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National Library of Wales
Co-operative Society (Western Section), annual returns

Reference code(s): GB 0210 COOPSOC

Held at: National Library of Wales

Title: Co-operative Society (Western Section) Annual Returns

Short Title: Co-operative Society (Western Section), annual returns

Creation date(s): 1937-1967

Level of description: Fonds

Extent: (22 boxes)

Name of creator(s): Local Co-operative Societies in south Wales and the border counties.


Administrative/Biographical history: Many people imagine that the Co-operative Movement is a single national organisation - this is far from reality. The Movement is in fact made up of many separate and independent societies united in their common belief in certain values and principles with the shared aim of serving their members. The Co-operative Movement has its roots in the 19th Century when the industrial revolution resulted in widespread exploitation and misery for many working people. One particular form of exploitation that was common was the way many people found it difficult to obtain good quality food at a fair price. The development of political movements such as the Chartists, gave ordinary people suffering similar injustices the opportunity and the ability to organise aspects of their lives. This, coupled with the increasingly popular ideas of social reformers such as Robert Owen and Dr. William King, led people to realise that they could achieve far more by acting collectively than they ever would do working separately. They formed trade unions to overcome exploitation at work and improve their terms and conditions of employment and set up their own shops to avoid exploitation as consumers. The Rochdale Pioneers are credited with starting the first successful retail co-operative society in 1844, although there had been earlier attempts. The Pioneers opened a shop in Toad Lane, Rochdale selling unadulterated goods at reasonable prices. They also introduced a dividend that meant that all of its customers became members of the Society and received a return in accordance with their expenditure. In 1860, the Rochdale Society drafted what have become known as 'The Rochdale Principles' - the values by which they would trade: • Open and voluntary membership • Democratic control (one member one vote) • Fixed and limited interest on share capital • Surplus allocated in proportion to members' purchases • Provision for education • Co-operation amongst co-operatives • Political neutrality • No credit • Quality goods and services These principles still form the basis of the values and principles articulated by the International Co-operative Alliance, and so provide a common identity for co-operatives, of all types, throughout the world today. By 1890, the efforts of ordinary men and women had forged a Movement of some 1,400 society's right across the length and breadth of the country, with even more in Europe and elsewhere throughout the world. However, during the last century, the Co-operative Movement has undergone many changes in order to meet the challenge posed by multiple retailers, including combining to create larger and more efficient organisations. Today, there are around 47 retail co-operative societies in the UK ranging in size from small 'one shop' societies to giants with sales of over £5 billion. The Movement still retains its original principles by being owned and democratically controlled by its members. It still uses its profits for the mutual and individual benefit of members and seeks to give its customers a fair deal. Societies also continue to provide a wide range of educational, social and cultural activities and are widely involved in the communities they serve.


Scope and content/abstract: Annual returns, 1937-67, sent by local Co-operative Societies in South Wales and the border counties (Western Section) to the movement's headquarters, Co-operative Union Ltd, Manchester. The returns give details of land owned by each local society, profits made, the numbers of employees and members, particulars of trading, investments, liabilities and assets, and commercial operations undertaken during the course of the year. In several cases copies of annual Reports and Balance Sheets and other papers are appended to the returns. The returns were accompanied by a box list which has been used as the basis for the present list.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement: The original order of the annual returns was preserved while cataloguing, with the names of the individual societies appearing in the list in broad chronological order.

Conditions governing access: Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to sign the 'Modern papers - data protection' form.

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright regulations apply.

Finding aids: A hard copy of the catalogue is available at the National Library of Wales in Minor Lists and Summeries, 1999, pp. 18-24. The catalogue can be accessed online.

Detailed catalogue


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information: All records have been retained.

Accruals: Accruals are not expected.

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition: Donated by the Co-operative Retail Services Ltd, Co-operative House, Oxford Street, Swansea, per Ms Susan Stockwell, Member Relations Officer, February 1998 and April and May 1998.



Note: Title supplied from contents of fonds.

Archivist's note: Compiled by J. Graham Jones for the ANW project. The following source was used in the compilation of this description: NLW, Minor Lists and Summaries, 1999, pp. 18-24.

Rules or conventions: This description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) second edition, AACR2, and LCSH.

Date(s) of descriptions: June 2006.

Cooperative societies | England | Gloucestershire
Cooperative societies | Wales
Cooperative societies | Wales, South

Personal names

Corporate names
Co-operative Union Ltd


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