Co-operative Wholesale Society South Midlands Region

Scope and Content

This collection comprises minute books, reports and balance sheets, correspondence, accounts ledgers, photographs, audio material, packaging and printed material

Administrative / Biographical History

The Enfield Highway Co-operative Society was founded in 1872. Mechanics who were employed at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock. They were dissatisfied with their wages and so decided to form a co-operative society, inspired by those formed by workers in the North of England. The first meeting was held in July 1872 and a resolution was passed to form a co-operative society to supply provisions to all persons taking one or more shares in the Society. It was initially called the Enfield Lock Co-operative Association, but this was later changed to the Enfield Highway Co-operative Society. The first store was situated on Bell Lane, in the back room of the Secretary’s house. Gradually stock was increased as was the capital earned by the Society, by 1885 the society had achieved £4, 507 in cash sales. By 1904 the Society had 2,107 members and three branch stores. In 1907 a merger with the Enfield Town Co-operative Society took place. Growth continued and by 1913 there were over six thousand members. The Society viewed education of its employees and members as important and so established its Education Department in 1892. A Children’s Circle and branch of the Woodcraft Folk was also established. The Society also looked after its members by providing sickroom facilities, medical equipment, recreation activities and saving schemes. The Society held annual fetes, for which a sub-committee of the Education Department was set up. As well as this the Society also had an active political committee and branch of the Co-operative Party.By the late 1920s, a new central premises, Unity Buildings was opened, which was a large department store based on Hertford Road. By the time of the Society’s Diamond Jubilee in 1932, it had six department stores, twenty four branch stores, bread and coal depots, a farm, a boot repair factory and a plant nursery. Also by 1932, the Society occupied a trading area of approximately 200 square miles.The St Albans Co-operative Society was established in 1902, with the first store at London Road. After a management committee was set up, the Society purchased 50lb of tea to be sold to its members. A year after the society was established, annual sales amounted to £2, 969. By 1914, land had been purchased to set up a bakery and a branch store at Hatfield. The Enfield Highway and St Albans co-operative societies merged in 1983 following discussions with committee members and members of the two societies. In 1992 the Enfield and St Albans Co-operative Society merged with the Co operative Wholesale Society, which is now called the Co-operative Group.

Access Information

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Archivist's Note

This description was compiled by Sophie Stewart, Archivist, National Co-operative Archive in October 2011