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Co-operative Culture
The Co-operative Movement: An Introduction
An Historical Perspective
Origins of the Co-operative Movement
Sheffield Co-operative Development Group
CWS 150 Years - A Sheffield Perspective
The Co-operative Party
Co-operation v Charity
CWS/Co-operative Group

An Historical Perspective

By 1828 a newspaper called ‘The Co-operator’ was being published by an early co-operative visionary, Dr. William King of Brighton. There were co-operatives all over the British Isles at this time. But amongst them there were a lot of failures. Political and economic conditions were weighted against them, there were always private interests which were too ready to sabotage them.

It was not until the Rochdale Pioneers who established the Co-operative principles, that isolated co-operatives started to work together, giving each other mutual support and most importantly introducing an educational and missionary dimension. Therefore when a group of people started up a co-operative, they could rely on advise and support from more established enterprises who were familiar with some of the pitfalls so prevalent in co-operatives at the time.


The first Co-operative Society on record in Sheffield was started in 1865 at 127, Devonshire Street and its name was ‘The Sheffield Improved Industrial and Provident Society.’

For details about this Society see page 123 of ‘Sheffield and Ecclesall Co-operative Society Ltd. 1874 – 1913 Souvenir to Commemorate the Completion of the New Central Premises’ You can see this book in the Local History section of the Central Library.

The Ecclesall Co-operative Society was established in 1874.

In 1907 these two societies merged to form ‘The Sheffield and Ecclesall Co-operative Society’ The souvenir book is an excellent resource for the story of Sheffield and Ecclesall up to the opening of new Central Premises in 1913 ‘The Arcade’ later to be called ‘Sunwin House.’


Sheffield and Ecclesall Co-operative Society Limited.

29 Grocery Branches.

16 Butchering.

6 Boot and Drapery.

8 Branch Boot Repairing Factories.

How Brightside and Carbrook Co-op Society Began

It was 1868 and a man called William Shaw happened to notice a clock over a shop in Kilnhurst bearing the words ‘Co-operative Society’. He belonged to a group of artisans in Carbrook who had formed a mutual improvement society, and the subject of ‘Co-operation’ had been discussed with some enthusiasm. Seeing the clock triggered a desire to find out more about Co-operation. Soon after, a delegation from Carbrook visited the Kilnhurst Co-operative Society and were tutored in the principles of the Movement along the lines as laid down by ‘The Rochdale Pioneers’. The result was that a year later a small shop in Carbrook was opened with formation expenses of 8s 7d. After five months the profit made was £6 – 4s – 8d, and after eight months £40. The first dividend paid was 1/- in the pound on purchases.

The first branch was opened in Wincobank in 1876. By 1900 the Society had 12,000 members and annual sales were £300,000. By 1903 The Society had the confidence to build a new headquarters on the corner of Kirkbridge Road and Attercliffe Common.

The table below shows how The Society grew.

Year Members Capital Trade
1914 29,000 £290,000 £758,000
1916 33,000 £390,000 £1,077,000
1918 36,000 £427,000 £1,409,000
1921 38,000 £567,000 £2,040,000

The above is from ‘The Brightside and Carbrook Souvenir Book’ published to commemorate the opening of the City stores in 1929. It can be seen in Local Studies in the Central Library.

From The Sheffield Yearbook of 1925.

Brightside and Carbrook Co-operative Society Limited Registered office; Kirkbridge Road, Attercliffe

37 Branches. Membership 35,676. Share capital £418,823. Annual turnover £990,245. Tel. 547 (3 lines)


To produce and distribute goods that are made under proper and duly recognised Trade Union conditions of labour.

To promote organisation for the Social Advancement and better Economic Conditions of its Members by the medium of Conferences, classes, Lantern Lectures and other propagander means of social intercourse.

To oppose and renounce the evils of Competitive Trading, by securing for the workers immunity against the tyranny of sweated labour, and thus imparting thereto healthier and happier surroundings.

To divide Half-Yearly the surplus left, after due observance of the foregoing conditions amongst the members in proportion to their purchases and to encourage a policy of thrift and Self-help by the usual employment of Members accumulated Dividends and Home-saving Deposits in the Societies operations.



Remember that your HUSBAND or your WIFE is assured under this Scheme.

Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Society bought the site of Sheffield Castle from Sheffield City Council in 1915. They were very mindful of the antiquity of the site and commissioned an archeological survey which gave a better understanding of the site and also produced some interesting artifacts.

In 1929 they opened their flagship department store (City Stores)on the site. The archeological finds were displayed in the department store.

In 1940 it was utterly destroyed by enemy action, it received a direct hit in the Blitz.

The Co-op gave the site to Sheffield City Council in exchange for another site across the road which allowed the council to build the Castle Market.

When the new Castle House opened in 1964, Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Society resolved to have an oil painting of Sheffield Castle for the boardroom. Kenneth Steel was commissioned to paint the picture. This picture furnished the Society Boardroom and stayed there until the building was sold by the Co-operative Group.

In the years between the destruction of the City Stores and the opening of Castle House in 1964 a temporary department store was built on Angel Street.

Castle House was architecturally acclaimed and in 2009 it was given grade two listing by English Heritage.

On Monday 2nd October 2006 the members of Sheffield Co-operative Society (as Brightside & Carbrook had been re-named) voted to transfer stock, property, assets and engagements to United Co-operatives.

The following year the members of United Co-operatives made a similar decision to transfer to the Co-operative Group.

That year, 2007, a decision was taken by the Co-operative Group to close the non-food departments, restaurant and coffee shop in Castle House, food, travel and pharmacy remained trading. The Crown post office remained in Castle House. The pharmacy closed in 2011.

2011 also saw the sale of Castle House to a property developer with food and travel being leased back.

The Society also exited from non-food and restaurant at Middlewood Road department store at Hillsborough and Drakehouse at Crystal Peaks.

The Broad Co-operative Movement in Sheffield.

Two organisations which require attention in order to get an idea of the history of the co-operative movement in Sheffield are;

I intend to explore these in the next paper.

Steve Thompson