Sheffield Co-operative Society was in operation for almost 140 years
Sheffield Co-operative Society was in operation for almost 140 years

Sheffield's Co-operative Society in 10 pictures - The democratic business movement that lasted for more than a century

The proud history of Sheffield’s Co-Operative Society spans almost 140 years, during which time it drew in thousands of members and resulted in millions of pounds of trade.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 10:18 am

When was the Sheffield Co-operative Society formed?

The consumer Co-operative began life as the Brightside and Carbrook Co-operative and opened its first shop in 1868 in the Carbrook area of the city.

It is believed to have been founded by William Shaw, who belonged to a group of artisans in Carbrook who formed a mutual improvement society, and were drawn towards the idea of creating a Co-operative after William noticed a clock in Kilnhurst bearing the words ‘Co-operative Society’.

What did the Sheffield Co-operative Society stand for?

The democratically-run Society was formed with a number of objectives such as: ‘to produce and distribute goods that are made under proper and duly recognised Trade Union conditions of labour; to promote organisation for the social advancement and better economic conditions of its members by the medium of conferences, classes, lantern lectures and other propaganda means of social intercourse and to oppose and renounce the evils of competitive trading, by securing for the workers immunity against the tyranny of sweated labour, and thus imparting thereto healthier and happier surroundings’.

How fast did the Sheffield Co-operative Society grow?

The growth of the Co-operative Society was such that by 1900 it had around 12,000 members and annual sales were estimated to be approximately £300,000.

Which Sheffield Co-operative Society branch was its most famous?

Shops continued to be opened across the city, and Sheffield’s most famous Co-operative Society branch was built in the city centre in 1929, on the corner of Exchange Street and Waingate, on part of the former site of Sheffield Castle.

The store suffered substantial damage during the Sheffield Blitz in 1940; and the Co-Op subsequently gave the site to Sheffield City Council to allow them to build Castle Market and moved across the road.

The new site was named ‘Castle House,’ in tribute to the site of the old store, and opened in 1964.

By 2006, the Society had 35 grocery shops, six travel stores, four petrol stations, seven funeral parlours and three department stores.

The group faced fierce competition from the United Co-operatives and the Co-operative Group within Sheffield, and in 2007 members voted to merge with the United Co-operatives, which subsequently merged with the Co-operative Group.

All of its three department stores closed in 2008; and today, Castle House is home to popular foodhall Kommune, as well as the National Videogame Museum.

Plans have also been submitted to turn part of the first floor into an office space with recording studios.

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