The past is all around us

Look only just a little below the surface – at least in this part of the north of England where I live – and there is plenty of evidence to find of the cooperative movement of yesteryear. There are the easy-to-recognise former cooperative stores, of course (one near here has a fine stone with Union is Strength carved just above the door), but there are also some slightly less obvious reminders as well.  I found out earlier this week that, in the late nineteenth century, it was the local cooperative society that had built the two small rows of terraced house a few hundred metres from my home. The streets’ names are Neale Street and Mitchell Street, and – having learned their history – I now realise that (of course!) they were named to commemorate two major cooperative leaders of the time, Edward Vansittart Neale (General Secretary of the Co-operative Union and ‘Mr Legal’ in relation to coop rules) and J.T.W. Mitchell, Chair of the Co-operative Wholesale Society for over thirty years. I’ve passed these streets innumerable times before without spotting the significance.

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