The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, founded in 1844, was an early consumer co-operative and the first to pay a patronage dividend forming the basis for the modern co-operative movement. Although other co-operatives preceded them, the Rochdale Pioneers became the prototype and are most famous for designing the Rochdale principles.
Some of the first co-operatives were set up in the Holmfirth area well before the Rochdale Pioneers. In 1827 spinners, twisters, weavers, bleachers and farmers at Meltham Mills sold goods at the same prices as other shops and shared the profits out proportionately. Others were set up at Underbank,1832, New Mill, 1833, Holmfirth, 1833, Honley,1839, and Hepworth, 1840.
On January 14th. 1881, the first public meeting to discuss setting up a Co-op for Netherthong and district was held in the Free Church school. Mr.Wimpenny was elected to the chair, and after lots of discussion and feedback from the Honley Co-op, Mr.Eastwood moved the following resolution ” that it is desirable that we establish a co-op store in Netherthong “. The motion was put to the meeting and approved. Over 30 people requested to join and, after the meeting of these members, Benjamin Sykes was elected secretary pro-tem. It was proposed that a Co-op store be established in Netherthong and that it should be called the Netherthong Industrial & Provident Co-operative Society Ltd. It was further proposed that they should lease the premises, formerly known as the Rose and Crown public house, from Reuben & James Senior, brewers of Shepley, at a rent of £10pa. Full handwritten minutes of each committee meeting from the start right through to the last meeting on January 27 1968 are kept in the Archives Section at Huddersfield library.
The initial meetings were involved with extending and modifying the premises. The minutes identify that John Batley and Harry Eastwood were the joiners and Henry and Hiram Gill did the stone mason jobs. The first general meeting was held on February 11. Mr. G. A. Senior from Berry Brow was accepted as shop manager at a wage of 26/- a week provided he entered into a bond of 40/-. Beryl Sykes would be secretary on a salary of £2 for the first half year. The treasurer was elected by ballot and David Dutch, 10 votes, beat John Beaumont, 5 votes, and George Platt, 8 votes. His salary would be £1 for the first half year. The committee, under the chairman, G. Fitton, were Jonas Hobson, George Platt, John Beaumont, Joe Wimpenny, Joseph Ricketts, James Eastwood, George Fitton, Alfred Sykes and Ben Hoyle. A sign for the shop was made, painted and erected so that all entering the village could see it. Also in the Archives is a ledger which gives a list of all candidates with profession, residence,name of proposer and seconder, date of proposal, entrance fee, signature, date of signing declaration and witness of signature. ‘We the undersigned declare our willingness to be bound by rules and to take out at least 5 shares of £1 each to be paid by installments of not less than 3d. per week in the Netherthong Industrial & Equitable Co-operative Society.’ The first few names on the list were: Joe Hayle – publican: Joe Buckley – size boilers: Jonas Hobson – fitter up: Alfa Sykes – twister: Ben Sisson – dyer: James Eastwood – gentleman. On Easter Tuesday a public sandwich tea was provided in the United Methodist Church schoolroom to celebrate the society which had commenced business on the Monday. After tea an entertainment took place, presided over by Mr.John Beaumont. Selections of music were performed by the Philharmonic Band under their conductor, Mr.G.H.Wood. A glee party composed of local vocalists sang glees and Miss Phoebe Beaumont and Jonathan Hirst sang songs in very good style.
The Express reported the results of the half yearly meetings with details of profits, membership and the dividend (divi) to be paid. Various items of interest during the life of the Co-op are given below. In March 1882 – they held an Easter tea party and the entertainers included the Netherthong Glee Party and the Philharmonic Band. At the 4th. half-yearly meeting in March 1883 the chair was occupied by Mr.G.Fitton, the president. Sales were £1,436 which had given a profit of £219 and the Directors approved a divi of 3s 6d on groceries and 1s 3d on corn. It was reported at the 5th. meeting that the past half year had been the most successful since the formation, sales had climbed to £1,629 with a profit of £235. J.Newell and F.M.Sykes were elected to serve in place of J.Wimpenny and S.Ricketts who had retired. At the September meeting in 1886, Ben Hoyle was in the chair. The three retiring members of the committee, J.E. Eastwood, M.Sykes and W.Hobson were re-elected. At the next meeting in March 1887, George Senior and Arthur Sykes were re-elected. In 1889 Benjamin Sykes who had been the secretary since the formation of the Co-op in 1881 died. In March 1890 the committee made a very interesting decision, considering how important a role tobacco and snuff played in members’ lives, by proposing that the dividend would no longer be paid on purchases of these two items. The following year,1892, a resolution to purchase a horse and cart for delivering goods to members was defeated by 3 votes.
In March 1893 plans were approved to alter and enlarge the shop premises. The manager applied for a reduction in the working hours of the employees and this was granted. The store would be closed at 7pm.instead of 8pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and at 8pm instead of 9pm on Sundays.
In September of the same year the Chairman reported on the alterations. A cottage next door had been annexed and fitted up as a drapery department, the grocery department had been improved by widening it, raising the ceiling and putting in new fixtures. The partition walls dividing the rooms on the 1st. and 2nd. floors were pulled out. The cellars had been enlarged and improved and a hoist had been fitted at the back for winding up corn etc. Finally hot water apparatus had been laid down and the whole place painted and renovated.
As they continued to grow the business, they started up a clothing club in September 1894 and in September 1898 arrangements were made for the early formation of a penny savings bank. The Initial membership was 190.
Cllr. Alsop – President and Mr.Senior- manager explained in May 1900 to the members the details relating to the recent robberies at the stores and it was decided to replace the money from the reserve fund. The officials were exonerated from blame.
There was a demand for affordable footwear and it was decided to open the Holmfirth & District Co-op Boot and Shoe Society Ltd. which included the Co-op societies from Hinchcliffe Mill, Wooldale, Netherthong and Hepworth. The directors from Netherthong were J.Settle and W.Dufton and in the first year the total receipts were £796 17s 10d and the Netherthong share was £116 14s 6d.
The Holmfirth & District Co-op Boot and Shoe Co. celebrated its 22nd. half year of existence in March 1906. Total receipts were £898 and this was made up by Hepworth £94, Hinchliffe Mill £370, Netherthong £154 and Wooldale £266. The manager was David Oliver.
The 37th. half-yearly meeting of the Boot and Shoe Society was held in September 1913. The turnover was £1212 giving a profit of £82 – Netherthong’s share of the turnover was £194.
In July 1902 it was finally agreed, after many meetings, to set up a butchery in one of the outbuildings.
The 53rd. half-yearly meeting was held in September 1907. Total income was £4,221 with the butchery department contributing £599. Membership was 203. Two months later a tea party and concert was held under the auspices of the Society to celebrate the opening of a new slaughter – house in connection with the butchery department and over 200 members had a sandwich tea. The chairman, Mr. B. Skinner, said the purpose of the event was two-fold, firstly to celebrate the slaughter-house and secondly to try to get more enlightenment and education on the subject of co-operation.
A general meeting of the Society was held in the United Methodist school in September 1909 and Mr.B.Senior reported on the continuing prosperity. The divi was 2s 11d on groceries etc and 1/- on corn and our members had spent £197 10s 9d in the Holmfirth & District Boot and Shoe shop. The Society had recently opened a branch at Thongsbridge.
In a “blue book” issued in mid-year 1911, the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies gave abstracts of the annual returns from the Co-Op Societies. There were 252 in Yorkshire and members of local Societies were : Netherthong 242 : Meltham Mills 189 : Wooldale 543 : Hinchliffe Mill 858 : Meltham 1158 and Shepley 411.
In August 1913, membership was 272. The profit was £486 but the report showed a loss of £7 from the butchering section. Thongsbridge Co-op had a profit of £145.
The Holmfirth Express reported in its edition of January 20,1915 on the death of Fred Mallinson Sykes, the former secretary of the Society, who died at his residence , Bridge Mills, at the age of 66 years. he had held several semi-public positions, most notable being his long connection with the Co-op movement in Netherthong. He was a member of the committee from March 1882 to March 1889 when he was elected secretary and retained that position until he retired in July 1914 due to his state of health. He was also a prominent member of the Free Gardeners and was engaged in the manufacture of woolen goods. He left a widow and a grown -up family of two sons and three daughters.
1916. At the half yearly general meeting in February , Nathan Sandford, vice-president, reported that sales and profits had risen to the highest in the history of the society.
Selected items from the minutes Book.
1916 – a reference to a branch shop at Thongs Bridge ( a report in the Express would indicate that it had opened in 1909.)
The first photograph below is a Sugar Registration Card from the Ministry of Food circa December 1917 for Arthur Sanderson and 6 persons at the Co-operative Society. The second photograph shows both sides of the Retailer’s Sugar Ticket stamped Netherthong L&E, Co-operative Society, Ltd. Towngate.
1917. The Annual meeting agreed that the Committee members to be paid 6d. for each meeting they attended and the Check Clerk’s wages would be increased from £3 to £4 per half-year.
1919. It was agreed to further increase the Committee members’ attendance money to 1/- per meeting. It was also agreed that the Union had the right to negotiate for members.
The half-yearly sales for 1923 were £9,889 15s 5d and the dividend was 2/- for goods and 1/- for corn & coal. The half-yearly meeting for 1924 was held in the Methodist School with Mr.G.Ricketts presiding. Total sales were £10,356 with dividends of 2s 2d and 1s. with membership at 411. N.Sandford and C.Gartery were re-elected as members of the committee and J.Heywood and H.Hobson were appointed as members. At the second half-yearly meeting in 1924 sales had increased to £10,478 and the standard divident was increased to 2s 6d. In 1925 sales continued a steady growth to £10,511 and the dividend was unchanged. The second half-yearly meeting in 1925 showed a similar pattern with membership reaching 425. Sales were slightly down at the half-yearly report in 1926 but the dividend was increased to 2s 8d. Mr.Ricketts, the president, said that in addition to the divi each purchasing member would be given a free parcel containing CWS productions to the value of 3s 4d.
1927. A special meeting was held in May in the Methodist Church to consider whether to let, sell or carry on the farm owned by them in Deanhouse and also to consider selling all the Society’s cottages in the district. A moderate attendance was presided over by G.Ricketts and after discussion, it was decided to sell the properties. In the half-yearly report membership had increased to 455 and by 1928 membership had climbed further to 488 and although sales were little changed at £10,862 the normal divi was increased to 3/-. In 1929 sales broke through the £11,000 barrier for the first time and 4 more new members brought the total to 492.
1929. The new butcher’s shop was completed.
The half yearly report in January 1926 showed receipts of £10,668 giving £1.270 to share with a divi of 2s 8d and 1s on corn. Membership stood at 429. The 1928 half yearly meeting was held in the United Methodist Church with G.Ricketts presiding. The sales for the half year were £10,525 with the divi at 3/- and 1/- for corn & coal. It was agreed to place £50 in the Reserve Fund and £10 9s 3d to the 1931 Jubilee Fund. H.Pickering was elected as a member of the committee in succession to T.Wood. Sales in August 1930 for the half-year were £10,600 with the membership standing at 519.
February 1931 was the occasion of the 100th. half-yearly report. Sales were £9,939 and membership 524. The following month,March, was an auspicious date when the Co-op celebrated its 50 year Jubilee with a tea and concert. The tea was held in both the National School and the United Methodist School and the concert took place in the Drill Hall in Holmfirth. Over 500 members sat down for the tea and conveyances were run from Woodlands,Thongs Bridge and Fearnought to the schools. The concert was presided over by Mr.G.Ricketts and there were lots of speeches and reminders of the history of those past 50 years. The Holme Valley Male Voice Choir gave a superb concert. In July, in honour of the recent Jubilee , the children of the members were entertained to an outing to Belle Vue, Manchester and a party of 230 traveled in seven motor omnibuses.
At the meeting in February 1932, Mr.Ricketts was re-elected as president and L.Haigh, W.Walker and H.Hobson were re-elected to the committee. Sales were £9,989 with membership at 527. At the September meeting sales had dropped by just over £1,000. At the election of officers, H.Pickering, H.Preston and A.Wimpenny were elected onto the committee and Mr.H.Denton was appointed the savings bank manager.
1933. There was a large drop in Sales by just over £1,500 although membership had remained steady. Mr.Ricketts was re-elected president and J.Taylor, C.Gartery and L.Haywood were elected to the committee. There were frequent references made at the monthly meetings by the Chairman for members to be “loyal “.
In March 1934 at their half-yearly meeting, Mr.H.Hobson was elected as President succeeding Mr.G.Ricketts who had been involved with the Society for upwards of 30 years. He reported that total sales were down to £8,467 but 550 members enjoyed a dividend of 3/- on groceries etc and 1/- on corn.
1937. They purchased the Queen’s Arms public house ( see details in chapter on inns ) and after renovations and alterations rented it out as a private dwelling.
A party of about 60 members visited the C.W.S. Biscuit Works at Manchester in July 1938 and they travelled in ” special buses “.
The half-yearly meeting in February 1939 was held in the stores with H.Hobson presiding. Total sales for the period were £9480 and membership was 570. H.Hobson was re-elected as President and J.Taylor, H.Dawson and P.Dixon elected to the committee.
In 1940 sales were £9,970 with a profit of £1,239 and a membership of 575. Once again H.Hobson was re-elected as president , H.Preston was re-elected to the committee and P.Dixon and W.Mallinson were appointed members. As a contrast in 1960 , membership was 709 and sales £26,999.
1941. The Express of April 5 reported that Mr.Jabez Hoyle, J.P., was retiring after 55 years as an official of Wooldale Ind.& Equitable Co-operative Society Ltd. He was born in Newsome in 1860 but moved soon afterwards to Netherthong where he grew up and lived until his marriage. He went to the National School and at the age of 14 he was employed as the only assistant to the manager at the Netherthong Co-op. After 3 years service he was appointed the shop manager at Wooldale at the age of 17.
At the half-yearly meeting in August 1941, H.Hobson, the president, reported an increase in sales and dividend. Total sales were £10,403 with the standard divi at 2/10 in the £ and 1/- for coal & corn. The next half-yearly meeting in February 1942 showed a slight drop in sales but the dividends were maintained. membership stood at 583. The 123rd. half-yearly meeting in August 1942 once again showed little change.
The first half yearly report for 1947 with Harold Preston, president, in the chair had sales of £12,902 and a surplus of £1,194 with a membership of 633. In May the members of the committee and staff enjoyed an outing to Morecambe.
The Directors and Staff annual outing in June 1948 was to Skegness. The following month Miss Sylvia Jones won 3rd. prize in a talent-spotting competition held at the annual Co-operators’ day of the Slaithwaite & District Co-op Society. She sang ‘The second minuet’.
The first half-yearly report for 1949 showed sales at £15,467, membership of 640 and dividends at 2/3 and 6d. respectively. H.Hobson was re-elected president and John Pell, William Leake and H.Pickering appointed to the committee. The second report for the year ( the 137th. half yearly ) had the sales little changed but membership had crept up to 663. Three retiring members of the committee were re-elected – M.Mallinson, F.Germain and W.Boothroyd. By September sales had reached £16,826 with membership steady at 656. H.Pickering, J.Pell and W.Leake were re-elected to the committee.
After 54 years with the Co-op movement, Mr.Ernest Buckley (67) of Thongsbridge retired on March 4 1950. In 1916 he went to Netherthong Co-op Society as secretary- manager, a position he held for 34 years. Prior to going to Netherthong, he had been employed at Brockholes Co-op. When he joined in 1916 membership was 300 and this number had increased to 650 by 1950. Harold Wimpenny, who was the present manager of the Thongsbridge branch, would take over his position. Prior to moving to Thongsbridge, Harold had been with the Netherthong branch since he left school in 1916. Mr.Fred Hinchliffe, who had been manager of the butchery department for 25 years, also retired.
March 1955 was the 143rd. half- yearly report. Sales were £23,296 with the divis being 1/- and 6d.Membership stood at 671. Mr.M.Mallinson was elected president for 12 months and J.Pell, J.Dixon, B.Pickering and C.Hobson were re-elected to the committee.
Ernest Buckley who retired in March 1950 ( see details in above paragraph ) died on February 6 1957 . The half-yearly report for March 1957 gave sales of £25,026. a divi of 1/- and membership of 698. At the September meeting, sales and membership levels had not changed. W.Kaye resigned from the committee and H.Preston was re-elected. The 154th. half- yearly report for March 1958 with sales of £25,102 and membership 696. September of that year showed sales at £26,731 and membership 691. The next report was in August 1959 which was the 157th. half-yearly meeting. Sales were £22,485 with the divis at 1/2 and 4d respectively. Membership had climbed to 711. Three retiring members, J.Pell, T.Dixon and C.Hobson were re-elected. The first report for March 1960 gave record sales of £26,999 with membership staying above 700 at 709. By September, the 159th. half-yearly report showed that membership had rocketed to 727 with sales static at £26,907. The 160th. half-yearly report in March 1961 had membership and sales unchanged which was repeated at the September meeting. However at the meeting in March 1962 membership had risen to a new record of 743 but with sales static at £23,766 it was clear each member was spending less. Mr.Mallinson was re-elected as President. By September membership had eased slightly to 736.The meeting in March 1963 was held in the General Stores and presided over by M.Mallinson. The total sales for the half year were £23,701 with divis of 8d and 3d. Membership was 744. It is interesting to note that the population for 1961 was 1,567 so that almost half of that number were members. Not quite correct because non – residents could also have been members. The 165th. half-yearly report in September showed that the membership was 730 and that during the half year, 9 new members were admitted, 18 withdrew and 5 were written off. The 166th. half-yearly meeting in March1964 reported that M.Mallinson, J.Pell, J.Dixon and C.Hobson were all re-elected without opposition. Unfortunately the Express did not publish any reports on the two half yearly meetings and , for technical reasons none of the weekly issues for the whole of 1966 were transferred to film for the archives.
The last entry in the minutes was for September 19 1967. Two Special General Meetings were held on the 3rd. and 18th. January 1968 and by a majority vote of 48-2 members accepted the recommendation of a resolution adopted to transfer the engagements of the Society to the Co-op retail Services Ltd. The Committee held their last meeting on 27th. January 1968. Membership at that time was 700.