Posted by: peopleshistreh | October 3, 2014

A City of Light… Excerpts Chapter 12

Excerpts from Chapter 12 relating to the Birthplace of Co-operation, and the influence of Newcastle Chartism on Co-operation in Nottingham:

‘Some of the earliest co-operative endeavours had their roots in the friendly societies, and friendly societies were often a screen behind which working people combined to protect their livelihoods … These practices were evident in the Ayrshire village of Fenwick from 1761 …

Six years after the founding of the Fenwick Weavers’ Society in Scotland the Blue Ball Club was established at the New Inn at the village of Blidworth, Nottinghamshire, … Two years after the Fenwick Weavers bought their first sack of oatmeal in 1769, the members of the Blue Ball Club at Blidworth in the autumn of 1771 bought their first cheese for £28 7s 11d from the Goose Fair in Nottingham … if Fenwick was the birthplace of Co-operation in Scotland in 1769, Blidworth has an arguable claim to be the birthplace of Co-operation in Nottinghamshire, if not in England, in 1771.

The earliest co-operative society in the town of Nottingham may have been formed in 1827 when a group of admirers of Robert Owen’s plans for communities met to set up their own community society. … ‘In Nottingham’, reported the Nottingham and Newark Mercury, ‘a Society has been formed, the members of which meet to discuss the merits of the System, and they have for some time past regularly appropriated some portion of their weekly earnings for the purpose of forming a fund …

The next period of co-operative activity began towards the end of the decade, when the Chartist movement took up the call for ‘exclusive dealing’.

In August 1839 the Chartist Northern Political Union [NPU] based in Newcastle placed lengthy advertisements in its weekly paper setting out its proposals for a Joint Stock Provision Store. … In late October or early November 1839 Robert Lowery … an active Chartist in Newcastle, wrote a pamphlet … which was advertised in the Northern Star: ‘Rich and be Wise, Rich and Free’. Just published, price 1d. AN ADDRESS ON EXCLUSIVE DEALING, with Plans for the formation of Joint Stock Companies”…

James Sweet [Nottingham Chartist] was certainly in touch with Chartists in the north east … At around this time Newcastle Chartist Thomas Devyr, who had been charged with sedition, jumped bail and set sail for the United States in January 1840 with John Rucastle who had been a friend of Lowery. According to the Nottingham Mercury, Rucastle would be “recognised at the Fox and Hounds and the King George on Horseback, etc as the individual who visited Nottingham a week or two ago in the character of an agent for the Northern Liberator”. Rucastle might have been the conduit …

At the Nottingham Chartist meeting at the Democratic Chapel on Monday 27th January 1840 James Sweet “announced his intention of establishing a Victualling Store or, in other words, a Provision Store; having fifteen determined fellows, with ten shillings each …”

The Carrington Co-operative Society which was enjoying trading success in 1844 appears to provide the only formal link between the Chartist co-operatives of the 1840s and the Lenton Industrial and Provident Society, founded in 1863 on the Rochdale model, which passed eventually into the present day Co-operative Group. This would place the earliest “root” of the present Co-operative Group’s “tree” in Nottingham at Carrington in 1840, some twenty three years before the birth of the Lenton society …’

Read the full story of Blidworth, Birthplace of Co-operation, and the in and the influence of Newcastle Chartism on Co-operation in Nottingham in chapter 12 of The City of Light: Socialism, Chartism and Co-operation – Nottingham 1844.

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