In 1844 a group of twenty-eight artisans in Rochdale, near Manchester, established the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. While not the first co-operative in England, the Rochdale Pioneers set out a set of principles by which they hoped to avoid the problems of earlier such schemes and which formed the basis for the modern co-operative movement. In October 1844 they drew up these democratic secular principles in Laws and Objects of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, summarising them as follows:

The objects and plans of this Society are to form arrangements for the pecuniary benefit, and the improvement of the social and domestic condition of its members, by raising a sufficient amount of capital in shares of one pound each, to bring into operation the following plans and arrangements.

The establishment of a store for the sale of provision and clothing, &c.

The building, purchasing or erecting a number of houses, in which those members desiring to assist each other in improving their domestic and social condition may reside.

To commence the manufacture of such articles as the society may determine upon, for the employment of such members as may be without employment, or who may be suffering in consequence of repeated reductions in their wages.

As a further benefit and security to the members of this society. the society shall purchase or rent an estate or estates of land, which shall be cultivated by the members who may be out of employment, or whose labour may be badly remunerated.

That as soon as practicable, this society shall proceed to arrange the powers of production, distribution, education, and government, or in other words to establish a self-supporting home-colony or united interests, or assist other societies in establishing such colonies.

That for the promotion of sobriety a Temperance Hotel be opened in one of the society’s houses, as soon as convenient.

Eventually they raised £28 capital and on 21st December 1844, they opened their first store on Toad Street (now the Rochdale Pioneers Museum) to sell a meagre selection of goods including butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal and candles. They soon expanded their stock to include tea and tobacco. While they did not achieve all their goals, the Pioneers store was a model that many other followed inspiring a co-operative movement of over 1,000 stores within a decade.
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