The Co-operative Movement within South Yorkshire
“…In the days of scanty earnings, meagre education and lack of social benefits of pleasures, a small band of uneducated yet shrewd, far-sighted and, above all, lion-hearted men pinned their faith to the principle of Co-operation…”
The Rochdale Pioneers
When Rochdale weavers decided to establish a Co-op in 1843 they had little knowledge of the foundations they would create for Co-operative movements in South Yorkshire, and throughout the country. Terrible working and housing conditions throughout the nation ensured workers had to co-operate with their goods and hard work to create their own equal and fair business . They based this new business on democracy, open membership and distribution of surplus money made. This enabled them to create a truly socialist inspired company, whom in time made profits on their fair trade products.
The Brightside and Carbrook Co-Operative Society
The Brightside and Carbrook Co-operative Society was a hugely successful Co-operative within Sheffield, eventually establishing three branches, a baker, a dairy farm and tailors by 1908 . When a laundry was opened in 1909 the Co-op made excess of over a million, which in this day would equate to almost 104 million!
Founded in 1868 the first pioneers were blacksmiths at William Jessops steelworks, the Brightside and Carbook Co-op initially began in a small rental shop on Carbrook Street. However as the Co-ops popularity grew they opened a new store on Kirkbridge Road. Finally, in 1914 land was purchased on Exchange Street, but World War One put an end to the proceedings until 1927.
Many locals also have fond memories of the Brightside and Carbrook Co-op, and the fantastic deals they had to offer for shareholders.
A resident of Page Hall Road, Sheffield, aged 60 claims
“When I was a child I would accompany my mum to the local Co-operative store. I remember when the grocery shop became a supermarket. It seemed very strange going around the aisles helping ourselves to the goods instead of asking the shop assistant behind the counter for them…. In those days mum always quoted her Co-operative share number to the staff and at the end of each year she received a sum of money based on how much she had spent that year. I remember the number to this day – it is etched in my brain – 770776.”
You can hear more memories of the Co-operative, in South Yorkshire and all around the UK, on the Co-operative Memories website.
Barnsley British Co-Operative Society
In 1862 the Co-op was founded by nine men who had managed to save a shilling a week . Although the Barnsley British Co-operative Society shares many similarities with Sheffield Co-operatives, it also has many original traits.
The premises were initially held on Market Street, but then later moved to larger premises on New Street. Originally situated in a district where colliery disasters were common, this Co-op dedicated itself to aiding the welfare of others, as well as selling wholesome, unaltered goods. When the Edmund’s Main Colliery explosion occurred at Wesbro’ Dale in 1862, killing 59 men and boys, the Co-op donated £48,747 to aid families affected. The Co-op also created many fair jobs with good benefits for the community of Barnsley community such as book-keeping, till working and creating fair opportunities for bakers, farmers, butchers and customers .
The Future of the Co-operative
The company “The Co-operative” still with hold the ethical principles of the original Co-operatives, promising to sell fair trade goods and treat their workers fairly. The history of the Co-operative, is something to be remembered for creating a fairer market for workers today. If you have any memories of your local Co-operative try the Co-operative Memories website or please leave a comment below.
Co-operative Wholesale Society, The Coronation History of the Barnsley British Co-operative Society Limited, 1862-1902 (Manchester, 1902), 1-2.
John Birchall, The People’s Business (Manchester, 1994), 46.
Vernon Thornes, Commemorating the Co-operative Movement: Specifically in Sheffield and Rotherham (Sheffield, 1995) 6.
 Memories within Sheffield, The Co-operative, Accessed 02/04/14 (http://150.co-operative.coop/co-operative-memories/).
National Co-operative Archive, GB 1499, Barnsley British Co-operative Society, 1862-1975.
‘The Coronation History of Barnsley Co-op’, 12-14.