History of Co-operation (10)
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CHAPTER XXXII.

CO-OPERATIVE FARMING


"Parson do preach, and tell we to pray,
 And to think of our work, and not ask more pay:
 And to follow ploughshare, and never think
 Of crazy cottage and ditch-stuff's stink,
            .            .            .            .            .            .
 And a'bids me pay my way like a man,
 Whethar I can't, or whether I can:
 And, as I han't beef, to be thankful for bread,
 And bless the Lord it ain't turmuts instead:
            .            .            .            .            .            .
 I'm to call all I gits 'the chastening rod,'
 And look up to my betters, and then thank God."

Punch.


SEEING that social schemes of life are as old as Society, and that the first form was that of communism, which meant co-operative uses of the land, it is singular that the first idea should be the last in realisation.

    A much-needed employment of Co-operation is in agriculture.  The most important application of it occurred in the restless land of potatoes and whiteboys.  Amid the bogs of Ralahine an experiment of co-operative agriculture produced great results.  The story of its singular success has been given in the chapter on "Lost Communities."

    Mr. James B. Bernard, who dated from King's College, Cambridge, wrote in the New Moral World November 29, 1834, in favour of a scheme of raising the status of the agricultural labourer as well as the mechanic.  A committee of twenty-two members of Parliament published a small 2d. monthly paper at 11, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, in promotion of this object.  Mr. E. S. Cayley, M.P. for the North Riding of Yorkshire, was chairman of this early project.  Mr. Bernard was a Fellow of Cambridge.  It was not often that the New Moral World had so respectable a contributor.  We are apt to think when we hear of a baronet or a lord contemplating setting apart 300 acres of land for the purposes of co-operative farms, that the agricultural millennium is arriving by an express train; but we may read in the Morning Herald of 1830 that a peer had several years before set off 500 lots of land, consisting of about five acres each, for a similar purpose.

    The testimony of Lord Brougham as to what might be accomplished by uniting agricultural and other industries with instruction and culture, was very explicit.  Mr. Fellenberg, of Hofwyl, in Switzerland, made a famous attempt to prove this.  In the beginning of the eighteenth century Mr. Fellenberg's agricultural college was the talk of Europe.  Robert Owen sent his sons to it, and Lord, then Mr., Brougham went to see it.  He declared that the habits of common labour are perfectly reconcilable with those of a contemplative and even scientific life, and that a keen relish for the pleasures of speculation may be united with the most ordinary pursuits of the poor.  "All this," he said, "seems to be proved by the experiment of Mr. Fellenberg.  His farm is under 220 acres; his income, independent of the profit he derives from breeding horses (in which he is very skilful), and his manufacture of husbandry implements, does not exceed £500 a year. . . . The extraordinary economy," he observed, "is requisite to explain the matter: for although the academy and institute are supported by the richer pupils, these pay a very moderate sum; and the family, who are wholly supported and lodged at Hofwyl, amounts to 180 persons.  These dine at six different tables, and their food though simple is extremely good."  When Mr. Brougham was there he found seven or eight German princes among the pupils, besides several sons of German nobles, and the Prince and Princess of Wurtemberg were expected to visit the place to arrange for placing another young prince there.  There never has been a doubt among men of observation that the agricultural life of England is the dullest and most ignominious known, as far as the labourers in southern and western counties are concerned.  Mr. Mill has applauded the métayer system of other countries as including co-operative usages attended with many advantages.  The cultivator is a métayer.

    In former days any relation between labourers and farmers, in which the labourers did all the work and the farmer did not take everything, was called "co-operative" farming, Mr. John Gurdon's paternal arrangements of this kind with certain labourers at Assington, was thought much of.  In 1862 the Times sent a commissioner to Rochdale to report upon co-operative proceedings there.  In consequence of what the editor said upon the subject Mr. Gurdon wrote to the Times, giving his own account of what he had done, saying: "About thirty years ago, upon a small farm in Suffolk becoming vacant, I called together twenty labourers and offered to lend them capital without interest if they would undertake to farm it, subject to my rules and regulations.  They gladly availed themselves of my offer.  In the course of ten years they paid me back my capital, so that I was induced to let another farm of 150 acres to thirty men upon the same terms.  These have also nearly paid me back the capital lent to them, and instead of eating dry bread, as I regret to say many of the agricultural labourers are now doing, each man has his bacon, and numberless comforts which he never possessed before; thus the rates are reduced, as these fifty families are no longer burdensome.  The farmers are sure to meet with honest men, as conviction of crime would debar them of their share, and the men themselves have become much more intelligent and present happy, cheerful countenances.  If every country gentleman would follow my example, distress among the agricultural poor would not be known.  I merely add I have no land so well farmed."  At the same time the Rev. Banks Robinson, vicar of Little Wallingfield, Suffolk, living near Mr. Gurdon's place, wrote to the Co-operator to say he had visited Assington and thought highly of Mr. Gurdon's friendliness to the labourers and the kind intention of his plans, but they were not co-operative as the word was understood in Rochdale.  Ten years later my colleague, Mr. E. R. Edger, visited Mr. Crisell, the manager of the farm whom the Rev. Mr. Robinson had found to be of "manly, open, and ingenious appearance," beyond what he expected of one belonging to the "depressed" class.  Mr. Edger sent me this report:—


"I paid a visit to Assington, and had a conversation with the manager, Mr. Crisell (pronounced with i long, 'Cry-sell').  I can feel no enthusiasm at all about the Assington Farm.  There seems no 'co-operation' in the right sense of the term, but only bounty of the squire towards poor neighbours.

    "(1) It is limited to inhabitants of the parish.
    "(2) Each member can hold only one share.
    "(3) Members have no voice in the management.
    "(4) Wages to workmen same as usual.
    "(5) No special inducement offered to the workmen to become shareholders.  The manager remarked that they did not care particularly to employ the members; this seems to me very significant.

    "It has been in existence forty-one years, so it will take a long time to renovate society that way.  Remember, I only give my impressions."


    Still they are the "impressions" any one has who looks at the matter from a co-operative point of view.  Mr. Gurdon's merit was that he did something for labourers around him when few squires did anything; and his isolated example has served to call the attention of others to what may be done without loss by squires of ordinary good intentions.  That what Mr. Gurdon did in this way should be the only notable effort of his class during forty years in England, is the most melancholy measure of the tardiness of thought for the agricultural labourer's improvement the reader will find anywhere.

    What an honourable stride from Assington is that made by Lord George Manners at Ditton Lodge Farm, near Newmarket!  Writing to the Agricultural Gazette, in 1873, his lordship states:—


    "At my harvest supper in August, 1871, I informed my labourers that, commencing from Michaelmas, 1872, I should take them into a qualified partnership, paying them their ordinary wages, but dividing between capital and labour any surplus above the sum required to pay 10 per cent. (5 per cent. as interest, and 5 per cent. as profit) on the capital invested in the business: or, in other words, that I should take half such surplus, and divide the other half among those who had laboured on the farm the whole of the preceding twelve months.  I have recently made up accounts for the twelve months ending Michaelmas, 1873, and I have a surplus, after paying capital l0 per cent., of £71 16s. 6d.; there will, therefore, be a sum of £36 18s. 3d, for division among the labourers, which will give each man a sum of £3.  Many will shake their heads and say, 'All very well; but if the next is a bad year, you will have to bear the whole loss.'  My answer is, 'Quite true; but who can say that my loss may not be less than it would otherwise have been, owing to the stimulus which this system can scarcely fail to exert on the labourer in his daily work?"


    The answer here italicised denotes greater knowledge of Co-operation than many co-operators show. Mr. William Lawson, of Blennerhasset Farm, had a famous stallion which he named "Co-operation." Some Newmarket breeder would find " Industrial Partnership " a good name for the favourite at the Derby.

    Lord Hampton, when Sir John Pakington, spoke in 1872 with great liberality upon the same subject.  He said "he supported the idea of co-operative farms and an extension or the system of co-operative stores into every village of the kingdom.  As to the question of compensation for unexhausted improvements, he considered that such compensation was only simple justice.  In the lease there should be covenants to protect the landlord in the concluding years of the term, and there should be equal justice to the tenant for unexhausted improvements."

    Mr. Walter Morrison has afforded the means for farm hands conducting a real co-operative farm at Brampton Bryan, in Herefordshire.  As a rule few landowners think seriously of the advantages of this form of industry, and labourers have fewer facilities of learning how to conduct farms than artisans have of learning how to conduct manufactories, so that co-operative farming will make slower progress than co-operative workshops.  For a farm to succeed in the hands of labourers requires the presence and guidance of a good farmer, until they acquire the habits of management.  The Assington labourers would not have made much of the facilities Mr. Gurdon kindly provided, had he not been near to countenance and control the results.

    The most remarkable of all the experiments of agricultural co-operation is that recorded by Mr. William Lawson (a brother of Sir Wilfrid Lawson, M.P.) in his "Ten Years of Gentleman Farming."  Mr. Lawson spent more than £30,000 in this way.  Though this large sum was spent it could hardly be said to be lost, since at any point of his many experiments he might have made money had he been so minded.  But he proceeded on the plan of a man who built one-storey houses, and as soon as he found that they let at a paying rent, pulled them down and built two-storey houses to see if they would pay, and when he found that they answered, he demolished them, and put up houses of three storeys, and no sooner were they profitably occupied, than he turned out the inhabitants and pulled them down.  What he lost was by the rapidity of his changes, rather than by the failure of his plans, for he had sagacity as great as the generosity of his intentions.  His chief farm was at Blennerhasset, in Cumberland.  He was the first to introduce the steam plough into the country, and every form of scientific farming matured between 1860 and 1870.  He maintained for the use of his neighbours, two travelling steam engines, which he named Cain and Abel.  He founded co-operative stores, supplying the capital himself, which ill-judged paternalism destroyed self-helping effort in the members.  At Blennerhasset he founded a People's Parliament, where all those employed upon the various farms and all the villagers, periodically assembled and discussed the management of the co-operative farms and the qualities and characters of the managers.  This was a dangerous feature borrowed from Oneida.  The result to the farm was great variety of counsel, and some of the drollest debates and votes ever recorded.  The effect upon the people was, however, very good.  Mr. Lawson's plan of inviting miscellaneous criticism is not so silly as it looks.  If you do not feel bound to take all the advice you get, and are strong enough not to be confused by contradictory opinions, there is no more economical way known of getting wisdom.  Even disagreeable people have their value in this way.  There must be education of some kind, at least of neighbourly feeling, for it is easy to promote the welfare of those you like, but how about the people you do not like?  When quarrelsome people come into such a society they begin to discuss, not the merits of the society, but each other.  It is a difficult thing for people to act together—neither people devoted to politics nor people devoted to religion can do it without training.  Some years after the farms were sold, I found more intelligence and ready sense among the villagers than I ever met with elsewhere.  On a plot of land at Aspatria, bearing the name of Noble, Mr. Lawson built Noble Temple, a public hall, always available for lectures.  He also established medical dispensaries, schools, and news-rooms.  No agricultural population was ever so liberally or generously cared for in England.  Mr. Lawson's "Ten Years of Gentleman Farming " is the most interesting and amusing book in co-operative literature.  Never was landowner more sagacious, inventive, genial, liberal or changeable—not in his generous purpose but in his methods.  Had he been less paternal and taught his people the art of self-help, he had been a great benefactor.

    The rise of the Agricultural Labourers' Union had the effect of promoting Distributive Co-operation.  Many labourers never heard of Co-operation, or did not
think much of it, though acquainted with it.  The general impression was that it might do very well for mechanics in towns.  This kind of impression is not peculiar to agricultural labourers.  Most people consider new improvement may suit somebody else.  The comfortable sense of self-perfection, with which many persons are endowed, leads to a complacent judgment we so well know.  One of the co-operative stores recently set up by the members of the Agricultural Union numbered sixty persons.  Their business and profits being in considerable confusion, Mr. John Butcher was asked to look into their affairs.  He saw at once that they needed an intelligent secretary.  "Have you no carpenter among you," was his first inquiry, "one with a little skill in figures, who could keep your books?"  The answer was, "We have no such person."  "Surely," Mr. Butcher observed, "you do not mean to say that there is no carpenter in the village?"  "Oh yes," was the answer—"we have several, but they are not members of the Union."  "You do not mean to say that you require every member of the store to be a member of the Union?"  The unhesitating reply was, "Oh, but we do.  The doctor and the parson would have joined our store, to have encouraged us to improve our position, but we would not have them because they were not members of the Union."  And it turned out that the lawyer would have joined the store, but did not see his way to becoming a member of the Union.  It transpired that a noble earl, having property in the neighbourhood, and a seat hard by, would have joined the store, from an honourable feeling of encouraging the poor men in efforts of social self-help, but he was refused because he had not qualified himself by entering his name as a member of the Agricultural Labourers' Union.  Mr. Butcher explained to the exacting labourers that Co-operation took no account of politics, religion, or social station, and regarded members only as they subscribed capital and purchased goods.  Thus, some of these stipulating Unionists, whom exclusiveness treated as a caste, and whom isolation kept poor, came to see that it ill became them to imitate the narrowness which degraded them, and the jealousy which impoverished them.

    In 1867 the Society of Agricultural Co-operation named previously was formed under the title of the Agricultural and Horticultural Association, Limited.  The following table shows its progress from 1868 to 1877:—
 

Date

Members

Share Capital

Deposit Capital

Sales

Net Gain to
Members

 

 

£

£    s.   d.

£    s.   d.

£    s.   d.

1868

174

1,066

10,342   0   5

493   2   3

1869

235

3,584

19,102   4   3

433   6   5

1870

315

4,256

21,521   2   8

1,151   6   4

1871

430

5,275

29,351   0  11

1,127  18 11

1872

578

9,045

1,165  18   0

47,490   2   5

2,083   9   8

1873

783

12,153

3,958   4   8

56,336  15   2

2,585   5   9

1874

892

13,542

7,793   6   8

64,676  15   8

2,914   1  11

1875

978

15,352

6,515  18   2

64,428   2   3

1,741   9   0

1876

1,041

15,955

17,360   9   8

66,405   1   0

1877

1,113

16,495

14,279  15   8

89,334   4  1

3,120  16   8


    Some of the Northern stores possess farm property, but agricultural Co-operation has not made distinctive way.  Landowners, friendly to self-help among the people, are now disposed to encourage these attempts.  Mr. Arthur Trevelyan, of Tyneholm, always foremost where social improvement can be promoted, offered the Wolfstar and Wester Pencaitiand farms for co-operative purposes.  It is quite worth the while of squires to efface the feeling Bloomfield described among the agricultural poor of his day, who were—


"Left distanced in the maddening race
 Where'er Refinement showed its hated face."


 
CHAPTER XXXIII.

ECCENTRIC AND SINGULAR SOCIETIES


"An obstacle to the co-operation of working men is the difficulty of getting good, sufficient, and trustworthy instruments for giving it effect; but wherever that can be done, I commend it without limit.  I cannot say what I think of the value of it.  I hope it will extend to other things which it has scarcely yet touched.  I hope it will extend to all the amusements and recreations of the working man.  It fosters a strong sentiment of self-respect among working men."—THE RIGHT HON. W. E. GLADSTONE at Hawarden, Speech to Leigh and Tyldesley Liberal Clubs, September, 1877.


No rapidity of narration, no compression of sentences, consistent with explicitness, can bring into a small compass all the incidents and all the societies which deservedly challenge notice.  There is no choice save that of noticing the salient features only of those societies which stand as it were upon the highway of Co-operation.  There are always incidents, amusing or tragical, in beginnings by small means where success came by the economy of combination.

    The societies which reported themselves in 1877 to the Registrar of Friendly Societies, and those which did not (and are not given in detail), numbered upwards of a thousand.  The reader must therefore imagine for himself the prolonged panorama on which these thousand stores might be depicted, as interesting in their way as the Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

    Professor Masson tells us that Herodotus mentions 100, Aristotle 120 forms of diverse life: communal in some sort, all succeeding in their day.  In hundreds of places in Great Britain where Co-operation has arisen again and again and had its stores and workshops, no tradition remains that such stores existed among their forefathers long ago.  Most of the stores mentioned in the following list are deader than the Dead Cities of the Zuyder Zee, for not a trace of them remains.  But happily live co-operative cities stand on their ruins.

    The six earliest societies in England on the co-operative plan were the following:—


Birmingham (Tailor's Shop), 1777.
Mongewell Oxfordshire (Store), 1794.
Hull (Corn Mill), 1795.
Woolwich (Store), 1806.
Davenport (Store), 1815.
New Lanark (Store), 1816.
London Economical Society (Printers), 1821.


MANCHESTER AND SALFORD SOCIETIES,
EXISTING IN 1829 AND 1830.


FIRST CHARLTON ROW, Evan Street, Charlton Row, established May 3, 1829—18 members—weekly subscriptions is 1s. 1d.—capital £100—weekly dealings £20—principle to divide at four years' end.

ECONOMICAL, Frederick Street, Salford, established August 22, 1829—30 members—weekly subscription 3d.—capital £57—weekly dealings £25—principle, division.

TEMPERANCE, 15, Oldfield Road Salford, established October 26, 1829—40 members—weekly subscription 3d.—capital £42—weekly dealings £14—principle, non-division. [230]

INDEPENDENT HOPE, Hope Street, Salford, established February 26, 1830—45 members—weekly subscription 3d.—capital £70—weekly dealings £60—principle, non-division.

PERSEVERANCE, 13, Shepley Street, London Road, Manchester, established April 12, 1830—56 members—weekly subscription 4d.—capital £24—weekly dealings £11—principle, non-division.

AMICABLE, Ormond Street, Charlton Row, established May 1, 1830—24 members—weekly subscription 4d.—capital £10—weekly dealings £7—principle, non-division.

FRIENDLY, Bentley's Court, Miles Platting, established April 10, 1830—27 members—weekly subscription 4d.—capital £18—weekly dealings £6—principle, non-division.

BENEVOLENT, Sandford Street, Ancoats, established April 22, 1830—124 members—weekly subscription 4d.—capital £45—weekly dealings £46—library 50 books—principle, non-division.

GOOD INTENT, Hope Town, Salford, established May 8, 1830—48 members—weekly subscription 3d.—capital £10—weekly dealings £7—principle, non-division.

FORTITUDE, Long Millgate, established June 1, 1830—15 members—weekly subscription 3d.—capital £2—weekly dealings £1—principle, non-division. [231]


    The following is a list of the Societies existing in London and around of which mention is made in co-operative publications of 1830—3.  A few of later date are included from subsequent periodicals:—


LONDON SOCIETIES.

SOCIETIES' NAMES.

PLACE OF MEETING.

STOREKEEPER.

First London

19, Greville Street, Hatton Garden

W. Lovett.

Second London

6, Little Windmill St., Golden Sq.

W. Watkins.

First West London

33, Queen Street, Bryanstone Square

W. Freeman.

New London

17, Plumber Street, Old Street Road

London Branch A1

C. Gold.

First Soho

27, Denmark Street, St. Giles

J. Elliot.

Lambeth and Southwark

3, Webber Street, Waterloo Road

J. Booth.

First Westminster

37, Marsham Street, Vincent Square

—Jarrold.

First Pimlico

8, Ranelagh Street

First St. James'

5, Rose Street, Crown Court, Soho

Pimlico

First Finsbury

69, Old Street Road

Committee.

Somers Town

22, Great Clarendon Street

Islington

"White Horse," Back Road

Islington Methodists

6, High Street, Islington Green

Hampstead

"Duke of Hamilton"

Not trading.

Pentonville

Chapel Street

First Bethnal Green

9, South Conduit Street

J. Bredell.

Second

17, West Street, North Street

Third

"Norfolk Arms"

Fourth

Wilmot Grove

Fifth

School, Sydney Street, Twigg's Folly

R. Oliver.

Sixth

10, Thomas Street, Buck Lane

T. Riley.

Seventh

"Well and Bucket," Church Street

Middlesex

22, St. Ann's Court, Wardour Street

—Basset.

Second

8, Berwick Street, Soho

Not trading.

First Southwark

"Gun," Joiner St., Westminster Rd.

Southwark

"Black Bull," Bull Crt., Tooley St.

Cooper's, Ratcliff

75, Heath Street, Commercial Road

S. Sennitt.

North London

"Duke of Clarence," Pancras Road

Second West London

11, Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn Flds.
"The King's Head," Swinton St.,
Gray's Inn Road

Hand in Hand

"The Crown," Red Cross Street

First Hoxton

"The Bacchus," Old Hoxton

Kingsland

Bow

Whitechapel

First Stepney

First Bloomsbury

"Bull and Mouth," Hart Street

Metropolitan

Eagle Coffee House, Farringdon St.

Committee.

First Kennington

The Union, Vassal Road

First Chelsea

36, Regent Street, Chelsea Common

Committee.

Knightsbridge

Kensington

Birch's School Room

United Christians

74, Leonard Street, Shoreditch

G. Richardson.

Methodists

Newel, Baker, Wardour Street, Soho

St. George, Hanover Sq.

"Portsmouth Arms," Shepherd St.

Not trading.


    "None of these societies," it was stated, "are at present manufacturing, but the Owenian expects to begin shortly.  With the exception of the Benevolent they are not yet provided with libraries." They had the sense in those days to make apologetic confession of the absence of means of acquiring knowledge.

    The following societies are placed alphabetically for convenience of reference.  The year of their formation is given where it has been traced.  Those without dates mostly existed between 1830 and 1833:—
 

A

London (see List of

Wells

Allerton 1829

Metropolitan Societies) 1821

Wolverhampton 1832

Almondbury  do.

Leeds 1829

Walsall  do.

Aberdeen  do.

Loughborough, 1829—1832

Wellington  do.

Ardsley 1831

Lindley 1832

Wellingborough  do.

Armitage Bridge 1830

Liverpool 1830-  do.

Warwick  do.

Armagh  do.

Longroyd  do.

Wisbech  do.

Ayr 1838

Leicester 1829,   do.

Y

Ashton  do.

Longford, near Coventry 1832

Yarmouth

Ackworth 1834

Lower Houses, near

York 1830

Anstey 1828

Huddersfield 1834

 

Accrington

Leigh

 

Ashby-de-la Zouch

Lynn

 

B

Leamington

 

Birmingham Taylors

Lutterworth

 

Manufacturing Society 1777

Leeks

 

Store 1828

Lancaster

 

Broadbottom 1831

M

 

Belper 1829

Manchester (see Manchester

 

Barnstaple  do.

and Salford Societies) 1829

 

Brighton 1826

Macclesfield  do.

 

Blackfriars  do.

Morley  do.

 

Bradford 1829

Marylebone  do.

 

Bury  do.

Maidstone  do.

 

Barnsley  do.

Mansfield  do.

 

Bolton  do.

Millsbridge 1830

 

Boothfold 1831

Miles Platting  do.

 

Birkacre  do.

Marseilles [233do.

 

Barns  do.

Mixenden Lane 1832

 

Broadford  do.

Mixenden Stones  do.

 

Burslem 1830

Mixenden Rocks  do.

 

Bath 1838

Mottram

 

Bristol  do.

Malpas

 

Bilston  do.

Mossley

 

Bridgnorth  do.

Melross

 

Brighlingren 1832

N

 

Bolton-le-Moor  do.

Nottingham 1827

 

Blackburn  do.

Newark 1831

 

Burnley  do.

Norwich 1827

 

Banbury  do.

New Mill 1832

 

Burton-on-Trent  do.

New Catton 1830

 

Bromsgrove 1832

Newchurch 1827

 

Bungay  do.

Newcastle

 

C

Northampton

 

Canterbury 1829

O

 

Congleton  do.

Oldham 1832

 

Chatham  do.

Oldbury

 

Clitheroe  do.

Outwood 1831

 

Clayton  do.

Oxford 1830

 

Coventry  do.

Orbiston (Scotland) 1826

 

Cambridge  do.

P

 

Cumberworth 1829-1832

Paris 1821

 

Cheltenham 1830

Preston 1829

 

Carlisle  do.

Prestolee 1830

 

Clayton Heights 1833

Pilkington  do.

 

Chester 1830

Poole  do.

 

Chorley

Peniston 1833

 

Cockermouth

Padiham  do.

 

Colne

Penkridge  do.

 

Chowbent

Pudsey  do.

 

Cromford

Q

 

Cambuslang (Scotland) 1829

Queenshead 1829

 

D

R

 

Devonport 1815

Rochdale 1830

 

Darlington 1827

Ralahine (Ireland) 1831

 

Derby  do.

Runcorn 1830

 

Derby 1829

Ratcliffe

 

Dolphin 1833

Ripponden 1832

 

Dudley

Rastrick 1833

Daventry

S

 

E

Sheepshead 1829

 

Exeter 1826

Stone  do.

 

Eccleshill 1833

Soho  do.

 

Exhall 1832

Sheffield 1830

 

F

Salford 1829

 

Finsbury (see London

Stockport 1839

 

Societies) 1829

Shipley 1830

 

Foleshill  do.

Stamford  do.

 

Farnley Tyas 1833

Shelley  do.

 

Failsworth

Stockmoor  do.

 

G

St. Colombo, Cornwall 1830

 

Glasgow 1829

Syston  do.

 

Godalming 1830

St. James  do.

 

Greenock 1838

Stourbridge 1830

 

Garstang  do.

Southampton  do.

 

H

Stratford

 

Halifax 1829

Sandbeds 1833

 

Hastings  do.

Shibden 1829

 

Horton  do.

Stafford

 

Highroyd

Shrewsbury

 

Huddersfield 1829—1832

Shiffnall

 

Hothorne 1829

T

 

Holmfirth 1832

Thorne 1829

 

Hulme 1831

Tunbridge Wells

 

Holbeck 1830

Thurstanland 1830

 

Holywell 1830

Thames Ditton  do.

 

Holdsworth 1832

Twickenham  do.

 

Horton Bank Top 1833

Thurmaston  do.

 

Horbury 1830

Todmorden

 

Hyde

Tarporley

 

Hereford

Tabley (Derbyshire)

 

I

U

 

Ipswich 1829

Uley 1829

 

Indiana (America[232]) 1826

Upperley 1830

 

J

Unsworth 1832

 

Jersey, New 1826

W

 

Jamy Green 1835

Worcester 1829

 

Jedburgh 1830

Westminster  do.

 

K

Worthing 1828

 

Kidderminster 1829

Whitehaven 1829

 

Keighley  do.

Wallingford  do.

 

Kendal  do.

Warrington  do.

 

Kearsley 1831

Woolton  do.

 

Kenilworth

Wigan  do.

 

L

Warley (near Halifax) 1831

 

Lamberhead Green,

Wasboro' Bridge 1832

 

Wigan 1830

Worksworth (Derbyshire)

 


    There were 125 Co-operative Associations in England and Scotland in 1829. They were stated to amount to 250 in 1830, to which number they doubtless amounted, as they were often estimated by competent authorities in those days at 300. [234]  Forty co-operative societies were formed in London, and about 400 in various parts of the country, so far back as 1833; and four of them, all in Yorkshire, still remain (1877).

    In Chapter XVI. the reader has seen the account of the Birmingham Co-operative Workshop of 1777, and in Chapter VIII. Bishop Barrington's masterly little history of the first store, known in 1794 as the Village Shop of Mongewell.

    The third of the early stores was one established in Hull in 1795.  It was not a mere shop, but a society.  It was formed by a few persons for the sale of the necessaries of life at lower prices than were current among the ordinary retailers.  Their transactions were more particularly in wheat and flour.  Eventually it became a corn mill purely, and has continued to be known as such.

    The Hull Industrial Corn Mill is the oldest in the parliamentary return of 1863, the society there dating 1795.  Its members were given at 3,818—701 having joined during the year 1863—and none withdrawn, and yet its members in the 1862 returns were only given at 1,900.  By what error this arose was not explained.  Its shares of 1862 were 50s. each; in 1863 they were 25s.; the total amount of which is £4,776, on which it paid 5 per cent. per annum interest.  Mr. Nuttall remarked, [235] "Its sale receipts in 1863 were £38,821, and profit £2,947, or nearly 62 per cent. on share capital, and 7½ per cent. on sale receipts, or, as co-operators generally say, about 1s. 6d. per £ for dividend."

    If the early books of the Society of the Corn Mill exist, they might show what manner of people began it, what was their inspiration, and what were their early adventures.

    In October, 1806, twenty-six of the workmen in the Arsenal at Woolwich determined to resist extortionate demands of the shopkeepers; they each subscribed 10s. 6d., and sent one of themselves to Smithfield, where for £20 they purchased a bullock.  It was found that in this manner the price of their meat was reduced exactly one-half—from 9d. to 4½d. per lb.  Their effort had been generally ridiculed, but its success could not be denied.  They were speedily joined by a large number of other workmen, and were soon able to rent a shed at £20 per annum, where they occasionally had as many as fifteen cattle at a time.  It was not long before they acted upon the same principle in respect to other articles of their consumption.  They bought tea by the chest, butter by the load; plums for their Christmas pudding by wholesale; they contracted for bread at a reduced price.  The movement, while it lasted, was very successful; but the termination of the war put an end to it.  The workmen were thrown out of employment to relapse into the misery from which they had emerged.  It is singular that dealing in meat, which has been the difficulty of nearly every co-operative society, and for many years a loss in most, and has had to be abandoned altogether in others, should have been the great success of the Woolwich Society, the first which undertook its sale.

    Co-operation, extinguished at Woolwich, reappeared at Devonport in 1815.  A shop for the sale of bread was opened in the town; a corn mill was erected at Toybridge, thirteen miles distant.  It still exists under the name of "Union Mill."  To the bakery was added a coal association, which shared its prosperity.  It is worthy of remark that coal selling, which has often been a difficulty and loss elsewhere, was one of the successes at Devonport.

    Mr. Jonathan Wood informed me in 1872 that he was the second storekeeper of the Co-operative Benevolent Fund Association (begun 1827), then at 31, West Street, Brighton.  Mr. William Bryan was the first, who left suddenly for America.  Why do not persons who emigrate abruptly send remittances?  Since 1829 that departure is remembered.  The store took land about nine miles from Brighton, built a house upon it, cultivated a market garden, and sent the produce to the Brighton market.  The store had two cows, two horses and carts, and many pigs.  Mr. Jonathan Wood says, "They did wonders enough to prove what might have been done had the people been honest enough to do it.  Dishonesty of those on the land broke the affair up."  This is one of the many examples in which the want of legal protection destroyed early stores.  Fifty years later (in 1877) Brighton did not do one-tenth as much in co-operation as it did in 1827. [236]  The Brighton Society reported in the Associate for May, 1829, that "early in 1828 a member of the name of G. H. left us for his native place (Worthing), and there formed a society very similar to our own, except the payment to the common fund.  With them it was formed only for profit; and from this has sprung up, as a branch, a society at Findon.  The Worthing Co-operative Society soon found reason to regret having begun business in a manner too expensive for its extent.  The hire of a shop and salary of a person for his whole time were unnecessary for the first months of their undertaking; besides transferring as much as £70 worth of their goods to the branch at Findon.  Though there seemed a fair opening at that village, and some hearty friends to co-operative views came forward, it was a hazardous step for a society so young as that of Worthing."  When I was in Worthing in 1877 I spoke with several members who were quite unaware of the pre-existence of a co-operative society there in 1828.

    The Chester Co-operator for 1830 took for its motto two long extracts from the Brighton Co-operator of 1829.  It is one of the many instances I have found of the influence of Sussex co-operation.  It is encouragement to advocates to hear of numerous societies which were formed by so small a paper as the Brighton Co-operator, issued by Dr. King.  It consisted of merely two small leaves published monthly.  A single number of the Co-operative News contains as much matter as the yearly volume of the Co-operator did.

    According to the account given by Dr. King to Lord Brougham, the Brighton Co-operative Society of 1828 was quite a curiosity in its way.  Its funds were raised by penny subscriptions.  It had 170 members, who ultimately accumulated £5, with which they commenced their store, and their first week's sales amounted to half-a-crown!  The administration of the affairs of this society must have been simpler than that of Mongewell.  Total receipts of half-a-crown a week could not have been perplexing to the most bewildered storekeeper.  The early Rochdale Pioneers, with £28 of capital, were wealthy tradesmen compared with those of Brighton.

    A Brighton Co-operative Benevolent Fund Association was formed in April, 1827, which spread a knowledge of the principles of Co-operation, and sent industrious families, not having the means of journeying, to any co-operative undertaking where they might be required.  The original Brighton society changed its objects three times, and varied its regulations accordingly.  The south coast co-operators, nevertheless, did much for Co-operation in their day.

    Darlington furnishes an early instance of a store coming out of a strike.  This was in 1827.  The wool-combers and stuff weavers of Bradford struck in that year for higher wages, and the wool-combers and linen weavers of Darlington participated in the movement.  At the conclusion of the strike the combers and wool-sorters of Darlington started a co-operative grocery.  The president of the trade society of Darlington, out of which the store originated, was John Brownless, a linen weaver, and it had for its secretary George Elwin, a shoemaker.  The store traded under the name of Topham & Co.  After a few years it fell into a few hands, and ultimately became the private affair of John Topham.

    Twelve years later, in the turbulent year of the Chartists, 1839, the Socialists and Chartists of Darlington set up another co-operative provision store.  The shares were ten shillings each.  John Brownless, [237] son of the Mr. Brownless previously named, was one of the directors.  This store proposed to give a dividend to shareholders and a share of profits to customers, who were required to have their purchases entered in a book as they made them.  One Nicholas Bragg was salesman.  Domestic difficulty in his household brought the society into unpopularity, and it broke up by a distribution of salts and senna to each member, being probably the only unsold stock.  This is the oddest final dividend that is to be met with in the annals of co-operation.  Subsequently, allured, peradventure, by the curious medicinal "bonus" of the last society, the Oddfellows set up a third store in Darlington.  With a portion of their funds they started a co-operative grocery under the charge of one John Brason as salesman.  This was in 1842. But as it was in the beginning, so it was in the end.  Before long the store fell into private ownership.

    In London a store was opened in John Street, Tottenham Court Road, for the sale of tea and groceries as early as 1830.  This is worth mentioning, as John Street was the most famous propagandist street in London, next to Charlotte Street.  In the same year Mr. Allan Davonport's name appears as offering to prepare a Co-operative Catechism.  This was the first proposal to devise that useful instrument of propagandist statement.  A man must find out what he means, if he did not know before, if he constructs a successful catechism.  Davenport was, when I knew him, well advanced in years, slender in frame, gentle, earnest, and steadfast in advocating views.  Temperate, frugal, and industrious, yet he never had sufficient for proper subsistence.  He never complained and never ceased to try and improve the condition of his order.  He was a writer on agrarianism, which never had a milder advocate.

    A stranger hardly knows what to make of Birmingham.  It is not teacup-shaped, like Rochdale, nor a cavity like Stockport, nor a ravine like Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  Birmingham is neither quite flat nor properly elevated.  It is not a plate, nor a dish, nor a tea-tray, nor any compound of plane and rim.  It is a disturbed tableland, bounded by woods and blast furnaces.  If you could approach it via Hagley, you might mistake it for Derby; if you reach it through "Dudley Port," you would take it to be Sodom and Gomorrah in the act of undergoing destruction.  In 1820—30 the business part of the town was an expanded Whitechapel, variegated by a Bethnal Green—being in this case "Deritend," where the Old Crown House, five hundred years old, still stands sound.  Owing to municipal energy and sense Birmingham is growing into a great pleasant, civilised community.  It is precisely that kind of town where Co-operation should succeed.  There was a reputed co-operative store near the Town Hall, Birmingham, between 1860 and 1870—a mere shop.  Its profits were not capitalised—it had no news-room.  Its administrators were frigid—the members had no co-operative passion.  The store failed from not knowing its own reason of being. [238]  In Birmingham co-operative "dead men" lie thick about—and some live men too, for real stores have arisen there since.

    As well as a reputed "Co-operative" Farm, Assington, in Suffolk, has a real sort of store.  A member of the original Assington Co-operative Society wrote a letter in the Co-operator of January 10, 1869, "the first time," he said, "they had attempted to write to a newspaper," which proved them to be the quietest co-operators known.

    There was a Manchester society in 1831, which had a storekeeper of the imposing name of William Shelmerdine, who gave a short and instructive account of the formation of the first Manchester co-operative society. [239]  As the city of Manchester would appear to be a natural seat of Co-operation, and as the society was well conceived, well devised, and had reasonable and practical ideas of self-expansion, the mystery is not explicable now why it failed to be a leading and distinguished association.  It bore the winning name of the "Economical Society," and its rooms were at 7, Rodger's Row, Jackson's Row, Deansgate, Manchester.  Mr. Shelmerdine stated that it was founded on the 28th of August, 1830, by eight persons who agreed to form a co-operative trading society and to pay £ 1 each as a share, and not less than threepence per week.  Four of them paid the £1 down, and the other four one shilling each as entrance money.  With this £4 4s. they bought sugar, soap, and candles, which they sold to themselves and others.  They soon found confidence to add to their stock rice, coffee, and raisins.  At the end of the month they found their profits, they said, accumulating fast.  They no doubt were astonished to make a profit at all, and thought much of the little they made.  With it, however, they at once bought some leather, and employed one of their members to make and mend shoes for them.  With new profits they bought stockings, worsted, linen, and flannel, manufactured by other co-operators.  They were poor hitherto, they had seen nothing before them but poverty and degradation, and they were delighted at discovering that they could place themselves above the fear of want by working for themselves and among themselves.  So they came to the unanimous resolution to begin manufacturing stout goods, fast-coloured ginghams for themselves and other co-operative societies.  The Economical Society by this time numbered thirty-six members; amongst them were spinners, warpers, weavers, dyers, joiners, hatters, shoemakers, tin-plateworkers.  They had a shop well stocked with provisions, with woollen cloth manufactured by the co-operators of Huddersfield, linens, checks, and calicoes made by the society at Lamberhead Green, stockings from Leicester, flannel from Rochdale, pins from Warrington.  The magnitude of their business, which excited so much hope, would be thought very little of now.  At their stock-taking in August, 1831—the date was the 28th—they record that memorable day (a shorter day in the year would have been sufficient for their purpose), when their stock was found of the value of £46 12s.  The subscriptions which they had received amounted to only £26 10s. and their profits to £20 2s.  They gave as a reason for purchasing their articles at co-operative societies, that they "knew they were made of good material and showed good workmanship, entirely different in character to the light articles commonly made for mere sale, and not for wear and durability."  The members met twice a week at their own meeting-room at the store for discussing their business, and general conversation, thus avoiding public house diminution of profits, and they looked forward to the day their numbers and means would enable them to establish a school for the instruction of their children, and a library and reading-room for the improvement of their members.  This early store, therefore, combined all the good features of a co-operative association—good articles, good workmanship, mutual employment, the acquirement of economical and temperate habits and instruction for themselves and children.  They relate, however, that when they contemplated manufacturing gingham they saw their error in fixing their shares at £1.  Their reason was that they might not deter poor persons from joining them.  They did commence manufacturing.  Two of their members having a little money in the savings bank, courageously brought it to them, and it was agreed that they should have 5 per cent. interest for it.

    The great store in Downing Street, where the Congress met in 1878, has not the complete co-operative features of this humble store in Manchester of nearly half a century earlier.  At the first Manchester Congress of 1832 it was reported also that the first Salford co-operators had established a Co-operative Sunday School, at which 104 male and female adults and children were taught, and they intended to request Lady Shelley to become a patroness.

    Mr. George Simpson, of Mottram, who was the general secretary of the Queenwood Community before mentioned, prepared the rules of the United Journeymen Hatters of Denton, about 1840, of which he was secretary.  From the first year every member was required to be a shareholder of £5, and he could pay up the amount by such labour as might be prescribed by the directors.  When profits arose enabling interest to be paid it was limited to 5 per cent., and the surplus profit might be applied by the directors in augmenting the property of the society.  It took no credit, and gave none.  It was a well-managed manufacturing society, and had a useful career so long as Mr. Simpson was able to remain with it.

    In 1860 the Co-operative Printing Society of Manchester was formed.  A hundred shares were taken a few minutes after the decision to form it was come to, which shows with what alacrity societies are formed in districts where there are men who understand them.  This society covers a good deal of ground now, and has a branch at Newcastle-on-Tyne.  Mr. John Hardman was manager of the Manchester society.  The first volume of this History was printed there.  There is a Printing Society in London of some years' standing, which had a secretary who abstracted £2,000 of its funds, possibly with a view to test its stability.  The proof was satisfactory to the secretary but not to the society. [240]  Mr. Robert Taylor, formerly of the Colchester store, was the next manager, and the second volume of this History was printed by this society.  In 1877, when the new Town Hall of Manchester was opened, 400 co-operators from various parts of England, delegates to a quarterly meeting of the Wholesale Society, were received by the Mayor (Alderman Abel Heywood), who addressed them after he had shown them the new Town Hall.  He said that "he became a member of a co-operative society in the year 1828.  These societies were then in their infancy, and those at the head of them did not understand how to manage them in the way they are managed now.  Since 1830 the co-operative societies which existed in Manchester at that time, some twenty-four in number, had dwindled away, because the members did not understand the principles they had espoused.  It was very natural that this should be so, seeing that working men were so jealous of each other.  The seed then sown, however, had taken root in the country, and they were there that day as the representatives of an opinion which in its influence had been growing that length of time.  They were the pioneers of one of the greatest social movements of the day.  They had called the attention of the whole country to their reports, they had established their own organs, and had secured friends amongst every class of society without any exception, and if with all this support they did not further succeed the fault must remain with themselves."  The honourable and singular career of the Mayor, the office he held, the words he spoke, and the changed position of the co-operators whom he addressed, made a remarkable morning in Manchester.

    A letter by an "Oldham Co-operator" in the Times of August 21, 1875, states that "in the Oldham Industrial a large number of members' investments do not amount to £1 each, yet these are the members who spend the largest amount of money at the stores, and hence, while they receive little or no interest, they receive the largest amount of dividend—in some cases £6 or £7 per quarter; while, on the other hand, those members who have the largest investments as a rule spend the least money.  Therefore, while they receive at the quarter's end something like £1 for interest, their dividends are small compared with the other members."

    Failsworth is distinguished for amusing adventures in cow co-operation.  But unfortunately when the cow died the society died.  Failsworth has also attempted cattle farming.  Of course there are always difficulties in persons having chiefly factory knowledge, succeeding in field work.  Field and cattle culture imply special knowledge of outdoor and animal life.  It is difficult, as has been said, for mill hands to turn to farming as it is for farm hands to turn to weaving.  Unless workmen have previously had some farm experience, they do not do well at hand work.  However, Mr. Joel Whitehead best supplies the facts of what befell the early co-operators of Failsworth.  He informs me the co-operative feeling is not of a recent date in that place.  He has often heard his father regret that working people had not the confidence in each other which would enable them to do their own business.  But there was no protection against fraud.  And often has he heard the rejoinder by persons asked to subscribe to a co-operative enterprise that they durst not entrust their little property where it could be stolen with impunity.



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