On 25th October 1872, a group of men in Mirfield in West Yorkshire set up a co-op - the Battyeford Self-Help Co-operative Society.
The name is instructive. The impetus of the co-operative movement - spawned by the Rochdale Pioneers a little under thirty years earlier - was that ordinary people were getting a raw deal in life, and no one was going to help them redress that situation but themselves.
The minutes of the first three years of this co-operative venture were set down in a black exercise book - now battered and bruised, but in tact.
I'm blogging about the Battyeford Co-op because, in an act of generosity and friendship (thanks Jackie!), I have just been given this minute book, chronicling the endeavours of Battyeford's best to establish and manage their store.
The record of resolutions proposed and seconded - none seem to have been rejected - only hints at some of the difficulties and dilemmas these co-operators must have faced. And I haven't - at least as yet - done the delving to uncover just who these pioneers were - where they lived, what jobs they did, what were their circumstances. There will be a follow-up post when I can tell you more.
Much of the minute book is given over to details of what exactly the store would stock - how much was being purchased and at what price. At least initially, the store seems to have offered a very limited range of groceries.
The minutes also chronicle just how diligent the committee were in attending meetings.
The society clearly thrived - within eighteen months, the committee was considering building a new store:
Wind forward 150 years - and Battyeford still has a Co-op, on the wonderfully named Nab Lane. By the look of it (photo courtesy of the Huddersfield Examiner), it's at least possible that this is still situated in the store built by local co-operators back in the 1870s.
The Wilsons Arms, the venue of the meeting which founded Battyeford's Self-Help Co-operative Society, is also still going - and was recently given the sobriquet of Britain's roughest pub. I'll report back when I've had a chance to sample a pint or two there.
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