Sunday, September 9, 2012

Early Co-operatives Ancoats

Alright it's not Chorlton, we're still in Ancoats in the 1860's which is where the M&SE Co-op Society opened in 1859. Seventy years of expansion later they reached Hardy Lane.

Classified adverts in 19th Century newspapers are full of property transactions and from these you find parcels of land up for sale and how much rent was payable. By order of the trustees under the will of the late James Thompson four lots of property in Salford, Ardwick and Ancoats in Manchester went up for auction in May 1862. One lot took my eye as there was a co-operative store on the land. Also the Indigo Street Independent Chapel, schoolroom, butchers, the Royal Hen & Chickens Brewery and twenty five cottages.  Cottages is describing back to back one up one down small terrace houses. All packed into 1,750 square yards with the River Medlock as the northern boundary. If the census was checked we could find how many souls resided in this block.

It is a small area. A mere 20 per cent of a football pitch, about two penalty areas and the semi-circle in front of it. I've seen plenty of football pitches so have this area of land fixed in my mind - Old Trafford is 1.82 acres and City's pitch 1.84 acres. This plot of land is 0.36 acres. I doubt if there was a tree, garden or blade of grass in sight.

But what was the co-operative store? It wasn't the Equitable Society, and I think it is the Industrial Society. "The society commenced operations on a small scale in 1856, in Bridge Street" - report by Mr. H. R. Bayley the Secretary, at the 7th annual tea party of the Industrial Society at the Free Trade Hall. Can't be sure which Bridge Street in Manchester that was, there were several before streets were renamed in the 1960's to stop confusion with postal addresses. He goes on to say "another store had been erected in Stockport Road during the last year at a cost of £1,020. " - Manchester Courier Wednesday 1st February 1865.

"There was an earlier Manchester and Salford Industrial Society before 1859. It had a shop at 519, Ashton Old Road, Openshaw, and one in Ardwick, with a stone beehive over the door. The beehive was still there in 1878, but over a toffee shop." George Jacob Holyoake in his "History of Co-operation" Chapter 16.

Still can't be absolutely certain. Yet all this is typical of the start of modern consumer co-operation, that began with the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844. On grimy back streets, in sooty industrial cities. All this area has been swept away in slum clearance, the Mancunian Way was built nearby and a small industrial estate put in place.

Photo of Indigo Street, Gable of No. 18, m11739 taken in 1901 courtesey of Manchester City Libraries Image Collection.

Earlier post on Manchester & Salford Industrial Co-op Society - here.

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