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First Felling Co-Operative Society

On the 5th of November, 1861, fifteen men met in the Reading Room of Lee’s Chemical Works School in Brewery Lane. Their purpose was to form the first co-operative society in Felling.

Their names were:

George Carmichael
Richard Main
Thomas Smith
Edward Shippen
William Jeffrey
William Ramsay
Peter Simpson
Thomas Brown
Andrew Dickinson
John Storey
George Clarkson
John Thompson
John Richardson
Peter Dickinson
Thomas Gamble

They decided to form ’The Felling Industrial Society’, with all their capital, a sum of £28, and to invite members to join by purchasing at least one share at two shillings and sixpence each.

They elected George Carmichael as first president, William Jeffrey as secretary, and John Richardson as treasurer. An executive committee was set up with power to take action.

A small vacant shop on the corner at the foot of Neville street, (behind High Street on its eastern side, facing St. Patrick’s), was ideal as starting premises, so it was rented at £11 a year.

By January 1862 they were choosing the ’shopman’ and two assistants. John Urwin, the ’shopman’, started on the 29th January at a wage of 24 shillings a week, while the members fitted out the shop and ordered provisions, John Storey was put in charge of stock purchasing.

Opening hours at the shop were to be from 8-00 am till 7-00 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and until 10-00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

"The boy Taylor has been engaged as a junior assistant at the rate of six shillings a, week," said the minutes of a committee meeting on February 21st, 1862. It was also agreed "to purchase one of Pooley’s 4cwt weighing machines".

In May 1862 The Felling Industrial Co-operative Society joined the Northern Co-operative Union, and thereafter reaped the benefit of legal advice and business expertise which undoubtedly helped it to flourish. Nor was there any lack of members.

By the end of the first year’s trading the balance sheet was satisfactory:

Sales: £2,105. Profits: £110. Membership: 93.

All members, said the Rule Book, would be entitled to withdraw any dividend above the sum of £2, which must be left in the Society as share capital.

"Nothing is Likely to have a more salutary influence on the working classes than the spread of Co-operation. It will enlighten them in the most direct and practical manner on the very subjects about which they continually fall into the most serious and fatal mistakes." - Lord Brougham.



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