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Article by John Langley 2006 with additions 2014

Burton Latimer Co-operative Society

Co-operative Society Committee - 1913
Burton Latimer Co-operative Society Committee 1913
Standing: G Linnell, S Mason, C P Grainger, D W Sturman,
C A Wilson. Seated: C Stokes, E Bailey, G Perkins



The Co-op was owned by residents of the town who were the shareholders; they had a sharebook and were issued with a number, often as a household rather than individuals.

When a purchase was made a small ticket was issued, on it was the amount spent and the customer’s share number, the top copy was given to the customer and the second copy went to the office, the dividend or “divi” as it was called was added to their account and it was paid to them every six months.

The Society was managed by a President with a committee whose members were residents of the town and the day-to-day running of the business was the responsibility of the General Secretary.

The Early Years

From the Northampton Mercury Sat December 24 1887: CO-OPERATION – A meeting was held in the National School-room on Friday 16th Inst., to take steps towards the formation of co-operative stores in the village, a deputation was present from Kettering consisting of Messrs. R.C. Wrigley, Ballard, and others. It was resolved that an effort be made towards a start, and a secretary, treasurer, and committee were appointed pro. tem.The meeting terminated with a vote of thanks to the deputation, and also to the Rector for the use of the room.

The Society was established in May 1888 and registered on 9th November 1888.

Signatures on an early set of rules - 1867

There is evidence that the Co-op was in existence in some form up to 20 years earlier, because a set of rules were drawn up at the formation of an earlier society, as can be seen from a document (left) dated April 1867 the original of which is held at the Public Record Office.

The members who signed this first set of rules were James B Mee, William Wittering, Henry Ayres, Joseph Hobbs, Charles Patrick, William Downing, Joseph Northern and Edward Eady, Secretary.

Obviously, this early society did not survive for the new society was formed twenty years later

It is not known where the first store was or in what form; Joseph Mason is listed in a directory in 1874 as store Manager and George Buckby in 1876. Research is ongoing and the following was found in the Northampton Mercury 28 April 1888


CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY - A general meeting of the members was held on Friday, April 20, in the National Schoolroom, (kindly lent). Mr. S. Mason was voted to the chair. Besides other business, the meeting unanimously elected Mr. Alfred Tailby, as storekeeper and salesman. The society have secured commodious premises near the Duke's Arms, and are expected to commence business in about a fortnight.

After registration at a committee meeting on 18th December 1888 the committee members were listed as follows.

Secretary:  Ted Freestone, Treasurer:William Freeman. Committee Members:  Lewis Mason, William Ball, Charles Stokes, Joseph Gale, William Reed, Joseph Eady and Jos Blaxley.

At the meeting held on 24th January 1889 Charles Stokes was elected President and the following proposals were made:

  • That each committee member would be paid 2d [two pennies] for each attendance.
  • That a bank account be opened with Northamptonshire Banking Ltd.
  • That they should join the Central Board of Co-operative Societies.

The meetings were held over the next two years at three different locations, the Parochial School rooms, the Boys School rooms and the Baptist School rooms.

On 19th September 1889 the Penny Bank was established.

From evidence found in the newspaper extract above it would appear that new premises were established next door to the Dukes Arms but in 1890 land was purchased from a Mrs. C Jolly, each of the committee members investing £100 towards the project, and new stores were built in Duke Street. They were opened on 30th July 1891 and from then onwards, until the new stores were built in the High Street, the committee meetings were held in the offices there.

Alfred Tailby first manager of the Duke Street store.
Alfred Tailby, first
manager at the Duke
Street Stores.

Alfred Tailby was the store manager during this period continuing into the 20th century. For the next few years there were several changes of officers until 1896 when Charles Stokes became General Secretary, a position he held until his death 1923.

Edward Bailey became President in 1899, and held the post until the early 1920s

The premises built in 1891 in Duke Street consisted of two shops fronting on the street. They consisted of a grocery and general goods shop on the left, and on the right, a drapery and furniture shop. The office was on the first floor above the grocery and drapery shops.

Burton Latimer Co-operatives Society's first store in Duke Street openeed in 1891
The first shop opened in 1891 by
Burton Latimer Co-operative Society in Duke Street

To the left of the grocery was the opening to the yard at the rear, large enough for the horse drawn drays [carts] that delivered the milk and bread to pass. On the left of the opening was the bakehouse, the entrance to this was at the side within the opening with windows on the street, there was an opening on the first floor with a hoist so that lorries delivering sacks of flour could reverse into the opening and it would be lifted and stored there. On entering the yard the butchers shop was on the right. At the top of the yard facing the entrance was the abattoir. To the right were the animal pens and to the left were the stables for the horses with space to park the drays. The Co-op also owned a field in Finedon Road, just to the south of the town, where the horses were kept when not stabled.

1913 - 1935

Newly opened High Street premises - 1913
The new premises, opened in 1913, Charles Stokes is standing extreme left.

In 1913, new shops were built in the High Street They consisted of two shops a drapery and a grocery with a cash office on the ground floor, and the main office on the first floor, John Eben Taylor’s house and cobbler’s shop were demolished to make way for this development. Charles Stokes was General Secretary until his death in 1923 and then Mr. Harry Baldwin took over. Also by then, Stephen Mason had become President.

In 1924 a furniture shop was added to the Duke Street premises and a new hall above the High Street shops opened, to be known as the Co-operative Hall.

In 1925, the building of Pioneer Avenue started on land owned by the Co-op. it was built in stages and was not completed until 1930 when the road was finished. All the houses were built with tenders from local builders from the town and surrounding area and were sold through the Co-op. Some of the land was purchased by the Urban District Council for council houses.

In 1929, a new butcher’s shop was built opposite the Central Stores on the corner of the recently built Pioneer Avenue and in 1931 Mr. Albert. A. Grove became General Secretary. 

Coal wagons at Burton Latimer Station - 1930s
Co-operative Society coal wagons at Burton Latimer station in the 1930s

To cater for its coal department, the Society rented a siding at Burton Latimer station and purchased five second-hand coal trucks which were used to collect coal from Gedling and Swanwick collieries to be delivered around the town.

In the mid 1930s Charles Loveday’s saddlers shop and two cottages were demolished and an extension was built to the left of the High Street shops and this became the drapery shop which was opened on Saturday February 29th 1936. Towards the end of the 1930s the Duke Street furniture shop was closed.

Co-op delivery vehicles in 1926. Wilf Ambler in the white overall.
Co-op delivery vehicles in 1926. On the left is Charles Loveday's
saddlers shop, demolished to make way for the store extension in 1935.

Pre and Post Second World War

During the 1939-1945 war, the left-hand side shop in Duke Street which had been the grocery became the British Restaurant and the Co-op transferred to the former furniture shop.

Edgar Watson

In 1946 Edgar Watson (left) became the Mutuality Agent, selling mutuality cheques. These were vouchers which were sold to the households at the door to save for more expensive items; they could also be purchased at the cash office

As well as being the Mutuality Agent, Edgar Watson also became the insurance agent for the Co-operative Insurance Society [C.I.S] in 1952 until he retired in 1964.

The late 1940s to the end of the 1960s saw a period of change and expansion. There were closures in Duke Street, but elsewhere a large increase in amounts and types of trade with new building and the purchase of other businesses, which peaked in the 1960s.

By 1950, he hardware shop which had been owned by A.J. Wittering for more than 30 had been purchased and became the Co-op Hardware Dept. In 1957 the large garage on the right of the entrance to the yard at the High Street Central Stores was converted to an open-fronted wet fish and greengrocery shop, the sliding door was retained to secure the shop when closed.

In 1950, two electric battery powered mobile grocery shops were purchased. They were large vehicles, almost the size of a single deck bus, their battery pack weighed about 8 tons and when fully loaded they probably weighed as much as 15 tons. They traded around nearby villages and Barton Seagrave.

The tobacconist shop owned by Alf Coles adjacent to the main store became the Electrical Department when Alf retired c1953. This allowed a full range of electrical goods to be sold. Previously televisions had been sold from the furnishing department.

The 1950s grocery and butchery store.
The new grocery and butchery store
built in the High Street in the 1950s

Between 1952 and 1954 a new grocery and butchery store was built in the High Street and at about the same time the grocery shop in Duke Street was closed.

In 1955 and 1956 the abattoir in Duke Street was closed and the bakery ceased baking. The bread was now supplied by the Northampton Federal Bakery which delivered to the bakehouse. The butchers shop here was closed; the animal pens were converted to a garage where the four vans were kept, by now these were one battery powered bread van and three Morris Commercial J1 vans. The last horse was retired and all the milk delivery was now done with two battery powered floats, which were about the size of a small van, the milkman walked in front, control was similar to a motorcycle with a twist speed grip with a long handle which, when released, applied the brake and switched off the power. When these first appeared a number of the elderly residents in the town commented that “the Co-op was cruel to make those poor men pull those heavy trucks!"                                                

In 1956, alterations were made to the electrical shop when it was combined with the two remaining cottages on either side, the one on the right was already a furniture showroom and it all became the furniture shop. The electrical shop moved to the previous furniture shop.

In 1957 the retirement took place of Miss Eva Stokes who had worked at the Co-op for 45 years, having started at the age of 15 as its first office-girl when her father, Charles Stokes, was its Secretary/Manager. Click here for a newspaper report about her retirement.

The Years of Expansion

On the 28th July 1958 Mr. A. A. Grove retired and Mr. B. J. H. Waller became General Secretary and for the next few years until the early 1960s the expansion peaked

The only chemists shop in the town, Bennett’s 102 High Street, was purchased.

Two new grocery branch shops in nearby Barton Seagrave were built, one in Gotch Road and one in Belvoir Drive, the two mobile grocery shops were sold and their operators became the branch managers of these two shops

Masons Garage in the High Street was purchased so now the Co-op could offer petrol and car sales and repairs as well as to their own vehicles, which had been serviced there by the Mason family.

A second garage, Broughton Motors, situated on the A43 between Kettering and Northampton was also purchased which was a similar business.

So the Co-op could now supply almost everything a household needed and over a wider area and, if requested, there was free delivery of anything in the shops.

Road widening in 1961 showing the row of shops later to be part of the Co-op.
Above: The shops later to be incorporated in the new department store.

Below: The extended store in 1969 showing the various departments.
1969 photograph of the extended Co-op store.

In 1969 the whole of the interior of the Central Store from the Hardware to the Electrical Departments was opened up and made into one large Department Store. It was officially opened by Jimmy Perry the co-writer of ‘Dad's Army’ who had served with Mr. Waller in the R.A.F. Mr. Waller retired c 1976 and Mr. D. F. Mawby became General Secretary.

In 1979, 100 High Street, the shop to the right of the chemist’s shop was purchased and combined with the existing shop to double the size of the chemists.

The Beginning of the End

In 1982 the Society was merged with the South Midlands Co-op and during the next 10 years all the shops and businesses formally owned by the Burton Latimer Co-op were closed or sold. The main Central High Street Store was closed on the 1st March 1989 and demolished in 1990.The staff and non food business on a smaller scale was transferred across the road to a much smaller shop 34 High Street, which  opened on 2nd March did not last very long and closed on 5thJanuary 1991. Not long afterwards came the closure of the Society’s last shop, the grocery and butchery at 116 High Street.

Carol Bewers opening the re-located Co-op store in 1989
Opening the re-located Co-op store in 1989. Left to right:
Margaret Marshall, Debbie Kelly, Heather Smith, Stephen
Bryce, Mary Lyon, Barbara Marriott, Rita Edwards, Ray
Boucher,South Midlands Co-op and Carol Bewers,manageress.

In conclusion, from its beginnings in the 19th century, Burton Latimer Co-operative and Industrial Society gradually increased its business in the 20th century especially the rapid expansion from the mid 1950s to the end of the ‘60s when it dominated all areas of retailing in the town. Then, in the 1980s, it suffered an equally rapid decline until now, at the beginning of the 21st century, there is no trace that it had ever existed. Over one hundred years of retail history gone for ever!

There is little doubt that the main cause of the decline along with thousands of small traders was the increasing domination of the major supermarkets, out of town shopping centres and motorcar ownership.

A final word about the fate of all its properties and their status in 2006.

The High Street Central Stores, the grocery and butchery at 116 High Street and Broughton Motors have been demolished and replaced with residential housing. The wet fish/greengrocery building is an estate agent’s office and the Pioneer Avenue corner butchery is a take-away. In Duke Street, the original grocery, furnishing and office have been converted to residential flats and the butchers, bakery and abattoir are used by small businesses. The site of car showroom and filling station is now occupied by a Budgens Supermarket and second-hand car business. The Chemists is a Lloyds Pharmacy. Of the two shops in Barton Seagrave, one is a small Budgens Supermarket and the other is a Children’s Day Nursery.


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