A Short History of the Co-op in Coalville
The notion of setting up a co-operative society in Coalville was the idea of George Foster.
His father had been involved in the nearby Long Eaton Co-operative Society and he had first hand experience of what was needed. Time was spent setting out the plans and information was sought from nearby societies, the CWS and the Co-operative Union. They collected share capital of £45 and, following difficulties regarding obtaining stock, they opened their first store at a small cottage at the end of Melbourne Street on 16th June 1882. The first branch store was opened in October 1891 at Ellistown with the second one opened at Whitwick on 27 May 1892. The society progressed quickly and by the end of September 1892 the Society had a membership of 786. In January 1894 the Swannington branch was opened, in September 1895 the Ibstock branch and in November 1896 the Coalville East branch. In November 1898 a new bakery, stables and grocery warehouse was opened in Owen Street and in January 1899 a Tailoring department was approved. Further branches continued to be opened with Hugglescote branch in May 1902. In June 1902 a branch of the Women’s Guild was commenced, in May 1903 the Butchery Department was opened, in July 1904 the Ashby Road branch, in December 1904 the Thringstone branch and in February 1905 the Bagworth branch.
First World War
The First World War saw the society affected but despite this the Society continued to progress and they bought their first motor on 30th October 1913- a Belseize 21 HP. Further branches were opened at Desford on 3rd July 1915 and Belvoir Rd on 5th August 1916. In December 1918 the Society bought Elms Farm, Thringstone and in February 1919 Barrow Hill Lodge Farm. In December 1919 a further farm was bought- Stordon Grange Farm.
In August 1916 new premises on Belvoir Road were opened and these housed the drapery, boots, tailoring and outfitting, mantles and millinery departments.
In September 1920 Markfield Co-operative society transferred to Coalville Society and became a branch. This was followed by Ashby de la Zouch Co-operative Society transferring in August 1921. Further developments included Barlestone branch in February 1923, a Drug and Chemistry department in January 1927 and in August 1929 Newbold Verdon branch.
On the 10th May 1930 the newly built bakery and warehouse was opened on Baker Street.
In 1932 the Society celebrated it’s 50 year anniversary and each member’s child that attended the Children’s Gala was given a mug. A bronze tablet was also made that bore the names of pioneers of the Society.
By this time the Co-op occupied most of Marlborough Square with the various branches dotted around the square with the Co-op Hall sited on the north side. The building that is now BetFred’s was probably the first building they obtained. It was a speculative build intended to be a hotel, the Lion Hotel in fact. It was intended to have a stone lion over the main doorway. Sadly funds ran out before the project could be completed and the Co-op stepped in and bought the building eventually extending along the whole of the east side to become the ‘Central Premises’.
The heyday of the Society was probably the 1950s As a young child in the 1950s I remember going to the Highfield Street branch, just a house converted to a shop. Later a purpose built store was opened compete with an adjacent butchery. This was built on waste land adjacent to St. James church. As I got older every Saturday morning I would be sent off with the Order Book and a shopping bag to fetch the groceries. I never left, however, until I’d listened to Children’s’ Favourites with ‘Uncle Mac’.
The Co-op had their own milk delivery department, the depot and dairy was on Owen Street. Milk tokens, sort of tickets printed on stiff perforated paper, were bought at the branch and then however many tokens were left out for the milkman that’s how many pints of milk were left. Another childhood memory I have is of there being a ‘Co-op Show’ held in the milk depot, my only memory of it is being fascinated by a soap making machine!
Bread was delivered daily, the delivery man would call with a wicker basket full of various loaves and one could take one’s pick. I can also remember a Co-op butchery van and a Co-op wet fish van.
The Society continued to progress until in 1969 the decision was taken to merge with Leicester Co-operative Society, Melton Mowbray Industrial Co-operative Society and Market Harborough Industrial Co-operative Society to form Leicestershire Co-operative Society. This eventually was swallowed into the Central England Co-operative group.