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Cleator Moor Co-operative Society

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Many men in history have had visions of greatness for their ideas to prosper and grow in the future. Among these can be named John Anderson, Harry Ellison and James Douglas. These three, along with some others got together to form a co-operative in buying goods for their own needs, and then selling any surplus to others.

With Cleator Moor rapidly expanding, where the three lived, and people seeing that they could receive a dividend on their purchases, the Co-op began to grow. The society was registered as a concern on 30th September, 1858, and was established on 23rd October 1858 as the Cleator Moor Co-operative Society.

The first known shop was opened at 35 Ennerdale Road, and it was probably where the committee met to discuss their buying of goods as a co-operation. The head office was registered as 7 Jacktrees Road.

By November 1862 the membership of the society was standing at 80, and at the meeting of members the then Secretary Henry Ellison stated that:
Our prospects are cheering and we hope to convince the people in the district that there are advantages to be derived from Co-operation which they have hitherto neither known nor thought of.
The momentum continued through the first decade and membership in 1867 had reached 640 with the sales in the first 10 years of trading reaching £121,691-1-0d. This continued and by 1898 the total sales in the society had reached £3,346,092- 10-11d. The sales reflected the increase in trading taking place with the opening of a Clog and Shoe Store in the Town in 1866.

In 1869 they had opened a branch in Hensingham and were looking for premises in Cleator to open a Grocery Shop, this they achieved, and by 1872 the society had opened on the Moor a Drapery alongside the extensive Grocery business, they also at this time possessed a Mill and a Farm.

By the 66th Quarterly meeting in April 1875 membership had reached 2,073. The meeting was attended by over 300 members, and in the Co-operative News report on that meeting it was said:
We have never before seen a society of this magnetite, with so short a list of assets. There are only five assets, and one of them is Tradesman's accounts overpaid, the others are fixed stock, saleable stock, cash and members debts. It appears from this that our friends at Cleator Moor keep themselves to themselves, and have no connection with the outer world. They have no shares in any other Companies or societies. There might be no Co-operative Wholesale in Newcastle, no Co-operative printers there. No Co-operative soap works at Durham. No Ouseburn or any other effort for the emancipation of industry requiring encouragement such as practical help only can give. There might be nothing in the world Co-operative except the Cleator Moor Society.
In the Northern Counties Gazette of 6th July 1878, the newspaper said:
It is almost surprising to find at a place like the Moor such a monster institution as the Cleator Moor Co-operative Society Limited, and to find it in such a flourishing condition as even in the present depressed state of trade it has no less than thirteen branch establishments in the neighbouring Villages as well as a Mill and Farm under its control.
The Society further opened a Steam and Flour Mill in November 1882.

Shortly after the turn of the Century in 1910, Just 50 years after its creation the membership had risen from the 80 members in 1862 to 6,121. Again by 1957, one hundred years from its registering as a society, the membership stood at 10,862.

The Co-operative owned branches at, Whitehaven, Bowthorn, Cleator, Moor Row, Ennerdale, Frizington, Rowrah, Wath Brow, Pica, Moresby Parks, Parton, Distington, Bransty, Kells, Bigrigg, Hensingham and St Bees as well as multiple stores on Cleator Moor.

The Cleator Moor Co-operative Society underwent major changes in the early 1970's when it was taken over and amalgamated with other Co-ops to become known as the Cumberland Co-op. The store on Jacktrees Road closed in 1994, and the supermarket is now located on a site at Leconfield Street.
  • L.S. Lowry was a regular visitor to Cleator Moor. In 1950 he painted a pastel of the Cleator Moor Co-op building. The painting is owned by the Co-operative Group.

L.S. Lowry, 1950: Cleator Moor Co-op
L.S. Lowry, 1950

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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland: Cleator Moor Co-operative Society
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