National Co-operative Organisations

The National Co-operative Archive holds collections of central national co-operative organisations, including the records of the Co-operative College; Co-operative Party; Co-operative Press; National Association of Co-operative Officials; National Co-operative Men’s Guild; Co-operative Youth Centres;  Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers; and Retail, Furnishing and Allied Trades Wages Council.

CCC - Co-operative College

The Co-operative College was established in 1919 as an adult and staff training centre for the co-operative movement and was initially based in the Co-operative Union building, Holyoake House, Manchester. Under the guidance of the Principal, Professor Fred Hall MA, it attracted large numbers of students, including many from overseas co-operatives.

During the Second World War, the Training Centre on the top floor of Holyoake House was destroyed during the Manchester Blitz, making replacement premises imperative.

The College, together with the Education Department of the Co-operative Union, relocated to Stanford Hall in time for the start of the first term of the 1945/6 session. In 1946, Dr Robert Marshall, OBE, MA, became the Principal and Chief Executive Officer and built up the reputation of the College as a national and international educational institution. Over many years a growing number of students from former colonial territories and Commonwealth countries attended College programmes. The College also ran residential courses in social/economic subjects for adult learners, and a wide range of retail and management courses for co-operative employees.

In 2001 Stanford Hall was sold and the College relocated to its original home, Holyoake House in Manchester.

The Co-operative College collection comprises records created throughout the College’s history.

CPY - Co-operative Party

At the start of the First World War, the many retail societies in the co-operative movement grew in both membership and trade, in part because of their very public anti-profiteering stance. When conscription was introduced and food and fuel supplies restricted, these societies began to suffer. The movement was under-represented on the various governmental distribution committees and draft tribunals. Co-operatives received minimal supplies and even management were often drafted, whereas business opponents were able to even have clerks declared vital for the war effort. Societies were also required to pay excess profits tax, although their co-operative nature meant they made no profits.

A motion was tabled at the 1917 Congress held in Swansea by the Joint Parliamentary Committee and 104 retail societies, calling for direct representation at national and local government levels. The motion was passed by 1979 votes to 201. An Emergency Political Conference was held on 18 October 1917. As a result, the Central Co-operative Parliamentary Representation Committee was formed in 1917, with the objective of putting co-operators into the House of Commons. This was soon re-named the Co-operative Party. In 2009, the Co-operative Party had 29 MPs in parliament.

The Co-operative Party Collection consists of conference reports, annual reports, regional meeting minutes, pamphlets and publications, photographs and correspondence files.

CPR - Co-operative Press

On 2 September 1871, the first edition of the Co-operative News was published. This newspaper had its roots in the publication by the Manchester Equitable Society of The Co-operator (1860). The Co-operator was transferred in 1861 to the ownership of Henry Pitman and continued to be published by him until 1871. The North of England Newspaper Ltd was formed in 1871 in response to a feeling as the prospectus says “that the time has more than arrived when the co-operators of England should be in possession of a paper of their own”.

In 1873 the Co-operative Newspaper Society was established. From the newspaper’s inception, Thomas Hayes and William Nuttall from the Co-operative Printing Society took editorial responsibility for its paper, The Co-operative News. However, in 1887 the Co-operative Newspaper Society took up its own printing and from December 1891 took to printing outside papers such as Co-operative Official and Co-operative Educator alongside its own publications of the Millgate Monthly (1905) and Our Circle (1907).

The collection includes the minute books and other records of the Society, with a major collection of black and white photographs of the Co-operative Press dating between 1914-1994, newspapers, newspaper cuttings, pen, ink and pencil drawings and some textual records such as committee minutes, letters and annual reports. Some of the photographs have been produced by photographic agencies, whilst their own photographers have taken others. The scope ranges from general country and city photographs, to more specific photographs of events of societies and congresses.

NACO – National Association of Co-operative Officials

The creation of the National Association of Co-operative Officials (NACO) on 1 Jan 1971 was the result of the merger of three associations created in the early part of the twentieth century, the Co-operative Secretaries Association (CSA), the National Co-operative Managers’ Association (NCMA) and the National Union of Co-operative Officials. The CSA was formed as a professional association to provide support and guidance to those who worked as secretaries within co-operative societies. The NCMA provided professional support to those working as managers within co-operative societies. NUCO was formed to provide support to professionals and managers working within co-operatives. In light of economies of scale and the traditional culture of co-operative mergers, the CSA, NCMA and NUCO all voted unanimously to merge at their individual Annual General Meetings held in June 1969. NACO is still in operation today as a trade union for staff in the co-operative sector and has 2,500 members.

The collection comprises mainly of minutes, financial and membership records and correspondence relating to the amalgamation of co-operative societies. There are also annual reports, leases and a small number of chains of office.

National Guild of Co-operators

The National Guild of Co-operators was set up in 1926 to create one national adult co-operative auxiliary of men and women in addition to the Women’s Co-operative Guild and National Co-operative Men’s Guild that were auxiliary groups exclusive to women and men. The first annual conference of the Guild took place in Nottingham in 1927. The collection consists of annual reports of the Guild 1947-1996, newsletters and histories.

USDAW – Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers

In 1891 representatives of workers met in Manchester and Birmingham to establish trade unions which grew, through various amalgamations and resultant name changes during the latter part of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century, to form, in 1947, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW). By the 1980s, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers was the sixth largest Trade Union in Britain and third in size among the general unions. It included workers in traditional food shops, modern supermarkets, department stores, dairies, bakeries, breweries, laundries, food manufacturing and processing factories, dental and optical technicians, research and laboratory assistants and dozens of other manufacturing or service operations. USDAW is now one of Britain’s largest trade unions.

The collection is primarily comprises minutes from branch committee meetings of Sheffield, ChesterfielD and Huddersfield. It also includes some general USDAW material; a small number of reports, balance sheets and booklets.

CYC – Co-operative Youth Centres

Co-operative Youth Centres Ltd was formed in 1943. The object of the society was to carry on the business of residential youth centres, camps and schools to meet the educational and recreative needs of the members of co-operative societies. The society existed until 1972 and during its existence had residential centres at Tong Hall near Huddersfield, Dalston Hall near Carlisle, Collington Rise at Bexhill-on-Sea and Losehill Hall in Derbyshire.

The collection consists of the minutes of the Management Committee and Office Sub Committee, minutes of the shareholders’ Annual General Meetings, share ledgers, correspondence with shareholders, shareholders’ annual reports, yearly accounts and financial records, rule books, leases and agreements, staff wages books, insurance policies and papers regarding the society going into voluntary liquidation.

RFWC – Retail Furnishing and Allied Trades Wages Council

The Wages Councils were independent tripartite bodies established by statute which had the function of establishing minimum wages and other conditions for employees in certain sectors of the economy. They were made up of representatives of both sides of industry, together with independent members whose function was to conciliate between the two sides and, where agreement could not be reached, to vote in favour of one side or the other.

The collection consists of meeting minutes, correspondence, reports, publications and white papers.