Prior to 1844, the building at 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale, Lancashire was a warehouse, but the Pioneers needed premises from which to trade and obtained a three year lease for the ground floor for a rent £10 per year.
As money for refitting the premises as a shop was limited, the counter was made of wooden planks resting on large barrels and the bench for shoppers to sit on whilst waiting to be served was more planks set on smaller barrels.
The ‘store’, as the Co-operative was affectionately know as in the Rochdale area until the late 1900s, first opened for business on 21st December 1844, initially for two nights per week, selling four key items; butter, sugar, flour and oatmeal.
The Pioneers continued to trade from the Toad Lane premises until 1867, when they opened their new Central Premises, built at a cost of £13,500.
After the business transferred to the Central Premises, 31 Toad Lane was first used for storage and than, from 1868, as a tobacco factory. In 1870 the lease expired and the property passed into private hands and the tobacco factory was relocated to Milton Street.
In the 1920s the 31 Toad Lane was put up for sale. The co-operative movement, recognising the historical significance of the building, set up a special fund to raise sufficient money to purchase the building. Eventually, the building was bought by the Co-operative Union (now called Co-operativesUK) in 1925.
The store was opened as a Museum in 1931.
It was extensively restored and refurbished in the 1970s. The front ground floor room replicates the simplicity of the original Co-operative store of 1844. The Museum was closed for two years between 2010 and 2012 for a major development project to improve access, add an education and meeting space and renew the exhibitions. The Museum re-opened on 29 October 2012.