Leicester Co-operative Society

Scope and Content

Records of Leicester Co-operative Society and the societies that transferred engagements to them including Whetstone, Kirby Muxloe, Cosby, Mountsorrel, Rothley, Quorndon, Oadby, Burbage, Loughborough, Glenfield, Croft and Ratby.

Administrative / Biographical History

Leicester Co-operative Society was formed in 1860 when Mr Woodford and six other men met at his home at Brook Street. The men were mainly web weavers and consisted of Messrs. S Wilford, T Norton, C Burrows, Edward Silverwood, J Woodford, George Sharpe and G Herbert. They each contributed three pence to the share account and formed the society. Each of the 7 men made a resolution to bring in ten new members. A public meeting was held in a room in Belgrave Gate with Mr E Silverwood presiding and he became the first Chairman. Following this the society started to grow. Rules for the society were registered and it was decided to open a central shop at No.15 Belgrave Gate with William Bull appointed as shop keeper. WIlliam Bull had lent the society £60.

Hand written copies of the balance sheet were produced for the first and second quarters and by the third the society had sufficient funds to have it printed. By the end of 1861 the society had a net profit of £70. Over the next year the society struggled as William Bull withdrew his £60 from the society and opened a store across the street. The society managed to overcome this setback and began to make steady and slow progress. In 1866 the society opened a branch store at Sanvey Gate and in 1867 a Bakehouse at Friars' Causeway. They then began opening further branch stores. Central Premises were bought at 17A Mansfield Street and were transformed into warehouses, offices, Board room, bakehouse and stables.

By September 1871 the society had a membership of 3,043 and had 12 stores. The society continued to progress throughout the nineteenth century, opening new stores and departments, including new central premises at the corner of High Street and Union Street in 1876. When the society celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1910 they had a membership of 19,116; 30 branch stores; and Drapery, Boot and Shoe, Butchery and Pork Butchery departments.

The society flourished throughout the twentieth century and by 1962 had 136,000 members and £13 million trade. The society had a branch for every square mile which consisted of 110 grocery branches and 71 butchery branches. During this period several societies merged into Leicester Co-operative Society; Oadby in 1957; Glenfield, Kirbymuxloe, Ratby, Quordon, Croft and Groby in 1959; Loughborough and Burbage in 1960; Mountsorrel in 1963; and Whetstone and Cosby in 1964. In 1969, following the trend of mergers, Leicester Co-operative Society itself merged to become part of the larger Leicestershire Co-operative Society.

Sources: Social Redemption or The Fifty Years' Story of Leicester Co-operative Society 1860-1910, by J Thomson Stephen (1911)

Leicester Society, by Ian G Bennett in Agenda (June 1962).

Geographical Names