Sunday, April 22, 2012

Origins of M&S

The story of a meeting by the young men of the Roby Brotherhood on Christmas Day 1858 is given as the start of the Manchester & Salford Equitable Co-operative. I quite like this artists impression of one of their meeting made 100 years later. But deep down you know it paints a myth of how it was.

The chaps were mostly in their late twenties and early thirties. Working men, young dads, who attended the Roby Chapel, a noted Congregationalist Church and Sunday School in Manchester founded by William Roby. They would have worked six days a week, so a Saturday off work for Christmas Day would have been most welcome. Though they would have lost a days wages. They met at a small house at 22 Pump Street, Manchester set amongst  mills, workshops and ironworks. Across London Road would have been a new railway station for Manchester (the one now called Piccadilly). Pump Street and most of this area was redeveloped at the start of the 20th Century when Whitworth Street and grander buildings were constructed. The old fire station was built on the site of Pump Street.

If you've ever organised a meeting then you'll know the getting enough seating is the first priority. You couldn't imagine a long table and lots of matching chairs like some upper middle class dinner party. Well not in small terraced abode on narrow cobbled street. The room would have been packed.

Anyway they decided to form a co-operative on the lines of the Pioneers of Rochdale who had already been successfully trading for 15 years. They would rent a shop and when they had raised £100 and had 100 members it would open. Six months later that plan came to fruition. On the 4th June 1859 the shop opened at 168 Great Ancoats Street.

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