June 2023 Meeting

“Joseph Travis of Oldham, Grocer and Witness to Peterloo” and
“History of the Co-Op, Making a Difference ……..since
Two Talks by Anne Grimshaw on 14th June 2023

Anne Grimshaw gave us 2 excellent talks in her usual inimitable style, enlightening, informative and witty.

The first talk was about Joseph Travis, a grocer in Oldham. While researching one of her Rochdale ancestors, her 5x great uncle, Edmund Elson, born 1739, Anne found that he had left a will and named Joseph Travis as executor. Intrigued to find out who Joseph Travis was, Anne discovered he was a witness at the trial of Henry Hunt, the famous orator and radical speaker. Henry Hunt spoke at Peterloo on 16th August 1819 when 60,000 people gathered in peaceful demonstration for reform of the electoral system. He was arrested and armed cavalry attacked the crowd, killing 18 people and wounding 670. Joseph Travis had been assigned as a Special Constable to count the people going along the road to Manchester on that day. Anne had found a link to her ancestor, Edmund Elson, Henry Hunt and the shocking Peterloo massacre.

The second talk Anne gave was about the Co-Op which started in the “Hungry 1840s”. There was a potato famine in Europe and the industrial revolution caused a migration of people from rural areas to towns resulting in poverty, poor housing and high rents. Food was often adulterated, sawdust bulked out oats…

In 1844, a group of working men, the Rochdale Pioneers, got together to sell honest food at honest prices. They each saved £1 to rent a building in Toad Lane, Rochdale, and opened their first shop on 21st December 1844 at 8 o’clock in the evening. They sold 5 food items: butter, flour, sugar, oatmeal and candles. They pushed the goods by wheelbarrow from Manchester market. For their shop, they drew up a list of 7 Co-operative principles based on the values of Robert Owen, a Welsh textile manufacturer, philanthropist and social reformer. The Co-Op is owned by its members who have a say in how it is run. No credit was allowed to promote money management. Soon they had 74 members and 16 years later in 1860, they had 3,460 members. They bought 6 more stores and were able to buy in bulk to reduce prices. Each shop had a reading room where newspapers could be read out to raise literary standards. They organised speakers and looked after the welfare of employees. In 1907, they even set a minimum wage. Today there are 1 billion members.

On a local level today, the Co-Op in Long Melford has donated to the Long Melford Heritage Trust, which encourages youngsters to take an interest in history, join archaeological digs and bring the community together. Whenever you spend a £ at the Co-Op, you receive 2p and 2p goes to the local area to support the community. The pioneering, philanthropic spirit of the early Co-Op is still alive today.

Another meticulously researched and entertaining talk by Anne Grimshaw.

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