Papers of John James Dent (Co-operative Permanent Building Society)

Scope and Content

Personal papers of John James Dent reflecting several aspects of his professional career and personal life. These include a wide array of photographs, ranging from portraits of co-operators to prints of early co-operative stores, and his personal notebook for the years 1876 -1878. As well as this the collection contains correspondence and a collection of letters and newspaper clippings relating to Dent's appointment as Labour Correspondent. Also represented are some of his personal notes and documents.

Administrative / Biographical History

John James Dent was born in 1856 and began his career as a labourer, helping in the construction of Victoria District railway station at the age of ten and proceeding to work on various other large scale building projects. He continued in this role until 1883 when he was elected as the secretary of the Club and Institute Union, a role which led to him meeting many influential people such as Anthony J. Mundella, the President of the Board of Trade. In 1896 Mundella offered Dent the post of Labour Correspondent within the newly formed Labour Department. He also continued his work in the club movement and was promoted to president in 1909, a role he remained in for thirteen years. During this time he also carried out much work for the Management Committee of the Emigrants Information Office, for which he had conferred upon him the Order of Companion of St. Michael and St. George.

In 1884 Dent also became involved in the promotion of the Co-operative Building Society as an auditor until 1920 when he was elected to the post of Director and in this position he was instrumental in founding several co-operatives in Southern England. He helped to set up a co-operative in Chelsea in 1874, which failed due to lack of capital, and again in 1881, which was a much more successful venture. As well as this he was one of the founders of the Tenant Co-operators Ltd. in 1888 and also the Southern Co-operative Education Committee, where he did a lot of work. His contributions to the Women’s Co-operative Guild and Women’s Trade Union League were also noted by his contemporaries at a time when they were just beginning to take their first steps. He also attended fifty of the annual co-operative congresses during his career.

In his personal life Dent married Alice Chicken at an early age and had six children with her. She died in 1910 and Dent did not remarry after this. He himself died on the 21st of February 1936 at home in Camberwell.

Access Information

All open materials can be viewed by prior arrangement, Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm. Contact the Archivist at: National Co-operative Archive, Co-operative College, Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AS. Email:,

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the National Co-operative Archive from the Co-operative Union Library in 2000.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Matt Bazley, Work placement student, January 2014.

Custodial History

In the material deposited by the Co-operative Union Library was a number of items described as the 'Miscellaneous Special Collections.' Within this was a file labelled 'Misc Photos' which contained a letter from W. H. Berry to J.J Dent stating that he was returning certain photos to him. It is assumed that all of the photos within the collection belonged to Dent, several appear to depict early Co-operators that attended congress along with Dent. Within the Robert Owen Collection, deposited by the Co-operative Union Library, were other letters and cuttings of Dents and a file labelled 'J.J. Dent' .

All of these items have been brought together as it seems likely that the collection was divided up between the Co-operative Union, College and other organisations many years ago. They were most likely part of a much larger collection.


None Expected