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Although the Co-operative movement can be traced back to the 18th century, the real beginning of the movement as we now understand it was in 1844 with the formation of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. Other societies had suffered from mal-administration and fraud and the view of limited financial benefit.
The Rochdale Principle with its patronage dividend started a new trend and the idea spread throughout the northwest and by 1860 there were over 200 societies. Other businesses began to worry about what they saw as unfair competition and started to bring pressure to bear on wholesalers to boycott the Co-op. This simply spurred the movement to expand into the Cooperative Wholesale Society.
The earliest record we have of the Co-op in Newmarket is the photograph above which shows the store in Market Street, the building currently (2020) a greengrocer, previously with a long history as a bookmaker. This was opened in 18th March 1899. The rent was £6-5s (£6.25) per quarter.
The actual inaugural meeting of the Newmarket Co-operative Society was held on Wednesday 22nd March with Lord John Hervey as Chairman. £23 had been taken on the opening day, and the membership was already 234 and funds totalled £220. By December they had capital of £750 and were already considering building new premises.
Peter Norman found in his archives a brochure that he had come by some time ago, which was to celebrate the opening of an extension on Saturday March 11th, 1933.
This brochure reveals that the inauguration of the Newmarket Co-operative Society, when, after a few informal meetings, the Society was founded in the club room of the Waggon and Horses on March 8th, 1899. Mr .G.B.Poppy was proclaimed President and Mr. A. Challis elected Secretary. They immediately took the small shop in Market Street.
It was soon vital to find larger premises and a grocery shop was erected on the corner of Vicarage Road and Lower Station Road in December 1900, followed in 1901 by a bakery. It was not long before there was an explosion of building on that corner and the opposite corner, Granby Street with All Saints Road, down to Queen Street.
Perhaps the same van, before renovation and now in Ipswich Museum.At one stage the desire for expansion was such that they purchased “The Chestnuts” in the High Street, but realising the enormous cost to re-develop that site, it was quickly sold on. Adding a second storey to the existing shop was considered, but again the cost of stairs and lighting outweighed the advantages, so they stayed single storey, avoiding un-necessary artificial lighting.
The business showed a keen interest in local affairs, as witness the following extract from the Cambridge Evening News, ferreted out by Rachel Wood, Cambridge Daily News, Wednesday 14 July 1920, p3.
Newmarket Co-Operators.- Coming of Age Celebrations: The Children’s Day
The streets of Newmarket presented an animated scene on Saturday, July 10th, when the children’s fete and demonstration took place. Unfortunately, the weather was not all that was to be desired, although the morning had been delightfully fine, but the event, between the showers, passed off very satisfactorily. The procession was particularly effective. Not only were the children in the procession; their mothers in many instances were by their side, together with members of the Women’s Guild and Education and General Committee.
By kind permission of the Great Eastern Railway Company, the children assembled at the Old Station, and here, under the able direction of Mr. V. Swift, assisted by Mr. G. B. Poppy, they were lined up along the platform in marching order. The Town Band headed the procession, and proceeded by way of the Society’s central premises, along All Saints’ Road, to the grounds, kindly lent for the occasion by Capt. Tanner.
Mr. A. Challis and Mr. A. Fairweather, representing the General Committee, and Mr. C. Moss and Mr J. W. Thompson representing the Educational Committee, followed the band, with the children’s decorated bicycles. Then came the girls, followed the boys, and at the rear was the mare “Daisy,â€ with the Society’s van, decorated, taking the children who were too small to walk.
The rear was brought up by the waggons from Stetchworth, kindly lent by the Earl of Ellesmere, and Mr. F. P. Harrison for the occasion. On arrival at the grounds, they found amusements awaiting them, including Thurston’s roundabouts and swings. The children’s sports were conducted by a special committee, composed Mr. G. B. Poppy (chairman), Messrs. R. Baker, J. W. Thompson, A. Fairweather, W. Meekins, C. J. Moss, W. E. Carter, A. W. Leonard and H. Holloway, and the whole programme was gone through with remarkable success and ended with the lady’s race.
The entertainment part of programme was entrusted to a committee composed of Mr. Keegan (chairman), Miss M. Woollard, Mrs. Balls, Messrs. V. Swift, F. Ranns, A. Parr, and R. Forrester. The Pelaw boot polishing competition for boys for which prizes were given by the Co-operative Wholesale Society, proved a very interesting feature, and the same can said of the spoon cleaning competition for girls.
A very interesting item was the attractive programme of maypole and country dances. There was also a sketch, entitled “Voices of the Past”, rendered by the children, under the care and direction of Miss Black, assisted their teachers, to whom great credit is due. The children wore special dresses for the event, and Miss Cardy acted as accompanist, while Miss Barrett had charge of the infant section, and Miss Potter the older girls.
The whole of the catering was done by the Society, and the wants of the 1,600 children were attended to by the tea committee, composed of Mr. F. W. Cardy (chairman), Mrs. Radford, Mrs. Jeacock, Mrs. Gillman, Mrs. Stracey, Mrs. Ashby and Mrs. Hubbard, and a large staff of Indies. The hot water arrangements were under the care of Messrs. Trigg, Jeacock and L. A. Green.
The adult section was catered for by the employees, and everyone worked, including the secretary, Mr. A. Challis, with the utmost endeavour to make the event a gigantic success, which it turned out to be. It was estimated that 3,200 children and adults entered the field by ticket before 7 p.m.
Expansion took place on the opposite corner of what was already known as “Co-Op Corner” and the various departments were shuffled around as economics of the day dictated. As the photo below shows, at one time there was even a blacksmiths department.
In addition, a branch was opened on Exning Road (recorded by Kelly’s directory in 1933), on the site of what is now (2020) the InaSpin launderette. Only this poor photo has been found.
The layout of the departments in the 1950s was from the alley next to what is now the Spar convenience store (then Lander’s general store) on Vicarage Road, starting with the grocery department and going round the corner into All Saints Road was the drapery and all manner of ladies clothing and shoes. Then there was the entrance to the offices and beyond that the bakery and a covered park for the firm’s own vehicles.
The coal depot was further along All Saints Road.on Granby Street, where the yellow brick houses are now, it was menswear and shoes to the corner with All Saints Road, then along All Saints Road with the kitchenware and furnishings, followed by the butchery near the corner of Queen Street and the dairy on the corner and a short way up Queen Street. Of course, over the years the various departments were moved around the site as Peter Norman’s photos here show.
It seems incredible now, but by the 1950’s folk in that part of the town had little need to go as far as the High Street. Every imaginable household requirement could be purchased at that road junction. There was a grocery shop, bakery, butchers, dairy, men’s wear, ladies’ fashion, shoes, china and kitchen requirements, some furniture, a coal depot.
One aspect of each department was something seldom seen today. There were no tills, instead the sales assistant would put the sales ticket and the customer’s money inside a small container, perhaps 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter, twisting each end to seal it.
Then it was placed into type of hatch at the end of a tube. Then by pneumatic power, it was sucked away to the central cash office. There the staff would unload the container, and put in a receipt and any necessary change, and it was returned to the department in a similar manner.
I cannot remember whether it was a twin tube or single tube mechanism, both were available. In fact, I am unsure as to where the actual cash office was, but I believe it was upstairs in the offices between the drapery and the confectionery, adjacent to the bakery. The cash transit was by the Dart system. Here is an advert from 1947.
All this of course was connected to the dividend, a means by which at certain intervals the store would pay back a dividend to its customers. “Divi Day” was when Mum took you to the shop to get your new shoes or jacket for next term at school, hoping she had spent enough to produce a dividend of the required amount. This of course meant that you had to remember Mum’s divi number whenever you went shopping there. The Roman Catholic Church was next to the Prince of Wales until 1966, and next to that came a petrol station which was also part of the Co-op for a time.
Later a large furniture store and enlarged dairy was built next door to All Saints Church, later to become the Willie Thorne Snooker Centre and a residential development, Bunbury Court.
So far not found any photographs when it was Co-Op Furnishings.
Ever on the lookout for advancement the Co-op at one time in the early 1960s bought the Maltings on Fordham Road. This venture, as with the Chestnuts decades earlier, was quickly determined to be un-economical and the property was sold on. The next move was to 116 High Street, where clothing, bedding and kitchenware was available.
This shop facilitated entrance from the High Street and exit to Wellington Street via what was the Wellington Yard. The premises were the site of Newmarket’s first supermarket “Fine Fare”, which in turn became “Elmo” and after Co-Op were “Living” at the time of a serious fire in 1988. The premises are now (2020) Edinburgh Woollen Mill to the rear and, at the front, Peacocks. So far, no photograph has been found of this period.
The Co-operative Funeralcare department is the whole frontage of the next block to the west of Grosvenor Yard. Dates yet to be ascertained, but this photo was from 2004.
The East Of England Co-Op Funeral Services then opened an addition funeralcare department in Wellington Street, in 2017, by the car park.