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Written by Mr I Wakelin, printed & published by the Manchester Co-op Printworks, 1926
Provident Society - Wollaston 1876-1926

The book cover committee
The book cover

The Wollaston Industrial and Provident Society Ltd
Jubilee History 1876-1926
The Committee and Managing Secretary 1926
Back row: Mr H J Lucy, Mr P Perkins, Mr C W Perkins, Mr C F Loake,
Mr C Bellamy
Front row: Mr I Wakelin (Manager & Secretary), Mr J F Catlin (President),
Mr J Darnell, Mr T Rose

IT is with great reluctance that I have consented to write a short history of our Society, knowing full well that so important a matter could have been placed in more capable hands. Having only been amongst you for a little over a fifth of the period covered by this narrative, and also owing to the fact that no minutes are available before July, 1880, I have had to trust to the memories of our older members for much of my information relating to the earlier years of our history, and the remainder of the story is based on the minute books. To the secretaries who chronicled these events, and to these older members, the accuracy of this history and our thanks are due.

For many years the Wollaston Society made steady progress in the groove made by the men who gave up leisure that it might prosper. Then it heightened its vision and broadened its outlook, and greater progress followed. When present-day Co-operators of Wollaston look back upon the dull days of the inception of their Society they have a just cause for gratification on their achievements. The Committee are happy in being able to pass along to succeeding generations the story of its origin and growth, from being an idea to becoming the largest distributive business in the immediate district. It has not reached its zenith: this is but the year of jubilee, and every year that follows will add lustre to the power of co-operation in our midst.

I. WAKELIN - 1926.

History of The Wollaston Industrial and Provident Society Limited
View from Red Hill
View from Red Hill
OUR Society was founded in the year 1876—just fifty years ago. The men and women of that day had lived through some very dark and evil times; but every cloud has a silver lining, and the seventies opened brighter for the working classes. By the passing into law of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, and the Ballot Act of 1872, greater power was given to the people. Further, the Industrial and Provident Societies Act of 1876 removed certain anomalies and improved the legal standing of Co-operative Societies considerably. Labour conditions, however, were very bad, and we hear from our older members that just prior to the establishment of our Society working hours were long, wages were very low, and, owing to the shopkeepers allowing indiscriminate credit, poor people got into debt and were at the mercy of the shopkeepers as far as prices were concerned. Thus we find that the same causes which drove the flannel weavers of Rochdale to adopt Co-operation as a means of improving their lot was undoubtedly the same cause that forced our own pioneers to fly to Co-operation as a remedy for the social ills then rampant in their midst. As for education, this, alas! was a luxury quite beyond the reach of working people until 1873, when the Board Schools were erected. Prior to this the National School supplied the children of Wollaston with their education, but actually one-half the children of school age were either running about the streets or at work, receiving no education at all. And of those comparatively few children whose names were on the books only a few were in regular attendance. How different to-day, when practically every child is at school. It is almost, a wonder that amidst all these difficulties and this poverty of both body and mind, there should be found even a few choice spirits, possessing, may be, a little more public spirit and deter-mination of character than their fellows who should endeavour to find a way out of this slough of despond. How a few men in Wollaston strove in their day and generation to improve the lot of their fellow-men will be told in the following pages.
CHAPTER II. - The Beginnings of our Society.
ONE of the greatest factors in improving the social condition of the working classes has been their adoption of the principles of Co-operation. In the early acceptance of these principles, and in the success which has attended their growth, the working classes of Wollaston and district may be highly congratulated. Our Society has abolished all the evils of indiscriminate credit, and introduced the more enlightened practice of cash trading; it has encouraged habits of thrift; enabled working men to become owners of their own houses, and it has supplied to the consumer genuine and unadulterated articles of food and clothing. There can be no doubt that by raising the standard of comfort among the workers it has increased the stability of the social order and contributed to the well-being of the State. I now come to deal with the establishment of our Society, which certainly has been a great success, and whose Jubilee is the occasion of the publication of this book.

Top: Mr Charles Nutt, First Secretary and
Mr William Pratt, First Treasurer
Pioneers – Mr George Woodhams & Mr John Loak

The Society was established on November 6th, 1876, and registered on August 14th, 1877. It was first talked over in the house of Mr. Charles Loak, in Long Street, by the following: William Pratt, Charles Nutt, John Loak, Thomas Bailey, Thomas Maycock, Abel Green, Charles Loak, senior, Charles Loak, junior, and John Kemshead. Which one of these nine ardent spirits was chief spokesman is not recorded, but suffice it to say that his eloquence impressed the others sufficiently to cause them to part with a halfpenny each towards the cost of obtaining a copy of rules from the Rochdale Pioneers' Society. When the rules arrived, another meeting was called, and in the meantime three others had been induced to take an interest in the new venture. At this meeting it was decided to establish a Society, and the faithful twelve joined that evening. Mr. Chas. Nutt was appointed Secretary pro tem, and he called a meeting for the purpose of electing officers. At the third meeting there were about twenty present, and officers were proposed as follows: Charles Nutt (Secretary), Mark Summerlin (President), William Pratt (Treasurer),

Charles Loak, Isaac Murdin, Samuel Pinney, James Summerlin, and Joseph Pratt. They were duly elected, and sufficient capital was promised to enable a start to be made. The Registered Office of the Society was on the premises occupied by Mr. Charles Loak in Long Street. The first store was kept at the house of Mr. Thomas Bailey in Long Street, Wollaston, and, we are told, only a few grocery lines were kept. This store soon became too small for the business being done, and more commodious premises were secured across the street, at Mr. Thomas Haycock's (bottom of St. Michael's Lane), and Mr. Thomas Maycock was appointed storekeeper. The first quarter's dividend was 2s. 6d. in the £, and this handsome surplus caused an influx of new members. Expenses grew, however, and the local shopkeepers, realising that the "Co-op." had come to stay, started to reduce their prices. The "Co-op." had, of necessity, to follow suit, and the next quarter's results were not so satisfactory. The Committee were now finding a difficulty in obtaining goods to sell, as the wholesale dealers refused to do business with the "Co-op." unless cash was tendered when the order was placed, and it was here that the Treasurer, Mr. William Pratt, showed that he was a Co-operator in deed as well as word, for he lent all his accumulated savings, without any security from the Society, in order that the stocks could be replenished. This he did repeatedly during the first few years of its existence. There is no doubt the Society had a hard struggle against the difficulties caused by want of experience and lack of capital; indeed, stories have been handed down to the effect that when creditors called for payment of their accounts the then Secretary found it convenient to elude them by being at the time "not in." Co-operation in those days was not fashionable. The members were timid and shy at being seen trading at the Store; but the bolder spirits advocated, when the shop was first opened, that the Committee should frequently walk in and out of the shop to give the general public the idea that plenty of customers were about. (I am indebted to Mr. John Loak for the facts relating to this period of the Society's history. He is one of the few surviving pioneers we have living amongst us, the other seven have either passed away or left the district. I am also indebted to Mr. J. A. Kilsby for the photographs.)

CHAPTER III. - Resolutions: Interesting, Curious, and Prudent.
Central Premsises 1877
THE following resolutions are copied from the earlier minute books of the Society. In a few cases names are omitted—where identification is not essential—in order that no offence may be given to surviving relatives. At this far-off date many of the resolutions are humorous reading, and sound somewhat quaint. But they were, doubtless, adopted with grim earnestness, and at the time they were passed the Committee would feel they were absolutely necessary in the interests of the Society. They certainly show that our forebears applied themselves to their duties with great seriousness of purpose, riot neglecting the smallest detail in the prosecution of the Society's welfare. Unfortunately, the very earliest records have not been kept, and I am only able to quote from the minutes of July 13th, 1880, onwards. These early minutes give very little information of what happened "in Committee," but give a fair idea as to how the quarterly meetings were conducted. The members of the Committee at that time were G. Woodhams, T. Rice, J. Summerlin, J. Pratt, J. Kemshead, and S. Partridge. The first resolution reads oddly enough: July 21st. "That this meeting stand adjourned for want of a quorum."

August 4th.—General Meeting adjourned from July 21st. Resolved, "That we pay a dividend of 1s. 2d. in the £; that we establish a Penny Bank; that 5 per cent be taken from the net profit each quarter to form a Reserve Fund." A proposition being made that the Salesman receive 6d. in the £ on sales was negatived by an amendment that the question stand over till next quarter.

At the next general meeting the following business was transacted: Resolved, "That we pay a dividend" of 1s. 9d. in the £, reduce fixed stock by £4. 19s., and carry the balance to reserve; that the Salesman be paid by commission—the scale of payment to be left with the Committee to decide; that the Committee contract with some butcher in the village to supply the Society with meat." Our worthy friends evidently had some "burning" questions with which they had to deal, and it is also evident that they had some "foolish virgins" in their day, for, at their next meeting it was resolved that no burning oils should be sold after sunset.

1881. February 21st.—Special meeting called to consider the advisability of erecting a butcher's shop and to consider estimates if necessary: Resolved, "That a butcher's shop be erected and G.Brown's tender for the same be accepted."

April 18th.—Members' meeting: Resolved, "That a dividend of 1s. 6d. in the £ be paid; fixed stock be reduced by £1. 10s., and £3. 9s. 10d. be added to reserve; that John Catlin be a member of the Committee; and that one dozen copies of the Co-operative News be ordered to be sold in the shop at half price and one copy given to the Reading Room."

July 4th.—The Balance Sheet was adopted and it "That a dividend of 1s. 6d. in the £ be paid; that £4. 0s. 2d. be added to reserve, and £1. 0s. 9d. go to reduce fixed stock."

August 30th.—Resolved, "That oil be reduced to 3d. per quart."

The social side of the movement was not forgotten in these days, as a minute, dated October 4th, reveals: It was resolved "That a special Committee meeting be called to consider the advisability of making arrangements for a public tea."

October 11th.—The members' meeting resolved, "That a public tea be held and that the Clergyman be requested to preside."

November 12th.—Special Meeting : Resolved, "That a public tea and entertainment be held in connection with the Conference to be held in December in the Parish Room."

At this stage of the Society's career, trouble seems to have arisen with the Storekeeper. This necessitated the Committee drawing up an agreement which reads as follows:-

(1) He shall render such service in every respect as he would be required to give to any private tradesman.

(2) He shall be properly remunerated for any extra duties (outside his ordinary duties) he may be called upon to perform.

(3) He shall receive as wages a commission of sixpence in the £ for all cash taken by him over the counter.

(4) Should he leave his duties on any other business it shall be considered a sufficient reason for his dismissal.

(5) He shall provide such assistance as will enable him to avoid keeping members waiting for an unreasonably long time in the shop.

(6) He shall give such security as the Committee may direct.

This was duly signed by the Salesman on Saturday, January 30th, 1882.

February 7th.—Resolved, "That no member be allowed to have credit more than within five shillings of the amount standing to his credit in the books of the Society; that an assistant be engaged to help in the shop."

May 1st.—Special General Meeting. Resolved,

"That a Terminable Sick Benefit Society be formed in connection with the Wollaston Industrial and Provident Society Ltd." Officers were appointed, rules drafted, and the first date for receiving subscriptions was fixed.

June 13th.—Resolved, "That £1 be given to help the Sawston Society."

July 18th.—Resolved, "That no credit be given by this Society."

September 19th.—Resolved, "That Non-members shall not be allowed to have coal or offals from the Society."

1883. January 20th.—General Meeting: Resolved, "That William Pratt be Treasurer; William Page be President; Thos. Rice be Secretary, and that the Committee consist of James Watts, Joseph Pratt, Benjamin Griggs, John Catlin, Noah James." The Committee were instructed to make enquiries with a view of building a Bakehouse. Resolved, "That a Coal Club be established; that the fee of the Committee be raised to sixpence each meeting."

January 23rd.—Resolved, "That all goods be booked in by the Storekeeper and all invoices laid before the Committee each week to be compared with the Storekeeper's book."

March 15th.—Tender for re-erection of Bakehouse accepted.

Bakery Central stores
left: Bakery and above: Central Stores, Confectionery and Drapery

July 21st.—Quarterly Meeting. Resolved, "That a dividend of 1s. 9d. be paid; that the Secretary's salary be increased from £1. 10s. to £2 per quarter; that the Society become an annual subscriber to the Northampton General Hospital."

1884. January 19th.—James Watts elected President and William Page Secretary.

October 14th.—Resolved, "That only Pork be sold in the Butchering Department."

1885. January 17th.—Resolved, "That the adjoining property be purchased."

1886. January 12th.—Resolved, "That the Baker be paid 2s. 6d. per sack for all flour baked over six sacks."

January 18th.—Resolved, "That John Catlin be President."

September 16th.—Resolved, "That in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable to erect a butcher's shop, &c., and employ a practical man to meet the growing wants of this Society." Plans were ordered to be drawn up.

September 25th.—Special meeting of members. Resolved, "That a butcher's shop be built."

Grocery Butchery

October 2nd.—Tender for same accepted and a butcher advertised for.

1887. January 18th.—Resolved, "That Bread Checks be issued."

January 21st.—Resolved, "That Committee's fees be increased from sixpence to ninepence per night; that depreciation of property be not less than £20 per annum."

April 23rd.—Resolved, "That the Committee purchase 2½ gross of marbles for voting purposes."

October 22nd.—Resolved, "That £100 be invested as Loan Capital with the Northamptonshire Productive Society, Ltd."

November 19th.—Resolved, "That the Society carry on the trade of coal merchants and that a horse and cart be purchased."

December 21st,—Special meeting of members called to elect a Coalman.

1888. February 13th.—Resolved, "That a house be purchased for the Baker to live in."

April 21st.—Resolved, "That we purchase a plot of land to erect stables, &c."

July 24th.—Resolved,"That from this date no member be allowed to pay as contribution into this Society more than £5 in any one quarter."

December 3rd.—Members' meeting called to consider adopting a leakage system and to consider each member holding a transferable share. The minute book says, "a lively discussion took place and it was agreed to work as at present."

1889. April 16th.—Special meeting called to consider the question of letting the hall on special occasions for the sale of intoxicating liquors therein. After a heated discussion the proposition was carried.

July 2nd.—Resolved, "That the insurance on stock be increased from £360 to £900."

October 23rd.—Resolved, "That we commence the bacon curing business." The Storekeeper was reported for not being in his place during business hours.

1890. June 17th.—Resolved, "That two delegates attend conference at Bozeat."

August 2nd.—Resolved, "That we establish a Clothing, Furniture, and Coal Club."

October 21st.—Resolved, "That we increase our shares in the C.W.S. from 30 to 45."

1891. January 24th.—Resolved, "That pay of the Coalman be 18s. per week."

March 3rd.—Resolved, "That the price of pigs be 8s. 6d. per score."

March 23rd.—Resolved, "That the Storekeeper be dismissed and that the Committee obtain a man of practical experience."

May 2nd.—Resolved, "That we subscribe £1 towards the improvement of St. Michael's Lane."

May 26th.—Resolved, "That the Stores be closed at 12 o'clock on Bank Holidays."

October 20th.—Trouble arose between the Baker and a member: Resolved, "That a public apology be demanded, failing the apology a special members' meeting be called to consider the member's conduct."

December 1st.—The dispute settled amicably.

1892. April 13th.—Members' meeting to consider the advisability of appointing a Secretary and Manager.

April 23rd.— Mr. William Page appointed to the office.

July 28th.—Quarterly meeting. Mr. William Pratt resigned his position as, Treasurer as he considered he was no use now as a Manager and Secretary had been appointed. Resolved, "That he be thanked for past services and granted a present."

1893. June 2oth.—Resolved, "That we grant £3 towards the cost of making a road from St. Michael's Lane and Thrift Street into Hinwick Road."

1894. January 27th.—Mr. S. Partridge elected as President.

February 20th.—Resolved, "That we agree to kill a beast weekly jointly with the Bozeat Society, we to purchase one week they the next."

April 24th.—Quarterly meeting. A discussion took place as to how the surplus capital of the Society should be invested. Resolved, "That the Committee have power to either purchase a field or advance money to members on property."

Cattle in the field - "The Moors" bought in 1896
May 10th.—Resolved, "That we purchase a field in Hinwick Road."

September 12th.— Resolved, "That we purchase 10 cottages in Hinwick Road."

October 27th.— Resolved, "That the Committee have power to deal with the wages of all the staff." Half yearly stocktaking was discussed.

1895. January I5th.— Flour was bought at 17s. per sack, i.e., 10¾d. per stone.

May 9th.— Special Committee meeting. A new brush was reported as being stolen. The matter was placed in the hands of the police and a man was taken into custody. Resolved, "That we do not press the charge."

December 3rd.— Resolved, "That we let our meeting room to the Ambulance Corps free of charge."

1896. May 31st.— Resolved, "That we close our shops at 2 p.m. on Thursdays for the employees' half holiday."

June 9th.—The field called "The Moors" purchased.

December 29th.—Negotiations proceeding for the purchase of a piece of land in South Street. It was agreed to purchase this on January 6th, 1897.

Mr I Wakelin
Mr I Wakelin
Mr J W Page
earlier Secretary/Manager

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