Catalogue ReferenceD/EX1497
TitleRecords of Reading Co-operative Society

GENERAL MEETINGS : minutes, 1875-1965 (incomplete)

MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE : minutes, 1875-1965 (incomplete); correspondence and papers, 1887-1906 (incomplete); circular re strike, 1948

CO-OPERATIVE RETAIL SERVICES LTD : Reading branch general meetings, 1965-1973, committee minutes, 1965-1974

EDUCATION COMMITTEE : minutes, 1915-1986 (incomplete), accounts, 1935-1967; education council minutes, 1966-1969

OTHER COMMITTEES : butcher's shop alterations sub-committee minutes, 1876; stocktaking committee minutes, 1907; rules revision committee minutes, 1909-1910; land acquisition committee minutes, 1915; standing order amendment sub-committee minutes, 1916; trade sub-committee minutes, 1920-1922; finance sub-committee minutes, 1947-1950; development sub-committee minutes, 1945-1947, and report, 1954; building committee instruction books, 1892-1917, and correspondence and papers, 1905-1914

EMPLOYEES'; ASSOCIATION : minutes, 1939-1946; committee minutes, 1939-1946; fire-watchers' minutes, 1941; staff journal, 1960

MANAGERS' ASSOCIATION : minutes, 1959-1975; statements of accounts, 1967-1975 (incomplete); rules, 1970

WOMEN'S GUILD : minutes, 1974-1983; committee minutes, 1975; scrapbook, 1961-1963; balance sheets, 1961/2-1962/3; annual report, 1983; membership certificate, 1880s

THAMES VALLEY CO-OPERATIVE LAUNDRIES LTD : committee minutes, 1940-1952; AGM minutes, 1941-1950

REPORTS AND STATEMENTS OF ACCOUNTS : quarterly, 1865, 1893 (incomplete); half yearly, 1894-1938 (incomplete), 1961; annual returns, 1898-1936 (incomplete)

MEMBERSHIP RECORDS : share and dividend ledger, 1916-1923; pass book of Agnes Roberts, 1886-1975

ACCOUNTS : ledger, 1941-1953; summary accounts of departmental expenses, 1908-1911; profit analysis of Peppard branch, 1948; branch sales, 1952

MISCELLANEOUS : photograph of Stephen Gyngell, 19c.; album of photographs of new store in Cheapside, Reading, 1928; drawing of dairy, 1933; miscellaneous photographs, c.1920s, 1949-1950, 1960s-1987; history of society, 1997; rules, 1908-1921; rent bond, 1910; report re superannuation scheme, c.1931; papers re insurance of Co-op premises, 1936-1939; posters re self-service stores, n.d.[1960s]; grocery order book, 1966-1967; press cuttings, 1937, 1940, 1962-1974
RepositoryBerkshire Record Office (code: GB 005)
Extent56 vols, 47 bdls, 24 docs
Admin HistoryThe society was founded in 1860 as the Reading Industrial Co-operative Society, at a meeting called by local worker Stephen Gyngell (b.1832), and a shop was soon rented in Caversham Road, Reading, initially open in the evenings only. The society was run by the management committee, whose minutes survive only from 1875. (One early minute book, 1888-1891, was presented to the Japanese co-operative movement, and only a photocopy remains in the society's archive (D/EX 1497/1/5).) The minutes are very detailed in their treatment of business decisions.

Members of the Society purchased shares, which entitled them to vote at general meetings and elect members of the committee, and to receive a cash dividend calculated by the amount spent in Co-op enterprises. These included a bakery in Sackville Street, Reading (opened 1887), a restaurant and hotel in Cheapside, Reading, opened in c.1918; and the co-operative dairy which opened in 1933, as well as an increasing number of shops throughout Reading, and later in adjoining areas. The Reading Society was not however responsible for the printing works in Elgar Road (c.1919) or the jam factory at Coley, both of which were enterprises of the national Co-operative Wholesale Society.

In the 1890s the society began buying houses to rent or sell to members, and even built 25 houses at Westfield Terrace. These were sold in the early 1920s. In 1884 the small Newbury Society was absorbed, and daughter societies were planted in Guildford and Gomshall in Surrey. After the First World War the society began to expand its geographical area, with branches opening at Hungerford, Peppard (Oxon) and Bracknell in the 1920s. By the 1950s there were branches as far afield as Newbury, Wokingham, Henley (Oxon), Maidenhead, Windsor, Eton Wick, Old Windsor, Crowthorne, Thatcham and Kintbury. The existing Maidenhead Society (est 1889) was taken over in 1927.

From the earliest days there were links with the labour movement; in 1894 financial help was given to striking Welsh slate workers. From the early 20th century all employees were obliged to join a trade union, and there were strong links with the local Labour Party. The society's education committee encouraged the promulgation of co-operative principles, and helped form the local branch of the Workers' Educational Association. The Women's Co-operative Guild was a social and political movement for working-class women (the Reading branch opened in 1883, and closed in 1984). It was notable for peace work in the 1920s and 30s. A woman was elected to the society's management committee as early as 1921. A group of Woodcraft Folk (for children) was formed in the 1930s.

Increased prosperity among working people, and the expansion of retail outlets in the 1960s led to financial difficulties for the society, and in 1965 it amalgamated with the national Co-operative Retail Services.

For histories of the Society, see Arthur Lockwood, Co-operation to The Thames Valley (Reading 1949), in the Record Office library, and Vicky Ryan's 1997 history (D/EX 1497/16/1).
AcquisitionDeposited in February 1998 (acc. 6196)
Related MaterialRecords in other collections

Rules, 1910, 1921, 1950 D/EX1485/26/1
    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2021