Rochdale is known as the birthplace of the modern co-operative movement, as it was here exactly 170 years ago, that the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society opened their store selling pure food at fair prices and honest weights and measures. This week, to mark this significant anniversary the Rochdale Pioneers Museum held a celebration event during which the store was lit by candlelight just as it was when the store opened on the 21st December 1844. Guests enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies on arrival in the candlelit store. Legend has it that it had to be lit by candles as the gas company refused to supply the Pioneers with gas!
Museum volunteers have worked hard to transcribe the Rochdale Pioneers’ original minute book from 1844 and presentations were given about some of the individual Pioneers based the minute books. Museum Manager Jenny Mabbott says ‘the matter of who the 28 Pioneers were is subject of much debate. The Museum has a list that we use but this is not definitive. Surprisingly the Pioneers never actually wrote down an official list of the 28, so the list we use has been compiled as a result of examining the recurrence of individuals name’s in sources such as the minute book and purchase book. It is a matter of great detective work.’
Later in the evening certificates and copies of the transcribed minute book were presented to Museum Volunteers Ray Jones, Neil Williams, Liesl Beckles, Barbara Thornley and Keith Underwood, to thank them for their hard work throughout the year. The evening concluded with guest enjoying a glass of Les Pionniers Champagne to toast to the Rochdale Pioneers!
A blog based on the minute book has been revealing what the Rochdale Pioneers did in their first year of operation from the first meeting held on 11 August 1844. You can find out more by visiting the blog.