I have been fortunate to obtain funding from the Leeds Legacy Endowment Fund to map The Leeds Co-op and also to develop some Leeds Co-op Trails.
Some of you may already know the 1897 George Holyoake map, produced as part of his history of the first fifty years of Leeds Industrial Co-operative Society.
At that time, LICS had 37,000 members and 80 premises, spread over 200 square miles.
”The Leeds Mill and Store Society, arising in Duncan Street Coffee House, in 1847, has spread like the civilisation of Rome……beyond all expectation, over Leeds, its suburbs and vicinity…….Some have compared the Society to an octopus, whose tentacles extend from Albion Street, over all the circumjacent land….But the Leeds Industrial Octopus is not devouring, but bestowing, fertilising, feeding, and enriching all whom it reaches”. Holyoake.
I am trying to locate the various Co-op buildings indicated on Holyoake`s map. Some remain and are well-known, such as the Strawberry House Stores on Tong Road, or the Brudenell Grove Store.
Many others remain but are much harder to identify because of change of use, structural alterations, etc. Perhaps you know and remember some of them. Many have been demolished, for example the whole complex in Marshall Street or the People`s Hall in Albion Street.
As Leeds Co-op continued to grow during the twentieth century, many more premises were built and Leeds Co-op also absorbed a number of smaller, independent local co-operative societies, such as Beeston Co-op. I`m also trying to identify and record all the Co-op premises that were built during this more modern period. For example, there`s the (former) Co-op stores on Osmondthorpe Lane and also the nearby laundry. Do you know anything about these buildings?
Do you know the location of Co-op buildings in your neighbourhood? Do you have any photos or could you take some and send them to me? Perhaps you worked for the Co-op, shopped at the Co-op. Do you have any stories to tell, any information about the particular premises?
This work builds on a previous project, entitled Co-op Voices, which was available on the Sonic City website. (currently off-line, unfortunately) You can, however, access part of this via the Leodis website – www.leodis.net – where you will find a guided tour of Co-op Views.
This blog has been set up as a forum for identifying the history of the Leeds Co-op and sharing the materials. You can share your stories by submitting a comment in the box below. If you have any photos, you can send them to me via email@example.com
I will also use this blog to keep you updated on the progress of the mapping exercise and the development of the Co-op Trails.
Thank you very much. I hope you will be fascinated by everything which we unearth!
(working in conjunction with Leeds Civic Trust)