This year sees the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of the Co-operative Party. The Co-operative party was established to ensure that the Co-operative movement had a voice with the powers that be, a voice that would be arguing for co-operative values and ideals to be included where possible and practical in everyday life.
In the High Peak, we hope to host a number of events to celebrate the centenary, and to kick things off, our first event has been to arrange for a blue plaque both commemorating the centenary, but also highlighting the importance of the building on Norfolk Square that formed the home of the original Glossop Co-op, and whilst we’re still working on the installation of the plaque, we held an event on the 30th April to reveal the plaque and kick things off.
At the event we were joined by some of the staff from the Glossop Co-op store, who as part of the works ongoing across the co-operative group are seeking to improve their links with the local community, with a part of this been the redevelopment of the community fund and links to local charities, which has seen several local charities including Cafe Jericho benefit from this so far.
As chair of the branch, I gave a speech at the event outlining a little of the history of the both the Co-operative and the Co-operative Party in the area and you can see the text of it below, many thanks to Glossop Heritage Trust and Glossop Victorian Architectural Heritage for many of the details used in my speech.
In 1917 after being approved by the May Congress of the British co-operative movement held in Swansea, the Co-operative Party formally came into existence
and whilst Glossopdale and the High Peak’s involvement with the Co-operative Party doesn’t stretch back quite that far aside from the Glossop New Industrial Co-operative been an initial funder, Glossopdale and across the High Peak’s involvement with the cooperative movement most certainly does.
Although perhaps a little tardy taking a little over 20 years, from the founding of the modern co-operative movement by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, in 1866 the Glossopdale New Industrial Co-operative Society was founded, been beaten as the first co-operative in the area by the Hadfield Equitable Co-operative Society who came together in 1860.
A few years after that initial founding, in 1869 the Co-operative movements history with the site on Norfolk Square started, along with expansion across the whole of Glossopdale following with branches at Dinting, Freetown, Charlestown Road, Old Glossop, Pikes Lane, Gladstone Street, Gamesley and Arundel Street.
At the end of the first seven years the Glossop Co-op had 707 members. Seven years later, in 1880, the membership had risen to 1,100. After 20 years membership was 1,704 This shows the diligence and initiative the early Co-operative movement possessed.
In the 1930’s, the Glossop Co-op movement went through a period of mergers and expansion, emerging under the new title of Glossop and District Co-operative Society Ltd, along with making some of the changes to the building in Norfolk Square to start it down the path to the building we have today.
In the 50’s the Co-operative Society had departments for grocery, butchery, greengrocery, wet fish, tailoring, shoes, drapery and furnishing, confectionery and Café and painting & decorating. A Slaughterhouse and Bakery, Stables on Oak Street, a Garage on Edward Street and the main warehouse on Railway Street; to the rear of the Central Store at Norfolk Square. The Society also owned land and built houses with some examples remaining on Fauvel Road, North Road and Sheffield Road – A position that meant around a third of every retail pound spent in Glossop going in to Co-op tills.
In 1955 the central premises in Norfolk Square were reconstructed to provide its members with handsome and convenient shops and more easily accessible offices. The grocery shop was reconstructed as a self-service shop. This was the first major constructional alteration since the society bought the premises in 1869. The reason for the reconstruction was the expansion of the Society’s trading and “times have changed” attitude, the committee realised that it must change to be in harmony with the times.
by the 1960’s, the Co-operative Party was working to lay the foundations of modern consumer law in the 1960s- much of it still in force today, whilst toward the end of the 60’s in World Cup Year 1966 the Glossop & District Co-operative Society celebrated its centenary with a membership that was in excess of 8,000, almost half the population of the town.
At the centenary celebrations in 1966, there were performances from the CWS Male Voice Choir, a mannequin parade, a variety concert, and the CWS Manchester Band, and whilst I can’t guarantee a mannequin parade, we will have a variety of events during this centenary year.
Sadly over the years that followed, our shopping habits changed and the grand central store of the former Glossop & District Co-operative Society became surplus to requirements and moved into private ownership.
The early pioneers did not neglect educational needs and at the Norfolk Square premises there was a library with nearly 2,000 books, which was open to the public, and in parallel to some of it uses during it time as the co-op, there is still an educational use in the building now with the Derbyshire Chamber running various training courses, the high street cafe of the co-op has been replaced albeit sometimes with concerns over there tax status by the Costa Cafe of today, and whilst you might not be able to get butter from the huge slabs it used to be cut from, or cheese sliced with a thin wire or sugar in bags of stiff blue paper – the peak of health wholefoods shop with its stock of 1000’s of products may meet your needs.
Bringing us more or less up to the present, and with the re-branding of the Co-operative group, it has regained its self-confidence and is once again leading the way both the party and group are seeking to serve the community in the way the early co-operators sought when they first opened the Norfolk Square Store – with the new community fund providing much-needed support to a range of local community groups.
Whether it be from credit unions – to more direct action like the Torrs Hydro Scheme in New Mills, the breadth of co-operative solutions that will raise to the challenges of the current as our predecessors did in the past will know no bounds.
Locally across Derbyshire, we have vital council elections coming up on Thursday, with across the High Peak, 3 fine candidates, Caitlin, Robert and Damien, standing along with colleagues across the county to champion cooperative solutions to the problems of today.
As co-operators our values have always extended beyond the shop front and we know that to build the kind of society we believe in, we need a voice in the rooms where decisions are made. 100 years ago representatives gathered to create a co-operative party – to be that voice, and in the weeks ahead prior to the general election those co-operative ideals and principals we hold will be needed more than ever
Just a final point – for those of you that are beer drinkers – our special Co-operative Centenary brew available from the bar has been produced by the Drone Valley Brewery which is situated on the banks of the mighty river Drone that roars from South Yorkshire into North Derbyshire. They are unique as a brewery as they are the only independent Community Brewery in the UK. The brewery was built by local people. All there beers are brewed by volunteers to award winning recipes. They are run by a Membership who own the brewery.
You can view a few pictures from the event below and more on flickr by clicking here