History of the Meltham Industrial Co-operative Trading Society Limited (1911) - First Decade of the Society's Progress

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



There is evidence to show that the ideals of the early Pioneers of the Co-operative movement in Meltham were not confined solely to the making of profit and dividend. In its very earliest stages the comfort and convenience of the members were considered, a well-known character named John Haigh, popularly known as “Owd Jack Haigh,” being engaged, by the aid of his donkey and cart, to carry goods to the customers’ houses. Also on the first quarterly report the objects of the Society were proclaimed in the following terms:—

The objects of this Society are the social, domestic, and intellectual advancement of its members, by social intercourse; inducing habits of economy, forethought, and thrift, thereby enabling them to provide for bad time of trade, old age, incidents of life, sickness, and death. It proposes to provide its members and the public generally with groceries, provisions, drapery, and other necessary articles, the profits whereof will be divided amongst them quarterly in proportion to the amount of their respective purchases, namely, members, full profits; non-members, half profits.
Fellow-Townsmen, — It is to your interest to join this Society. Make the most of your necessary outlay, by obtaining dividend of profits on your purchases, which, by permitting to remain a few years in the Society, will produce you a capital over which you have as full control as if deposited in a savings bank, and to which interest after the rate of 5 per cent per annum will be added quarterly.

From an onlooker’s point of view, the business from its commencement showed signs of prosperity, which continued throughout the whole of the first quarter. But to those upon whom the responsibility of good management rested, many an incident happened and many a difficulty arose, which were the cause for grave anxiety, and at the close of the quarter’s transactions the results were awaited by them with a little timidity and alarm.

Present Store.

The first quarter’s balance sheet was issued on October 31st, 1861. The Committee’s report read as follows:—

Meltham, October 31st, 1861.
Your Committee have great pleasure in issuing their First Report and Statement of Accounts of the Society, which they trust will be highly satisfactory to you — the purchasers and public generally. During the past quarter, £733 0s. 9d. has been received from the sale of goods, the profits arising from such sales being £59 8s. 6d. Your Committee are, therefore, enabled to declare a dividend of 1s. 8d. in the £ on purchases to members; and a bonus of 10d. in the £ to non-members, being purchasers.
The appeals of your Committee for capital to enable them effectively and advantageously to extend the operations of the Society, have been well responded to. They would, however, take this opportunity of informing you that much yet remains to be accomplished before the whole machinery of the Society is in full operation, and, with your assistance, they feel convinced that their efforts will be crowned with success, and be highly beneficial to the members, the purchasers, and the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.
Signed on behalf of the Committee,
J. C. HIRST, President.
THOS. DEARNLEY, Secretary.

On the following page is a copy of the general statement of accounts:—

General Statement for the First Quarter ending October 28th, 1861.
Debit. Credit.
1861. Receipts. £ s. d. Oct. 28th, 1861. Payments. £ s. d.
To Cash Receipts for Goods 733 0 9 By Cash Purchases, Goods 1063 7
To Member’s Contributions 301 15 0 By Fixed Stock 92 3 7
To Loans 230 0 0 By Carriage of Goods 15 2
By Gas 1 14
By Rent of Store 4 5 0
By Wages and Services Rendered 23 8 9
By Withdrawals — One 0 18 0
By Licences 0 16
By Printing and Stationery 3 9 4
By Balance in Treasurer's hands 59 9 8
£1264 15 9 £1264 15 9
1861. Liabilities. £ s. d. 1861. Assets. £ s. d.
To Members Claims 297 6 0 By Stock of Goods 476 4 2
To Dividend on Paid-up Shares 3 15 0 By Fixed Stock, less 2½ per cent dis. 89 17 5
To Loan and Interest 232 17 6 By Accounts Receivable 3 1 10
To Rent 4 5 0 By Cash in Treasurer’s hands 59 9 8
To Accounts Owing 31 1 1 59 9 8
To Balance 59 8 6
£628 13 1 £628 13 1
£ s. d. £ s. d.
To Dividend of 20d. in the £ on Members’ Purchases 49 2 3 By Profit Balance. 59 8 6
To Non-members’ half 1 0
To Half do. To Fixed Stock Account 1 0 1
To Reserve Fund 8 6
£59 8 6 £59 8 6
Oct. 28th, 1861. John Hirst, Joseph Hirst. Auditors.

The first quarter thus ended with a membership of 86, with share and loan capital amounting to £500. The results achieved were hailed by the members with satisfaction. All fear and anxiety was dispelled, and the Society entered on its second quarter buoyant and hopeful. From this time onward, quarter after quarter, the Committee’s reports showed increases in membership and increased sales, the profits realised allowing dividends fluctuating from 1s. 3d. to 2s. in the £.

With one exception (the quarter ending September 19th, 1863) the dividend realised only 11d. in the £. In explanation of this the Committee gave the following statement:—

The Ninth Report is not quite so favourable as some of the preceding ones, partly owing to the extensive alterations made on the premises, but your Committee are happy to state that the report for the last quarter is equal to or exceeds some of the former. From the report you will perceive that the Society is gradually progressing.

They also congratulated the members on their splendid achievements and appealed to them for continued support.

Debit. Credit.
Oct. 28th. £ s. d. £ s. d.
To Balance Brought Forward 56 18 7 By Cash Paid for Goods 695 18
To Error in Cash 0 0 6 By Additions to Fixed Stock 7 17 9
To Rec’d from Wilshaw Penny Bank 2 11 3 By Carriage 9 5
To D. Woodward and Sons 0 12 6 By Rent 4 5 0
To Members’ Contributions 90 9 7 By Gas 1 0 0
To Shop Receipts 615 17 By Insurance 1 10 0
By Printing and Stationery 1 5 10
By Shop Wages 13 0 0
By Sundry Expenses 1 5 8
Balance in hand 31 2
£766 10 £766 10
Dec. 24th, 1861. £ s. d. £ s. d.
To Members’ Claims, with Interest 441 1 By Stock of Goods 591 16 10
To Loans, with Interest 230 0 0 By Accounts due 3 9 10
To Interest on ditto 5 4 7 By Ditto in Members’ Books 42 7 11¼
To Accounts Owing 45 8 11 By Fixed Stock 95 8 2
To Gas 1 0 0 By Cash in hand 31 2
To Balance — Gain 41 10
£764 4 11¾ £764 4 11¾
£ s. d. £ s. d.
To Dividend on Members’ Purchases, £528 16s. 1d. at 1s. 5d. 37 9 2 By Balance — Gain 41 10
To Non-members, half on £40 18s 3d. at 8½d. 1 8 11½
To Gain by ditto 1 8 11½
To Reserve Fund 1 3
£41 10 £41 10
Samuel Coldwell, Charles Hirst. Auditors.

Mr. Wm. Haigh, who was first Treasurer to the Society, and who held the position for sixteen years, visited the present Stores very frequently in his latter years, and, on getting into conversation with him, he would revel in telling what they had to contend with in the early history of the Society. He told of how, at the end of one stocktaking, they balanced up and found there was no profit, so they had to go through the stocks again, and, fortunately, they found a quantity of tea which had been overlooked, and which enabled them to pay a dividend. At another quarter ending they realised a dividend, but they had no money in hand to pay with, and he had to borrow the money to get them out of the difficulty.

During the quarter ending June, 1865, the Society sustained a loss by the death of Mr. George Pogson, who had been a very efficient member of the Committee from its commencement.

At the latter part of the year 1865 butcher’s meat had reached an abnormal price, and the Committee had it under consideration as to the advisability of commencing this branch of business. The result was that a wooden shop was built on what is called Bower Hill, and was opened out for the sale of this commodity in the January of 1866, the first Manager appointed being Mr. Isaac Wilkinson (Huddersfield). In the June report of the same year appeared the following statement:—

In the month of January the Society commenced the business of selling butcher’s meat. Considering the high value of cattle, a more unfavourable period could not have been chosen. The price of meat has undoubtedly been high, but it is very probable it would have been much higher in this neighbourhood had we not commenced this branch of business, and your Committee are wishful that the members will encourage it as much as possible. The business done in this department has been £887 11s. 10d., leaving a handsome balance.

The year 1866 was a notable one for progress and the commencing of new branches of business. At the latter part of the year the Society commenced to supply its members with coal, which was a great boon to them, and eventually proved a profitable and successful department.

At the close of the half year ending June 22nd, 1867, the membership had grown to 270, and the increased sales to close upon £5,000 for the six months. This volume of trade necessitated the Committee looking out for a site on which to build enlarged and commodious premises in order to cope with the ever-increasing trade, the present Store having become too congested and quite inadequate for the business done.

Having had several places under consideration they at length selected the site now occupied by the present Stores, at that time a small farmstead occupied by Mr. John Siddall, the ground landlord being Mr. Charles Brook (Enderby). The Committee commenced negotiations with Mr. Brook with a view to purchasing sufficient ground for their requirements. Unfortunately, they were not at first successful, some difficulty arising of such a nature that Mr. Brook closed the negotiations and would not have any further dealings with them. Nothing daunted by this rebuff, they again requisitioned the services of Mr. Hirst (Wilshaw) to intervene on their behalf. He readily consented, was successful in bringing Mr. Brook to terms, and 1,040 square yards of ground were purchased for the sum of £466 12s., the transfer taking place on December 7th, 1867.

Veteran Members.

Judging from the report of June 20th, 1868, one would conclude that the Committee of Management were rigidly upright, and not possessed with the slightest taint of dishonesty or equivocation. It reads thus:—

Reports, in order to be of real use, must be faithful. Exaggerated accounts of the success of any Society will in the end render it contemptible. The practice adopted by some companies of cooking or preparing their reports has been highly pernicious.
Whatever may be the occasion of the report, the best course is to give a straightforward, honest account. Whether successful or unsuccessful, let the truth be stated. With regard to the report we here present respecting our Society, it will be plain and short, and, we trust, satisfactory.

Immediately after the purchase of ground building operations were commenced, and were at this time progressing very favourably and drawing near to the completion. In this same report appears the following:—

New Premises.
In our last report we stated that “a very eligible site has been secured at a reasonable price, and steps are being taken for the erection of the new building as soon as possible; and your Committee are now happy to state that it is nearly completed. Everyone will admit that while it will afford ample accommodation for carrying on a very extensive business, it will be an ornament to the village and a credit to the architect, and ere long your Committee are in hopes of transferring the business to your new premises.

By the end of December, 1868, the membership had reached to 299 and the total sales to £6,432. The dividend declared was 2s. in the £ on grocery and drapery sales and 1s. in the £ on corn sales.

February 4th, 1869, was a red-letter day in the Society’s history. The new premises were completed, and this was the opening day. Although there was no opening ceremony or any outward sign to indicate to the general public that a great event was taking place, to the members generally it was a memorable day, and one that would ever be remembered by them as showing the great progress which was being made by their own exertion and their own efforts.

These new buildings occupied a frontage of 66 feet and were two storeys high. To the front on the ground floor were the Grocery, Drapery, and Butchering Departments, the Grocery and Drapery Departments occupying the space which is now the Grocery Department only. The upper rooms were used for boots, drapery stocks, crockery, and furnishing, Office, and Committee-room. The large barn and farm premises at the back were converted into flour room and general warehouses.

The building of these extensive and what, at that time, were thought elaborate, premises, did not meet with the approval of a certain section of the members, and many were the murmurings and railings at the Committee for having overbuilt, and the prophecy was made that they would be large enough for all time. These people never dreamt for a moment that in a little over twenty years’ time further elaborate extensions would have to be made.

It was during the half year ending June, 1870, that the system of paying for drapery goods was instituted. The effect of this system on the receipts for goods sold brought forth the following explanation:—

We have had no material increase in the members, and, as you will perceive that our receipts are less than the previous half year, it is not owing to loss of business, but to the facilities which have been allowed to the Drapery Department, by the adoption for some time of the system of paying by weekly instalments, which, if cash had been paid fortnightly, as heretofore, there would not have been much difference. We would particularly impress upon the members not to take undue advantage of this privilege, as by the extended time given the Society loses the interest of the money for that period, which would amount to no small sum in twelve months’ time.

It was also during this half year that arrangements were made for the depreciation of buildings by allowing £10 per annum for that purpose.

During the half year ending December, 1871, which closed the first decade of the Society’s existence, there had been a change in the Butchering Department, Mr. W. Kaye having been appointed Manager in the place of Mr. Isaac Wilkinson. The membership had reached to 307, and the sales to £5,603 4s. 11d.

The following is a tabulated statement of the number of members, receipts, and profits from 1861 to 1871:—

Members Receipts £ Profits £
1861 92 1,348 101
1862 135 4,181 278
1863 167 5,434 350
1864 180 5,356 412
1865 216 6,406 540
1866 240 8,210 667
1867 277 10,080 742
1868 296 10,523 791
1869 311 10,618 761
1870 309 10,439 710
1871 307 10,759 829

This table shows the aggregate receipts for the ten years and the five months ending December, 1871, to be £83,354, and the profits £6,181, this amount having been distributed to the purchasers less £90 10s. 2d. for reserve fund.

The Committee state that the Stores have always supplied goods at reasonable prices, as cheaply as they could be procured elsewhere in the neighbourhood, so that it will not be presumption on our part in saying that the profits, if it had not been for the Co-operative movement, would have been in the hands of a few tradespeople, and the purchasers would have suffered that loss. We therefore wish you to use your influence to procure other members, as it will be to your interest, for the more members there are the working expenses will be less proportionately, and the profits will be increased accordingly.

At the close of the year 1871 the officials were as follows:— President, Mr. J.C. Hirst; Secretary, Mr. Joseph Hirst; Treasurer, Mr. William Haigh; Committee, Messrs. J. Earnshaw, J. A. Wood, A. Woodhead, David Bottomley, H. Wood, Alfred Kinder, Abraham Broadbent, and David Patterson. Messrs. J. C. Hirst, Joseph Hirst, William Haigh, and J. A. Wood had served the Society for the whole ten years.

The following gentlemen had served in the capacity of Auditors:— July to October, 1861, Messrs. John Hirst and Joseph Hirst; 1861 to 1866, Messrs. Samuel Coldwell and Charles Hirst; 1866 to 1867, Messrs. Samuel Coldwell and William Hirst; 1867 to 1869, Messrs. Samuel Coldwell and Henry Hirst; 1869 to 1870, Messrs. Samuel Coldwell and William Carter; 1870 to 1871, Messrs. William Carter and Thomas M. Dyson.

We find at the close of ten years that the Society had justified its existence. By strenuous effort its establishment had become sound and secure. From its inception we read of steady and sure progress, until it had become the largest business place in the village. Quarter after quarter profits had been realised and distributed to the members, which were appreciated by all, but more especially by the poor and needy members, enabling them to be better fed and better clad. By joining the Society they had become more thrifty, and in many respects better citizens. They had learnt that unity is strength and that knowledge is power, and were putting their knowledge to good use as opportunities presented themselves. Thus we find, at the end of a decade, the Society was answering the purpose for which it was established.

The management of the Society had been under the control of Mr. Townend, Mr. Joseph Lees, and Mr. Hamer Hirst — Mr. Townend for about one year, Mr. Joseph Lees for about three and a half years, and Mr. Hamer Hirst five and a half years, and was still Manager at this time. The Butchering Department had been under the management of Mr. Isaac Wilkinson and Mr. Willie Kaye.