If you were to name one English town which, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, led the way in terms of manufacturing co-operation (what we would now refer to as workers’ co-ops) it would probably be the Northamptonshire town of Kettering. The traditional boot and shoe production areas which included Northamptonshire as a whole as well as Leicester were the heartlands of productive co-operation.
Rather late in the day I’ve been told that the Kettering local museum The Manor House has a small temporary exhibition on the town’s links to co-operation. Late in the day, because the exhibition has been running since October and closes on Saturday. Still, who knows, you may have the chance to get to Kettering in the next 48 hours. Details here.
Having written All Our Own Work last year, the book on early productive cooperatives where the cooperative pioneer Joseph Greenwood was the central figure, I’ve been delighted to get an email through which tells me that his grave in Hebden Bridge’s Sandy Gate cemetery has been restored.
The gravestone had toppled over on to its front, leaving the grave unidentified. That’s now been remedied. My photo shows members of CROWS (Countryside Rights of Way Service), itself a cooperative, hard at work.
Joseph Greenwood is buried a very short distance from another important early co-operator, Jesse C. Gray. Gray, originally employed at the Hebden Bridge fustian cooperative, went on to become the Co-operative Union’s General Secretary at a key time in the movement’s development. His grave is marked by a marble monument funded by the movement.
Greenwood’s and Gray’s graves are included on an e-trail of radical and cooperative Hebden Bridge, available for downloading as a mobile phone app from http://www.pennineheritage.org.uk/Pennine-Trails. The trail is also available in booklet form from the local Tourist Information Centre.
I’ll be in Rochdale this Saturday, at the Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum in Toad Lane. The museum (in the Pioneers’ original grocery shop, of course) has recently had a complete make-over with much more space now available for temporary exhibitions.
And that’s why I’ll be there. The museum staff have organised an exhibition The Workers Who Ran Their Own Mill to link in with the publication of my book All Our Own Work, about the manufacturing cooperative in Hebden Bridge which during the later part of the nineteenth century was very much an exemplar of successful ‘productive cooperation’ (it was, in modern parlance, a workers’ cooperative).
The exhibition is being launched on Saturday afternoon, at 1pm-3pm, and all are welcome. You’ll find all the details here. (The museum is asking for an rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org to enable them to organise catering.)
And in the meantime I must get down to thinking about the short presentation I’ll be making as part of the event.
(Photo below: the mill the workers ran, as it is today)