1856.—Across the Years.
"Courage, fair Greenfield, nobly hast thou done
In this one thing, but not in this alone;
For though thy sons were rough in mien and speech,
Had much to learn, and something, perhaps, to teach;
They were not destitute of those desires
Which a true sense of liberty inspires,
But in the march of progress strove to find
A forward place: true men of honest mind."
C. Prince (Adapted).
IN the year 1856
the dwellers in Greenfield, like the rest of their countrymen, were
suffering from the bitter consequences of the Crimean War, happily
just concluded. At that time food was dear and often very much
adulterated, greatly to the detriment of the health of the people.
Educational facilities were few and costly. The standard of
home comfort was low, for the wages of artisans would not allow of
more than the bare needs of daily existence. Adult male
workers in the woollen cloth industry carried on at Greenfield Mills
by the late Messrs. James Bottomley and Sons, were, at the time our
Society started, in receipt of wages ranging from 11s. 8d. to 14s.
per week, and the week then consisted of 60 working hours.
Weavers, mostly on piece work, would seldom reach 14s.; frequent
deductions being made for faulty work. Fullers, locally known
as "millers," were paid 14s. per week, and when, as was often the
case, overtime was worked, their week began at midnight on Sunday
and ended at 4 p.m. the Saturday following. Their wages were
6d. for each extra night, or 17s. 6d. for a week of night and day
labour; and the oMy time allowed off was for necessary meals and
two hours sleep in the night, to obtain which the machines and the
work had to be so arranged as to go on continuously during the
period of rest.
Under such circumstances the daily life of the ordinary
workers must have been a dull round of drudgery, relieved oMy by
the brief Sabbath rest and devotion for the religiously inclined, or
the week-end spree for those who were cast in a different mould.
The system of monthly pay-days in vogue at Greenfield Mills
in those days was not conducive to ready-money trading, and it is
not surprising to learn that at that time a custom had become
established of dealing on credit with the local shop-keepers.
Customers were supplied with a small book in which all goods
obtained and money paid on account were supposed to be entered.
This book was kept by the shopkeeper, and as a great many, perhaps
the majority of customers, could neither read nor write, it is easy
to see how completely the poorer class of customers would be at the
mercy of the traders they dealt with. Under these
circumstances, little wonder that abuses crept in, or that ignorant
and careless people drifted into almost hopeless debt before they
fairly realised what they were doing. Many bitter memories of
this evil system remain in the minds of our older members, and if
our space permitted, many episodes — some pathetic, some curious,
and some comical — could be related.
The time was ripe for social and industrial changes. A
door of hope had been opened wide by the
The teachings of Robert Owen were beginning to bear fruit, thanks to
his numerous apostles, amongst whom honourable mention ought to be
made of the late George Jacob
Holyoake. The Oldham Equitable and Industrial Societies
were emerging from their initial difficulties, and forging ahead.
During 1856 the Equitable Society paid 1s. in the £ dividend to its
members, and the Industrial Society was not much behind.
Greenfield people were not ignorant of these things, nor indifferent
to the advantages which Co-operation could bestow upon them.
Sometime, probably during the summer of 1856, the workers of
Greenfield Mills began to discuss the new system of storekeeping
amongst themselves. One of their leaders was Mr. Joseph Wood,
a book-keeper at the mills, aspirations have been realised will be
gathered from these pages, and a survey of the Society's present
position, and the condition of the district in this year of Jubilee,
as compared with the year 1856.
Just as certain events in the life of an individual stand
prominently out, indicating when and how the current of his life was
turned hither or thither, for good or ill, even so with communities,
certain events mark the beginning of new eras of advancement and
prosperity, or of decline and fall. Such an event was the
formation of Greenfield Industrial and Benevolent Co-operative
Society Limited, on October 6th, 1856. How or where the
Society was born does not appear in its records. The earnest
men who presided over its infancy did not realise that they were
making history, or thought for a moment how interesting to an after
generation everything relating to its inception would become.
The date of its coming into existence is settled beyond question by
the title page of our first code of rules, on which the statement
appears: "Established October 6th, 1856;" but no record is extant of
where the meeting at which it was formed was held, or who were
A careful survey of all the circumstances of the time favours
the conclusion that very probably the actual birth-place of the
Society was the home of Mr. Joseph Wood, of Heytop. It is a
well-known fact that many meetings were held at his house.
There much of the secretarial work and the early book-keeping would
be done by him in the evenings after he had done his work at
Greenfield Mills. Nothing seems more likely than that at one
of those cottage meetings the entrance shillings were paid and a
list of members drawn up, and that these were the persons who
sanctioned the rules, after Mr. Wood and those associated with him
in the work had drawn them up.
In 1873 a second revision of rules took place, when the name
of the Society was shortened by deleting the words "Industrial and
Benevolent," leaving its designation as at present, "Greenfield
Co-operative Society Limited." Greenfield Society is the
oldest Co-operative Society in Saddleworth. Lees Society, it
is true, was started in 1851; but, from its geographical position,
Lees is regarded by Saddleworth people generally as a sort of
appanage to Oldham, and it would appear that such must be the
feeling of our Lees friends themselves, for their returns and
particulars were included in the Oldham Equitable Society's Jubilee
History, issued in 1900.
Such being the facts Greenfield Society claims to be the
pioneer of Co-operation in Saddleworth, and to-day, although it has
not the largest membership, it is the wealthiest Society in the
district, a clear proof of the part it has played in bettering the
social status of the inhabitants of these beautiful hills and vales.
Nor has it failed to take a part in the wider work of the
Co-operative movement, and to contribute a fair quota to its central
institutions. Surely such a past is something to be proud of,
and ample justification, if such were required, for the celebration
of its Jubilee and the recording of its history.
A careful study of the lists of early shareholders, given in
our next chapter, brings out the fact that even then, in spite of
long hours and bad social conditions, a number of striving, sober,
careful people existed in Greenfield, who, by their ability and
thrift, had managed to climb a little way above the poverty line.
Overlookers, foremen, and spinners at the various mills, small
farmers and clothiers, and others in like circumstances — this class
found the bulk of the capital which started our Society, and this
class also supplied its most capable workers.
All honour to those noble, self-sacrificing men; they were
far-seeing enough to discover in Co-operation a means of helping
themselves and their less fortunate neighbours to bring about a
better state of things, and they were philanthropic enough to give,
without stint, their best thought, their unwearied labour, and to
risk their small capital in order to bring our Society into active
existence, and carry it to a successful issue.
The members of to-day are reaping a plentiful harvest from
the labours of those noble-minded early workers, and it would be the
blackest ingratitude not to acknowledge the obligation or to
withhold the honour and the praise they have so richly deserved.
One of the objects the Committee had in view when deciding upon the
issue of this history was to place on record the labours of our
Greenfield pioneers, and thus in some humble measure discharge a
portion at least of the debt of gratitude due from the present to
the faithful workers of a former generation, most of whom have gone
to their final reward. These men did the duty revealed to
their inner vision, looking for no honour, asking for no monetary
reward; and, though surrounded by difficulties of which we know
little to-day, they held on their upward path, nor ceased their
efforts till success was assured. May their successors ever
strive to emulate their self-sacrificing labours, and worthily copy
the example of our noble pioneers.
"Order is Heaven's first law."—Pope.
THE arrival of
their legally registered rules would be an important event in the
eyes of our pioneers, who would now feel themselves in a position to
make a strong appeal to their neighbours for support, and something
of this sort must have taken place, as what we are about to record
The fourth rule directed that at the first meeting of the
Society held after its registration the members should elect nine
Committee-men, three Trustees, a Treasurer, a Secretary, two
Auditors, and five Arbitrators, and these latter were to be persons
not directly or indirectly interested in the funds of the Society.
To give effect to these provisions the members were summoned to
attend a special meeting held most likely at the house of Mr. Joseph
Wood, at Heytop, on February 5th, 1857. On this date such
records as are now available begin, and from the minutes of this
meeting now extant we learn that Mr. Abraham Whitworth was appointed
as Treasurer, Mr. Joseph Wood as Secretary, Mr. Ralph Schofield of
Dovestone Wood, Mr. Jonas Rushworth of Heytop, and Mr. James Swallow
were appointed the three first Trustees. The following
gentlemen were the first Committee-men: Mr. James Schofield, Fern
Lee; Mr. Joseph Hall, Fern Lee; Mr. Samuel Wrigley, Fern Lee; Mr.
James Bottomley, Heytop; Mr. Francis Bradbury, Heytop; Mr. Daniel
Worth, Fern Lee; Mr. Robert Mellor, Valley Cottages; Mr. George
Walton, Valley Cottages; and Mr. Edward Heap, Heytop. Mr.
Jonathan Winterbottom and Mr. Abraham Whitworth were appointed
Auditors. The following gentlemen, presumably at that time
non-members, were chosen as Arbitrators: Mr. John George Buckley,
Mr. Samuel Wrigley, Mr. Robert Schofield, Mr. Joseph Underwood, and
Mr. James Heap. A somewhat formidable list of officials to
begin with, truly, but these early workers of ours meant business,
and so as many people were put in harness as possible; a wise policy
under the circumstances.
Four days afterwards, February 9th, another special meeting
was held, at which it was resolved that Mr. Abraham Whitworth and
Mr. James Schofield see Mr. Richard Buckley about a house at Road
End, and try to take it for three months, and Mr. Joseph Wood and
Mr. James Bottomley go to Uppermill to see Mr. Joseph Tyas about
weights, &c., and that we give F. A. Frost an order for ten bags of
his best flour. This seems a pretty large order, but Frost's
flour, at that time, had a great reputation for excellence, and the
Greenfield housewives then, as now, were noted for their capital
bread and tea cakes. To begin with, they were evidently
intending to have only one quality of flour, and that they were
determined should be the best they could get.
On this date, February 9th, quite a respectable number took
up shares. A few days later more names were enrolled.
From the ledger we have culled the following list of persons who are
entitled to the honour of being called First Shareholders: —
These persons subscribed £147. 19s. 6d., a substantial proof of
their determination to make their Society a success.
A little later on the list was further augmented by the
following 23 persons, who subscribed £143. 11s. 3d.: —
Up to November 16th 62 members had joined the Society and subscribed
£291. 10s. 9d., or an average of £4. 14s. 0½d.
The friends must have found no difficulty in taking the house
at Road End from Mr. Richard Buckley, for on February 14th, five
days after the meeting at which they were appointed to see to this
business, the Society took possession of the house at the bottom of
Piccadilly, Road End, at a rent of 3s. 6d. per week. The
Society had now a fixed dwelling-place, and with characteristic
energy the Committee and members set about fitting and stocking
their first shop, and no easy task would they find it under the
On February 16th a meeting of the Committee was held, over
which Mr. Jonathan Hirst presided. It seems that for some
reasons which do not appear, Mr. Ed. Heap and Mr James Wrigley had
seen fit to retire, and Mr. Jonathan Hirst and Mr. Heywood Holden
were appointed to fill their places by the Committee. At this
meeting Mr. Joseph Wood was instructed to go to Manchester and pay
for 10 sacks of Frost's Hour, XX; to call in Thomas Street about
weights; to purchase new books for Treasurer and Secretary; and to
take £40 with him.
At the same meeting Mr. George Winterbottom, of Noon Sun, was
instructed to go to Rochdale Co-operative Store, and take £15 with
him, and give them an order. Subsequently, other work of a
like nature was assigned to him. It does not appear that Mr.
George Winterbottom was a member of the Committee, but, being a
small clothier, he would be his own master, and at liberty to do
business in business hours, whereas most of the Committee were
working long hours, and were inexperienced in the chaffering of the
market, hence they were glad to have the help of men whose business
brought them into touch with the markets of the day. Doubtless
for the same reasons, Mr. James Wrigley, Mr. John Winterbottom, and
Mr. John Schofield, of Lanehead, were appointed to do similar work
on the Society's behalf a little later on. As a matter of
fact, in those early days no sharp official distinctions were made
amongst those interested in the Society. Everybody was on the
Committee in effect, if not in fact, who was able and willing to
On February 23rd, Mr. Abraham Whitworth resigned the
treasurership, and Mr. John Byrom was put in his place, and the sum
of £87. 9s. 7d. was handed over to him. In this work his good
wife, Mrs. Jane Byrom, proved a great help, being keenly alive to
the responsibilities of the office, as the following little story
will show: ― Mr. John Winterbottom had been instructed on one
occasion by the Committee to get £5 from the Treasurer wherewith to
pay for goods. He called at Mr. Byrom's house for the money,
but, as he was not personally known to Mrs. Byrom, she hesitated to
let him have the cash. After some conversation, however, she
allowed him to have it, but as soon as he took his departure she
threw on her shawl and deftly "shadowed" him till she saw him enter
the Stores, when she was satisfied as to his bona-fides, and
returned to her household duties. Evidently the ladies were
ably seconding the efforts of their husbands to get the Society
going, for about this time Mrs. George Winterbottom and Mrs. William
Lockwood cleaned the Store, and were awarded 2s. each for their
work. A little later on Mrs. Joseph Hall and Mrs. Jonas
Rushworth received similar pay for work of a like nature, and no
doubt all these good dames most richly deserved the scanty payment
On February 23rd, Mr. Jonas Rushworth was instructed to go to
Rochdale Store to pay £75. This shows pretty clearly that
sales must have been fairly brisk, and that thus early on the
Committee were in favour of purchasing from Co-operative sources.
At the same meeting Mr. Jonathan Hirst was instructed to take £5
with him and go to Ashton and to Mumps; also to pay for the licence.
The following rate of pay for this kind of work was also fixed on
this occasion, viz., 3s. per day and railway fare, "if they ride."
Mr. James Schofield was instructed to make a sign and get it
painted. On this sign Mr. Jonas Rushworth's name appeared as
one of the Trustees. At that time Societies had to resort to
this means of working, as the law did not permit them to do business
in their registered corporate names.
We suppose that, in the meantime, trading must have been
going on in a desultory way at night, and that Messrs. James
Bottomley and Joseph Hall, who were deputed to act as salesmen, were
busily engaged in distributing the goods which had been obtained
from Rochdale Store, Ashton, Manchester, and other places.
The nights of February 21st and 25th appear to have been
devoted entirely to fixing the retail prices of goods. We give
here a list taken from the minutes of the current prices charged at
that time in our own shop for goods in ordinary consumption.
The foregoing prices tell their own story. Coupled with
low wages, can we wonder that many families had a hard struggle to
make ends meet, or that so many got into almost hopeless debt?
A minute passed March 3rd, indicates that the Committee were
alive to the necessity of obtaining information as to the
fluctuations of the markets, and of being posted in general matters
as well. Good newspapers were few and dear, and the halfpenny
evening paper was a thing undreamt of in those days. Few
people could afford to buy even a weekly paper, and perhaps fewer
still at that time were able to read one intelligently for
themselves. Our friends decided to have the "Manchester
Examiner and Times" every Saturday, and no doubt they took good care
to get their money's worth out of its pages. Some few months
later a daily paper was ordered in addition.
On March 12th another resolution was passed which indicates
that police protection of private property was not so effective then
as it is to-day, for Mr. Jonathan Winterbottom and Mr. James Wrigley
were duly appointed to sleep in the store at nights to safeguard the
goods, as house breaking was a common enough occurrence in the
country. Mr. Edward Heap also shared in this duty for a time.
Two other minutes passed in March indicate the moral
qualities of the Committee. One runs as follows:—"That the
shop be open every night every except Sunday."
Evidently they were determined to maintain the sacredness of the
Sabbath. The other shows their strong sense of fairness, and
reads as follows:—"That all customers who have bought Frost's Flour
to-night at 2s. 5d. have one penny per peck returned." The
price, it appears, should have been 2s. 4d. Such resolutions
as these reveal the sterling stuff of which these men were made, and
prove their claim to grateful remembrance. The minutes of this
meeting were signed by our old friend Mr. James Bottomley, as
Chairman, who still takes a keen interest in the Society's doings.
The stock was taken on March 24th, and the quarterly meeting
was held on April 6th, 1857, when the accounts presented by the
Auditors and Secretary were approved. No dividend seems to
have been declared, but as interest at the rate of 5 per cent was
credited in the share ledger to those members who had £1 and over
invested it would seem that a profit of some amount must have been
realised during the first recorded quarter's working.
Some disagreement seems to have arisen as to the appointment
of Committee, as a fresh batch appear to have been named, but
afterwards withdrawn, as the list is crossed out in the minute book,
and a memo. in the margin entered as follows: — "This resolution a
mistake." That some unpleasantness had arisen is evident, for
at an adjourned meeting held on the 9th, we find the following
quaintly-worded resolution, which our readers can interpret for
themselves: — "Resolved, 1st — That the old Committee meet on Monday
night next, and that any member wishing to resign come forward."
Evidently the old Committee decided to go on its way, for at the
Monday's meeting it seems to have gone straight to the business of
the day, and no resignations are mentioned.
Let us try to picture a night's work at this time in the shop
at Road End. The shutters would be opened about 7-30 p.m.
Behind the counter Mr. James Bottomley and Mr. Joseph Hall would
serve the customers. Mr. Thomas Worth, who enjoys the unique
distinction of being a pioneer member and a present day
Committee-man, was in attendance as Cashier. Very likely the
Secretary or some Committee-man would carefully record the amount of
each member's purchases in a book. At 10 o'clock, or half
past, the shop would be closed, the money taken carefully counted
and compared with the book, and Mr. Robert Mellor would carry it to
Mr. John Byrom, the Treasurer, at Waterside. On Saturday
nights the shop would be open till 11 p.m. This kind of thing
appears to have gone on from the opening in February till the
beginning of April, when the work of the Society seems to have grown
to such an extent as to warrant the appointment of a salesman who
should devote the whole of his time to the work. The quarterly
meeting, held April 6th, before referred to, must have discussed
this matter, for it was decided at that meeting to have a salesman
as soon as convenient, and that he must give £25 as security.
At this meeting Mr. Joseph Wood and Mr. Thomas Platt were
appointed Secretaries, and the sum of 10s. was voted to Mr. Joseph
Wood for past services as Secretary. The following
quaintly-worded resolution, passed at the same time reveals
something of the spirit which animated those early workers.
Wages evidently were not by any means a first consideration with
them: — "Resolved — That those men who have worked in the shop have
5s. each if they will." We should think they could
hardly refuse an honorarium so delicately offered.
No records are available of the sales from the opening in
February to July 24th, but from the amount of purchasing done by the
Society, it is quite evident that a considerable trade had been done
during the period named.
The appointment of a salesman seems to have given the Society
a good deal of trouble. From the minutes of a special general
meeting held June 3rd, it would appear that Mr. Joseph Hall was
appointed shopman at 18s. per week. For some reason this
appointment does not seem to have been operative. We should
conclude that selling at night was continued, from the fact that at
a quarterly meeting held July 6th, Mr. Joseph Hall and Mr. Heywood
Holden are voted 4s. per week each for their services in the shop.
At this meeting Mr. Thomas Platt is solicited to make up the
accounts for the last quarter.
On July 15th another quarterly meeting was held, at which Mr.
Samuel Wild was appointed salesman, and Mr. Thomas Platt, Secretary.
Several changes also took place in the Committee. On July
23rd, the day before Mr. Wild entered upon his work, a special
committee meeting was held, at which it was decided that on the
giving or receiving of one month's notice the shopman's engagement
was to end, and his security was to be repaid if his stock and cash
were found to be in order. The hours during which the shop was
to be open for business were fixed as follows: From 9 in the morning
till 2 in the afternoon; from 3 in the afternoon till 9 at night,
except Saturdays, when the shop was kept open till 11 at night.
It was also agreed that the shopman should not be held responsible
for any damage or burglary occurring during his absence from the
On July 24th Mr. Wild began his short career as shopman, and
the Committee now felt that they were in a position to extend their
business, so Mr. S. Wild was despatched to Holmfirth to purchase a
cart load of pots on August 10th, and on September 21st it was
decided to have a cart and horse for the Society's use. This
latter venture proved an unfortunate one, and was abandoned early on
in 1858. Most likely the business at the time was not
sufficient to warrant the expense of man and horse.
At a meeting held on October 5th, Messrs. James Lilley and
John W. Buckley were appointed Auditors, and on October 12th a
general meeting was held and a first dividend of 10d. in the £ was
agreed upon. At this meeting the prices of the following
drapery goods were fixed: cotton, both plain and twilled, 5d. per
yard; best twilled sheets, 3s. 6d. per couple; second quality, 2s.
9d. per couple; men's grey stockings, and women's white wool
stockings, 2½d. per pair profit;
and check, 7½d. per yard.
This would be the beginning of our drapery department, which for
some time was run along with the grocery business, and the goods
were kept in the same rooms. On December 21st a minute shows
that Mr. Jonathan Hirst was deputed to go to Chamber's to buy coal.
Another minute, dated December 28th, fixes the price of coal at 5½d.
per cwt. at the stores. This would be an attempt at forming a
coal department, but it fell through for a time. It seems
likely from the minutes that the stock was taken at the close of
1857, and that the result was not satisfactory, so the year which
was begun with glowing expectations, closed in gloomy
A general meeting was held on January 4th, 1858, at which it
was decided that the stock should be taken over again by Messrs.
Joseph Hall, Charles Bradbury, Jonathan Hirst, and James Bottomley,
and the result of this second stocktaking does not appear to have
shown any better result than the first, for it was decided to
dispense with Mr. S. Wild's services, and the Society fell back upon
Mr. Jos. Hall and Mr. James Bottomley, who resumed their work as
salesmen at night. This was a trying period for the Society,
and it is reported that some timid souls were in favour of giving
the whole thing up in despair, but wiser counsels prevailed.
Mr. George Winterbottom, Mr. John Schofield, Lanehead, and others
like-minded, spoke strongly in favour of going on with the Society,
and assured the more fearful ones that there was no reason why they
should not succeed if they stood firm. From February to July
14th we have no record of the sales effected by Messrs. Bottomley
and Hall; from July 24th to the close of his career, January 5th,
1858, Mr. S. Wild's takings were £888. 19s. 8½d.
In October a first dividend was paid of 10d. in the £. Whether
this was a real dividend resulting from trade, or a financial fluke,
we cannot say, certain it is that the December stocktaking came far
short of showing the same result. From January 6th to 13th
Messrs. Bottomley and Hall drew £33 13s. 9d., which brought the
sales from July 24th, 1857, to January 13th, 1858, up to £922. 13s.
5½d. If to this sum we
allow for twenty weeks' sales from February to July at an average of
say £15 per week, the first year's sales would be well over £1,200,
and this estimate, we feel sure, is under rather than over the mark.
A 10d. dividend in the October quarter, and 5 per cent interest on
share capital for the year were not bad results all considered, so
that the promoters had something tangible to back up their arguments
for continuing the Society.
Early in 1858 Mr. Joseph Wood seems to have left the
secretarial work to his colleague, Mr. Thos. Platt, and become
Chairman of the Committee in succession to Mr. Jonathan Hirst.
A cool head and a strong hand at the helm were needed to guide the
little barque through the shallows, storms, and quicksands which
beset its course, and Mr. Wood was possessed of both these qualities
in a marked degree. The first time he presided over a members'
meeting the only recorded resolution runs as follows: "That a
majority of 17 to two are for the Store being carried on as usual;
14 neutral." It would seem that once more a section of the
members were agitating for a salesman, but the majority for the time
being were chary of again putting a man in sole charge.
Mr. John Schofield, of Lanehead, was instructed by a meeting
held May 13th to take £5 with him and to make the Society a member
of the Rochdale Store, another proof that our pioneers were fully
alive to the great advantages to be secured by Co-operative buying
as well as selling.
From July 21st to September 29th there are no minutes in the
book, but from the sales book we find that Mr. James Schofield must
have been made salesman, and from the Treasurer's book we learn that
he began at 16s. per week. His sales from October 19th to
December 25th were £206. 6s. 8d., or just over £20 per week.
Messrs. Bottomley and Hall, from January to October, had taken £720.
6s. 2½d., so that the sales for
1858 were £926. 12s. 10d., or about £270 less than the first year.
Many reasons existed for this falling off. The year 1858 was a
period of storm and unrest, and frequent changes on the Committee.
The wheat was being winnowed from the chaff, and the zeal of some
waxed cold. But a strong remnant remained whose faith in
Co-operation was undimmed, and whose courage rose superior to every
Early in 1859 the Store was removed from Road End to the
house at Spring Grove, now occupied by the family of the late Thomas
Bradbury, Esq. Here Mr. James Schofield and his thrifty
helpmate, Mrs. Jane Schofield, made their home in a house adjoining
the shop premises, and let a bedroom they did not require for
storing part of the Society's stock. In October a dividend of
1s. 3d. in the £ was paid to members, and 7d. in the £ was allowed
to non-members. Thirty shillings was voted to Mrs. Schofield
for assisting her husband in the shop, and the Secretary's salary
was fixed at 30s. for the quarter.
The year 1860 was a memorable one, for very early on
circumstances connected with their tenancy seemed to have forced the
members into the belief that they must have premises of their own.
On January 25th a deputation was sent to interview Messrs. Shaw, at
Shepherds' Green, to see if they could buy the house at Nook Steer.
It will be news to the present generation that this building was the
present "Clarence" Hotel, then in course of construction, and as
Messrs. Shaw were well disposed towards the Society some tentative
arrangements were entered into, and a part of the building to-day
bears witness to the fact of its having been intended for a
different purpose to that for which it is now used. Something
must have turned up shortly afterwards to upset the understanding
arrived at, for on February 22nd it was resolved by the Committee to
buy the plot on which our first cottages and present grocery
premises were erected. This plot contained 650 yards and cost
2s. 6d. per yard -- total, £81. 5s. The Deed was executed on
April 5th, 1860, and the vendor was Mr. Jonah Wrigley, who conveyed
the land to the following Trustees: Mr. Jonas Rushworth, Heytop,
overlooker; Mr. Ralph Whitehead, Dovestone Wood, overlooker; Mr.
Ralph Schofield, Dovestone Wood, overlooker; Mr. Thos. Platt, Holly
House, clothier; Mr. Charles Bradbury, Bank Meadow, woollen slubber;
Mr. John Schofield, Lanehead, clothier. These six gentlemen
held this property in trust for the Society till 1876, when, on
April 15th, Messrs. Jonas Rushworth, Ralph Schofield, and Thomas
Platt, the three surviving Trustees, closed their trust by conveying
the property back to the Society, the law in the meantime having
been altered so as to allow Co-operative Societies to hold land in
their corporate capacity.
Early in this year the Committee were granted the munificent
sum of 4d. per night for their services. A safe was purchased
in June, costing £34, and it is reported that for a considerable
time after it came into use one of the worthies, who was entrusted
with a key, carried the same about with him, hung by a string round
his neck, under his shirt, and next to his skin. We may smile
at such precautions to-day, but all honour to such men. They
felt they were in a position of trust, and were determined to be
worthy of it.
On July 25th, the Committee passed a resolution instituting
the Tuesday half-holiday, and this boon to employees came into
effect on August 6th.
The Committee ordered the building of the new stores and
cottages to be proceeded with at once, by a resolution at their
meeting on July 25th. Plans had been prepared by Mr. John
Hutchinson, and the original building consisted of two good-sized
cottages and a grocery and general dry goods store. All the
buildings were three storeys, the basement being well cellared
throughout. A little later a fourth floor was added to the
The mason's contract was given to Mr. Joel Byram for £410,
and the joiner's contract to Mr. John Beastow for £305. So
1860 closed with the Society fairly embarked on its shop and cottage
The dividends for this year were as follows:—March, 1s. 1d.;
June, 2s.: September, 1s. 8d.; and December, 1s. 6d. in the £;
making an average of 1s. 6¾d. in the £ for the year. Half
these rates were allowed to non-members. These results were
most encouraging at the time, and no doubt they heartened the
Committee in their onerous labours.
Every detail of the business seems to have been dealt with at
the quarterly meetings. The members appear to have thought it
their business to manage and plan what was to be done, and how.
Their pride in their little store is also well shown in the
following resolution passed at a special general meeting held
January 22nd, 1860, which runs as follows:— "That there be a
signboard with semi-circle top, with 'Greenfield' in the semi-circle
and a beehive under, and 'Co-operative Store' in a line in gold
letters." We can imagine with what eagerness the erection of
this wonderful sign would be watched, and how fine it would appear
to them. Well, it was theirs, and they had a right to
be proud of it.
1861-1870. ― Development.
"Genuine growth is one of the best signs of healthy life."
31st, 1860, to July 1st, 1861, there is a break in the minutes, and
information is meagre. From the minutes of the quarterly
meeting, held October 7th, 1861, we gather that Mr. Joseph Wood was
again acting as Assistant Secretary for the sum of £1, which was
voted to him for his services in that capacity during the past
quarter. At this meeting the payment of the Treasurer was put
off until Christmas, and "those who pay dividend" were awarded 1s.
3d. each per night for two nights.
The building operations occupied the whole of 1861, and no
wonder, for our grocery buildings were carefully and substantially
built, and are much more commodious than a casual onlooker would
think when looking at them from the main road. In the summer
of 1861, the payments on account of the new Stores must have been a
serious drain on the Society's resources. The erection of such
a block of buildings was a bold step under the circumstances, and
the responsibility incurred, no doubt, caused the Committee many
anxious hours. But the leading members gave them loyal
support. A loan account was opened as provided for by the
rules, and on July 4th, 1861, £235 was paid into the Society's
coffers in sums ranging from £5 to £90, thus enabling the Committee
to carry through their building scheme without unduly crippling the
From an old return, printed at Rochdale, and compiled by Mr.
William Cooper, secretary of the Conference Committee, and from
annual returns sent by Societies then in existence to the Chief
Registrar, we find that at the end of 1861 the number of members was
136. The share and loan capital was £1,561 and the sales
£3,468 for the year, or about £66. 14s. per week. The
dividends also were fairly good, and ran as follows:—March, 1s. 2d.;
June, 1s. 2d.; September, 1s. 9d.; and December, 1s. 4d. in the £,
giving an average of 1s. 4¼d. in
the £ for the year. Half these rates were paid to non-members.
By the kind permission of Mr. C. E. Bradbury, we are able to insert
a copy of the notice to quit given by our Society to his late
father, closing the occupancy of his house and shop. It is an
interesting document, as it shows that the Society was still trading
as Jonas Rushworth and Co., and that the new building was then so
far advanced that they were sure of getting into possession in the
May ensuing. This notice reads as follows:—
GREENFIELD CO-OPERATIVE STORE,
NEAR UPPERMILL, SADDLEWORTH.
7th November, 1861.
AND S.A. BRADBURY.
We, the undersigned, give notice to
Thomas and Sarah Ann Bradbury, Executors of the late Mary Bradbury,
that we will quit the shop and cottage at Spring Grove, in our
occupation, on or before the 12th day of May, in the year of our
Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two.
JONAS RUSHWORTH AND CO.
JOSEPH WOOD, Secretary.
The quarterly meeting, held January 6th, 1862, awarded £1 to
the Treasurer (Mr. Shelmerdine), and fixed the Auditors' fees at 2s.
6d. each. Every item of expense seems to have been watched by
the members, and it must be confessed that the sums voted for
clerical work were far from being anything like reasonable payment
for the work performed.
The Cotton Famine of 1862-4 affected Greenfield cotton
operatives pretty much in the same way as it did those in
neighbouring towns. Many families were reduced to the verge of
starvation. To the credit of our local gentry it should be
recorded that they organised relief funds and helped the workers in
various ways to tide over this dreary time. Schools were
opened for the men who were paid so much in relief money for
attending them. Instruction in the "three R's" was imparted to
many in this way whose chance of obtaining a little knowledge of
this kind had previously been but small. Sewing classes were
organised for the women by ladies of the district, and materials
supplied for making necessary garments, which, when finished, were
taken home by the workers who most needed help of this nature.
Fortunately, some of the operatives knew enough of woollen weaving
to enable them to be able to get a meagre living by that means.
But much silent suffering was endured by our people during the black
years of the Civil War in America. Amongst our own members,
one helped another. Those who were fortunate enough to be
working at some industry not affected by the war helped those who
were till the return of better times.
Although the Committee's hands must have been pretty full in
the beginning of 1862, they were not indifferent to what was going
on outside their own little sphere, for on January 29th they
resolved to aid the Rochdale Society people in their efforts to
improve the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts.
By February 26th the buildings were so far advanced that
fires could be put in, and on April 7th a quarterly meeting fixed
the rent of the end house at £13 per annum, and accepted Mr. William
Shelmerdine, the Treasurer, as monthly tenant. The rent of the
house next to the grocery store was fixed at £10. 10s., and this,
too, was made into a monthly tenancy, and let to the shopman, Mr. J.
By this time the Committee began to be anxious to get into
the new shop, and on March 19th they instructed Messrs. Edmund
Dransfield and James Buckley to assist Mr. John Schofield in pushing
forward the finishing of the shop and cottages. The trade must
have improved as well, for the general meeting held on April 7th
appointed Mr. John Godley to assist in the shop on Saturday nights.
By the end of April the new shop and cottages were nearly
completed, and the Committee and other friends interested now busied
themselves with arranging the fittings and equipment. Mr.
Edmund Dransfield was charged with the duty of getting stays for the
crane; Mr. James Walker and Mr. Abraham Hirst were told off to clean
the windows and the bins; Messrs. Jonathan Hirst, James Walker,
Isaac Schofield, John Schofield, J. B. Lees, and as many more as
could make it convenient were appointed to meet on Tuesday, May 6th,
at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, to remove the grocery stock into the
new premises. We can imagine with what cheerful alacrity these
good friends set to work, and how proud they would feel when they
took possession of their own premises, which, with fittings, &c.,
cost up to this time about £1,000.
The October general meeting must have been in a parsimonious
mood, for the wages of the Committee are again made the subject of a
resolution, and this time they were fixed at 3d. per week each man,
if in time. Late comers, we presume, were to have
nothing. What lavish payment! We note that the dividend
had dropped to 1s. in the £ at this date. Perhaps the
reduction of ld. per night each was the members' way of punishing
the Committee for not making more profit. The dividends for
1862 were as follows: — March, 1s. 1d.; June, 1s. 1d.; September,
1s.; and December, 1s. 2d. in the £.
The annual meeting, held January 5th, 1863, re-appointed Mr.
Joseph Wood as Secretary and Mr. W. Shelmerdine as Treasurer, and
also resolved "That the balance sheet pass, because it is correct" —
a good reason for passing a balance sheet, surely, and a great deal
more than could be truly said of many more pretentious documents.
On February 11th the Committee passed the following
resolution: — "That we pay one farthing per member towards the
general expenses of the Co-operative Stores, to be handed over to
Mr. William Cooper, of Rochdale." Doubtless this would be a
contribution from our Society to the funds of the Lancashire and
Yorkshire Conference Association, of which Mr. Cooper was Secretary.
This Association was a forerunner of the Co-operative Union of
to-day. About this time new blood was infused into the
Committee. Mr. William Buckley and Mr. William Robinson joined
the Board at the end of 1862, and Mr. Isaac Smith and Mr. Edwin
Lawton were both appointed April 6th, 1863. Mr. Smith seems to
have been made Chairman of the Committee forthwith. The funds
of the Society must have been growing as well, for the Committee had
money to invest, and on June 3rd it was decided to put £20 into the
Oldham Building and Manufacturing Society Limited, now known as the
Sun Mill Company Limited, and Mr. William Buckley and Mr. Joseph
Wood were instructed to do this business forthwith.
The sales must have been increasing, for in August a youth
named Wm. Jackson of Lees was appointed grocer's assistant at 5s.
per week, and ordered to start at 7 in the morning and leave off at
6 at night.
The Society now felt that it had outgrown its first rules.
Alterations were needed, so the October quarterly meeting ordered
the Committee to get up a new set of rules and on December 23rd
Messrs. Jonathan Hirst, Henry Giddings, Isaac Smith, Ralph
Schofield, Edwin Lawton, and Joseph Wood were made into a
Sub-Committee to give effect to the foregoing resolution.
A most important step was taken on November 18th, when it was
decided to take up 140 shares in the newly-formed North of England
Co-operative Wholesale Industrial and Provident Society Limited.
Mr. Isaac Smith was appointed first delegate and empowered to pay a
deposit of £35 if he was satisfied with the prospects of the Society
after he had attended the Manchester meeting. On November 21st
£7 was paid on account of shares, and during the North of England
Wholesale Society's first week, ended March 21st, 1864. the sum of
£55 was paid to them for goods by our Society. The remainder
of the share money was paid up in May, and our Society did a trade
of nearly £1,600 with the Wholesale from its start in March to
December 24th, 1864, thus giving the new venture its solid support.
These facts show that our Society was one of the group of Societies
who started our great federation now known as the Co-operative
Wholesale Society Limited.
The Dividends for 1863 were as follows: — march, 1s. 6d.;
June, 1s. 4d.; September, 1s. 6d. ; and December, 1s. 8d., in the £.
The year 1864 was one of progress, and members seem to have
been conscious of the growing importance of their business.
The annual meeting held January 4th re-appointed the principal
officers, and authorised the Rules Revision Committee to finish
their work and get 400 copies printed. The new rules appear to
dispense with the Trustees as being no longer needed; the number of
the Committee was changed from nine to eight; the hour of meeting
from 8 o'clock to 7.30; and now that the Society owned property,
provision was made for depreciation, and the rate fixed was 10 per
cent. These rules were signed as follows :—
Committee: ― EDWIN LAWTON, JOEL WHITEHEAD, HENRY
GIDDINGS, NER BOTTOMLEY, WILLIAM ROBINSON, ISAAC SMITH, RALPH
JOSEPH WOOD, Secretary, JONATHAN HIRST.
They were sanctioned at a special meeting of the Society held April
18th, the date of registration is May 11th, 1864. They also
contained a provision for the election of officials half-yearly at
the January and July meetings.
The necessity for loyalty to the Wholesale Society seems at
that early date to have been impressed on the members, for the same
meeting that adopted the revised rules passed the following
resolution: — "That this meeting recommend the Committee to make as
many purchases from the North of England Co-operative Wholesale
Society Limited as possible."
The increasing prosperity of the Society is also shown by the
fact that a Committee meeting, held June 20th, advanced Mr. James
Schofield, shopman, to 24s. per week; the Treasurer to 30s. per
quarter; and the Secretary to £2 per quarter. On July 11th,
after stocktaking, another step forward was taken, for the Committee
decided "That we have 400 copies of the balance sheet for the past
quarter, and that the same be printed by Messrs. Hirst and Rennie,
Chronicle Office, Oldham." It is very likely that this
was the first printed balance sheet issued by the Society. No
copy of this document appears to be extant, but judging from the
first minute recorded at the half-yearly meeting in July, an item of
£10. 18s. 1½d. was to be held
over to meet any error or omission in the accounts. At this
meeting a fresh Committee was appointed, composed of the following
gentlemen:—Messrs. Edmund Dransfield, James Byram, Jonathan Hirst,
Robert Windrom, Smith Millench, John Mallalieu, Absalom Matthews,
and John Bradbury Lees. It is also somewhat noteworthy that at
this meeting the members seem to have found their manners, and to
have realised that services had been rendered which called for other
than monetary recognition, for the last minute reads as follows:—
"That a vote of thanks be presented to the retiring officers."
Perhaps it may not be out of place here to remark that
working-class organisations often fail to recognise and acknowledge
their obligations to officials and servants who faithfully and
conscientiously discharge many onerous and very unpleasant duties,
and put forth efforts which are not recognised because they are done
in silence and as a matter of course. Some of the best private
firms make it a point of honour to personally encourage special
merit, and to speak in frank commendation wherever and whenever they
have an opportunity. In this way they secure the good feeling
of their staff, and ensure the successful and smooth running of the
business machine. Let a Co-operative servant fail in his duty
in any respect, and he will be certain to hear about it from some
quarter or other quickly enough. But who ever heard or read of
one being spoiled by over-praise or getting too much encouragement
from those who reap the benefit of his work? Working-men have
yet to learn how to appraise at their proper value the services of
those who unselfishly devote their best thought to promote the
interests of their collective employers. While it is important
that Co-operative servants should be well paid, it is equally
important and necessary that they should receive words of
encouragement, and be given incentives to excel. Instead of
discouraging a fellow-worker by ignoring him, whether in boardroom,
store, or workshop, our policy ought rather to be to stir him to
emulation by kindness, increased remuneration, and prospects of
Nothing of note appears to have transpired from July to
September; the Society seems to have been growing steadily in
numbers and sales, and the quarterly meeting, held October 17th,
accepted the printed balance sheet "as read." Happily we are
able to give here a copy of this, probably the second printed
balance sheet. The little address at the top is characteristic
of the Secretary, Mr. J. Wood, who now had the pleasure of seeing
the Society firmly established.
is no idle boasting; Mr. Wood's jubilation was fully justified at
the time. Membership, trade, profits, and capital were all
increasing, and 1864 closed with record dividends: March, 1s. 6d.;
June, 2s.; September, 2s.; and December, 2s. in the £.
The minutes for 1865-6 are lost, and so we can give little
information of this period of the Society's history.
Great changes in the official personnel are apparent from a
glance at the minute book commencing January 7th, 1867. Mr.
Josiah Hobson is Secretary in place of Mr. Joseph Wood. He was
appointed at the annual meeting in January, 1866, and five out of
the eight of a Committee are new men. A glance at the chart of
the Committee given at the end of this book will show how frequently
they were changed during the first 25 years of the Society's
existence. The second 25 years' record affords a strong
contrast in length of service.
The membership had so increased by this time that the
quarterly meeting had to be held alternately in the Boarshurst and
Wesleyan Sunday Schools in order to have suitable accommodation for
The butchering department was started in the autumn of 1866,
and Mr. Abel Buckley was the first butcher.
On January 9th, 1867, the Committee voted £1 as a donation to
Mount Sorrel Society, and decided to have a tea party in the
Mechanics' Hall, Uppermill, on February 16th, but as nothing further
appears about this proposed party, we think it must have fallen
through, though we can recollect being present at a tea party held
jointly by Greenfield and Uppermill Societies when the hall at
Uppermill was crammed to its utmost capacity, and which must have
taken place about this time.
The annual meeting on January 16th, 1867, was held in the
Greenfield Wesleyan Sunday School. At this meeting Mr. James
Byram presided, and it was decided to form a redemption fund.
Mr. Shelmerdine was re-appointed Treasurer at £9 per annum, and Mr.
Josiah Hobson was re-elected Secretary, his salary being fixed at
£13 per annum.
Quarterly meetings in those days were lively at times.
Noise and contention often did duty for argument, and the quarterly
meeting held in Boarshurst School on April 15th, 1867, was a fair
sample of many others held during the first 30 years of the
Society's existence. The writer was present at this meeting
with his father. Though only a raw lad in his teens, and, of
course, a non-member, no one seemed to think it needful to object to
his presence, and he still retains a clear recollection of the
proceedings. Little did he dream then that it would ever fall
to his lot to take an official part in conducting the Society's
affairs. A good deal of time and feeling were expended on the
question of allowing dividend on sack stuff. Mr. Thomas
Bradbury was Chairman, but, in spite of all he could do, the meeting
got out of hand. Some of the members seemed to think that
those who were large shareholders were getting too great a share of
the profits, and after a long wrangle they got a resolution passed
cutting the number of shares to be held down from £100 to £50.
This was followed by a kind of counter motion that no one should
vote on any subject unless he held five fully paid up shares in the
Society. After another long wrangle this was passed, and then
the meeting found that it had worked itself into a tangle, and
finally got out of its difficulties by rescinding both resolutions.
On February 13th, we note in passing that Mr. George Herbert
Winterbottom, of Noon Sun, then a mere lad in his early teens, now
the well-known manager of St. Helens Society, of boycott fame, was
admitted to membership and took a keen interest, even so early on in
his career, in the Society's doings.
On May 8th, arrangements had been so far completed with
Messrs. J. & J. C. Evans, of Oldham, for the supply of men's
clothing, that a check book was ordered so that members could have
dividend on goods purchased from this firm.
The Committee at this time does not seem to have had a fixed
Chairman. Sometimes Mr. James Byram, Mr. Thomas Bradbury, Mr.
N. A. Booth, but more frequently, Mr. A. Matthews signed the minutes
of the Society's meetings; and the question of Chairman's casting
vote seems to have arisen for settlement. The rule seems to be
quite clear enough for ordinary minds, but the Committee appear to
have had reason for thinking that something should be added, for on
May 15th, they passed the following curiously-worded resolution:
"Resolved 1st — That the Chairman in all cases is to have a casting
vote besides his vote as a Committee-man, that is, he can give a
casting vote besides his vote in the usual way." Well, one
would think that point was settled, surely, after such a resolution.
On July 17th, another rather remarkable resolution occurs,
which strikes us as being about the most mysterious combination of
words that could well be imagined. Evidently the redemption
fund had been under discussion, and the outcome was the following
cryptical deliverance. "Resolved 2nd — That the redemption
fund remain as it is, and to be applied to redeem all bills which
may be omitted during the preceding quarter, and at the end of the
quarter the said bills to be taken from the said redemption fund, if
there is a redemption fund at that time." We must leave the
interpretation of this fearfully and wonderfully constructed
resolution to the ingenuity of the reader.
The July general meeting outlined a building scheme which was
to provide a butcher's shop, a slaughter house, and shippon, with a
room over the lot for a meeting room, but shortly afterwards the
idea was modified to butcher's shop and slaughter house only, and
Mr. Jas. Bourne was engaged to erect it. Mr. Abel Buckley,
butcher, was dismissed in October, and Mr. Wm. Bradbury took his
place. It was decided, too, to make the butchering into a
separate department, and that its dividend should be paid
separately. The annual meeting held on January 20th, 1868, in
Boarshurst School, must have been in a very grateful mood, for the
salesman, the Secretary, and the Chairman were each accorded a vote
of thanks for their services.
About this time credit trading appears to have grown to some
extent, for, on February 19th, it was decided to discontinue it, and
to stop the dividend at the quarter end of those indebted to the
Society. A little later on this decision was varied so as to
allow credit equal to 15s. in the £ of paid-up share capital.
The first recorded account of a regular Chairman being
appointed is in July, when Mr. Thos. Bradbury is made Chairman, and
Mr. James Byram, Vice-Chairman.
The quarterly meeting held October 19th, 1868, recommended
the Committee to re-commence the coal trade, and on November 11th,
the coal carting was let to a local carrier. A little later
£60 was expended on a railway waggon, and the Society was fairly
launched in the coal business. While keeping a close eye on
the Society's business, the Committee during this year dealt pretty
rigorously with themselves. Late comers were fined 2d. each,
and one of their number was notified to either attend the meetings
or resign his office.
A resolution to form a drapery club was passed on October
28th; this proved a popular and profitable venture, and it survives
to-day in what is now known as the "Goods Club." Some changes
were made at the end of the year in the staff, when Mr. Albert
Fisher entered the service of the Society as assistant grocer.
In January, 1869, Mr. James Byram was chosen as Chairman, and
the Society decided to join the Oldham Star Corn Mill Society
Limited in April, taking 150 shares.
In June the butchering department again changed hands, and a
man named D. Dodson was appointed.
Mr. Ralph Hawkyard was appointed Chairman of the Society in
July, and Mr. Wm. Buckley, Vice-Chairman, and their duties during
this half year would be far from pleasant, as there appears to have
been considerable friction both amongst the employees and between
some of the principal officials; the particulars of which it is not
in our power to reveal, as sufficient information is not now
available for making a clear statement.
The annual meeting held in Boarshurst School, on January
17th, 1870, was a very unpleasant one. Mr. James Schofield, of
Greenfield Lodge, was appointed Secretary, after a stormy and
unseemly discussion. Mr. James Byram was made Treasurer, and
about three fresh members were put on the Committee. Mr.
Schofield only held his position for about four weeks, and on the
18th of February Mr. Jonathan Winterbottom was appointed Secretary
at a special meeting of members.
The general meeting, held April 18th, 1870, is remarkable for
the length of its business. Amongst other matters it was
decided to lower the share capital to £40 on the 24th June next, and
to have the shop and cottages painted. It was also decided to
alter the balance sheet and make it out in the following form, viz.:
a cash account, a general statement, and a profit and loss account.
The grocery, drapery, and butchering each to be shown separately,
with the profit in each department, and the balance sheets were to
be ready for issue not later than 5 p.m. on the Saturday previous to
On June 29th Mr. James Schofield and his wife decided to
leave the Society, and Mr. Edwin Buckley was appointed salesman on
July 6th, in place of Mr. Schofield. In September Mr. D.
Dodson gave up his position as butcher, and Mr. C. W. Bottomley was
put in his place. Miss Moore, the lady who succeeded Mrs.
Schofield in the drapery department, resigned October 22nd, and who
succeeded her is not quite clear. The year 1870 was a year of
turmoil, unrest, and change, and the conditions were not favourable
DRAPERY AND BUTCHER'S
SHOP AND HALL.
1871-1880.—Changes and Difficulties.
Be sure no effort true is lost,
No worthy deed is done in vain;
Whatever lessens human pain,
Doth yield a tenfold more than cost.
PART of the
cottage adjoining the grocery store, as at first built, did duty for
a considerable time as draper's shop; and early in 1871 it was
decided to give notice to the tenant occupying the other part, and
add the first floor to the draper's store, and make the bedroom into
a boardroom. Up to this time both Committee and officials must
have suffered great inconvenience and discomfort for want of a room
set apart for their use, where books and papers could be kept with
some approach to order and comfort. From some cause or other,
it was near the end of the year before the room was furnished.
Most likely the Committee were absorbed in other matters, for sales
and profits were declining, and there was a good deal of uneasiness
amongst the members. Frequent changes of staff are most
undesirable in a Co-operative Society. It takes time for a
good servant to win the confidence of customers, and at this time
our Society had its full share of unpleasant changes.
Although things did not wear a rosy aspect the Committee held
on their way, and on July 7th commenced to deal in coal, letting the
delivery to a local carrier. Early in August Mr. Joseph Travis
was appointed as carter to the grocery department, at 20s. per week.
A horse and two carts were procured, and the system of dealing with
the carriage of goods in the grocery department was now remodelled.
Hitherto, since the failure of the Society's first venture as cart
and horse owners, the work of carrying the Society's goods had been
done by local carriers, and of delivery to customers, by donkeys.
Mr. John Byrom was one from whom a donkey was hired for a
considerable time. Mr. J. Hirst was another, and part of the
time there was a "Co-op. Donkey." Many lively episodes
occurred with these animals, for both lads and lasses undertook to
drive them as circumstances required, and some of our older members
to-day recall with pleasure their juvenile adventures during this
day of small things when they see our sturdy teams going about the
Society's work at present.
The delivery of goods has proved a thorny problem to many
Societies. From the first our Mr. Holden recognised its wisdom
and necessity, and determined to meet it, and our Committee have
backed him up, and to-day we have a regular system which serves our
scattered membership to their satisfaction, proving a great boon to
the worthy matrons who appreciate the service rendered. The
following sketch which appeared in the Illustrated Co-operative
Almanac, 1897, incidentally illustrates this, and so we
reproduce it here :—
SHOPPING AS IT USED TO BE, AND IS:
The "gradely owd-fashioned" housewife of the old days did not
go "shopping." Oh, no, she went "a-buying in," and buy in she
did, and no mistake. "A-buying in" was a serious business to
her, and she had her half-day set apart for it. When the day
came round she would "tidy herself up a bit," put on an ample white
apron, and sit down to consider the whole matter as carefully as a
general might plan a campaign. Opening her purse, she would
count out so much money for flour and barm, so much for tea, sugar,
and butter, and so on all through the household requirements, and
happy was she if at the end she had a small surplus with which she
could purchase a ribbon or some little knick-knack for herself.
Then she would tie a large coloured napkin on her head, put on her
best shawl, and sally forth armed with a big family basket, and
later on you might have seen her returning home with something like
a small donkey-load of provisions.
But now-a-days all that is changed, and for the better.
The modern up-to-date housewife, who has had the benefit of the
Education Act, does not go "a-buying in." She goes to the
Stores, and, knowing exactly what she has in her dainty purse, she
just does a little mental arithmetic as she goes along, dressed
almost as smart as a "sweet sixteener" off to a pic-nic. On
arriving at the Stores she takes a rapid glance round, and
commencing in the department where there is least crowding, she
deftly works her way through her business, leaves a large order in
writing with the grocery shopman, pays cash down for the lot, and
picking out a few of the light showy packages, just to set out her
fancy ta-ta basket, she trips off gaily homewards, leaving her heavy
goods to be delivered later by the Society's van or lorry on its
next round. A Co-operative Society's lorry, loaded up for one
of these rounds, is a sight worth seeing in itself, suggesting how
much hard labour is now being saved to our still sufficiently
hard-working thrifty housewives, and affording a pleasing contrast
to the drudgery so patiently endured by the matrons of the past.
In April, 1872, the time for stocktaking was changed from the
first Tuesday to last Tuesday in the months of March, June,
September, and December. Why this change was made does not
appear in the Society's records.
On the 12th of April a special meeting of the Committee
decided to dispense with the salesman, Mr. Buckley, and on the 23rd
of the same month Mr. Dan Holden, our present esteemed Manager, was
appointed in his place. All the elements of a crisis were at
this time present in the situation. The Committee were most
anxious, and they fell back in their trouble upon our old veteran,
Mr. James Bottomley, who was not then on the Committee. He
advised the immediate engagement of Mr. Dan Holden. Mr.
Bottomley was deputed to see to this matter himself; and with
characteristic promptness he went to Mr. Moses Holden, our Manager's
father, who was at work in the garden at Greenfield House, and thus
addressed him, "Theaw mun goa fot yore Dan bi th' furst train.
We wanten him to be th' manager at eawr shop." Mr. Holden
replied "Aw've noa brass on me; an' aw'm noane donned up."
"Ne'er heed that, thee come into th' Press Shop an' aw'll find thee
some brass, and think on theaw brings Dan wi' thee back."
Nothing loth, Mr. Holden, senior, went straightway on his journey to
Bradshaw, near Bolton, arriving about noon, greatly to the
astonishment of his young son, newly settled as manager of the
Bradshaw Society. The president and one of the committee of
that Society were informed of the circumstances, and begged Mr. Dan
Holden to remain with them. With his usual caution he
considered the matter for some days, and visited the Secretary, Mr.
Jonathan Winterbottom, and asked him if the stocks and other matters
were all right. "Aye, aye, lad, as reet as a clock," was the
cheery optimistic reply given by Mr. Winterbottom, and with this
assurance he then decided to come back to his native village.
In the last week of April, then a young man of 23 years, he entered
upon his duties; and the June stocktaking was a painful surprise to
him, as he then found out to his dismay that the stocks had
previously been over-rated, and were generally in a most
unsatisfactory state. He reminded Mr. Winterbottom of his
assurance that everything was all right. "Eh, lad," he
replied, "Dunnot thee bother thi yed, o th' profit there is, theaw's
made it. We'rn gooin' behind afore theaw coom. We
durs'nt let thee know heaw bad things wur for feeort theaw would'nt
come if we did." This view of the matter somewhat reassured
the young Manager, who there and then resolved to put all his
energies into the work of making the Co-operative Society in his
native village into a prosperous undertaking. How well he
succeeded is patent to all who know anything of the Society's
A glance at the June balance sheet of 1872 will show
something of its unenviable position at that time. The sales
for the quarter were only £2,636. 8s. 6d., the profits £118. 16s.,
and the dividend 1s. in the £, to make which £5. 14s. 4d. was taken
from the reserve fund, leaving that fund at £54. 16s. 9d. The
share capital was £3,668. 19s. 8d., and the stocks stood at £1,306.
15s. 10d., a sum out of all reasonable proportion to the Society's
turnover at the time. The number of members was set down at
396, and the total assets of the Society at £3,912. 19s. 1d.
The Committee's report states that the grocery department had made 7¼d.;
drapery, 1s. 0¾d., and butchering 1s. 8d. in the £. In the
coal department there was a loss of 6s. 5d,, and in the carting
department £2. 11s. 9d. of a loss through a horse being ill.
This was the condition of things which the Committee and their new
Manager had to face in the summer of 1872, and it is greatly to
their credit that they faced it manfully.
The fortunes of the Society now took a favourable turn.
Sales began to show an upward tendency, and the dividend rose to 2s.
in the £ in September, falling to 1s. 7d. in the £ in December,
after which the results became more uniform. Early in July the
Committee decided to reduce the stock in the drapery department by
having a sale of goods lying on hand. At a general meeting
held July 15th it was decided to take up 20 shares in the Uppermill
Manufacturing Company, but this venture never got beyond the
initiatory stages. The same meeting decided to close the
Stores at 7 p.m. on Saturdays after a month's notice of the change
had been given in the shops.
On July 29th there was another change in the staff, and Mr.
George Haslam, of Uppermill, was appointed butcher, in succession to
Mr. C. W. Bottomley. On October 7th Miss Alice Holden was
appointed drapery saleswoman, under the direction of her brother,
Mr. Dan Holden, and this arrangement on the whole worked well, and
led to a great improvement in results. During the Society's
career many resolutions have been passed from time to time tinkering
with the share capital. One of them was passed at the general
meeting in October this year, when it was resolved "That no member
be allowed to deposit more than £40, but may run up his shares to
£100 by letting his interest and dividend accumulate." The
fatuity of such resolutions was only equalled by their transitory
character. Experience has shown later Co-operators the wisdom
of removing all such needless hindrances to their own thrift.
On November 4th, Messrs. A. Matthews, J. T. Schofield, Wm.
Wood, and Jonathan Winterbottom were appointed to revise the rules.
This code contains the first reference to the Society's seal, which
is thus described: — "The seal shall have for a device as follows: A
female figure representing 'Justice'."
On December 20th fortnightly pay days began at Greenfield
Mills, and this welcome change would help the members to pay ready
money for their goods.
A special general meeting, held February 11th, 1873, adopted
the newly-revised code, which was signed by the Committee as
GEORGE BUTTERWORTH, President: JOHN THOMAS SCHOFIELD, JOHN
SCHOFIELD, SAMUEL ROBINSON, WILLIAM WOOD, BENJAMIN BROADBENT,
ABSALOM MATTHEWS, JOHN SHAW, Members: JONATHAN WINTERBOTTOM,
The date of registration is September 25th, 1873, from which
we infer that the friends must have had some trouble to get them
Several important steps were taken in 1873, some of which
have borne good fruit, notably the establishment of a penny bank,
which was resolved upon at the general meeting, held April 21st,
particulars of which will be found in Chapter XI.
In July an attempt was made to start a clogging department,
but the Committee were unfortunate in their choice of clogger, and
by the 18th of August he was discharged, and another, together with
his man, took up the position, but this department proved so
unsatisfactory in its results that it was finally dropped in
The quarterly meeting, held July 14th, 1873, also made a
change of a most important nature by appointing the Manager, Mr. Dan
Holden, to take over the treasurership in succession to Mr. James
Byram. This change was no doubt made to meet the convenience
of members, an increasing number of whom would by this time be
anxious to deal with their share money more easily than was possible
under the old order of things. Mr. Holden held the dual
position of Manager and Treasurer until the appointment of a
permanent Secretary and Cashier in January, 1887.
On September 22nd, Mr. Samuel Bottomley entered the Society's
service as assistant in the grocery department. It is pleasing
to record the fact that he is now "second in command" at St. Helens
Society to Mr. G. H. Winterbottom, to whom we have before referred.
The year 1874 began badly. A valuable horse died
suddenly, and an outlay of £64 had to be made to replace it.
But, serious as this loss was, it was met and overcome. On
June 15th, Mr. John K. Lees was appointed as carter, in succession
to Mr. Joseph Travis, a position which he still retains.
Mr. Joseph Bradbury entered the Society's service in
September, and after doing good service with us for a time he went
to Failsworth, and is now one of the branch managers of that
In March, 1875, Mr. J. T. Wrigley became grocer's assistant,
and soon made an efficient servant. In course of time he, too,
went to Failsworth Society, and is now warehouseman at their Central
During this year the Committee turned their attention to
cottage building for members. Full particulars of the
Society's work in this line will be found in the Chapter on Cottage
Mr. William Smith was made managing butcher in January, thus
adding another to the long list of changes in this department.
The Society grew pretty fast during the next few years, and
so, in January, 1877, Mr. J. R. Wood was appointed as porter, and he
also assisted in the butchering department as required. In
February, a patent medicine licence was obtained, and the sale of
drugs was begun.
Mr. John Wrigley became assistant grocer in the August of
this year, and made the Society a good servant. He left us to
go to our good friends at Grasscroft, who, in due time, appointed
him their manager, a position which he still retains.
In September, 1878, the Society opened a banking account with
the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited.
Early in April, 1879, Mr. Jonathan Winterbottom, the genial
Secretary, who had held the office for nine years, began to be ill,
and died April 29th; and on the 5th May, Mr. N. A. Booth was
appointed to fill his place.
A special meeting held May 12th resolved to have a reading
room for members and to build new shops for drapery and butchering
departments. The following gentlemen were appointed by the
members to carry out this scheme: — Mr. James Radcliffe, Mr. James
Byram, Mr. David Mallalieu, Mr. Absalom Matthews, Mr. David Lawton,
Mr. George Mellor, and Mr. James Bourne. This Committee met on
May 15th, and appointed Mr. George Mellor, Chairman, and Mr. A.
Matthews its Secretary. They engaged Mr. George Ford to
prepare plans for two shops, a storeroom for grain, a reading room
and a large hall on the second floor. As the shops were much
needed, no time was lost in setting the contractors to work.
Mr. James Bourne was appointed to inspect the building operations,
and by November the erection was so far advanced that on the 30th of
that month a grand opening party was held with 500 persons present.
The forms, trestles, and tables were supplied by the C.W.S.
furnishing department and have proved most serviceable. The
mason work was done by Mr. Andrew Byram, and the joinery by Mr.
Thomas Bradbury. This block of buildings, with improvements
added, has cost the Society £1,246. 14s. 5d., and subsequent events
have shown the wisdom of providing such accommodation for the
Society's business, and the social life of the district. Up to
March, 1906, over £500 had been received for use of hall, to say
nothing of its use by the Society for its own purposes.
The removal of the drapery department into the new shop left
the rooms it occupied free to be added to the grocery department,
providing much-needed additional convenience for the growing trade.
The butcher's former saleroom was restored to manager's house.
The summer of 1880 was perhaps the only time in which our
Society was in any danger of overlapping with its neighbours.
A few members got up an agitation for a Branch to be opened at
Roaches. Some communications took place between our Committee
and the Committees of Mossley and Grasscroft Societies, and at a
special meeting of members held on August 9th it was finally decided
not to attempt to establish a Branch at that place.
On May 17th Mr. John Edward Butterworth was appointed carter
in the coal department, a new cart was obtained, and the Society
began the delivery of coal to its members. Mr. Butterworth
still retains his position and takes a great pride in the fine
horses he has under his care, one of which took special and first
prizes at a recent show.
1881-1890. -- Extensions and Improvements.
"Progress is the law of life." — Browning.
ABOUT this time
frequent resolutions occur in the minutes relating to investments.
Sums of £500, and occasionally £1,000, are named for investment, and
the growing capital of the Society was in this way made to earn a
portion of the interest paid on it to members.
On January 31st another change was made in the butchering
department. Mr. William Smith was discharged, and the
Committee took considerable pains to get a suitable successor.
The situation was advertised in the local press, and quite a host of
candidates presented themselves, out of whom four of the likeliest
were chosen, and inquiries made into their antecedents, which in
every case proved unsatisfactory. Fortunately, it so happened
that Mr. J. R. Wood while assisting the late butcher had picked up a
fair knowledge of the work, and our Mr. Holden proposed that Mr.
Wood and himself should try what they could do with this troublesome
department. The offer was accepted, and the arrangement turned
out most satisfactory to all concerned: and Mr. Wood worked this
department well till December, 1887, when he resigned to go into
business in a neighbouring town on his own account. Mr. James
Bottomley, junior, became assistant grocer on February 14th, and
became first counterman in due course. He left the Society in
October, 1894, to go into business in Oldham on his own account.
In January, 1882, the general meeting decided to close the
reading room. The noisy conduct of some of the thoughtless
youngsters attending it gave those who looked askance at this part
of the Society's work a ready handle which they were not slow to use
for the accomplishment of their purpose. Shortly afterwards
this room was put to a very useful purpose, for the local Lodge of
Oddfellows made it into their lodge-room, and they are still using
In November the drapery department had grown so
much that an assistant was needed, and Miss Alice Schofield took the
In January, 1883, the limit of share capital was reduced to
£70, and the rules were altered accordingly. On February,
12th, Mr. W. R. Buckley resigned his position as porter to take a
situation at Greenfield Mills, and Mr. T. B. Shaw took his place.
Mr. William Lees, the Chairman of the Society at that time,
was appointed to represent our Society at the meetings of the Oldham
District Conference by our Committee, who decided to join that body
on June 11th, but fell out of touch again for a time.
It is pleasing to note that Councillor Booth, the present
Chairman of our Educational Committee, began his connection with the
Society as assistant in the grocery department on November 23rd, and
continued in its service till October 5th, 1889, when he left to
take his present position of trust at Oak View Mill, in succession
to his deceased father, Mr. N. A. Booth.
Miss Alice Schofield resigned her situation in the drapery
department, and Miss Alice Bradbury took her place on July 11th,
Mr. Fred Mills came into the Society's service in succession
to Mr. Geo. Booth, and in due time became first counterman, which
position he left to become manager of Cefn Society in July, 1903, a
post he still occupies.
On October 23rd the credit system was once more under
attention, and a notice was issued pressing members to pay up
arrears. The same meeting discussed the check system, and a
special general meeting, held November 10th, decided to adopt the
book system, which is still in use; a change which was brought about
largely by the efforts of Messrs. J. T. Bradbury and A. Bray, who
made many careful inquiries into various systems before finally
recommending the one adopted.
The new system came into operation at the close of the March
quarter, 1885, when non-members' dividend was fixed at 1d. in the
shilling, to be allowed at the time of purchase. Mr. William
Lees and the Secretary, Mr. N. A. Booth, were appointed to act as
check clerks. The April general meeting reduced the number of
shares to be held by members to £50. The Society reverted back
to a general dividend on all purchases in the June quarter of this
year, and put an end to the trouble and cost of paying a separate
dividend in the butchering department.
The members of our Society took a great interest in the
Manchester Ship Canal project, and they resolved to take up 10
shares in that great undertaking at the general meeting, held
The next step of importance was the decision of members, on
February 24th, 1886, to build more cottages, the particulars of
which will be found in the Chapter on Cottage Building.
Mr. N. A. Booth, the esteemed Secretary of the Society,
tendered his resignation to the general meeting held January 10th,
1887, and a cordial vote of thanks was accorded to him for his
faithful services for nearly eight years. This meeting decided
to have a permanent Secretary and Cashier, and his appointment was
left with the Committee. A special committee meeting was held
to deal with this appointment on January 20th, when the choice fell
upon Mr. David Lawton, who entered upon his duties on January 26th,
and still holds the office.
Mr. William Lees resigned his position as President on
February 7th, and Mr. J. T. Bradbury was elected to the chair on
February 14th, and has retained the position up to the present time.
In July of this year he will complete 22 years on the Committee, and
about 19½ years as President, a
record of which any man might justly be proud.
On April 11th, 15 more Manchester Ship Canal Shares were
ordered to be taken up by general meeting, and the June balance
sheet was re-modelled on the principles indicated by the
Co-operative Union accountants in their text-books.
On December 12th Mr. J. R. Wood resigned his position as
managing butcher, and Mr. G. H. Bamforth was appointed his
In April, 1888, the shares allowed to be held by members were
reduced to £40, an arrangement which was much resented by many
members, who were loth to take back their money from the Society.
Out of the £1,500 provided to pay out the surplus capital, more than
£600 had to be taken back to the bank, and this large sum was left
for weeks in the Society's hands, though interest on it had ceased
in accordance with the changed rule.
A list of members' claims, and of loan and penny bank
balances was issued on the December balance sheet of this year for
the first time; this is a wise check on these accounts and is still
On May 8th, 1890, Mr. G. H. Bamforth was discharged, and on
May 12th, Mr. Thomas Swan (of Oldham), was appointed in his stead.
On May 10th, the first District Conference held under the
auspices of our Society took place in our hall, when the Society's
Secretary read a Paper on "The Co-operative Outlook," after which
there was a useful discussion, a good tea, and a long ramble by the
numerous company, which proved most enjoyable.
A change in the stables and back yard had long been needful,
and, in the beginning of 1890, steps were taken to acquire the land
necessary for the extension from the owner, Mr. J. F. Buckley, J.P.,
from whom 800 yards were bought out on February 17th, at a cost of
3s. 9d. per square yard. Plans and specifications were
prepared by Mr. J. T. Bradbury, which provided for a greatly
improved system of drainage to our old property, good stabling for
five horses (with hay store above), slaughter house and hunger room,
and a cart shed and corn room for the grocery department. This
scheme was carried out during the summer, and cost the Society the
sum of £930. 15s. 8d., including a new heating apparatus for office
and grocery shop. Mr. Ernest Whitehead and Mr. Thos. Bradbury
did the mason and joinery work respectively.
This was money exceedingly well spent, as it enabled the corn
and flour to be stored with the rest of the grocery goods, did away
with a good deal of needless labour, and added the former corn room
to the hall for tea parties, classes, &c., besides greatly adding to
the efficiency of the carting and butchering equipment.
In October, more shares were taken in the Manchester Ship
Canal, and also in the Co-operative Wholesale Society.
By the close of 1890 the Society's position had improved
greatly, and in December 2s. 8d. in the £ was paid and the reserve
fund stood at £755. 14s. 1d.
"Co-operation is the combination of a number of persons,
or of a community, for purposes of economic production
or distribution, so as to save, for the benefit of the
whole body of producers or customers, that which
otherwise becomes the profit of the individual
— A New English Dictionary, by Dr.
Vol. II., Page 963.
1891, Mr. Thos. Evans, who had been Auditor for ten years, died at
Boarshurst, after a long illness, and a letter of condolence was
sent to Mrs. Evans and family expressing the Committee's sympathy
with them in their great loss. During July, our Mossley
friends began an effort to bring Societies into closer relationship
with one another and the various colliery firms, in order to break
through the ring of agents whose tactics at that time were not
admired by committees who had to do with coal supplies.
Several conferences were held during the summer months, presided
over by Mr. Thos. Shaw, the chairman of Mossley Society. Mr.
David Lawton, the Secretary of our Society, was appointed to
represent us on a provisional committee appointed by a number of
Societies in Manchester and district to form a coal federation, for
the purpose of supplying coal to Society members on wholesale terms.
He was made secretary, pro tem., of this committee. A
code of rules was drawn up, and arrangements were made to start the
federation, when the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited stepped
in and offered to do the work contemplated by the proposed coal
federation. The offer was accepted, and the information
obtained was handed over to the C.W.S. officials, and the proposed
coal federation was dropped.
During this year, lavatory accommodation was added to the
hall for both ladies and gentlemen, and fire appliances to attach to
the water mains were obtained so as to be ready in case of fire.
A new apparatus for heating the office and shops was also put in.
"Darkest Greenfield" made a great effort early in 1892 to rid
itself of this reproach. A committee was formed, of which our
Manager, Mr. Dan Holden was chairman, and several meetings were held
in our hall, but the opposition of the large ratepayers was so
strong that the matter was dropped for a time. But this effort
bore fruit later on.
A revision of general and building rules was decided upon by
the Committee on February 29th, and a Sub-Committee was appointed to
draft the proposed changes, composed of Messrs. J. T. Broadbury, A.
Bray, J. E. Shaw, and Thos. Worth.
On March 7th, the Committee decided to close the Stores at 6
p.m. on Saturdays, and after due notice this welcome change came
into operation on April 16th.
A special general meeting, held April 11th, adopted the
revised rules, which contained a clause fixing the education grant
at not less than 1 per cent of profits as a minimum to be allowed
for this purpose. An amendment to omit this clause brought out
the fact that the meeting was overwhelmingly in favour of making the
grant; and the general and building rules were adopted as drawn by
the Sub-Committee. This revision of rules led to the opening
of a loan account.
On May 23rd, it was decided to get rules, and on May 25th the
model rules provided by the Co-operative Union Limited for loan
departments were adopted. This move was not long in bearing
fruit, for by the close of the year over £500 was paid into this
account, and at the end of 1905 it stood at £5,172. 1s. 9d.
The Congress of 1892 met in Whitweek, at Rochdale, the
birthplace of Co-operation. Our Secretary attended as
delegate, and thereby acquired a good deal of useful knowledge of
Our educational department was begun in August, and full
particulars of its work will he found in the Chapter on Educational
The year 1893 was a quiet one. The conveyance of the
new cottages in Spring Grove Terrace to their prospective owners
was, perhaps, the most notable event. In April, 1894, the
question of purchasing the four-acre field near the Stores, came up
for discussion. As the price — £800, fixed by the owner — was
deemed too high, it was decided not to purchase. After events
have shown this decision to be an unfortunate one, as the field is
likely to be of value as a building site, and has a good frontage to
the main road. The land question lies at the root of all
social reform, and if Co-operation is to accomplish its beneficent
mission, Co-operators everywhere will have to make it a part of
their policy to acquire land whenever circumstances enable them to
do so with any reasonable prospect of doing it on profitable lines.
The District Conference Association again paid a visit to
Greenfield, and met in our hall on May 5th. The local
Society's Secretary, Mr. D. Lawton, by invitation again read a paper
in which he dealt some straight blows at some of the tendencies of
Societies to fall below the Co-operative ideal of being able to
cover all the ordinary requirements of healthy and vigorous life.
He strongly condemned the common practice of returning share capital
to members, and urged Committees to make their respective Societies
into useful banks for their members, and so prevent them from
becoming the easy victims of the financial sharks, who are ever
ready to prey upon the unwary. He also advocated the
investment of Society's surplus capital with local and municipal
bodies, and pleaded for more unity in action for the common good.
A most useful discussion followed, taken part in by leading
Co-operators of the district. Councillor T. E. Moorhouse,
C.W.S. Director, opened the debate with a racy speech, in which he
supported some of the views put forward in the paper. Mr. J.
T. Taylor, of Oldham, criticised some of the writer's views, but did
not overthrow his arguments. Mr. Frank Hardern, J.P.,
followed, and handled Mr. Taylor pretty roughly, and advocated more
attention being paid to Co-operative production. Mr. Thos.
Shaw, chairman of the Manchester district, advocated strongly an
immediate advance in Co-operative production on Federal lines.
Mr. Fred Houghton, J.P., Mr. Thos. Worth, and Mr. Bamforth, of the
Co-operative Insurance, continued the discussion, after which a
splendid tea was served by the ladies. In the evening a
numerous company, under the leadership of our Manager, Mr. Dan
Holden, went for a ramble to Ashway Gap, and assembled on the top of
the tower to sing the well-known hymn, "Come let us join our
cheerful songs." Mr. F. Hardern, J.P., spoke in high terms of
the wild grandeur of the scenery by which they were surrounded, and
voiced the thanks of the friends to Mr. Abel Buckley, JP., for
permission to visit this lovely place. Greenfield Waterworks
being close by were next visited, after which the friends dispersed,
highly pleased with their afternoon's work.
In May our Society was admitted to membership in the
Co-operative Insurance Society Limited, and afterwards took up 200
On the retirement of Mr. James Bottomley, Mr. Fred Mills was
made first counter-man, and Mr. Frank Lees was engaged as assistant
in the grocery department on October 2nd. Early in 1895 £2,000
was paid into Saddleworth District Council as a loan, to be repaid
in 33 years by half-yearly instalments. The interest was fixed
at 3¼ per cent, and the advance
secured by a duly-executed mortgage.
In February, Miss Alice Bradbury resigned her situation as
assistant in the drapery department.
The Committee, at their meeting on March 18th, placed on
record their sense of the loss our movement had sustained by the
death of Mr. J. T. W. Mitchell, the chairman of the C.W.S., on the
16th inst., at Rochdale.
During March a movement sprang up in the district in favour
of having a bridge over the Chew at Andrew Mill. From time
immemorial it was known there had been a ford at this point, which
was impassable in bad weather, and as the footway was much used by
our members the Committee signed a petition in favour of a
footbridge being erected at this point, to make the road available
in all weathers.
C.W.S. tailoring was the next move made by the Committee, who
decided on April 1st to arrange for a tailor to come weekly, or
oftener if needed, to take measures and receive orders for men's and
boys' clothing. This move has turned out well, and has
resulted in a fair amount of business.
The 1895 Congress was held at Huddersfield, and our Society
deputed Mr. John Hill to attend the meetings of the reception
committee, and Mr. Solomon Priestley was appointed delegate and
attended the sittings.
At the May Conference of the Oldham district, at Grasscroft,
the Secretary of Greenfield Society was appointed a member of the
District Executive, in succession to Councillor T. E. Moorhouse,
whose time was now fully occupied by C.W.S. business.
The question of public lighting again came before the
ratepayers of Greenfield district, and a meeting was held in the
Society's Hall on September 4th, when a strong committee, composed
of gentlemen of both political parties, was formed, to which Mr.
David Lawton was appointed chairman and Mr. Ben Dransfield
secretary. This committee did not meet with the same weight of
opposition as the one appointed in 1892, and as a result of their
labours the Lighting Act was adopted on January 6th, 1896. The
late Mr. J. F. Tanner was first chairman appointed under the Act,
and this gentleman took a great interest in the work. No time
was lost in getting the lamps erected where most needed, and in due
time Greenfield became as well lighted as any other part of
In March, 1896, it was decided to put an end to the anomalous
practice of obtaining clothing from private firms. The
arrangements made with the C.W.S. woollens department proved that
this business could be done quite as well Co-operatively as ever it
had been done through private firms. A circular was issued to
the members pointing out that trading on the old lines meant a loss
of 2s. 10d. in the £ under the circumstances of the time, and they
fell in without demur with the Committee's wishes.
The question of reducing the rate of interest on share
capital was freely discussed by members in the spring of 1896, and
on March 30th the Committee decided to recommend that the rate
should be altered from five per cent to four and one sixth per cent
to a special general meeting, to be held April 13th. When this
meeting took place considerable discussion ensued, and some feeling
was evoked, but at length the Committee's proposition was accepted,
and the requisite alteration of Rule 17 was agreed to. The
ordinary general meeting, held on the same date, voted £5 towards
the erection of Andrew Mill Bridge, in response to a letter
appealing for subscriptions from the Highways Committee of the
District Council. In this, and in many other ways, our Society
has shown its willingness to contribute its quota towards any
movement for the well-being of our district, thus recognising that
the possession of wealth carries with it corresponding
responsibilities to the community at large.
In May the Committee decided to enlarge the office and
boardroom by removing a partition and annexing a spare room
adjoining the old office, thus doubling the accommodation; and in
August a piano was bought and placed in our large hall for concerts
The July general meeting decided to write down several
investments, and to take £400 off the Spring Grove cottages,
appropriating in this way the sum of £997. 14s. 4d. from the
reserve, which had then reached over £1,000.
The first number of the "Wheatsheaf" was published by the
C.W.S. in July, and our Society at once began its free distribution,
gladly recognising its value as an educational agency. The
Secretary was appointed to take charge of the local matter.
Since then articles and sketches relating to the Society's business,
and questions concerning the welfare and advancement of the movement
generally, have appeared in its pages, thus enabling our members to
keep themselves informed as to the progress of our work.
The purchase of the field near our Stores again occupied the
Committee's attention in October, who laid it before the general
meeting held October 12th, when a statement was given as to how it
could be utilized. The price quoted had now advanced to
£1,000. It was decided to adjourn the matter to a special
meeting 14 days later, when the members declined to purchase the
plot at the price named.
A gas engine was put down in November to drive the
fruit-cleaning, coffee-grinding, and hay-chopping machinery, and a
little later on a new fire and burglar proof safe, specially
constructed by Messrs. Chatwood, was placed in the office.
Public sympathy was aroused early in 1897 by the Indian
famine, and on February 15th, in response to the appeal made by the
District Council, the Committee voted £10 to the local fund for the
relief of our suffering fellow subjects in India.
A week's holiday yearly was granted to all the Society's
employees by the general meeting held April 12th, 1897, but this
welcome boon did not come into full operation till the summer of
1903, when a re-arrangement of staff took place which rendered it
June 21st saw another change in the butchering department,
Mr. Thos. Swan being dismissed, and on the 28th Mr. Geo. Hy. Battye,
of Delph, the present managing butcher, was selected out of a large
number of applicants to fill the position.
During the summer of 1897 yet another extension of the
grocery department was made by the addition of increased cellaring,
a new making-up room, a goods receiving and dispatch room, &c., all
of which were greatly needed. The work was done by Mr. Ernest
Whitehead and Mr. Thomas Bradbury, contractors, and when completed
allowed of a better arrangement of counters, increased room for
customers, and a more orderly arrangement of goods in stock.
Altogether the outlay amounted to £281. 15s. 3d., — a great
improvement effected at a moderate cost.
Brookfield Terrace was purchased from the representatives of
the late Mr. Jonathan Hirst on August 20th, and is now held by the
The subject of Parliamentary Representation was brought
before the April general meeting in 1898, and the principle approved
of. The same meeting voted £2. 2s. towards a fund for
providing a piano for Saddleworth Workhouse.
On May 14th the Oldham District Conference was held on our
premises, and Mr. J. T. Taylor, the present chairman of the
district, read a paper entitled "Looking Backward." The Rev.
Edwin Powell, M.A., presided, and in his opening address expressed
his sympathy with the aims and work of the Co-operative Movement.
Mr. Taylor in his incisive way dealt with the craze for high
dividends, and urged upon the Conference to have more regard for the
first principles of Co-operation, which were above mere questions of
expediency. A very interesting discussion followed taken part
in by Messrs. D. Holden, P. Schofield, W. Hilton, W. Jenkins, and
several others. When tea was over a ramble up Pots and Pans
and over the craggy crown of Alderman brought this pleasant function
to an agreeable close.
The Committee decided to close the Stores on Saturdays at 5
p.m., on June 19th, 1899, and this time of closing is still adhered
Early in 1900 an appeal was made by the District Council for
a War Fund, from which relief could be given to the families of
soldiers on duty in South Africa. The annual meeting in
January voted £10 to this fund.
Mr. T. B. Shaw, our porter, retired through ill-health in
April, and on the 26th of that month Messrs. S. Butterworth and C.
H. Dransfield were added to the staff, and are still with us.
The general meeting held April 9th voted £10 to the Indian
Famine Fund, thus for the second time proving the readiness of our
members to assist their less-fortunate fellow subjects in India.