrusted with the funds so raised.  By the end of September of the same year, finding the summerhouse getting too small for the members congregating, and winter time approaching, it was decided to change the place of meeting, and one of their number, Mr. John Mayor, of Paradise Street, offered the use of his front room free of charge.  This offer was accepted, and for a short time longer this small band of pioneers continued to meet, pay their weekly subscriptions to the treasurer, and discuss their chances of success or failure in the art of shopkeeping.  It was whilst in this house that they ventured to make their first purchase — a very appropriate one — a load of flour.  This was bought from Mr. John Schofield, shopkeeper and wholesale dealer, in Paradise Street.  By the end of December the capital account amounted to £6 9s. 6d., and the names of those who had subscribed were Richard Sully, John Walmsley, Robert Austin, James Carlton, James Wolstenholme, John Mayor, Edwin Barnes, Thomas Clegg, John Muir, and George Raistrick.  The trade done up to that time was in the load of flour mentioned, for which £2 5s. 9d. was paid.  At this juncture a very important decision was arrived at.  It was pointed out that if the new venture was to succeed, its conditions of membership must be opened as wide as possible, consistent with reasonable security.

    It was known to these men that in some previous efforts made in various parts of the country the membership was confined to persons holding certain political opinions, and that such actions had resulted, if not in actual failure, in preventing that full expansion and development that was so essential to complete success.  And so it was decided at a very early stage of the Society’s history that the membership should consist of all who chose to join, and who were willing to work for the social welfare of the members; and that no questions should be asked as to the opinions held on either political or religious matters.  The members were to be free to hold whatever opinions they chose in matters religious, social, or political, outside the domain of the Society; but inside they must be Co-operators willing to work for the common weal.  Another matter they decided on was that when they began business they must not try to undersell anybody else in the trade, but must see to buying pure and wholesome foodstuffs, and sell them at reasonable prices.

    It was about this time that a Mr. Smithson, of the firm of J. & J. Smithson, of Halifax, was introduced to the pioneers of Bury Co-operation.  Mr. Smithson explained to the members that he had heard about them, and desired, as an experienced person, to help them.  He told them they were adopting the correct principle by starting in a small way.  The taking of a shop required some little courage, but after the inducements held out by Mr. Smithson that he would supply them with a part of the goods required to stock a shop, and wait for his money until they had drawn it over the counter, it was resolved to make the plunge, and take a shop.

    An opportunity soon presented itself for carrying out their ideas.  No. 11, Market Street, being to let, negotiations were opened with the owner, Mr. Thomas Rose.  At this stage obstacles to continued progress began to present themselves.  The Co-operators were only a small body of working men, enthusiastic about a new fad, and almost without capital.  Those who had not studied the question regarded the Cooperative movement with a jealous and sometimes with a suspicious eye.  At first Mr. Rose hesitated to let the Society have the shop, but ultimately he relented so far as to allow them to have the place on lease for three years, at a rental of £31 per annum, the rent to be paid quarterly.  The members agreed to the conditions of tenancy, and the first payment for rent was made on April 28th, 1856.  Mr. Smithson kept his word, and proved a good friend to the Co-operators in their early struggles.  He was not paid anything until March 11th, when he received £20, a similar sum being paid him on April 8th, and on May 6th they paid him £25.  After this time they traded with him on ordinary business lines.  As amateurs at the work of furnishing a shop, stocking it with goods, &c., their task was no light one, but they had made up their minds to succeed, and they set to work resolutely.  At first the shop was open at nights, from 6 to 10 o’clock, the members arranging among themselves as to who should attend to the cleaning of the place, the wrapping up of the goods, and the actual work of serving at the counter.

    As the subscribed capital only amounted at this time to £15, it is clear that the work of furnishing the shop must have been on a very limited scale.  But the members were enthusiastic in their devotion to the Co-operative ideal — limited as the conception of that ideal must necessarily have been, and all were anxious to do what they could for the success of the infant Society.  Thus we find that many of the articles required for use in the shop were willingly lent by several of the members.  Some found one thing and some another, and thus the expenses of administration were kept down.  Still many things had to be bought, and although very essential and necessary at that time, the mention of them may cause a little amusement to-day.  Amongst other things we find the following charges:— “Paid for soap 4½d., brush 10d., spigot and focit 3d, candles 1d., writing paper 1d., twine 1½d., Epsom salts 1½d., coffee mill 15s., table 5s., butter knife 3½d.,” and so on.  The system of keeping an account of each member’s purchases was very different to what it is now, there being at that time no checks of either metal or paper, the principle being that each member, on making a purchase, had it written down in a small book, five inches long and two inches wide, containing 18 leaves, a copy of which has been kindly lent to us by Mr. Lawrence Walker, whose number in the Society then, as now, was 126.  The name, ”Bury Co-operative Stores,” was on the front page, the member’s name and number following immediately under.  When the purchase had been effected, and entered in this little book, the member went to another part of the shop, where another person was waiting to enter the transaction into a general book, and at the close of each day’s sales this book was taken upstairs, where the President and Treasurer were in waiting to complete the matter by comparing the amounts thus entered with the total cash drawn at the counter.

    After at time this system was found to be inefficient, inasmuch as it lent itself to inaccuracy and misunderstanding.  A new system was introduced, though at what date we are unable to say, but the earliest mention of checks is in the September quarter of 1857.  The new checks for shillings and pence then introduced were made of tin, and the pound checks of copper.  The first date the word “shop” is mentioned is on February 2nd, 1856, when the sum of £10 9s. 2d. appears under the heading of “Receipts in Shop.”

    The first week s business showed a turnover of £22 15s. 11d., and during this time new members were being constantly enrolled.  The new system of shopkeeping formed the main theme of conversation amongst the labouring classes in the town, and the interest taken in the movement augured well for the success of the undertaking.  The question of how the business should be conducted now presented itself.  Many of the applicants for membership were heavily in debt to some shopkeeper, and whilst wishful to join the new “Stores,” were at the same time anxious to pay their just debts.  Many were the schemes proposed to accomplish this very difficult task, but the general course adopted was to buy at the Stores and pay off their old score with the dividends.  When the question “Should we allow credit to our members?” was asked, there was an emphatic “No” given as the answer.  “We’ve had enough o’ th’ badge-book,” was the reply of one sturdy Co-operator.  The decision not to give credit was in itself honourable to the members, and showed that they had mastered the first principle of Co-operation.  Many of them had had bitter experience of the hated badge-book, and their hope was that by the new system they might replace it with a bank book.  At the same time it needed a great effort on the part of men accustomed to the credit system to break away voluntarily from that system, and impose upon themselves the onerous condition of always paying cash down.  That they were able to do it says much for their moral backbone.  In the early stages of the movement it must have been a test of exceptional difficulty.  Still the members fought nobly for the new principle, and as time wore on its difficulties gradually disappeared with its attendant evils of debt and dependence became a vanishing commodity in the town.

    It may be interesting at this point to say that, although the Society was called the "Bury Co-operative Stores,” it could not then, according to the ruling version of the law, trade in that name, and it must have duly appointed trustees.  The names of the first trustees were Robert Law, Robert Austin, and Thomas Balmforth, whilst George Raistrick allowed his name to be used as the trading name of the Society.  The Society traded under his name till April, 1859, and on the 26th of that month it was resolved by the members, — “That in consequence of George Raistrick having withdrawn, our trading name be ‘Raistrick & Co.’;” and on April 5th, 1862, the trading name of the Society was again changed to “Sully & Co.,” and the licence made out in that name.

    On August 29th, 1861, the name of the Society was changed from “Bury Co-operative Stores” to “The Bury District Co-operative Provision Society,” and it was also decided that this name be placed over its shops, and the word “Limited” added.  The word “Provision” was deleted from this name in 1904.  Harking back to 1856, when the Society had been at work in the actual distribution of goods about five months, the question arose as to what system had best be adopted to pay back to the members the balance of profit on the Society’s transactions.  Profits had been made, but so far none paid away, and on July 19th, 1856, a deputation was sent to Rochdale with a view of learning how their Rochdale comrades had met the difficulty.  Sufficient information seems to have been obtained by the visit, for we find that in the month following the Society paid away its first dividend, which amounted to a sum of £18 0s. 2d.

    The constantly increasing trade of the Society, and the growing difficulty of dealing with it all at nights only, compelled the Committee to consider the advisability of opening the shop all the day, like other grocers in the town, and of employing a shopman.  This they decided to do, and the following advertisement appeared in the Bury Times for August 30th, 1856:—


The Stores will be open Daily from 8 till
half-past 9.     Saturday till 11.
Commencing this day, Saturday, Aug. 30th.

The public will be supplied with articles of the
best quality at the most reasonable prices.

                                             BY ORDER OF THE COMMITTEE.

    Having now decided to open the shop daily (Sundays of course excepted), the next step taken was to appoint a suitable person to take charge, and one can easily imagine the consideration that this change would cause.  The business was altogether different from that of any other shop in the town; the man appointed must thoroughly understand the peculiar business, and also be in full sympathy with the movement, besides having a knowledge of the ordinary requirements of a shopman.  It is not surprising to find that the choice fell on one of their own number, Mr. Thomas Holroyd, a man who had taken great interest in the Society’s welfare, and had served in the shop at nights.  His wages were fixed at 20/- per week, and the first week’s wage was paid on September 5th, 1850.  A boy assistant, James Raistrick by name, was also appointed at a wage of 4/- per week.  At this time there were 72 members on the books, owning capital amounting to £162 12s. 0d., and the dividend paid was 1/3 in the pound on purchases.

    It will be seen from what has been said, that the Bury Co-operators adopted the Rochdale system of computing dividend, and the system is similar in all respects to the one in force today.  The road to this system was therefore comparatively easy, but it was not so with the Rochdale Pioneers, for we learn that they had been sorely troubled for a considerable time as to what system to adopt for computing and dividing their profits so to give satisfaction to all who were interested in the movement, and deal justly with all the purchasers in proportion to their purchases.  Some years ago the story of how the problem was overcome used to be told in Rochdale.  The question of the division of the profits had taxed the ingenuity of the Pioneers for some time, until at last a Mr. Charles Howarth, who had taken a leading part in the new movement, suddenly hit upon a solution of their difficulty.  It is said that after retiring to rest one night he found himself unable to sleep, and while he was lying awake a new thought entered and burnt itself into his mind.  He rose up in bed and shouted, “I’ve got it; I’ve got it.”  The shout disturbed very much the peaceful slumbers of his spouse, who jumped up in bed and asked, “Got what?  What has ta getten?”  “How to pay the divi!” was the immediate reply.  Mrs. Howarth, more matter-of-fact than her partner, could not see the necessity for so much disturbance in the dead of the night, and advised her enthusiastic husband to lie down and keep his solution until the morning.  This, however, was just what Charles was unable to do.  He would get up, and get up he did, dressed himself, and went out to acquaint one of his companions of his discovery.  Uttering the same exclamation to his friend, he began at once to explain his plan, which was to pay a fixed rate of interest on the monies paid in as shares, the balance left to be paid to the members in proportion to the amount expended.  This principle seemed so just to the two concerned, that a meeting was called the following night, and it was then and there agreed upon that the system should be tried for a time.  It was tried, and proved so satisfactory in its trial that it was continued, and is still in force.

    From this time onward the developments of the Society were remarkable in many ways.  A few working people still looked upon it with suspicion and prophesied its ultimate failure, but a far larger number took a more favourable view of its objects and enrolled themselves as members.  The statement read out to the meeting at the end of the March quarter of 1857 showed a membership of 154, and a trade for the past quarter of £1,758, which was more than four times the amount of the business done in the previous June quarter.

(One of the founder members of our  Society,
and the first Treasurer)

    At this time a demand was made for the Society to deal in goods other than groceries, and arrangements were made with several tradesmen in the town, as the first balance sheet shows, to enable the members to purchase goods at their shops at the ordinary prices, such purchases to be entitled to dividend as though they had been made at the stores, the tradesmen making a corresponding allowance in his bill.

    For the quarter ending March, 1858, the balance sheet shows a trade of £2,573, with a membership of 280 and a capital of £1,346, paying a dividend of 1/3 in the pound on purchases.  During this quarter the Committee of Management desired to make an effort to become their own landlords.  This they proposed to do by undertaking the building of two shops in Market Street, Nos. 17 and 19.  The proposition gave rise to a protest on the part of several members, who feared difficulties on account of the youth of the movement, and the smallness of the available capital.  These Fearings of Co-operation, who were not yet convinced that it had become a permanent part of the fabric of English society, advised the members to wait a little longer.  On the other hand, the men of good courage, the Great-hearts, if we may so term them, of the movement, who believed in it to the uttermost, and perhaps foresaw much of its future, were in favour of building.  These men pointed out the vast strides already made by the Society, and the benefits of employing the capital in acquiring buildings of their own, and maintained that if the members were loyal to the Society, both in their trade and with their small items of capital, all would come right in the end.  Their advice prevailed, and although the capital at that time available for building purposes only amounted to £908, the motion “That we proceed to the erection of Nos. 17 and 19, Market Street,” was carried.

    Having received their instructions, the Committee of Management were not long in getting to work.  Land was taken, and the building contract was let to Mr. Thomas Crossley, Mr. John Heap being appointed clerk of works at 16/- per week.  The first instalment of £100 was paid to Mr. Crossley, when he had laid the first floor.  This was on June 18th, 1858.  The second instalment was paid on July 7th.  Altogether the cost of these two shops, including furnishing and fixtures, was £1,227, and so successful had been the appeal for financial help at the beginning of operations, that, after paying for the new buildings, no less than £1,180 left in the bank.  It will thus be seen that already Co-operation had done great things for the people of Bury.  The Committee at this interesting stage of the Society‘s development were Thomas Baron Smith, Richard Sully, Robert Law, Mark Rigby, George Yates, Joshua Proctor, Robert Austin, William Tweedale, Robert Carter, James Holden, and Thomas Balmforth.  Mr. Smith was the chairman.

    Up to this time, the meetings of the members of the Society had been held in the Athenæum, but after the building of these shops the meetings were held in the new premises.  The change was made on November 6th, 1858, the chairman of this meeting being Mr. T. B. Smith.

    In September, 1858, a little trouble arose, through some insinuations having been launched at the committee in reference to the new buildings.  The Society had had its troublesome member from the first, and matters were pushed a little too far for the committee at this particular time, as the following statement read out to the meeting held on September 4th, 1858, shows:―

“To the members of the Co-operative Store Society;― We, your committee, wish the members to express an opinion, in this meeting assembled, on the conduct of the committee in reference to the new buildings, and also on the insinuations that were thrown out at the last monthly meeting in reference to their position (on having good shops, and that they can’t be punched out of office).  We, your committee, are greatly dissatisfied at such language, inasmuch as your committee have given their services gratuitously since the commencement of the Society, and have endeavoured by all the means in their power to benefit the Society, without fee or reward, and have no other wish but to see the Society prosper, and that anything derogatory to its interest shall be destroyed by the voice of the members.

Thomas Baron Smith, President.”

After some little discussion it was resolved, “That this meeting is perfectly satisfied with the present committee, and that this meeting hereby expresses its continued confidence in their endeavours for the Society’s welfare.”  This resolution seems to have had a good effect, for no unpleasantness of a similar nature is recorded for many years after.

    In January, 1859, the Society’s business was being conducted in the new shop.  They entered into the grocery shop first, the drapery portion not being quite ready.  In a very short time the change was justified to all the members, the membership and trade developing rapidly in the new buildings.  The wisdom of the decision of the members to build is proved by the following extract from the Balance Sheet for March, 1859:—

"In presenting this quarter’s report, the committee have great pleasure in directing the attention of members to the highly satisfactory progression of the Society.  During the quarter 150 new members have been entered on the books, making a total of 550.  The amount received for goods from various departments is £4,293 13s. 5d., thus showing an increase of £1,039 over last quarter."

    In addition to the grocery trade, the Committee of Management opened out new departments at once.  They opened the drapers’ shop, and engaged the services of a shoemaker and clogger, and in the following quarter the sales were again very encouraging, and an assistant shopman in the grocery department was engaged.  Success begets a feeling of confidence, and this feeling, once engendered in the Bury Co-operative Society, grew rapidly amongst the members.  In a very short time all doubts as to the amount of business they were likely to do vanished, and with them vanished all fears as to the soundness of the Co-operative principle, a principle of which it has been well said:—“It supplements political economy by organizing the distribution of wealth.  It touches no man’s fortune, it seeks no plunder, it causes no disturbance in society, it gives no trouble to Statesmen, it enters into no secret associations; it contemplates no violence, it subverts no order, it envies no dignity; it asks no favour, it keeps no terms with the idle, and it will break no faith with the industrious; it means self-help, self-dependence, and such share of the common competence as labour shall earn or thought can win, and this it intends to have.”

“Mighty things from small beginnings grow.”


Origin of the Branches.


FROM the point to which the last chapter brings us the balance sheets show remarkable development.  Before the members got fairly settled in their own premises, a request was made to establish a branch shop in the neighbourhood of Rochdale Road, and on July 24th 1860, the Committee decided to take the shop No. 143, in Walker Terrace, at a rent of £18.  Mr. George Clegg was appointed shopman.  From the door of this shop at that date could be seen almost the very spot where Mr. Sully’s garden stood.  On the sign was painted the words: “Co-operative Store, No. 1 Branch.”  After taking this shop, arrangements were made for the building of the Heywood Street shops, and the business was transferred thereto on completion of the buildings.  On January 10th, 1860, Mr. Mark Rigby and Mr Thomas Baron Smith were appointed to look out for a site suitable for a slaughterhouse, and on January 27th it was decided to take one thousand yards of land in Back Garden Street, for that purpose, at 1½d. per yard.  On October 19th, 1860, No. 40, Moorgate, was taken from Messrs. Walker & Lomax, at a rental of £22 per year.  This shop was opened and used as a grocery store till the Peter Street range of shops was built by the Society, the removal taking place in July, 1869.

    In August, 1860, a letter was received from a body of working people in Radcliffe, asking that the Co-operators in Bury would establish a branch Store in Radcliffe in connection with the Bury Society.  The matter was referred to the Monthly Meeting following, but the members decided that they could not accede to the request.  But the extension of Co-operation in their vicinity could not be without interest to them, and they wrote a cordial letter to Radcliffe expressing willingness to give all information and assistance to help the Radcliffe people to start a “Store” of their own.  As a result of the receipt of the letter a deputation came over from Radcliffe to Bury to ask if the Society would allow some of their members to attend and speak at a meeting to be held in that district.  This was agreed to, and Messrs. Mark Rigby, Thomas Brierley, Thomas Slater, and Thomas Baron Smith attended, and with their aid the now flourishing Radcliffe Society was formed.

    A request having been made for a Branch Shop to be opened in Elton, two members of the Committee were deputed to look out for a suitable place, and on November 16th, 1860, it was resolved: “That we take the shop at Crostons, lately occupied by William Pyott, from Mrs. Whitehead, for the term of year to year, at £14 per year.”  Business was conducted in this shop until the building of the Elton Branch, which was opened in 1867.  On April 6th, 1862, the Quarterly Meeting passed the resolution: “That a Branch Shop be opened at Blackford Bridge as soon as convenient.”  Arrangements were then made with a Mr. Rigby to take land adjoining his house at 2½d. per yard.  Tenders for the work were obtained, and that of Mr. John Smith was accepted.  The shop was completed and opened in the month of October following, Mr. John Tootill being engaged as shopman at 20/- per week.

    In November, 1859, it was decided to start a Tailoring department, and a temporary room was provided over the draper’s shop in Market Street, the first full quarter’s transactions showing a turnover of £190.  Every effort was made to increase the trade, but the place did not suit the members, and for a long time no increase in the receipts could be secured.  This determined the Committee to look out for a more eligible place, one more in touch with the feelings of the members, and in a short time a shop in Princess Street, owned by a Mrs. Woods, was taken on rent, and the words “Co-operative Store, Limited,” were placed on the sign over the shop.  Here the tailoring branch of the Society was conducted until No. 21, Market Street, then used by Mr. John Greenwood as a shop and beerhouse, known by the name of the “Rising Sun,” was purchased by Messrs. Abel Standring and John Ashworth on behalf of the Society.  The purchase was made at a sale by auction at the Derby Hotel, in November, 1867.

    The tailoring business was conducted in the Market Street premises till its transfer to No. 18, Silver Street, which took place in March, 1895, where it remained until the existing premises at the junction of Broad Street and Silver Street were purchased and adapted.

    The next demand made by the members for a branch Store was made by those living in the Limefield and Baldingstone districts, and although the Committee were being kept very busy with building operations of one sort or another, they had to consent in February, 1865, to a store being established at Limefield.  This branch was opened in a house in Pigslee Hollow, and by the following May was in full swing, the June quarter’s receipts being £358.  On September 4th, 1865, the Committee purchased some property at Limefield from Mr. Richard Rothwell (a part of which had some years previously been a beerhouse known by the name of the “Bird-in-Hand”, with the intention of transferring the grocery business there from the “Hollow.”  This idea was carried out.  In May, 1868, a cloggers shop was opened at Limefield, but it failed to realize expectations, and in June of the following year the shop was closed.  In the balance sheet for the September quarter of 1869, the Committee say: “We are sorry to have to say that during the past quarter we have had to close the clog shop at Limefield, in consequence of not being sufficiently supported by the members in that locality to make it pay.”  In October, 1868, a branch Butchering department was opened at Limefield, and remained doing business till the quarter ending December, 1876, when the business had decreased so much that the Committee felt compelled to close this also.  However, in January, 1881, another effort was made which was more successful, and a butchers’ business has been done at Limefield ever since.

    Early in the year 1866, a body of members hailing from Walshaw, asked for the consideration of their case, and in February the Committee decided to establish a branch Grocery Store in that district.  This shop, taken for 21 years from Mr. George Leigh, was opened in April, 1866; and in October, 1877, a Butchers’ shop was opened, business being transacted in these rented premises until January, 1892, when the present range of shops were built, Mr. Thomas Wilde being the Architect.  The Hornby Street branch was the next to be undertaken.  A shop, No. 61, Hornby Street, was purchased from Mr. Lightbown for £450, and converted into a Grocery branch, and opened in July, 1866.  Here the Store remained until a new shop was built in the same street.  These buildings, after being altered and enlarged, were found too small for the constantly increasing business, and in April, 1899, they were pulled down and the present premises erected.

    The branch shop at Heap Bridge was not started by the Bury Society.  It was purchased from the Heap Bridge Co-operative Society, a Society which had done well in its early years, but which, probably on account of a decline at the time in the population of that district, had ceased to be prosperous.  The remaining members asked the Bury Society to purchase it towards the end of the year 1874.  The request was complied with, and the shop was taken over in January, 1875.

    In February, 1868, Mr. Thomas Shaw, Clogger, of what was then 53, Stanley Street, offered his shop, stock, and utensils to the Society.  The offer was accepted, and a Cloggers‘ shop opened, where business was done till the building of the Peter Street Shops, when this place was closed and the business transferred to the new premises.

    The decision to open branch shops in Paradise Street and King Street was arrived at for a different reason altogether from those which gave rise to the formation of any other branch.  In April, 1891, Messrs. Owen Thomas and Edwin Sharples were appointed delegates to attend the Co-operative Congress, which was held that year in Lincoln.  At that Congress a Paper was read by Mr. Sydney Webb on the subject of Co-operators trying the experiment of starting branch shops in large towns in very poor neighbourhoods.  The paper was a most excellent one, and the delegates came away from Lincoln convinced that the arguments used were sound, and that the suggestion was thoroughly practicable.  They did not stop here, but in their report to the June meeting they recommended the members to give the question their favourable consideration.  The advice was accepted, and the Committee set to work at once.  They decided to purchase No. 50, Paradise Street, from Mr. John Schofield (the gentleman who sold the Pioneers their first load of flour), for £182; and the shop in King Street was bought from the Exors. of M. A. Nabb for the sum of £175.  Extensive alterations had to be made in both places, but the Paradise Street shop was opened September, 1891, and King Street in September of the year following.

    Business at the present premises in the other districts began in the following years; — Bell Lane, 1869; Warth Fold, 1875; Bolton Road,1877; East Street, 1878; Hudcar, 1881; Fishpool, 1882; Wash Lane, 1891; Porter Street, 1891; New George Street, 1892; Fairfield,1890; Ainsworth Road, 1903; and Irwell Street, April, 1905.

    To return to the Market Street Shops, always regarded the central premises of the Society, we have traced the establishment of Grocery, Butchering, Drapery, and Tailoring Stores.  In June, 1873, two shops, Nos. 25 and 27, Market Street, were purchased from Mr. Samuel Jackson for the sum of £1,750.  The former was opened as a butchers’ shop, and the latter as a boot and shoe store.  On July 21st, 1884, it was decided to purchase No. 23, Market Street, from Mr. Wm. W. Park for the sum of £975.  This was opened for the sale of hats and caps.  The last purchase in Market Street was the property No. 7, which was bought from Mr. John Horrocks for £700.  Co-operators in many parts of Lancashire had proved that it was desirable to start the business of caterers, and many buildings had been adapted for that object.  The idea had taken root in Bury, and the present Manager (Mr. Wm. Wild) had long desired to have an opportunity of proving the utility of this branch of business.  The purchase of the property gave him the opportunity he desired, and the Board of Management, having obtained the sanction of the members, set to work at once to carry out the scheme.  The property purchased was pulled down, and the present commodious and handsome building erected in its place, Mr. David Hardman being the architect, and Messrs. Thompson & Brierley the builders.  The place was opened by Mr. Wm. Wild on April 11th, 1901, and the following statement shows the progress made up to the present time:—






Average Quarterly takings





         »     Dividend made





    The building that taxed the patience of the members the most was the erection of the Knowsley Street property, comprising the Cellaring, Warehouse, Offices, Stables, and Hall.  It was decided that the work should be proceeded with on July 11th, 1866, when Mr. Mark Rigby was President.  No time was lost, for on the 16th inst. Mr. Edmund Simpkin was requested to make the plans and specifications.  The work was taken in hand at once, and on September 15th, the plans were presented to the Committee, passed, and forwarded to the Earl of Derby’s Agent, the late Mr. Statter, for approval.

    Up to this time the meetings of the members had been held in an upper room in Market Street, and goods had also been warehoused in Market Street, but for some time prior to 1866 these arrangements had been found to be totally inadequate to cope with a business that was always increasing.  The capital available for building purposes was about £14,000.  Mr. David Barnes was appointed inspector of works.  The following contracts were entered into:— Edward Hill & Brothers, stonework, £880; Thomas Clough, brickwork, £1,124; John Smith, joiners’ work, £1,329; Thomas Balmforth, plumber, £199; Thomas Fairclough, plastering and painting, £262; John Kay, slating, £106 10s.  Just before the walls of the building were ready for the roof to be placed upon it, an agitation was started amongst the members, some of whom desired to have a flat roof, with an observatory in the centre.  The question was brought forward and discussed at the quarterly meeting held on October 5th, 1867, but the suggestion was negatived.  Undeterred by this resolution, Mr. Thomas Slater sent the following letter to the Committee under date October 31st, 1867:—“Gentlemen,—Would you have the kindness to bring before the monthly meeting of the Society, to be held on Saturday, November 2nd, 1867, the following proposition for consideration and discussion: ‘The advisability or otherwise of erecting an observatory on the Society’s new building, now in progress in Knowsley Street.’”

    Mr. Slater brought the matter forward, and after a long discussion it was decided to adjourn the question to a special meeting to be held on November 12th, the Committee to get an estimate of the cost in the meantime.  Mr. Edmund Simpkin, the architect, was instructed to prepare plans and estimates for the cost of two schemes — one to have the observatory on a corner of the new building, and the other to have it in the centre.  On resuming the debate at the adjourned meeting, it was very soon evident that the opinion of the members was evenly divided, and after the meeting had thoroughly thrashed the matter out, the voting showed 185 votes against the proposal, and 116 for the observatory.  The “No’s“” had it, and consequently no observatory was built.  After this adverse decision the building proceeded until its completion.  Since then several important alterations have been made respecting the position of the platform and gallery.  The Corporation officials inspect the building once a year, in order to see that proper arrangements are provided for the security of life in case of fire, and several improvements have been made from time to time to comply with their requirements.  The principal alteration has been the construction of two additional staircases at the back of the Hall, leading down to the back street.

    Slight reference has already been made to the removal of the Drapery department to the buildings at the corner of Broad Street and Silver Street, but the purchase and adaptation of this large pile of buildings calls for rather more than passing reference.  It had been evident for some time that the Market Street Drapery premises were inadequate, but it was not easy to find suitable shops.  At length the Committee decided to purchase the property situate at the above spot, and known as Stanley Buildings, from the Queens Building Society, Manchester, with the intention of transferring both their drapery and tailoring business thereto.  The cost of the purchase was £4,400.  After the completion of the purchase, the Committee found that very extensive alterations would be required to make the building suitable for the purposes for which it was needed.  The contract for the alterations was given to Alderman C. Brierley, and the whole of the work was finished, at considerable cost, by April, 1901.  The formal opening of the new premises took place on the 26th of that month, the members of the General Board, together with Alderman Brierley, his clerk, Mr. Barnes, and some of the officials of the Society being present.  The President (Mr. Kay Kay) declared the building open for business, and expressed the hope that, as the other ventures the Society had undertaken had been successful, a like result would be achieved in relation to the present move.  He referred to the many difficulties that had been met and overcome during the alterations, and said he believed the building had been strengthened from basement to top storey with columns and girders, and was substantial and strong, and in every way worthy of the Bury Co-operative Society.

    From a very early period in the Society’s history the members have been strong on the point that good, wholesome bread should be made, and baking arrangements have been carried on for a long time.  Extension after extension has had to be made to meet the ever growing trade of this popular department.  Machinery of the most up-to-date character has been brought into use, and ovens of large dimensions have been erected.  Heavy demands have been made at times upon the staff and machinery by the placing of large orders for parties of all descriptions, and the Society have earned a wide reputation as caterers.  Not only is bread baked, but all kinds of confectionery and sweet cakes are produced, and some idea of the amount of work done in this department at the present time may be arrived at by the statement that the average weekly number of sacks of flour used is 101, and the number of servants employed is 13.

    Speaking generally, Co-operators like to be the owners of all the properties used by them in conducting their trade, and it has been a rare occurrence for Bury Co-operators to rent a building for business purposes for any lengthened period.  They believe in finding employment for the capital of their members, and paying rent does not find such employment; but they are debarred from using their capital in the purchase of the land on which their buildings stand, inasmuch as the ground landlords prefer to let land on the leasehold system for a term of 999 years.  In consequence of this preference all the properties erected by this Society, with one exception, have been erected on leasehold land, Lord Derby being the owner of almost the whole of the land.  The one exception referred to is the site at Walshaw, where the ground was bought outright for a sum of £181.  When the old property, No. 7, Market Street, was purchased, the land was only for a short lease, and previous to building the Committee deemed it advisable to re-lease the land, and this Lord Derby consented to do, at the same time raising the rent from £5 5s. to £10 10s. per annum.  Application was also made to re-lease Nos. 25 and 27, Market Street, the lease originally granted by Lord Derby being only for 99 years, and the Committee were anxious to have all Market Street properties on a long lease.  This land Lord Derby consented to re-lease for 999 years on an increased rent from £8 18s. to £17 10s. per year, a proposal to which the Committee consented.  The total amount of ground rent paid to Lord Derby by the Society during 1901 was £650, and the amount paid to other parties was £135.

"Look back, how much there has been won,
     Look round, how much there is to win;
 The watches of the night are done,
     The watches of the day begin."




(The first permanent Secretary and Manager of the Society, and compiler of our first balance sheet, a very valuable document, which will be found on the next three pages).

Bury Co-operative Provision Society.

Trustees:― Robert Law, Robert Austin, Thomas Balmforth.
Treasurer:― Richard Sully.                     Secretary:― James Holden.
Committee:― Mark Rigby, George Yates, William Tweedale,
Robert Carter, and Joshua Proctor.
Auditors:― John Lord and John Heywood.


To the Members of the Bury Co-operative Provision Society.

Fellow Members,
    In laying this Quarter’s Report before you, we would earnestly desire you to examine the various statements contained, to weigh them honestly, to judge them fairly, then calmly, soberly, and impartially to say, has any good resulted, or will any be derived from such Associations as this, of which you have now ample evidence.

    It has been thought desirable to place before you the results which have been accomplished by your aid (and that of others, who through circumstances over which they had no control, and who have been compelled to leave the town), in order that you might see our progress has been one of gradual and satisfactory onward progress; that we have in the short space of about one year and eleven months attained a position never surpassed, if ever equalled, in the same time by any cooperative body in existence.

    Your attention is also solicited to the names appended to this report, who are now doing business for the Society on commission, your cordial and unanimous support and patronage to these individuals is respectfully solicited by the committee, in order that they may still further promote the good and welfare of the Society and its members.

    The following Tabular Statement will shew you plainer than can be expressed in words, our steady increase in number of Members, and the consequent extension of business of the Society:


Names of persons who supply the Society with goods on commission:—

DRAPERY—Edward Potts, Bolton Street.

BUTCHERS—Edmund Topping, Rochdale Road.
                      William Redfern, Moorside.
                      James Redfern, Princess Street, Mosses.

CLOGGER—John Cooper, Water Street.

SHOES—Edward Bates, Moorside.

HATS & CAPS—The Working Hatters’ Association, of Manchester, at the Stores.
                            Richard Parker, Market Street.

We are,
                 Yours truly,
                                        THE COMMITTEE.


Wellington Mill & Bury Permanent
Co-operative Building Society


IT is interesting to note that there has always been a close relationship between the Bury Co-operative Society and the Bury Co-operative Manufacturing Company Ltd., or Wellington Mill, as being the first mill built in this town after the passing of the Joint Stock Act.  As early as April, 1859, just when the Bury Co-operators were meeting under their own roof in Market Street, Mr. Richard Sully asked leave for the use of their meeting-room for a few Co-operators who were anxious to discuss the advisability of building at Mill.  The application was at once granted free of charge, and in that room the preliminary steps were taken which resulted in the building of the Wellington Mill.  Several meetings were subsequently held, and on February 18th, 1860, a special meeting was held in the Stores’ Newsroom, presided over by Mr. Sully, at which it was decided; “That a Company be formed to carry on the business of a Cotton Spinning and Weaving Concern, and that a Committee of eleven be formed, to consist of the following persons:—Messrs. Thomas Slater, J. C. Hill, Richard Sully, John Hall, Abraham Whittaker, Thomas Jackson, Thomas Clegg, John Valtous, William Tweedale, John Wain, amd Joseph Holmes.”  It was resolved, further, that the Company be separate and distinct from the Stores.  Many more of the pioneers of the Co-operative movement rendered valuable aid in carrying out the object.  The corner stone of the Mill was laid on July 16th, 1860, and Mr. Richard Sully was afterwards appointed first Chairman of the Company.  He held that office till August, 1862, but remained a member of the Board for many years after.

Edwin Barnes
(one of the founder members of our Society).

    Having found the men, it was natural that the Society should be looked to for a share of the capital.  The expectation was not disappointed, and on May 7th, 1864, the members agreed to lend the Company £2,000 on mortgage security.  At various times subsequent to this date the amount was increased, until in January, 1867, the sum advanced on mortgage was increased by £6,000, making a total of £14,000.  In January, 1877, a further sum of £3,000 was lent to the mill on loan, making a total of £17,000.  Since the last-named date, the Company has fortunately been both able and willing to reduce its indebtedness, and has at various times repaid to the Society sums of not less than £1,000, until in the balance sheet for December, 1904, the amount standing on mortgage is £5,000.  The half-yearly meetings of the Company have always been held on the premises of the Co-operative Society.  The mill was completed in the troublous days of the American War, and it had to wait until the termination of hostilities and the reduction in the price of cotton before it could begin operations.  A start was made in February, 1865.

Bury Permanent Co-operative Building Society.

    Besides the Wellington Mill, the Bury District Co-operative Society has given birth to another institution whose career of usefulness has left its mark upon the life of the town.  We allude to the Bury Permanent Co-operative Building Society.  The members decided in the latter part of 1868 to start an organisation into which they could pay money as subscriptions, such money to lie there until such times as they decided either to buy or to build a house.  As in the case of the Wellington Mill Company, it was resolved that the Building Society should be separate and distinct from the parent Society, and bearing its own financial responsibility.  Operations were commenced in April, 1869, when Mr. William Addy was appointed chairman, Mr. Charles Atkinson treasurer, and Mr. John Hilton secretary.  The other members of the Committee of Management were Messrs. Lawrence Walker, John Lord, jun., Robert Meadowcroft, Jeremiah Fielding, and David Perritt.  Messrs. Henry Driver, John Olive, and John Burgoine became the first trustees.

    Subscriptions soon began to flow in freely.  Advances on mortgage to members were made on a liberal scale, and in a short space of time the Building Society became a popular institution.  In the latter part of the year 1877, owing to the number of applications from its members to use the funds of the Society, it became necessary to seek outside assistance, and the Co-operative Society lent the Building Society £1,000 to meet such demands.  This sum was repaid within twelve months.  From its birth the Bury Permanent Co-operative Building Society has been an economical, well-managed, and beneficial concern, and has been no mean factor in helping forward the principles of thrift and commercial honesty which Co-operation has ever sought to place in the front rank, a harvest of good and intelligent citizens being the result.  The meetings of the Society have always been held on the premises of the Co-operative Society, and although the two Societies are not to be regarded as identical — inasmuch as each bears its own burdens and has its own defined objects — it may be said with perfect truth that they have concluded an offensive and defensive alliance against the old evils that Co-operation came into existence to remove.


A Great Trial.


THE breaking out of the American War and the consequent scarcity and high price of cotton, prices going up to 2/7½ per lb. for Mid. American in July, 1864, was the cause of one of the most severe trials that Lancashire was ever called upon to bear.  Bury and district suffered in common with the rest of the county.  The impossibility of getting cotton from America caused a large number of mills to stop altogether, and many more to go on for a few days only per week, whilst many trades closely allied with cotton shared in the trouble.  Hundreds of families in Bury, formerly in fairly comfortable circumstances, began to feel the keen pinch of poverty, and to realise the pangs of hunger.  Many who had been striving to lay by for a rainy day were compelled to part with their hard-earned savings, in their efforts to stem the tide of trouble.  In the great majority of cases the effort was futile, and the unfortunate people had to rely eventually upon the kindness of friends for the necessities of life.  Even in the case of families who were not reduced to this dire condition, the strain placed upon their resources by reduction of income, and the help which they felt obliged to accord to their less fortunate neighbours, was so great that their expenditure was restricted to articles of necessity.  Even in those things their expenditure exhibited very little variety, meal and flour bulking out the largest in the bill of their weekly purchases.

    It was a heavy blow to fall upon the shoulders of a movement so young as Co-operation was in Bury and several other Lancashire towns, and the question — “How will the young Co-operative saplings stand the strain?” was asked, with much interest and some anxiety.  “Will they go under?”  “Will there be such a run on their capital as to swamp it?”  “Will the trade so decline as to make it impossible to carry on the Society?”  These and many similar questions agitated the minds of many well-wishers of Co-operation.

    In the report for the quarter ended June, 1862, the Directors say: “Although the depression in trade still continues, it is gratifying to observe that the falling of in the receipt of goods is little less, as will be seen by a comparison of last quarter, £13,797; present quarter, £13,405; decrease, £391.”  In the following quarter the receipts were down to £12,268; and a gradual decline may be noted in each succeeding quarter, until June, 1863, when the receipts stood at £10,756; whilst the share capital of the Society had only decreased from £9,424 in June, 1861, to £8,637 in June, 1863.  The decreases were considered by the directors at that time very small, and such as were only to be expected as a result of the demoralised condition of trade.

    During this time soup kitchens were opened in several parts of the town, and the Co-operative Society opened one of its own, and contributed largely to it.  The Society was thus able to weather the storm without having recourse to borrowing money to carry on its trade, and in fact during the whole time of the depression it had fairly large balances ready to be used in case of emergency.

Thomas Clegg
(one of the founders of the Society).

    Mr. Richard Cobden, speaking about this time of the trials of Co-operators said: “The members of Co-operative Stores cannot expect to escape from a share of the loss and suffering which must be the common fate of all classes in Lancashire, and I think I can perceive the salutary influence of your movement in the calm and reasonable demeanour of the population during these trying seasons of adversity, which may be largely attributable to the fact that members of the working classes have, by Co-operation, been added to the ranks of capitalists, and have thus become participators in both the benefits and reverses to which possessors of property are liable.”

    The drain on the poor rates of Bury at that time, although very heavy, must have been materially lightened by the fact that workers had a fund at the Stores on which they could draw, and which saved them in many cases from being driven to apply to the Guardians for relief.  There can be no doubt that the existence of the “Bury Co-operative Stores” must at times have relieved enormously the poor rates of Bury, and thus helped to raise the moral tone as well as the physical condition of the inhabitants.

    The expansion of the trade of the Society in the years which followed the close of the period of extreme shortage, was most remarkable -- perhaps the most remarkable of any period in the Society’s history.  The total trade done in 1863 was £47,658, and in 1866 it was £135,175.  The share capital increased in vaster proportions still.  In 1863 it stood at £10,806, and in 1866 at £38,460.  Such were the strides which were made in the years which succeeded the lean years that it has always been felt that whilst the period of distress, called by the nickname of “Dow time,” and latterly by the title of “Panic,” had been to many of the sorriest possible description, it had done some good, inasmuch as the bitter experience caused many people to have a desire to save who had never saved before.  And so in trial and suffering a most useful and beneficial lesson had been learned.


Capital and Interest.


ALTHOUGH the Bury Society are supposed to have adopted the early rules of the Rochdale Pioneers, there are a few points of difference between the two Societies, the most important being in the rules which relate to Share Capital.  The capital of the Rochdale Pioneers was raised in Shares of £1 each, bearing interest at the rate of three and a half per cent.  The shares were not to be withdrawable, but were transferable only.  The rate of interest was altered to five per cent. in August, 1845.  The Bury Society decided to raise its capital in Shares of £5 each, no member to hold more than ten shares.  These shares were to bear interest at the rate of five per cent., and were to be withdrawable only, not transferable, as in the case of Rochdale.

    The principle adopted for the withdrawing of capital was by giving notice.  This notice was to be according to the amount required to be withdrawn, the scale varying from two weeks for sums up to 50/- to twelve weeks for sums of £50.  In the Rules dated 1863 this scale is abolished, and one substituted which allowed any member to withdraw any sum he had in the Society by giving one week’s notice for every £5.  This scale is confirmed in the rules dated 1875.  The rules, as revised in 1877, adopt the principle of withdrawals as practised to-day, so that now “any member, by giving notice, may withdraw any sum he has in this Society above five shillings at the discretion of the Committee.”

    The capital of the Society continued to be raised in shares of £5 each until the adoption of the new rules in 1877, when the shares were reduced to £1 each, members being still permitted to hold the same amount of capital.  The shares have always been withdrawable, and never transferable, and they bore interest at the rate of £5 per cent, until May 8th, 1886, when, at a special general meeting, it was decided to reduce the rate to four and one sixth per cent.

    At a quarterly meeting held on October 7th, 1871, the question of the capital of the Society came up for serious consideration.  It was pointed out by the chairman (Mr. Edward Shaw) that the Share Capital was increasing faster than the channels of profitable investment warranted, and he added that the last balance sheet showed a capital of £79,890, as against £67,774 twelve months earlier.  The amount lying in the Bank, he said, was over £25,000, and the interest on this large amount paid to the members was considerably larger than the amount the Society obtained from the Bank for it.  It was thus, he pointed out, a heavy drain on the trade of the Society.  In consequence of Mr. Shaw’s statement it was then and there resolved to reduce the capital which each member was entitled to hold from £50 to £40.

    The effects of this resolution were not sufficient to stem the constant inflow of capital.  At best it acted only as a temporary check, and the result was that the members were called together again on March 8th, 1873, when the capital allowed per member was further reduced to £30, at which it stood for more than thirty years.*  The Committee then set before themselves the task of finding means for the profitable employment of some portion of the Societys surplus capital.  Large amounts were lent to several Cotton Spinning Mills in the town; a large sum was invested as a deposit account in the Bury Banking Company, which was afterwards increased to £30,000 in the Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank.  Another alteration was made in the rate of interest charged on Cottage Mortgages.  In this class of investment the Committee were anxious to do a much larger business than they had hitherto been able to do, and it had been felt that five per cent. was just a little too high a charge for the members to be tempted to borrow.  A meeting was therefore called to consider the question, and on August 6th, 1898, it was decided to reduce the rate of interest payable on Cottage Mortgages from five per cent. to three and three-quarters per cent.  This decision had the effect of stimulating the members to acquire a house of their own, and by October, 1902, the amount standing in the name of the Cottage Mortgage Account amounted to £43,631.

    On January 6th, 1891, a letter was received from the Committee of the Co-operative Women’s Guild, Bury Branch, asking that a Small Savings Fund might be started in connection with the Society.  The matter was brought before the members, and it was unanimously resolved to adopt the suggestion.  A code of rules was compiled, and three and one-third per cent. was fixed as the rate of interest payable.  By December, 1904, the amount standing to the credit of this fund was £3,045, the number of members being 910.

* On May 6th, 1905, the capital allowed to be invested by each member in the Society was increased to £100, interest being allowed on the first £30 at four and a sixth per cent., and the remaining £70 at three and a third per cent.


Solving the Housing Problem.


THE present chapter is intended to show that the early Co-operators were not satisfied with having solved the problem of how to feed and clothe themselves.  They were also determined to do something of a practical character, to solve, to some extent at least, the question of how to obtain better houses for themselves at a reasonable cost.  The necessity to do something in this direction was fully realized, but the difficulties in the way of carrying out any comprehensive scheme were great.  Fortunately the pioneers of Co-operation were not easily daunted, and they had the courage to weigh the prospects of success and the chances of failure with deliberate impartiality.  It was evident then, as it is to-day, that too many owners of common house property were interested in keeping up the monopoly which they had so long enjoyed.  It says much for the grit and self reliance of the members that they were able to recognise that any material improvement of the housing of the people must come from themselves, and that it was in self help, and in self help alone — that fundamental principle of Co-operation — that their hopes of betterment lay.

    It was pointed out in their meetings that no houses gave such a large return on capital as those tenanted by the industrious working classes, and it was contended, further, that a Co-operative Society in changing and improving the environment of its members would be rendering untold benefits to the community.  It is beyond the power of the most able pen to depict the evils arising from defective sanitation and overcrowding in the average working-class home of forty or fifty years ago.  In the aggregate a brick and mortar wilderness, the working class quarter was in detail a collection of wretched hovels.  Even to-day the condition of working-class houses leave much to be desired, and there can be no doubt that in their condition lie the fundamental causes of half the moral problems that now confront civilization.

    Bad as the conditions were and unsatisfactory as they are, there can be no doubt they would have been much worse in the town had the Bury Co-operators not turned their attention to the matter in good time.  On November, 1867, Mr. George Stockton, a member who had taken a prominent part in the working of the Society at the time, introduced the object, and expressed the opinion that it was advisable to invest a portion of the Society’s surplus capital in the building of cottages for the members.  His suggestion was thoroughly ventilated, and at a meeting held on December 21st, 1867, it was resolved: “That in the opinion of this meeting it is advisable to invest a portion of the Society’s capital in the erection of cottages.”  Those who have read what has already been written have read to little purpose if they have not discovered that the early Co-operators were not in the habit of allowing the grass to grow under their feet.  At the same meeting nine members were appointed to draw up a scheme for carrying out the desired objects and report to a future meeting.  The report was presented on January 21st, 1868, one calendar month after they were commissioned to make enquiries.  It was found that the rules did not provide for the selling of cottages to members, but the Committee recommended that they might decide to build a number of cottages, and in the meantime seek powers by an alteration of the rules to deal with them as the members might determine.*  In consequence of this report power was given to the Committee of Management to build not more than sixty cottages, the same to be of a superior character.  Mr. Tidd Pratt, the Registrar of Friendly Societies in England, and Mr. Vansitart Neale, the legal adviser to the Co-operative Union, were both written to, and acting on their advice a supplementary list of rules was proposed and adopted.  The first lot of cottage property built by the Society was a lot of ten in Shepherd Street; immediately afterwards a block of sixteen houses was built in Raven Street, off Walmersley Road; and then a block in Elton.  Since then blocks have been built in various parts of the borough and district, to suit the convenience of the members residing in those districts, and such was the demand of the members to become tenants of the Society’s property, that balloting had to be adopted in many instances to decide who should live in the houses built.  The cottages built by the Society have in every case been of a class superior to the general standard of workmen’s dwellings then built.  Every attention was paid to the sanitary requirements, and the houses have always been lofty, roomy, and in every way a credit to the Society.  As soon as the rules allowed, arrangements were entered into by many of the members to purchase on the instalment principle either the house they lived in, or other property, as they might desire, and in this way hundreds of working men in Bury have become owners of cottage property.  The time allowed for repayment extended over a period of twenty years, and the interest charged, which in the first place did not exceed 5 per cent., has since been reduced to 3% per cent.  Up to December, 1904, £45,132 had been spent by the Society in the building of cottage property for its members, and, in addition, £125,395 has been lent to the members to enable them to purchase other cottage property that they might desire to own.  The amount owing to the Society by the members at Christmas, 1904, was £39,633; the Cottage Sales Account stood at £2,385; and the Cottage Building Account, that is to say the account for Cottages owned by the Society, at £8,085.

* — The Industrial and Provident Societies’ Act, 1867, although a good Act in many respects, failed in one very important feature so far as Co-operative Societies were concerned. According to the opinion of the then Registrar (Mr. Tidd Pratt), the buying and selling of land, which the building of these houses and selling to members involved, could not be regarded as "a trade" which a Society might be registered to carry on under the Act. This embarrassing restriction led to the passing of the Act of 1871, which declared that the buying and selling of land should be deemed a trade within the meaning of the Act.


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