Leeds Co-op: Jubilee History 1847-97  (4)
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1893.
――♦――

PERPLEXITY OF THE NEW ZEALANDER IN LEEDS—THE STREET WITH THE NATIONAL NAME—PUBLIC TASTE IN STORES—DEATH OF A FOREMOST ADVOCATE—FIRE AND FLOOD—CRICKET FIELD HABITATIONS—THE LEEDS MUSICIANS AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE—TRADE DEPRESSION BUT NO PROFIT DEPRESSION.


SO many memorial stones have been laid by the Leeds Society that when Macaulay's New Zealander comes to study the ruins of Leeds he will be surprised—if excavations are being made—at the number of foundation stones laid by some ancient and extinct colony, historically known as Co-operators.  He will conclude they were an opulent people which came over with the Romans, settled in Leeds, and built numerous palaces there.

    Another Store of no mean pretension is in hand.  The memorial stone of the new Central Stores in West Albion Street was laid on Saturday, May 8th, by J. W. Chapman, chairman of the Grocery Committee.  At the meeting held afterwards, Mr. Chapman received a testimonial and a handsome gold watch.  Mrs. Chapman was presented with a beautiful tea and coffee service.  Travellers from abroad speak of "landing on the shores of Albion."  The inhabitants are Albioners, a prettier and more resonant name than "Britishers."  Albion Street is the most national name in the city, and the most famous of the stores of Leeds are destined to be found there.

    One thing which will strike anyone now who shall visit the stores of city or suburbs will be their graces of structure in many conspicuous instances, and their architectural adaptation to local environment—always increasing the attractions of the district in which they are placed.  The numerous estates the Society has bought and laid out—the wide roads they have made—the brightness and convenience of the houses they have erected—excel those which any People's Society have put up in any part of the land.

    A loss took place this year, which store and city deplored, in the death of Mr. William Bell, whose name had been a household word among co-operators "far and near" for years.  References to him in these pages have been frequent.  Further of him will be found in Memorable Workers.  Fire has tried its hand twice at the mill, and now the flood came in October, doing damage to the coal department, and a sum of £174 has had to be paid for loss occasioned by the breaking away of one of the Society's boats.  Had the coal wharf flood discharged itself on the mill fire there would have been economy in it; but the elements are not economists.

    An eligible piece of land has been purchased near to Strawberry House Store, with a good frontage into Tong Road, for building shops upon.  Blocks of cottages are commenced on the Ivy House Estate, and 16 houses on the Cricket Field Estate.  Cricket is good, and, next to that, are good habitations for the people, and the Society has erected them.

    In continued controversy upon the Wholesale, the Co-operative Union and the Wholesale Society are said to be, and are believed by some to be, one and the same.  They are regarded as practically one.  More distinctiveness might be to the advantage of both.  The purchases from it this (December) half year were £18,681.

    At the Crystal Palace Festival this year the Leeds Choir proved to be the best in competition with six other choirs.  The Musical Herald said "some of the singing was of a singularly high standard"—a singular word to use in a vocal criticism.  The singing had unusual excellence.  The Herald adds: "The first winners (Leeds) receiving as many as 93 marks."  The ascendancy of the Leeds musicians has been so often proved that the vast audience at the Palace, which witness and cheer them, always expect Leeds to win.

    The profits earned in the June portion of the year were £54,376.  A bright report for one of the dullest half years known.  It is the cardinal advantage of a co-operative profit bank that members who have the good sense to buy at the stores can draw money out, who never put anything in.  Very useful in times of distress.

    Mr. Thornton, president, reports in the December half year that, after passing through one of the most prolonged and trying industrial crises of modern times, the sales have amounted to £410,386.  The net profit being £48,460, making a total profit of £102,836, not a bad sum to make in bad times.  A surplus of £1,000 left over from last account was brought forward, and made £49,460 for distribution among members.  The number of members at the end of December stands at 31,012.

    Education was accorded the first half year £407. 16s. 6d.; the second half year £363—or £770 for the year.


 
1894.
――♦――

THE AUXILIARY STORESARCHITECTURAL TASTE ECONOMY IN BUSINESSTWO ESSENTIALS OF A CO-OPERATIVE STOREOBLIVIOUSNESS OF ARCHITECTSTHE DISTINCTION OF THE DAYPERIPATETIC SHOPS-WHAT MR. MAXWELL "HAS NEVER SEEN"-THE STRAWBERRY STORE-A MEAT EMPLOYEES' UNIONA CLEARING HOUSE FOR LATENT MEMBERSLUCID BALANCE SHEETSGREAT GROWTH OF THE SOCIETYNO EDUCATIONAL INSOLVENCY NOW.


THIS is a great year, in which the Leeds Society establishes itself on the heights where it overlooks all the societies on the plains of the world.  The Society has for years been climbing to its present elevation, and is likely to ascend still higher.

    The chief event of 1894 is the opening, September 1st, of the new auxiliary stores in Albion Street, with a frontage worthy of the central stores on the east side, opened in 1884.  In the adjoining plate the reader will see the imposing aspect of the new structure.  The directors had not been intimidated by parsimonious criticism from giving another sky line to Albion Street, which does the eye good to look upon.  There is a wasteful economy as well as a wise one.  The architect paid the members the compliment of designing a store with which he was willing his own name might be associated.  It should not be forgotten that members who own a building of taste share the credit of it.  In struggling days when the plainest building can be ill afforded, cleanliness and light are all that can be commanded.  But when a society makes substantial profits, some beauty in its premises is a perpetual advertisement which pays good interest.  Every tradesman knows that brightness usually means custom.  Besides, what right have co-operators, who aim at public improvement, to put up dismal buildings?  The structures of poverty are dreary by their nature; the structures of success should be the outward and visible sign of inward opulence.  It is the logic of trade.

 

 

    The new stores cost £20,000 exclusive of the site.  The frontage in Albion Street is 80 feet, extending back 104 feet to Upper Mill Hill, covering a total area of 1,000 yards.  It is to be the emporium of furniture, drapery, millinery, dress and mantle making.  The top floor is a tailors' workroom.  All the workrooms are lofty, light, and well ventilated.  The building is lighted throughout with electricity.  The floors are supported by iron columns with English steel and iron beams and girders, and each room is, as far as possible, fireproof.  The ceilings, which are lofty, are panelled.  Hydraulic hoists convey the goods to and from the several floors.  No facility modern science can supply, and no grace which joiner or carver can impart, are wanting anywhere.

    Adequate light and ventilation are two things which an architect may—remembering what so often occurs, one may say will—entirely forget, unless specially part of his instructions.  There is no important hotel in London which has not now a portico enabling visitors to alight without being drenched in a storm.  But not one was built with that convenience, nor was a portico ever in the architect's mind.  Law courts are built in which it is difficult to hear anything, as is well known in Liverpool and elsewhere, although life and death depends upon the audibility of evidence.  The object for which a place is built seldom occurs to the architect, and should be made known to him.  In a famous co-operative town no purchaser is sure of the excellence of what he buys, by reason of want of light.  In another, the working girls will not live out half their days for want of better air.  Generally, co-operators have spent considerable sums to ensure light and health, and have succeeded.  All the new stores of Leeds which I saw were marvels of space, of loftiness, of light, and of good ventilation.

    At midday Mr. Lionel Thornton, the president, received from Mr. B. Hollings the silver key with which to open the premises.  Mr. J. Tetley, Mr. J. W. Fawcett, secretary, Mr, J. C. Malcolm, solicitor, Mr. Walter S. Braithwaite, the architect, and the directors and officials were present.  Immediately the building was open it was thronged with a crowd of purchasers, and the assistants were busily occupied selling all day.  The space and facilities of the various salerooms make purchasing not only easy but a pleasure.  An immense showroom on the lower floor enables the visitor to see everything at once.  A hall in the Arabian Nights may surpass it in magical beauty but not in usefulness, or modern trade splendour.  It is rare to find in the most notable showroom one affording such an uninterrupted view.  The directors, officials, contractors, solicitor, and architect all had luncheon at Brayshay's Restaurant, Bond Street, where speeches were made and amenities shown to architect, contractors, and workmen.  Still the distinction of the day was the great procession.  Vehicles and vans went through the town laden with happy occupants.  Peripatetic grocers' shops, tailoring departments, brushes, drapery goods, joinery, doors, windows, abattoir produce, were again the surprise and delight of the streets.  Two bullocks were drawn in the cavalcade, wondering very much what it was all about.  A blazonry of mottoes, bannerettes, and information as to the sales and profits—which could be read on the different vehicles—amazed Leeds more than it had been before.  The press testified to the excitement and admiration of the city produced by the famous display.

    Tea was provided on a large scale in the People's Hall and also in the Crypt of the Mechanics' Institute.  In the evening a public meeting was held in the Coliseum, at which the Mayor (T. R. Leuty) presided.  Speeches were made by the Mayor, Mr. W. Maxwell, Mr. J. W. Fawcett, Mr. E. O. Greening, and Mr. J. Dockray; Mr. Abraham Greenwood and Mr. George Thomson were also present.  Mr. Maxwell said:
 

    "During fifty years no movement had made greater progress than co-operation, unless it was temperance, and temperance was a sister movement.  The temperance movement had been greatly aided by the co-operative movement.  He had never known a working man build up with one hand at the co-operative store, and tear down with the other at the public-house."


    Who knows that some project may not be started for co-operators to turn brewers, and flood the Wholesale with barrels of beer.  Then what Mr. Maxwell "has never seen" will come true.  A co-operative society of fuddlers would be a new thing, and if they were not that way given themselves their interest would be fuddling, which does not seem desirable.

    In April this year the Hunslet (Church Street) Stores were opened.  It was March, 1859, when stores were first established there, but the premises have been rebuilt, and a very handsome pile, which, as the reader sees, adds gaiety to the neighbourhood. There are many dull parts of Leeds where it would be to the interests of the inhabitants to invite the co-operators to open stores in their midst, to brighten up the neighbourhood and introduce commodities which could be trusted, sold on premises which are refreshing to see and to visit.

 

 

    One of the most alluring names in summer months is a Strawberry House Store, situated in Armley. In front runs Tong Road, and the side street is called Strawberry Lane. This store was opened in January, 1882, but new premises were built and opened in November, 1894. A gayer business frontage is seldom to be met with, and it is, as the reader can judge, as alluring as its name. It is of no mean extent. Being but two storeys high, it is easy to ascend in search of special goods should not the lower windows with their affluent variety contain them.

 

 

    A meat-sellers' employees' association has been formed, which is likely to be prosperous and useful.  It need not be hostile.  All groups or classes of persons have their own views and interests, which can be better made known and better dealt with when collectively thought out and agreed upon.  Similar associations have long been in existence in connection with the employees of the grocery, drapery, and other departments.

    The number of members struck off from time to time would make the fortune of many a store.  Every society has a number of nominal members who are well removed from their books, but might prove good members elsewhere.  There seems an opening for a Stores Clearing House where purchasers latent in one store might be most active in another.  Persons who have once joined a store and have ceased to support it are an interesting study.  If they do not return to the right path it is instructive to propagandists to know why they left it.

    The low price at which flour has been selling for some time has made a difference in the turnover of the mill.  New purifying machinery is required, which will improve the flour and economise the cost.  Better accommodation has had to be supplied by extensions and erections in several productive departments.  Plans are being prepared for twenty-six additional houses on the Cricket Field Estate, and twenty-four on the Linden Estate.  With the exception of excavating, slatering, and plastering, the whole work is carried out by the Society's own building department.  Two new stores have been opened, one in Tong Road and one in busy Idle.  A new store at Swinnow is progressing.  This Society will soon, like Alexander, have to inquire for new lands to conquer—or otherwise discover new estates to purchase and build upon.

    An essential feature in a commercial narrative is to show that the business is conducted on sound principles—has concurrent depreciation of its property provided for—has a prudent and sufficient reserve fund—and makes money.  Therefore the history of every year, whether brief or long, shows what the gain is.  Though the depressed condition of trade for the past twelve months has told somewhat upon the business of the store, the sales for the June half year have amounted to £420,987, and the net profits to £56,347.  The president advises the members "to take a cheerful view," which they can certainly well afford to do.  There never was occasion for misgiving—either on account of business which constantly recovers itself and increases, or on account of ambiguity in financial reports by obscurity or omissions.  The balance sheets are entirely lucid and complete.

    The December half year balance sheet reports the sales at £413,582.  Each balance sheet always contains a paragraph in this form:—"The net profit for the half year, after providing for all expenses of production and distribution, and allowing a sum (£8,091 this half year) for interest upon capital and (£6,772, or whatever the amount may be) for depreciation of fixed stock, land, and buildings, according to rule, amounts to £51,570."  This is the circumstantial way in which the item of profit is always stated.  This half year, as there were £1,000 of profit standing over, there were £52,570 distributable among members.  Members' share capital amounts to £396,976, being an increase of £23,896 over the amount of twelve months ago.

    The June half year awards to education £422, the December period £386—in all £808.

    Among other divisions of business we now see a bold headline in the Record, "Educational Department."  Reports of the Educational Committee now show jubilency (if one may say so without being supposed to refer to Jubilee Day) instead of disconsolate insolvency.  They have a certain income which enables them to give knowledge, pleasure, and recreation at discretion.


 
1895.
――♦――

CONSTITUTIONAL DISSATISFACTION—RESPONSIBILITIES OF POPULARITY—"THE LEEDS RESOLUTION"—DIES BY ITS OWN HAND—DISTINCTION OF THE LEEDS MUSICIANS—NEW STORES OPENED, NEW MEMORIAL STONES LAID—ANOTHER WONDERFUL YEAR.


THERE are always some persons in every party with whom dissatisfaction is constitutional.  Discontent is their vocation.  They resemble the imaginary invalid who likes to be thought unwell, and who dismisses any doctor who has the imprudent candour to tell him there is nothing the matter with him.  This kind of person is in every co-operative society, whose sole happiness consists in the belief that there is "something wrong"—who disagrees with everything, and if you did not contradict him he would die.  The most courteous is obliged to disagree with them in order to maintain the full strength of the society.  There is only one class of persons sillier than they—those who are discouraged because the irreconcilables are not contented.  The bolder and more sensible kind of members are more indebted than they know, to these misgiving allies.  When the day of triumph comes it is seen how valiant has been the wise persistency of members and managers who, despite the chronic alarmists, have brought the great prosperity to pass.

    Popularity has its advantages and also responsibilities.  Its advantage is that new projects come before it, its responsibility is in giving heed to them.  The alertness and enterprise of the Leeds Society has long produced a popular impression in its favour.  If a stranger comes to England with some project he believes will be useful, but which needs a live society to test it, he instinctively turns to Leeds, and to nowhere else, as the most likely place to give new thought—which can make itself plain—a hearing.  At Congress, a resolution brought forward by the Leeds Society commands attention.  The resolution it brought forward at the recent Huddersfield Congress has been known ever since as the "Leeds Resolution."  No other motion is known by the name of the city whence it originated.  On that occasion Mr. B. Hollings moved a resolution for further development of co-operative production, and that a fund be raised to assist partnerships among workers.  It was suggested by the writer that the word "co" be prefixed to the word partnership, which was accepted, but not officially reported.  It was left to the Central Board, whose policy is opposed to the motion, to take the management of the fund, which thus died by its own hand.  Had the employment of the fund, to which Leeds would have been the chief contributor, been placed in the hands of the known friends of labour in that Society, the resolution had borne fruit.  The poet's counsel to workmen is


Make ye sure to each his own,
That he reap where he has sown.


If a workshop resolution does not mean this, it does not matter what it means.  It was courteous and well intending of the Leeds delegation to give the Central Board the opportunity of increasing its influence, by proposing to place this fund in its hands; but the Leeds initiative will not perish though their resolution has.

    In 1881, when the Congress met in Leeds, the illustrations in the handbook then issued consisted with one exception of public buildings of the city.  In this Jubilee handbook the diversified illustrations of buildings are those with which the co-operators have adorned Leeds.  It does not need to borrow from the town.

    The December number of the Record has the charm of a coloured wrapper; when open, it begins straightway with matter of interest, instead of advertisements, which now appear on the wrapper.  This is an improvement, since some or relevant leaderette arrests the reader's attention.

    Mr. Arthur Brownfield lectures this year, in the People's Hall, on the "Co-operative Commonweath;" Mr. Geoffrey Drage (now M.P.) discourses on "Co-operation and Socialism."  The Women's Guild hold their fourth annual meeting.  The various classes they have set up for instruction in domestic arts, which men never think of and could not do so much in that way if they did, show the great utility of the Guild, which does not know its own power yet.

    Whenever the Leeds musicians come to the Crystal Palace now they take the chief prize.  Indeed, the vast audience in front of the orchestra, before whom the announcement of the winners in the choir competition is made, always expect to see Leeds stand first, and it does.  The Record reports that "the Leeds Co-operative Choral Society carries away the first prize at the Crystal Palace, conducted by Stephen Hirst, pianoforte instructor at Queen's Road Board School.  This choir has now obtained honourable mention a first, a second, and a first prize consecutively."  In many ways we knew that there was leadership in Leeds, which might spell its name with an a in place of the second e.

    The memorial stone of the new boot factory has been laid.  A piece of land has been bought in Lodge Lane, Beeston Hill, for new stores.  A block of old cottages, fronting Burley Road, has been bought to erect new stores upon.  Capital in hand is so large that the directors decide to reduce the rate of interest on loan deposits from 3 per cent to 2½ per cent.

    The making of furniture has commenced.  The farm is shy and has not paid yet.  Another block of ten through houses in Mitford Terrace are proceeding.

    In the June half year the sales amount to £426,616, which is an increase of £13,034.  The net profits are £53,331.

    Though 441 more persons have been struck off the list of members, the present number (June 30th) stands at 32,349. The share capital has risen to £412,609, or more by £29,254 than at the end of June last year.

    In the December half year the sales (which embrace 2 weeks) are £457,306, being an increase of £43,724, an increase to which all departments more or less have contributed.  The net profits amount to £61,171.

    Goods bought from the Wholesale during the December half year amount to £21,254, and from other co-operative sources, £10,166.

    The share to education in June is £399; in December, £458, being a total for the year of £857.  As this item grows with the growth of the Society's prosperity, every member has pride in belonging to a cause which unites intelligence and industry.

    This is a wonderful year—nearly £884,000 of sales, more than £114,000 of profit, and upwards of £800 for education.


 
1896.
――♦――

REVELATIONS OF INDUSTRIAL PHOTOGRAPHY—THE FIRST FLOUR SHOP—HALF A CENTURY OF PROGRESS—A JUBILEE CONTEMPLATED—MARSHALL STREET BUILDINGS—THE PARALLELOGRAM COME AT LAST—NEW FACTORIES BEGAN—THE DEBATING CLASSES IN OPERATION—ADDITIONS TO MILL AND ABATTOIR NEW ESTATES BEING PURCHASED—NEW STREETS AND TERRACES BEING BUILT—PRODIGIOUS BUSINESS—ANOTHER MARVELLOUS YEAR.


NOBODY dreamed when photography was first invented that it would ever become a source of revelation greater than the telescope.  Now it is found that when the most powerful instrument has brought the distant stars near to us, clusters of worlds—not previously known or suspected to exist—appear on the photographic plate.  This chronicle will seem to many readers unconversant with Leeds and the co-operative capacity of the working class—like the photographic plate of astronomy revealing the existence of unsuspected stars.  The existence of stores are revealed all along the line of fifty years, unknown or unremembered.

    The adjoining picture represents the first of the flour shop series.  The reader sees there the first flour agent's shop, which was opened in the year 1847.  There is a pleasant air of domesticity about it.  The children, who disport themselves or romp about it, and are all the healthier and comelier for its existence; and if we could see them face to face, prettier for being able to obtain good flour instead of the pernicious mixture of alum and plaster of Paris which poisoned the poor man's family 50 years ago.  Next year is the jubilee of that flour shop.  There were prophets in those days—there always have been prophets—but the most adventurous of them never thought of predicting, and would not have been believed if he had, that within half a century of the opening of that humble shop on Stocks Hill, Bramley, eighty stores would be spread over Leeds and around it, and many of them imposing structures, some doing more business than was probably transacted in the village of Bramley in 1847.  When the right sowers get the right seed, and sow it in the right place, the result is beyond all human forecast.

 

 

    A special conference of local committees was held to consider how the jubilee of the Society was to be celebrated.  Much interesting discussion occurred.  The Board suggested a demonstration followed by a large public meeting, and a simultaneous publication of a handbook giving information of the vicissitudes and progress of the Society.  The recommendation of a demonstration was adopted, as was the suggestion of a descriptive handbook.  One member proposed that £3,000 be invested as an endowment fund to the Leeds General Infirmary, in which there should be a Co-operative Ward, which was not ratified.  One member wished to see the endowment of thirty beds in a Convalescent Home.  Other motions were made but were not adopted, all indicating generous views, having for their object the instruction and benefit of the public, as well as the members.

    It is time the reader had a good view of the Marshall Street Buildings.  There they are—comprising flour mill, grocery warehouse, boot factory, drapery warehouse, bakery, stables, and other premises.  The entrance is now in David Street, the side-street is Manor Road, whilst Marshall Street may be said to be at the back of the premises, although the stores open into Marshall Street.

 

 

    All the manufacturing energy of the Society has lain here.  Extensions of productive power lie all about the city.  But its concentration and growth began on this spot.  Here is the People's Mill—the century has seen no other like it.  It must be owned that the Marshall Street structures, as presented in the plate, look very much like that Owen parallelogram which had such terror in Dr. Hook's days.  The plate resembles a rude copy of Mr. Stedwell's design for Robert Owen's community, only the Marshall Street Street plate is of an industrial, not a domestic parallelogram.

    These buildings have only been completed within the last few months when the blacksmiths' shop was erected, and the boot factory was completed only last year.  In fact, these premises are always being altered or extended.

 

 

    It has been found advantageous to separate the cabinet making from the joinering, and premises in Brookfield Street, Hunslet, have been purchased for this branch of the business, shown in the preceding plate.  There is good work to be done in that block, though it is not so picturesque as it would be had the Society built it.

    The Mill Committee represented on the next plate have responsible duties, upon which the prosperity of the mill and other departments more or less depend.  They have the supervision of the mill, the abattoir, the horse-keepers, coal, ready-made and bespoke clothing departments, so that the demands upon their attention and judgment are many.  Their duty also is to advise with the managers of the departments over which they have supervision, on all matters affecting the success of the business.  The committee give a pleasant impression of being entirely equal to their work.

 

 

    The Brudenell Grove Debating Society announce its session of subjects.  Debating societies have been the daring projects of intellectual men for setting forth their views, and have not met with general encouragement.  In later times it has been found that discussion not only adds brightness, but honesty to the understanding, and that no man is entitled to speak confidently upon any subject, and cannot be an authority upon any, unless he knows both sides of it—and no man can know that save by debate.  Where debate is forbidden the charlatan is king.

    The Board have had erected at the Society's abattoirs cold storage rooms, indispensable for freshness of food in summer.  The storage has the same scientific completeness and conditions of sweetness and cleanliness as have all other departments of this great building.

    A new compound steam-engine has been put down at the mill, and the three boilers replaced with two new steel ones.  The dressmaking, which commenced eighteen months ago, is being better arranged, and has new conveniences of special rooms for fitting.

    Capital grows faster than means can be found for its safe employment.  Hence, as far as it can be well used, land has been bought at North Street, Roundhay Road, in Hogg's Field, and Kirkstall Road, for the enlargement of stores.  Twenty-nine cottages have been bought at Burley-in-Wharfedale and land for twenty-one at Horsforth, and the erection of another block on the Cricket Field has been commenced.  Purchases from the Wholesale this half year, £26,155.

    Notwithstanding the reduction of the rate of interest, the share capital has increased during the past year (June 30th) £34,560, and now stands at £447,170.  During this six months the turnover of the Society included 43,155½ bags of flour, 472 tons of butter, 212 tons of bacon and ham, 216 tons of lard, 57 tons of cheese, 48 tons of fruit, 1,500 tons of sugar, 500 tons of soap, 81 tons of rice, 25 tons of coffee, 51 tons of tea, 61 tons of syrup, 41,531lbs. of tobacco, 144,704 score potatoes, 38,468 hundreds of eggs, and 61,0121bs. of yeast; the meat department contributed 1,666 beasts, 4,511 sheep, 82 calves, 686 pigs, and 396 lambs; the coal department, 39,193 tons of coal; the boot and shoe department, 29,125 pairs of boots of the Society's own manufacture, and 24,173 pairs from other sources, besides repairs to the extent of 30,277.  The only word which can describe this volume of business is the one Sir Walter Scott puts into the mouth of Dominie Sampson—"prodigious."

 
    The sales in the June period of this the fiftieth year of the Society's existence amount to £464,705, being an increase of £38,088 over the last year.  The net profits were the large sum of £63,771, which with the surplus £1,000 left over in the last account made £64,779 available for distribution, which gave a dividend of two shillings and tenpence in the £.

    The sales for the December period of twenty-six weeks are £492,628, being an increase of £35,321 over the corresponding period last year, which contained twenty-seven weeks—yet the business this half year shows increases over that period: Grocery, £20,702; drapery, £4,244; coal, £4,867; meat, £2,819; ready-made clothing, £874; boots and shoes, £567; furnishing, £459.

    The profits of the December period were £75,540.  Where be the people now who said, if the Society added the sale of provisions to flour, it would be mad Utopianism.  Who are the Utopians now?  There is a Utopia of foolishness and a Utopia of wisdom which ventures on untried fortune.  The Leeds co-operators have found the wiser one.

    The share for education was £478 for the June period, and £566 for the December period, making a total of £1,044.

 

£

Sales

957,333

Profits

139,312

Education

1,044


Another marvellous year.  These are not like the paper profits in the prospectus of a new company, but real profits in the bank and in the pockets of members.

 
1897.
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LOOKING BACKWARDS—THE FAMOUS PAST—DISADVANTAGES OF PIONEER TIMES—TRIUMPHANT DAYS—OPPORTUNITIES OF RULE REVISING BUSINESS AND PROGRESS THE ORDER OF THE DAY—LOSS OF AN OLD LEADER—GENEROSITY OF THE SOCIETY—ITS SUPPORT OF CO-OPERATIVE WORKSHOPS—FIELD CLUB STUDIES—SCENIC CHANGES PRODUCED BY CO-OPERATORS IN LEEDS—SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY HOUSES BUILT—THE CITY WITHIN A CITY—WHAT 37,000 MEMBERS MEAN—THE DISTINCTION OF LEEDS-WHAT CO-OPERATION REALLY DOES—MARVELLOUS RESULTS—A MILLION OF TRADE—ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS OF PROFIT—THE PRESIDENT OF THE JUBILEE.


LOOKING back at the splendid career of the Leeds Society and its marvellous extension, it is impossible not to wonder at the hidden capacity of administration and device which no one suspected to exist.  Not only was it not suspected, it was denied that working men could have these qualities.  When did the higher classes show greater courage and resource in confronting difficulties, in mastering the conditions of one business after another with which they were totally unacquainted?  Mistakes were made, yet they were not discouraged; losses came, yet the industrial pioneers were not dismayed.  Not like the rich, the workmen had no revenue to fall back upon.  Losses appeared to them ruin, yet they never despaired.  Those who said they knew nothing of the corn mill business, or the calculations of the provision trade, or the risks of manufacturing enterprise, spoke truly enough, and then gave themselves the triumphant airs which the prophet of disaster knows so well how to put on.  Yet these working men and women never lost heart and never turned back.  If they did not know what was necessary to success they could learn it, and provided they did not lose heart at their inevitable mistakes, they could succeed as others had done—and they did.  Could gentlemen show more undaunted mettle.  The battle of the Society, like that of Alma, has been won by men in the ranks.  Mechanics, with all tradition, all experience, and all the prophets of social and commercial disaster against them, have built up the largest co-operative society that has ever existed.  Nor is the wonder less if account be taken of the social disadvantages under which the Leeds Pioneers laboured.  They could give no dinners to people in society who will talk anybody into repute so long as their cooks are expert and their wines and music good.  They were not professors with salaries, nor persons of university attainments, nor even what Lord Lytton called "superior persons," who would look down on those above them, which contradictory quality is the way of "superior persons"—the pioneers were flax spinners or mechanics, working at the bench, or at the forge, or in the mill or printing office, or at the clerk's desk.  They had no friends in the Press to write about them, who could do them good in the eyes of the public.  If any in the Press were favourable to them, they thought very little of the corn mill enterprise, and had only a feeble and condescending tolerance of their co-operative projects, which were oftener denounced than commended.  The pioneers and those who have carried on the work owe all to themselves, and the wealth of their jubilee day reads like a miracle.

    The growth of this stalwart Society is as rapid and virile as ever, and loses sight of no condition of progress.  This year Mr. James Tetley, president, took the chair at the Peoples Hall, at a revision meeting.  The rules in force are few, clear, and simple beyond ordinary, after so many revisions.  The changes made from time to time have the marks of obviousness and necessity.  It has often been complained that rule-revising meetings never draw large or enthusiastic audiences.  That is because the members do not understand how a bad rule may degrade them, an unwise rule frustrate them, or a good rule exalt them.  In a legal society the conditions of progress lie in the rules.  Bad ones bow the head of the society very low, or prevent it being raised.

    Business and progress are the order of the year.  The output of flour for the June half year (46,928 bags) is the largest number ever reached, and yet it does not exhaust the capacity of the mill.  It is in the course of things now to say that new stores are being opened, that old ones are being extended, that new land is being acquired.  Now it is at Farnley and Meanwood, and an additional wharf in the Calls has been purchased, in order to relieve the pressure at Victoria Bridge.

    Great regret was felt at the recent death of Mr. Isaac Earnshaw, who held a high place in the affections of the Society.  He had been three times a director of the Society, president in 1889, and succeeded the late Mr. Richard Tabbern as the labour representative on the School Board.  For a number of years he was one of the managers of the Leeds Skyrac and Morley Savings Bank, and was appointed delegate to the Perth Congress, but died on the third day of the Congress to which he was unable to proceed.

    The Society has always been generous to workmen needing aid through misfortune, or in resistance to what they deemed injustice.  The total of all the gifts members have made would be considerable.  Lately, at a Conference of Local Committees, £100 were readily proposed in relief of the Penrhyn quarrymen.  When the recommendation came before the members' meeting for confirmation, the same was increased to £200 and carried by a large majority.  A vote of £100 was made to the Mayor's Fund for the relief of the famine stricken in India.  A further jubilee offering to the Leeds District Nursing Fund of £300; Women and Children's Hospital, £300; and Popular Demonstration, £100, were cordially agreed to.

    The purchases from the Wholesale are £26,404, and from other co-operative sources £12,421.  The Society, as has been its wont, continues to accord friendly support to co-operative workshops.  It has invested in thirty co-operative productive societies.  Instructions were given this year to the directors to invest £260 in the shares of the Paisley Manufacturing Society.

    The Naturalist Field Club was an early device (1891) of the Education Department, and a happy device too, for acquiring open-air knowledge.  Interesting revelations are made of floral habitat, which, but for the club, many who walk with unseeing eyes in the suburbs of Leeds would never know.  Some flowers are found on dreary canal banks which create an inducement to walk even there.  How irrepressible and unfastidious—perhaps one ought to say how generous—is nature to light up with beauty unalluring places.  An educational fund is a source of civilisation, and exalts the society which has it.  Curious sights they see at times.  The Record, May, 1897, relates that the Rev. J. Bell discoursed to them on the natural marvels of Jamaica, and said " he had been told that negroes had no souls, but he had seen negroes as pious as any Englishman."  Numerous specimens were brought for inspection.  This creates great expectation, whether it be the English-minded negroes or their souls which were on view.  The club has its calendar of events of the season, and the Women's Guild have theirs, and imposing calendars some of theirs are of meetings of business, and of social opportunities they ingeniously devise.

    Whoever walks or drives about the suburbs of Leeds, and comes upon a bright, well laid-out estate, or streets and terraces, of new well-designed tenements, will probably find that the owners or builders are the co-operators.  Three hundred houses erected by the Society have been sold to members, but it also advances money to members to enable them to purchase houses not built by the Society.  About 650 houses have been erected by the Society.  A number of houses have also been bought as investments.  The Society carries on 13 distinct branches of business.  It employs 1,380 persons.  It pays in wages about £70,000 per annum.  It has 12 coal deports, besides its multitudinous stores and branches of other departments which are blended with the stores.  It owns 20 boats and 70 railway wagons, with 78 horses and 81 vehicles.  If Lord Rosebery was right in saying "Co-operation is a state within a state," the Leeds Society may be described as a city within a city, a new city within the old, having its own laws, its own government and revenues which it does not have to earn, and which increase while they sleep—provided they buy at the store when they are awake.

    To have won 37,000 purchasers—who have pride in their own Society and prefer it, because it satisfies their intelligent taste—is a triumph of administration and business capacity.  Sir Philip Manfield said, on one occasion, the difficulty of honest trading is—that "the majority of buyers have no knowledge of values."  The Leeds Society must have instructed thousands of households in this knowledge, or there would not be the ever-increasing throngs at their counters.

    Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, in a memorable passage vindicatory of the energetic city in which he resided, said: "You cannot make me ashamed of the old place, full of crooked little streets, but I tell you Boston has opened and kept open more turnpikes that lead straight to free thought and free speech and free deeds than any other city of live men or dead men."

    In like manner, the resident of Leeds will not only be proud of its noble buildings and broad, bright thoroughfares, but may feel affection for even unlovely streets and grim manufacturing edifices, when he reflects that co-operative life and modern repute of Leeds have grown out of the activity, energy, and intelligence of its industrial population, who have stood up for independence, self-action, and self-help to a greater extent than any other city in the empire.

    Co-operation does not make men perfect.  There are few associations which do.  Less pretentious than the aim of making men good, which seems beyond ordinary power, is the more practical aim of inventing facilities which enable men to be good.  The faculty of being good, or of doing good, and the desire of it, and the pleasure in it, every man has, but there are millions without the facility or means of it.  What they want is a way of establishing conditions of daily life in which it shall be nearly impossible to be depraved or poor.  It is this at which co-operation aims, and which makes it a name of social inspiration.

    The Leeds Society hold this year a real practical celebration of industrial success.  It looks as though the items of business have increased themselves wilfully in order to present a triumphant appearance at the Jubilee.  The extraordinary expansion of the Society's operation excites even the experienced surprise of Mr. Tetley, the president, the directors, and the general secretary, Mr. Fawcett.  They relate with just pride that the sales for the half year reach the enormous amount of £549,987, an increase upon the preceding half year of £57,359, and over the corresponding period of last year is an increase of £85,282.  The net profit available for distribution is £80,970.

    Adding to the sales of the June half year those of the preceding one, it shows that the sales of the Society in its Jubilee year amount (as the president says with laudable satisfaction) "to the magnificent total of £1,042,616, an achievement which may justly inspire feelings of enthusiastic pride.  It testifies to the abiding loyalty of the members, the ability and success of the management, and the ever-increasing solidity of the Society's position."

    The proportion for education for the June half year is £596, which is as far as the accounts go at this writing.

    On an adjoining page the reader will see the Educational Committee, which has one feature of good omen no other committee has.  Mrs. Lees is the first lady who has been elected to any official position in connection with the Society (appointed April, 1896).  There are alertness, energy, and thought in every face.

 

 

    This chronicle of fifty years cannot be concluded in more striking words than those of the directors as expressed in their report:


    "We cannot take stock of our surroundings to-day without feeling that the splendid position we have attained is a matter for mutual and sincere congratulation.  We may well stand amazed at the progress which has been made in the past, and it is impossible to predict what the Society may yet become.  With 37,000 members, doing a trade over a £1,000,000 a year, making a profit of £150,000 per annum, with a capital of £485,000, and the accumulated experience of fifty years—no limit can be fixed to its possible future development and usefulness so long as the members have faith in each other and stand firmly by the true principles of co-operation."


    The Leeds pioneers have wandered for fifty years in the wilderness of industry to some purpose, and profits like a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night have never ceased to guide them on their way, and still nobler lights of another kind have shone upon their path, by which they have honourably profited.

 

 

    On the preceding page we give the portrait of Mr. James Tetley, who will have the good fortune to be known as the Jubilee President, and happily witnesses the triumph of the Society whose interests he has so ably and strenuously promoted.



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