I lived in Rochdale as a lad in the 1960’s (went to Lower Place Primary School – lived on Weston Avenue) and had a vague memory of the Toad Lane Co-Op shop/museum so last week Sheila and I travelled over to Rochdale from our Merseyside home to have a look at it and learn more about the Rochdale Pioneers.
The Toad Lane Shop/Museum of Rochdale Pioneers with the Baum pub nextdoor
The staff were very friendly and took a real interest in us; we had a great time looking around. They even recommended a great real ale pub for us to get an evening meal and it was right next door!
Rochdale has changed one hell of a lot since my childhood days but we enjoyed our visit and being a Liberal I am of course very supportive of Co-Op’s and mutuals. I would recommend a visit to the museum and indeed The Baum pub!
The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-
In the Nottinghamshire coalfield where I was brought up there was a Co-op on every corner or so it seemed and most people shoped at the Co-op. I remember my grandmother talking about her dividend from being a Co-op member/regular customer. You could identify a Co-op store as much by its architechture as anything else; in Notts and Derby they all seemed to be built in a similar and at times grand style. Many had a black and white timbered roof apex I seem to recall and I thought as a young lad they all had to be built like that.
This is the grand looking former Co-op building in Youlgrave or Youlgreave (depending how you wish to spell it) – now a YHA. The arched window panels give its history away
Oddly and by chance I then moved at the age of 6 to where many people see the birth of the Co-operative movement – Toad Lane, Rochdale.
Much later in life my good friend Cllr. Bruce Hubbard became a member of the Co-operative Committee for a while.
The link below seems to sum up the ideals of the co=operative movement all be it in this case in America.
Here in the UK the Co-op company has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent times as its banking side of the business has run into hard times and scandals.
I have often wondered why the Co-op Party (the political wing of the Co-op movement) is still a sister party to Labour as it has moved far away from the ideals of mutual businesses particularly since the Blair years when it became a Party of big business. Indeed, the political will to promote mutuals is now far more firmly embedded in the Lib Dems than it is in the modern Labour Party. My years of working in the trade union movement also led me to think that it too is hardly enthusiastic about co-ops and mutuals generally. It seems that the potential independence and individuality of co-ops and mutuals can be at odds with many socialist ideas about centralist control.
I would like to see Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem Leadership champion co-ops and mutual ownership of businesses even more though because if we Liberals don’t who will in this capitalist world we live in.