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Swansea University
Co-operative Societies in South Wales

Reference code(s): GB 0217 SWCC : MNC/COP

Held at: Swansea University

Title: Co-operative Societies in South Wales

Short Title: Co-operative Societies in South Wales

Creation date(s): 1908-1986

Level of description: fonds

Extent: 140 volumes, 7 files, 1 bundle and 1 envelope

Name of creator(s):


Administrative/Biographical history: The modern co-operative movement evolved from the activities of the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844. The basic idea was that each co-operative would run a shop which sold local produce and that each member of the co-operative had shares in the shop. The manufacturing of goods to sell would also provide employment for the co-operative's members. Co-operatives were not just economic in nature; there was also a social dimension. They could help members improve their conditions and create a sense of community. Co-operative societies were owned and regulated by their members and customers.
The Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited united all the individual co-operatives in a federation for the wholesale buying and manufacturing of goods. The North of England Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited was created in 1864 and the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited in 1868. In 1872 the `North of England' was dropped from the title of the organisation and the Co-operative Wholesale Society represented the whole of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland with its base in Manchester. It merged with the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society in 1973. The co-operatives became involved in a wide range of activities from printing and publishing to agriculture and piano manufacture. By the 1950's there were approximately 10 million 'co-operators' in the United Kingdom.
The Co-operative Union Limited is a federation of co-operative societies including the Co-operative Wholesale Society and other co-operative bodies in the British Isles. It functions as a governing and advisory body, defining co-operative practice and spreading information throughout the co-operative world. It was established in 1869.
In 1934 the CWS Retail Co-operative Society Limited was set up with the purpose of establishing co-operatives in areas previously without them and for taking over societies which were experiencing difficulties due to adverse economic circumstances. In 1957 it was renamed Co-operative Retail Services Limited.
In 1883 the Womens Co-operative Guild was created. At first it was called the Women's League for the spread of Co-operation. The Women's Co-operative Guild was set up to spread information on the purpose of co-operatives and their value to the community and the nation as a whole; it also promoted women and improved their standing in society.


Scope and content/abstract: The material housed at the University of Wales, Swansea mainly consists of the records of co-operative societies located in the mining districts of the South Wales region of the Co-operative Union Limited and includes minute books, financial records and administrative records. In addition the archive also contains periodicals, bulletins and other printed material published by the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited and the Co-operative Union Limited and intended for the co-operative movement as a whole.


Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access: Accessible to all researchers by appointment. Please note that some collections contain sensitive information and access may be restricted.

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright regulations apply

Finding aids:

Language codes: eng


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:



Rules or conventions: Created following ISAD(G) and Archives Hub Data Creation Guidelines

Date(s) of descriptions: Prior to 16-11-2004

Community life | Wales
Cooperative societies | Wales, South
Mining districts | Wales, South | History
Stores, retail
Wholesale trade | Great Britain
Women in cooperative societies

Personal names

Corporate names
CWS Retail Co-operative Society
Co-operative Retail Services Limited
Co-operative Union Ltd
Co-operative Wholesale Society (Great Britain)
North of England Wholesale Co-operative Society
Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society
Women's Co-operative Guild
Women's League for the Spread of Co-operation


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