History of the Meltham Industrial Co-operative Trading Society Limited (1911) - 1881 to 1891

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History of the Meltham Industrial Co-operative Trading Society Limited: Jubilee 1861-1911 (1911) by A. Haigh


1881 TO 1891.

The year 1882 was a very uneventful one, and, as a consequence, the duties of the Committee were very light, one of the late Presidents having stated that many times the whole business was transacted in from twenty minutes to half an hour’s time. Two of the main items which commanded their skill and sound judgment were the testing of tea, which was then not bought in the packet as it is to-day, but in the bulk; also the purchasing of horses. The testing of tea required the skill of the whole of the Committee, but the purchasing of horses was confined to three of the best judges of horseflesh, along with a veterinary surgeon.

On September 7th, 1893, the Committee decided to subscribe two guineas to the testimonial fund which was being raised to Mr. Thomas Hughes, in honour of his great services rendered to democracy and the Co-operative movement. Thomas Hughes, who afterwards became Judge Hughes, was a great author and a deeply impressive and eloquent speaker, and as such rendered invaluable service in advocating the social questions of the day. As an author he will ever be remembered by the youth of England as the writer of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays.” The following is an extract from a speech delivered by Mr. Hughes on the occasion of the presentation of the Hughes Scholarship, which was founded by Co-operators in recognition of the yeoman service he had rendered them:—

Forty years ago I was a youth fresh from Oxford. You may imagine the effect upon me of a plunge into one of the worst quarters of London (Lincoln’s Inn), peopled by thieves, beggars, and slop workers. I saw that the comparative struggle of life had brought them to this pass, and I almost became a physical-force Chartist. Mr. Maurice (Chaplain, Lincoln’s Inn) gathered a number of young students around him, and within a year I had become a Christian Socialist, and was hard at work establishing associations among the London slop workers.

The following is an extract from one of his books:—

What does democracy mean to us English? Simply an equal chance for all; a fair field for the best men; a clearance out of sham governors and all unjust privileges in every department of human affairs. The people will have compulsory education, organisation of labour, and utilisation of public lands, and other reforms of an equally decided character. All the signs of our time tell us that the day of earthly kings has gone by, and the advent to power of the great body of the people, those who live by manual labour, is at hand. The Co-operative movement and the trade societies should be enough to prove this. In another generation the sovereignty of the country will virtually pass into their hands. Upon their patriotism and good sense the fortunes of the kingdom, of which Alfred laid the deep foundations a thousand years ago, will depend.

To have subscribed two guineas to a testimonial to a man with such ideals was an act which we can all commend.

At this time many of the leading citizens of the village had under consideration the erection of a mill for the spinning of cotton. Many meetings had already been held, and a company was to be formed called the Meltham Cotton Spinning Company. Canvassing for the taking up of shares had already commenced, and the Society had been approached upon the matter, the result of which was that on October 9th, 1893, a Special Meeting of members was held in the Oddfellows’ Hall, to take into consideration the advisability of taking up shares in the proposed Cotton Spinning Company. Mr. Joseph Mitchell Moorhouse proposed, and Mr. Samuel Wilkinson seconded, “That this Society take up 1,000 £5 shares in the proposed Cotton Spinning Company.” About 400 members were present at this meeting, and, after a long discussion, an amendment was moved that 500 shares be taken up. The result of the voting was as follows:— For the taking up of 1,000 shares, 99; for the taking up of 500 shares, 83; majority, 16.

On February 23rd, 1885, it was decided to build a cottage in the yard behind the Stores, following in a line with the other two cottages already erected. Messrs. Charles Hirst, James Earnshaw, John Taylor, and Frank Pogson were appointed as the Building Committee, and to have power to prepare plans and specifications and any other information which was requisite for that purpose. The plot of land upon which the cottage was to be built belonged to Edward Brook, Esq., head of the firm of Jonas Brook & Bros., cotton thread manufacturers, Meltham Mills. The Committee thought that if Mr. Brook was approached he might be persuaded to transfer the land to the Society as a gift. It was decided he should be interviewed upon the matter, and a deputation was appointed for that purpose. He was eventually waited upon, and the deputation was successful, Mr. Brook deciding to hand it over to the Society as a gift. Mr. Charles Hirst (Treasurer) was appointed to wait upon Messrs. Brook, Freeman, and Batley, solicitors to Mr. Brook, respecting the transfer. It afterwards transpired upon closer investigation that the land belonged to the Society, and not to Mr. Brook. The successful tenders for the building of the cottage were as follows:— Messrs. G. and J. Mellor, masons, £72; Mr. David Turner, joiner, £24; Mr. James Wilkinson, plasterer, £5 9s.; Mr. W. E. Jowett, slater, £6 10s.; Mr. Francis Drake, plumber, £5 14s.

The Society from the commencement to this time had conducted its business on the fortnightly payment system, giving to each member the option of a fortnight’s credit. The Society had flourished and grown upon this system, yet it would appear that many of the members were favourable to changing the system to strictly ready cash payments. It is evident that some agitation was taking place and that dissatisfaction existed among the members. The cause for this, no doubt, was the statement in the balance sheet for the half year ending June, 1885, that the accounts owing by the members, who numbered 674, amounted to £1,825 19s 0½d. — rather a large sum.

Past Officers.

At the Committee Meeting held on July 20th, 1885, a resolution was passed that 700 copies of Hines’ pamphlet on “Ready-money v. Credit” be sent for and distributed amongst the members.

On the balance sheet for December, 1886, it was stated that the Committee intended commencing on the ready-money system on the second Monday in July, 1887.

At the General Meeting held on January 3rd, 1887, the balance sheet was passed with the exception of the ready-money clause, and a resolution was adopted that it be considered at the next Half-yearly Meeting. This meeting was held on July 4th, 1887, and the former resolution that ready-money be commenced was rescinded, and the question was allowed to drop for the time being.

On July 27th, 1885, it was decided to take up five shares of £1 each in the Paisley Co-operative Manufacturing Society, the manufactures produced by this Society being chiefly all varieties of shirtings and skirtings, and these materials made up into garments. This productive Society had always received a portion of our trade, and has been very prosperous.

For some time now the Committee had had under consideration the opening out of another branch of business, namely, boot repairing and clogging. The new cottage which was being built, and which was now nearing completion, was thought suitable for carrying on this branch of business, and Messrs. Moorhouse & Taylor, joiners, were appointed to fit it up for the purpose. In the meantime a competent man to manage and carry on the work was advertised for in the Huddersfield Chronicle and Huddersfield Examiner. From amongst the applicants Mr. William Wright was appointed as the first Manager of this new department.

The great work which was being done by the Central Board in furtherance of the Co-operative movement was very much valued by the Committee, and on February 22nd, 1886, to show their appreciation they increased the yearly subscription from two to three guineas. The tendencies of the Committee during the year must have been very generous, as they decided to forward weekly a copy of the Co-operative News to the Liberal Room, Conservative Room, and Mechanics’ Institute.

On June 22nd, 1886, the contracts were completed for the erection of a new mill for the Meltham Cotton Spinning Company, and on June 30th the first sod was cut. The Society at this stage had advanced them the sum of £1,000.

In this same month the Treasurer (Mr. Charles Hirst) contracted a serious illness, which necessitated him resigning the position, and his resignation was accepted by the Committee on July 5th. At the General Meeting of members, held the same evening, a vote of thanks was accorded to him for his services. It was also passed at this meeting that the Huddersfield Banking Company be Treasurer for the Society for the following six months.

After a brief illness Mr. Hirst died on July 16th, aged fifty-six years, having held the office of Treasurer for eleven years.

On August 2nd another advance of £1,000 was made to the Cotton Spinning Company, and £500 on January 17th, 1887.

In March, 1887, a decision was come to that the name of William Haigh and Company should be discontinued, and that all future transactions should be entered in the name of the Meltham Industrial Co-operative Trading Society Limited.

In consideration of the warehousemen and assistants, to make their burdens a little lighter, it was decided to purchase a crane for the loading and unloading of goods from Mr. D. Haigh for the sum of £7.

Postal facilities had very much improved since 1861, so much so that they now allowed for a delivery on Sundays, which was thought by many in excess of the requirements, and they were opposed to it. A petition was drawn up for its abolition, and was presented to the Committee as a body for signature, and a resolution was passed that it should be signed. In due time the petition was presented to the authorities, and was successful in obtaining a discontinuance of this Sunday labour.

In the August of 1887 a quantity of drainage was required to be done in connection with the Stores, and at a Special Committee Meeting it was passed that the drain contract be let to Mr. William Taylor for the sum of £54 19s., providing he found bond to the amount of £20 before signing the contract, namely, to complete the work in the specified time of six weeks. Mr. Taylor complied with these conditions and carried out the work.

On September 19th, 1887, two coal wagons were bought from Mr. James Battye for the sum of £33.

The question as to whether the Society should again commence in the butchering business had been occupying the minds of the members for some time. The Committee took the matter in hand and arranged for a Special General Meeting to be held on October 6th for the following business:— 1st, the butchering question; 2nd, whether we join the proposed corn mill scheme at Slaithwaite; 3rd, the revision of the rules. This meeting took place with the following results:— Proposed that we commence the butchering business: carried by a large majority. Proposed that it be carried on on the ready-money principle: carried. Proposed that we take some shares in the Britannia Corn Mill, Slaithwaite: lost by a large majority. The meeting .was adjourned three weeks for the question of the revision of rules, in order that a copy might be printed and perused by the members previous to the meeting.

The Quarterly Conference in connection with the Huddersfield District Co-operative Association was held in the Baptist Schoolroom on December 3rd. The Society provided the tea and entertained the delegates.

At the Committee Meeting held on December 19th, 1887, it was proposed that a butcher be advertised for in the Huddersfield Chronicle, Huddersfield Examiner, and Co-operative News, personal application to be made on Tuesday evening, December 27th. On December 30th Mr. Jonas Manchester (Meltham) was appointed to this position.

Committee and Secretary.

The Half-yearly General Meeting of the Society was held on January 2nd, 1888. Mr. Henry Holroyd was appointed Treasurer at this meeting. Messrs. Appleby and Wood, Chartered Accountants (Manchester) were also appointed as Auditors, local gentlemen having audited the accounts of the Society to this date. Messrs. William Wrigley, Thomas A. Haigh, and D. A. Bamford were also re-appointed Arbitrators.

In order to enhance the sale of the Co-operative News the Committee ordered 500 copies for March 26th, 1888, to be distributed gratuitously to the members.

On April 8th, Mr. William Wright, Manager of the Boot and Shoe Repairing Department, gave notice to leave the Society’s service. The notice was accepted, and he left on April 20th. Mr. Abraham Bardsley (Oldham) was the next man to receive the appointment.

At the General Meeting held on July 2nd, 1888, on the motion of the Chairman (Mr. John Wilkinson) the meeting gave a cordial vote of thanks to Mr. Wood (Auditor) for his attendance, and for giving such a lucid explanation of the balance sheet.

Mr. Bardsley, who had been appointed Manager to the Boot Repairing Department on April 30th, gave notice to leave the Society’s service on August 20th, which was accepted, and on August 25th Mr. Wm. Strickland (Dewsbury) was appointed his successor.

On September 8th a great event took place at Meltham in the opening of a Recreation Ground, the gift of Edward Brook, Esq., to the Meltham Council, for the free use of the inhabitants. The ground consisted of 13½ acres, and cost the sum of £1,185, and was presented on November 16th, 1887, in honour of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. At the opening ceremony the Society decided to decorate the whole of the premises.

On October 22nd, 1888, shares were taken up to the amount of £5 in the Colne Vale Corn Millers’ Society, £5 in the Hebden Bridge Fustian Society, and £5 in the Co-operative Printing Society.

A members’ Knife and Fork Tea and Meeting was held in the Oddfellows’ Hall on Saturday, December 15th,

1888, the Stores being closed at 3 o’clock for the occasion. It is not recorded who addressed the meeting, but the following very forcible speakers on Co-operation were invited:— Messrs. Wilberforce (Leeds), T. Swallow (Leeds), Mitchell (late Chairman of the Co-operative Wholesale Society), and Alfred North (Batley), late Director of the Co-operative Wholesale Society.


At this period the back premises of the Stores, and the two houses then occupied by the Grocery and Butchering Managers, were very much more isolated from the public than they are to-day. On that account the Committee thought it advisable and necessary that a dog should be kept, to give the alarm should anyone be prowling about in the vicinity. On September 5th, 1887, it was moved “that we have a dog, and that Messrs. J. W. Kinder and A. Quarmby see about it.” On January 3rd, 1888, it was moved “that we provide a muzzle for the dog, and also that the dog is not to be taken out by anyone.” On August 6th, 1888, it was moved “that the dog ‘Joss’ be under the entire control of the Manager, and only let loose at his discretion, and by nobody else.” On March 5th, 1889, it was moved “that our dog ‘Joss’ be shot at once.” On making inquiries I am informed the dog became so ferocious that he was not fit to be at large, which accounts for the order for him to be shot. After all, he was not shot, but hanged.

To show their appreciation of the excellent services rendered to the movement by E. V. Neale, Esq., in the capacity of Secretary of the Co-operative Union, Co-operators throughout the kingdom were establishing a scholarship in his honour at one of the Universities. At the General Meeting held on April 22nd, 1889, it was decided to subscribe two guineas to the scholarship fund.

In June of that year another change was made in the Butchering Department, Mr. Jonas Manchester tendering his resignation, and ceasing to be Manager of this department. At a Committee Meeting held on Whit-Monday morning, June 10th, 1889, Mr. Batley was installed as Managing butcher, and holds the position up to the present time. Under Mr. Batley’s management this department has always been more prosperous than at any time previously, and has received a fair share of members’ support.

The loyalty of the Meltham Society to the Co-operative Wholesale Society and its productions has always been an outstanding feature, for as far back as January, 1890, there is a minute to the effect that all goods produced by the Wholesale Society be handed over the counter, unless other productions are particularly asked for.

A Saleroom in connection with the Co-operative Wholesale Society had been established at the Lion Arcade, Huddersfield, for the convenience of the buyers in the Huddersfield district. On March 18th, 1890, the formal opening took place, the Society being represented by Messrs. Fred Beaumont, Henry Holroyd, Thos. Hirst, and the Manager (Mr. Joe Haigh).

Fortune did not always smile with favour upon the Society’s transactions. Some litigation took place between the Society on the one hand and Messrs. Lock-wood Bros., carriers, on the other. This arose through the loss of a piece of linsey, which was being conveyed from a Mr. Iredale, manufacturer (Linthwaite), to the Society, and was handed to Messrs. Lockwood Bros, at Huddersfield. During transit the linsey got lost. The case went against the Society, and they had to pay the costs. As a result the trading account was closed with Mr. Iredale and Messrs. Lockwood Bros, ceased to be carriers for the Society.


At the General Meeting held on April 28th, 1890, the members present decided to increase the subscription to the Huddersfield Infirmary from £3 3s. to £6 6s., also to subscribe £2 2s. to the Lifeboat Fund for the building of the lifeboat, which was to be named “Co-operator No. 3,” this being the third lifeboat built by Co-operators.

The Co-operative Congress of 1890 was held in Glasgow, and Mr. A. Quarmby, who was President at that time, was appointed as the Society’s representative.

At this time the Committee consisted of men who must have been very careful indeed in their habits, and intended that the servants of the Society should be so also. They passed a resolution “that we have a bag to preserve the old paper and one for old band, &c.”

It was in the year 1890 that the Bent Ley Silk Mills were being formed into a company. The Committee had under consideration the advisability of taking up shares. A Special General Meeting of the members was held on August 5th, and it was decided to apply for 200 shares of £5 each.

The business of the Society at this time was increasing rapidly, and if it continued the Committee foresaw that in the near future further extensions of the premises would have to be made. In anticipation of this, negotiations were pending with Edward Brook, Esq., the owner of the plot of ground immediately adjoining the Society’s premises, with a view to purchase. Mr. Brook agreed to sell, and the ground, which measured 312 square yards, was purchased for the sum of £177 8s., the transfer taking place on June 30th, 1891. The ground is now occupied by the butcher’s shop and cart shed.

The Co-operative Congress of 1891 was held at Lincoln, and the Society appointed to attend as delegates Messrs. F. Beaumont and Thomas Hirst, on Whit-Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, May 18th, 19th, and 20th.

On June 1st, 1891, Mr. Joe Haigh, who had served the Society as assistant and Manager for a period of twenty-one years, tendered his resignation, having been appointed as Manager to the Brook Lane Co-operative Society, Golcar. During Mr. Haigh’s term of management the Society had grown apace, the membership having increased from 505 to 808 and the sales from £12,400 to £33,000 and the members’ claims from £5,062 to £10,061. These figures show that the Society had been under very capable management. To tide over the difficulty caused by Mr. Haigh’s retirement Mr. Septimus Bosomworth was appointed as temporary Manager in the Grocery Department, and Mr. Captain Schofield as clerk and cashier. This position was eventually offered to Mr. Schofield as a permanency, but he refused to accept it. After this refusal the Committee decided to advertise for a Cashier and also a Drapery Manager. On June 16th Mr. John Yearsley was appointed as Drapery Manager, and on July 2nd Mr. Samuel Wood was appointed Cashier. These vacancies being filled, matters settled down again for a little while.

At a meeting held on July 20th it was resolved to increase the share capital invested in the Colne Vale Corn Millers’ Society from £5 to £50.

The three closing months of this year (1891) brought much disturbance and agitation to the Society. The old question of ready-money trading was being revived and vigorously advocated by the faction of the members in favour of its adoption, and much bitterness and strife prevailed. Many special meetings of the Committee were held to discuss the matter, and a Special General Meeting of the members was held in the Oddfellows’ Hall on Monday, November 23rd. Mr. Owen Balmforth (Huddersfield) and Mr. Ambrose Wood (Milnsbridge) were requisitioned as speakers, and at the close of speaking and discussion the following decision was arrived at:—

That we commence the ready-money payments on Monday, March 28th, 1892, and the Committee adopt a system of check, to come into force on the above date.

The voting on this resolution was as follows:— For, 146; against, 14. Many remained neutral. It was resolved on December 28th “that we commence the ready-money on the Eccles system.” Thus we find the thirtieth year of the Society’s existence passing away amid a disturbing element, but which, happily, passed over without any disastrous effect.

Members Receipts £
1882 638 27,326
1883 652 28,002
1884 655 26,149
1885 685 25,883
1886 699 25,943
1887 721 25,951
1888 737 28,500
1889 756 30,000
1890 808 32,800
1891 826 33,640
  • Dan Holroyd — 1881 to 1883.
  • John Wilkinson — 1883 to 1884.
  • Edwin S. Mellor — 1884 to 1885.
  • John Taylor — 1885 to 1886.
  • John Wilkinson — 1886 to 1890.
  • A. Quarmby — 1890 to 1891.
  • Thomas Hirst — 1881 to 1885.
  • Michael Firth — 1885 to 1888.
  • Thomas Hirst — 1888 to 1891.
  • Charles Hirst — 1881 to 1886.
  • Henry Holroyd — 1886 to 1891.
  • M. Firth — 1881 to 1885.
  • J. Slater — 1881 to 1885.
  • J. Slater — 1885 to 1887.
  • Thos. Hy. Mellor — 1885 to 1887.
  • Messrs. Appleby and Wood — 1887 to 1891.
  • James Hirst.
  • James Pogson.
  • Wright Thorp.
  • Dan Thorpe.
  • Charles Pogson.
  • A. Quarmby.
  • James Holroyd.
  • John Pogson.
  • Dan Holroyd.
  • Jonas Hirst.
  • Ben Sykes.
  • William Lunn.
  • David Cairns.
  • Tom Sharp.
  • D. Patterson.
  • J. W. Kenworthy.
  • Walter Buckley.
  • Wellington Watson.
  • Frank Pogson.
  • Rockley Battye.
  • E. G. Mellor.
  • Hy. Patterson.
  • Joel Pogson.
  • Fred Beaumont.
  • John Taylor.
  • John Woodhead.
  • James Earnshaw.
  • Anthony Patterson.
  • Fred Kaye.
  • Samuel Wood.
  • Joseph Parkin.
  • George Moorhouse.
  • Sam Ellis.
  • N. Armitage.
  • Joe Haigh.
  • S. Hopkinson.
  • J. W. Kinder.
  • A. Broadbent.
  • Joe Dixon.

Continue to 1891 to 1901...