Welcome to the Rochdale Pioneers Museum online guide. We hope that you find the following information useful if you decide to visit us in the future. The front of the Rochdale Pioneers Museum has become an iconic symbol of not only Rochdale, but of the co-operative movement as a whole. It is an image that appears in many different countries, on a variety of memorabilia and is depicted in a number of historical books. It represents the humble beginnings of the co-operative movement. Our journey begins here, at number 31 Toad Lane. Enter through the green door below the ‘STORE’ sign…
As you enter the front room, the counter space is on the left. When the Pioneers first opened up their original co-operative shop, they spent as little money on furniture as possible. One Pioneer, James Daly was a joiner who built the basic furniture the store needed using recycled materials.
The pioneers’ first shop keeper, Sam Ashworth would have stood behind that very same counter, on the opening night of 21 December 1844. The Pioneers sold only sugar, butter, oatmeal and flour. We have done our best to preserve this room as it might have looked.
The desk in the corner of the room would have been where William Cooper, the society’s first cashier sat. After customers were served by Sam at the food counter, they would walk over to William so that they could pay. William and Sam were the youngest of the pioneers and volunteered to work at the shop without pay for three months. They both went on to become not only prominent members of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, but of the co-operative movement as a whole – helping to set up the Co-operative Wholesale Society in Manchester.
The ground floor of the building is an introductory gallery about the development of the co-operative in Rochdale and its growth elsewhere. Objects reflect the early efforts of co-operatives, important co-operative figureheads, the Rochdale Pioneers and their legacy.
We have a small shop on the ground floor selling of co-operative souvenirs, gifts, books and memorabilia. A limited range of items are available in the online shop here.
The access tower was installed in 2012 as part of the restoration of the original building to provide a staircase and lift to the first and second floors.
The first floor houses a temporary exhibition space as well as accessible toilets and baby changing facilities.
Our first floor display cases are one of the museums most impressive units.
They stand 15 feet tall and contain some of our heavier artefacts, such as bikes, radios, magic lanterns, shields and plaques.
The second floor is known as the Learning Loft and is often used for meetings, lectures, workshops and education. The Rochdale Pioneers included a reading room once they gained full control of 31 Toad Lane. Education was a vital aspect of the movement and its followers who wanted to teach those who were not able to get a classical education elsewhere by providing a library and a place to meet.
If you would like to hire the space for events or meetings please contact us at [email protected] for availability and rates.
The Learning Loft also functions as a cinema screening room for visitors to enjoy a range of vintage co-op films. We have a shopping play area which can be used by school groups and families.
We aspire to bring the values and ethics of the Rochdale Pioneers original co-operative principles to all our visitors and we hope that you manage to take the time to visit us at the museum in the future. We welcome visitors of all ages and abilities and can provide guided tours and workshops for groups and schools. To book a tour or workshop, please click here or drop in between the hours of 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Tuesday to Saturday and ask one of our members of staff for further details. We hope to see you soon!