Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society

Scope and Content

Papers relating to the activity and operation of the Chelmsford Star Industrial Co-operative Society, including: reports and balance sheets, 1884-1920; correspondence with various national societies regarding credit trading, 1915-1916; report by the Co-operative Union on the office, organisation and method of the Chelmsford Star Industrial Co-operative Society, 1964; miscellaneous papers, correspondence and ephemera regarding the Chelmsford Star Industrial Co-operative Society, the Good Samaritan Optical Fund, Braintree Co-operative Society, Maldon and Heybridge Co-operative Society, the Essex and Suffolk Hours and Wages Board, the Essex Co-operative Funeral Furnishing Society, the Essex Co-operative Boot and Shoe Repairing Society, the Essex Co-operative Ice Cream Society, the Joint Advisory Committee of East Anglican Co-operative Societies, 1893 - 1975; delegate pack, including handwritten notes for the Chelmsford Star Industrial Co-operative Society delegate at the Co-operative Congress, Eastbourne, 1971.

Administrative / Biographical History

The first Co-operative in Chelmsford - a coal club - was formed in 1847. Then, in 1867, Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society was established by a small number of employees of the London Road Iron Works: it was their intention to become "the Star of the County". The first shop was opened in Tindal Street and despite the economic problems of the 1870s the Society prospered to such an extent that its members soon decided to build a new store in Moulsham Street on the site of the present day Quadrant. Opened in 1881 by the author of "Tom Brown's School Days", Thomas Hughes.

The Countess of Warwick, a leading advocate for the Co-operative movement, opened an extension to the building in 1902. Year by year, the range of products increased. More shops were opened in other parts of Chelmsford and in the surrounding villages. The Society also acted as an agency for the Co-operative Building Society and the Insurance Society.

A Co-operative Women's Guild was established by the Society's membership in 1906 and an Education Committee, funded and elected by members was formed in 1925. The promotion of Co-operative principles was a key element of the Education Committee's work and, with the establishment of International Co-operative Day in 1923, it pursued its task vigorously. International Co-operative Day held on the first Saturday in July, was a grand affair for the whole community.

From then until the Second World War up to a thousand children participated in the celebrations. During the First World War, with food shortages a serious problem, the Guild played its part in ensuring that food was shared fairly. Then, when unemployment became a social catastrophe during the 1930s, Chelmsford Star helped to alleviate some of the harshest cases of poverty by providing families with boots, clothing and food parcels. Later when the Hunger Marchers passed through Chelmsford on their way to London it was Chelmsford Star that provided them with a meal and repaired their boots.

By the Second World War Chelmsford Star had a shop in virtually every locality within the town and surrounding countryside. It had established its own abattoir, mobile shops, travel department, clothing store, funeral service and much more. It had also established a Co-operative Party Council in 1943 and the Education Committee had formed Youth and Children's Clubs.

Since its formation, Chelmsford Star has supported the community; as early as 1883 when donations were needed for the Chelmsford Infirmary, the membership regularly agreed to allocate part of their surplus to the hospital. Throughout its entire history the Society has sponsored many local organisations. That tradition has continued. In the 1970s the Society organised a series of annual "It's a Knockout" competitions; a new phase of community activity commenced in the 1980s when it held its hugely successful "Fun Days". These attracted leading stars of stage and screen, many thousands of people enjoying the entertainment. Of no less importance, through its Education Committee, Women's Guild, membership, staff and supporters, huge sums were donated each year to local charities.

The Society's award winning Community Card now fulfils the same objectives, and the basic Co-operative principles that were established in the middle of the 19th century, are still an essential feature of the Society’s present day trading strategy.The Society continues to support many local causes and activities, including the Essex Adversity Awards and Newpalm Productions, who produce Chelmsford's annual pantomime at the Civic Theatre.

Finally, the Society became a founder member of Co-operative Action, established in 2002. It was set up to promote the development of Co-operative, mutual and social enterprise solutions, throughout the country and provides financial assistance via grants or loans.


The Chelmsford Star Co-Operative Society is divided into the following six sections:

  • CS/1: Financial Reports
  • CS/2: Correspondence
  • CS/3: Wages and Staffing
  • CS/4: Co-Operative Congress 1971
  • CS/5: Meeting Agendas, Minutes & Administrative Papers
  • CS/6: Papers Relating to the Activities of Various other Co-operatives

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposited with Bishopsgate Institute Chelmsford Star Industrial Co-operative Society, April 2007.

Other Finding Aids

Adlib catalogue and copy of handlist available in researcher's area.

Archivist's Note

Entry compiled by Grace Biggins.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying and digital photography (without flash) is permitted for research purposes on completion of the Library's Copyright Declaration form and with respect to current UK copyright law.