Meltham Mills Provident Co-operative Trading Society Limited
Established in 1827, it was one of the first co-operative societies and was formed nearly 20 years before the more famous Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers.
It later merged with the society in Meltham to become the Meltham and Meltham Mills Co-operative Society Limited.
The earliest years of the society remain largely undocumented, but several sources state that it was formed in 1827 with the support of Jonas Brook. Although Owen Balmforth noted that it was likely the sixth co-operative to be established in the country, there is good evidence to support the claim it was the first to pay dividends to its members.
A letter published in the Co-operative News stated:
To all whom it may concern :— this is to certify that when the Meltham Mills (Yorkshire) Cooperative Society was established in 1827, it commenced paying profits on the amount of each member's purchases at the store.
Witness my hand, this 30th day of September 1871, as one of the founders of the said store.
According to The Jubilee History of the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited by Percy Redfern:
At Meltham Mills, which goes back to 1827, the Rochdale Pioneers were anticipated, so far as the method of dividing profits is concerned. Dividend on purchases was paid from the start, but a member was obliged to hold £6 in shares and pay £1 down.
The 1854 Ordnance Survey map shows a series of apparent allotments to the south-east of Shady Row, and it may be that residents were encouraged to grow an abundance of produce that could then be traded. In 1845, this was described by the Northern Star as an "industrial farm [...] where the unemployed workmen are occasionally occupied in the pursuits of field gardening."
Around 260 members of the society "partook of an excellent tea" at the Brook Mills on 15 January 1859. Charles Brook gave a speech in which he noted that "the society had been established twenty-nine years, and had during that time paid to the members, in profits, £10,000." James W. Carlile then stated that the society's profit during the previous year had been £400.
Having apparently outgrown the original store, the society moved into a purpose-built property on the corner of Meltham Mills Road and Mill Bank Road in 1862.
The 50th anniversary was celebrated in February 1877 with a "knife and fork tea" for around 300 people held in the dining rooms of the Meltham Mills, with Edward Brook presiding. The Huddersfield Chronicle noted that the society members "were entertained during the evening with the musical efforts of the Stead family".
In December 1892, the Chronicle provided the following report:
Meltham: Co-operative Meeting. — The annual meeting of the Meltham Mills Provident Co-operative Trading Society (Limited) was held on Thursday evening, in the the Dining Hall, Mr. J.A.D. Taylor presiding. The half-yearly report and balance-sheet showed that the sales in the general trade amounted to £1,666 17s 7d., and corn and coal £774 18s 3½d. After the payment of expenses, depreciation, additions to the reserve fund, &c., the committee recommended that the profits of £363 11s 11½d. should be disposed as as follows :— General 3s. 9d. in the pound, and corn and coal 1s. 9d. in the pound. The report and balance-sheet were adopted. The retiring officers were re-elected without opposition, viz. :— Treasurer, Mr. Ben Garside ; secretary, Mr. Ben Hirst ; on the committee, Mr. J.A.D. Taylor. A vote of thanks to the chairman concluded the meeting.
By 1930, the society had merged with the Meltham Industrial Co-operative Trading Society Limited to become the Meltham and Meltham Mills Co-operative Society Limited, based at Midway in Meltham.
The society's earliest ledger was dated 1840 but unfortunately it went missing after being loaned to a pair of gentlemen from Oldham who claimed to be researching "a history of the co-operative movement". When J.W. Byrom, a former manager of the Meltham Mills Society, died in 1943, his obituary article in the Co-operative News noted the unfortunate loss of the society's earliest book. The article happened to jog the memory of Mr. W. H. Thompson, the secretary of the Rochdale Pioneers' Society, who recalled receiving a parcel of old documents from a widow in Plymouth named Mrs. Adams and upon re-examining them, he found the missing book.
It is believed the society ceased trading at their Meltham Mills branch in 1969, after which the property became a general convenience store.
Notes and References
- For example, see The Huddersfield Industrial Society Limited: Fifty Years of Progress, 1860-1910 (1910) by Owen Balmforth.
- Reproduced in Life and Labour in the Nineteenth Century (2014) by C.R. Fay. This was most likely the John Broadbent (born circa 1799) who is listed in the 1871 Census residing at Upper Mount, Mill Bank Road, close to where the store was located.
- Charlotte Wadsworth of Shady Row is listed as a grocer in the 1851, 1861 and 1871 Censuses. The latter two have entries which imply her residence was a grocery although the 1871 entry would conflict with the documented move to the purpose-built store in 1862.
- "Union of the Factory and Field Garden" in Northern Star (14/Jun/1845).
- "Meltham Mills Trading Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/Jan/1859).
- "Denis Kilcommons: More memories of the Co-op rekindled" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (20/Feb/2015).
- "Co-operation at Meltham Mills" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Feb/1877).
- Huddersfield Chronicle (31/Dec/1892).
- "A Historic Book" in Rochdale Observer (21/Aug/1943) and "Rochdale Challenged" in Daily Herald (11/Jan/1944).