The co-operative movement occurred in the British Isles in the nineteenth century, motivated by the extreme poverty witnessed throughout the industrial revolution period. Creating co-operatives allowed groups of people to work together to meet the common needs (addressing social and economic issues) and aspirations of its members and to share ownership while making decisions democratically. Creating a non-profit community business was appealing and numerous co-operatives were founded throughout the early 1800s, although many eventually failed. By 1844 the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers had been created which in turn established the ‘Rochdale Principles’ upon which the successful ‘modern' co-operative movement was based. The principles are a set of ideals for the administration of co-operatives which calls for open membership, democratic control and a distribution of surplus in proportion to the trade. It also instructed that there must be a payment of limited interest in capital, political and religious neutrality, cash trading (no credit extended) and a promotion of education.
The co-operative movement made waves on the Isle of Man when in 1870 the resident miners of the east coast mining village of Laxey established the Laxey Industrial Provident Co-operative Society Limited (later the Laxey Industrial Co-operative Society Limited). The preliminary meeting for the enrolment of members and payment of subscriptions occurred on Christmas Day 1869. It was officially instituted on 31 March 1870 and commenced trading in April that same year. The objectives of the society was to carry on the trades of general dealers, manufacturers, the buying and selling of land, buying (building or chartering) vessels, farming or stock-raising and the building of houses or tenements. The society claimed it had full power to do all things necessary to achieve these objectives including the power to purchase, hold, sell, mortgage, rent lease, or sub-lease lands of any tenure. They could erect, pull down, repair, alter or otherwise deal with any building thereon and lend money on mortgage on the security of real estate. The Laxey Co-operative was administered by elected officers and consisted of a president, secretary, two auditors and eight committee members (committee of management).
The co-operative provided the Laxey people and the surrounding area with a general shop, grocers, bakery, butchers, drapers, clothing store, ironmongers and a hardware store. They also supplied coal and paraffin oil. After ten years of business the society outgrew its premises and erected new stores at the head of Glen Road, Laxey at the cost (including land) of £1,200. The premises consisted of the grocery and drapery departments in the front, with the bake house and shoemakers’ department in the rear. The board-room, office, the general warehouse and hardware department were situated on the floor above. The outbuildings consisted of a cart-shed, slaughter-house, salting room and a shippon (cattle shed).
The society successfully ran for around ninety-two years until 1962 when it ran into financial difficulty when it was realized that the organisation had been running at a loss for five years and that since 1957 its 462 shareholders had not received their dividends. Its management committee approached the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited and the Co-operative Retail Serviced Limited, UK to enquire whether they would offer any financial assistance. Both organisations declined the offer of a take-over or merger and therefore the Laxey Industrial Co-operative Society Limited was forced to close for business that same year.