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Desborough Industrial & Provident Co-operative Society Ltd

Jubilee Souvenir, 1863-1913

The following is a transcription of the Jubilee Souvenir book published by the Desborough Industrial & Provident Co-operative Society Ltd. Click on any image for a larger version (in a second window), although the quality of the originals and of the original printing means that it has not been possible to make all the enlargements very clear.

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Toll Bar
Adapted sketch of Toll-Bar


In the compilation of this brief History it has been our endeavour to record events that have taken place from time to time during the Society's inauguration and progress to the present day. Our aim has been to make it interesting to all: to the old, in the hope that they will be filled with pride that their early efforts have been so fruitfully crowned with success ; to the younger generation, in the hope that they will be prompted to study the principles and ideals of the movement; and to the members generally, that they may more readily realise their responsibilities, and give whole-hearted support to their business establishments, and in other ways obtain the best advantages from united action, striving to educate and uplift the people to a more equitable distribution of the nation's wealth. Very few authentic records of the first twenty years of the Society's existence being available, we have had to rely mainly upon many of the older members for information.

R. M. Sanders.
Chris. Marlow.
Jesse Marlow.





Compiled by Messrs. R. M. Sanders
C. Marlow, and J. Marlow.



IN presenting this History the Management Committee desire to gratefully acknowledge their indebtedness to the compilers, to those friends who have helped in any way, and to Mr. Howard Marlow, who favoured us by preparing a special title and contents page, also sketch of the Tithe Barn, &c.

For the Committee,

George Marlow,  President

June 13th, 1913.

A Centre of Co-operation and Industry

JUST south of the present town of Desborough, on the north side of the valley of the Ise, Celt, Saxon, and Roman relics from time to time have been unearthed. It appears from such evidence that both Saxons and Romans settled here. The earliest written records, however, are those relating to the Desborough Manor at the time of the Conqueror's survey. They state that Robert de Todeni, to whom Hugh was under-tenant, held half a hide of the Crown, Ambrose held one hide and one virgate of William Peverell, and Alan one virgate of the Earl of Morton, the Earl of Morton being half-brother to William the Conqueror. The whole of the lordship, including a mill of the yearly rental of 2s., was valued at 65s.

The next record states that in the reign of Edward II., about 1315, the prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, . . . Burdon, Nicholas Latymer, and John de Hotot were lords of Desborough. For many generations the principal estates remained in the possession of the Burdon and Latymer families, when they passed through the Holt family to the family of Pulton. About a century and a half ago the manor, with the greater part of the lordship, was still held by the Pulton family, who inherited their estate here for fourteen successive descents. After the Pultons Mrs. Wyse came into possession of the manor estate, and up to the middle of last century enjoyed all the manorial privileges. It then passed into the hands of the Clarke-Thornhill family, who held it until 1898, when it came into the market. The Co-operative Society purchased it for the sum of £16,000. The ownership of this estate carried with it the right of presenting the living of the parish church, but the Society, having no desire to dictate to the churchmen what sort of vicar they should have, relinquished the right of presentation to the bishop of the diocese.


The old town dates its origin from very ancient times, and is situated on the main road from London and Kettering to the north. Its main, or High Street, has a very pleasant aspect, it being rich in quaint old inns — rambling structures that recall " the good old days " of coaching times. This street in times past, near the stone cross, was graced with an old toll-bar and wooden stocks. And on the site of the Co-operative Society's butchery premises stood the old " lock-up " and "pound." With its many architectural features and grotesque gargoyles there stands at the southern end of High Street the beautiful parish church of St. Giles. Its splendid symmetrical steeple can be seen for many miles around. This church, which is said to have been built about 1250, is constructed of Weldon grey stone—a stone which is a familiar feature in architectural work in this district. Amongst other buildings that may be mentioned as being worthy of note are the Baptist Church, Congregational Church, Wesleyan Church, the Oddfellows' Hall, and the beautiful suite of council schools erected for the town by the old School Board.

Old Map of Desborough Parish

Map Showing in Black Area of Land belonging to Society


Industrial History.

During all the changes and upheavals of the Middle Ages Desborough made little or no industrial progress. Generation after generation ploughed and sowed, gathered in the harvest, and tended cattle. This monotonous existence continued until the industrial awakening of England at the beginning of the last century, when Desborough became a centre for the silk plush trade. Worsted waistcoat weaving was also carried on at 53 to 57, High Street, these cottages being a factory at that time. Then there was a considerable trade done in gentlemen's waistcoat embroidery, followed by lace embroidery for women. These industries, however, gradually died out. Coloured plush waistcoats were very fashionable at one time, but fashions change, and this did, and 500 plush weavers are said to have been thrown out of employment in Desborough. The ordinary handloom weaving was effectually killed by the invention of the power-loom. Manufacturers in the North of England, by adopting the new methods of weaving, soon captured all the trade from the handloom weavers in the villages. William Burditt appears to have been the last weaver to carry on his trade in Desborough. He worked his loom in a now extinct house near 37, Gold Street.

When the weaving trade left Desborough industrial conditions were very bad until the opening of the Midland Railway in the early sixties. Desborough then rose to a new era of activity, the boot and shoe industry being then established. And it is from this period that the town has made such great progress.

Social and Industrial.

The town of Desborough has not come prominently into notice in everyday affairs. Hidden away in the north of Northamptonshire, it has done very little to make itself nationally known. Yet, from both a business and a social standpoint, the town is worthy of notice. Desborough is governed by an urban council, the area of whose administration comprises some 2,240 acres, with a population of 4,300. The cost of administration is comparatively small for a newly-developed district. From a residential and social standpoint Desborough has many advantages. The air is very bracing, and the death-rate is low. The locality is considered a very healthy one, and being situated between four hundred and five hundred feet above the sea level, with the country around hilly and well wooded, Desborough is in the midst of some of the most delightful pastoral scenery to be found. It possesses a very valuable water supply, derived from the oolitic water-bearing strata known as the Northamptonshire sand. The water is drawn from large areas north and east of the town, pumped into a reservoir, and supplied to the town by gravitation.

The town as a manufacturing centre is well situated, land being plentiful and cheap, and railway communication with London and the North being both easy and quick. Desborough is 81 miles from London and 20 miles from Leicester, whilst Birmingham, Rugby, Nottingham, and Northampton are all within easy distance.

Old handloom weaver
Old Handloom Weaver

Site of old Pound and Lockup

Amongst the commercial concerns flourishing here, perhaps it will not be thought too presumptuous if first mention is made of the Co-operative Society. So many and varied are its agencies that we give a list of its different departments:—Land and Houses, Savings Bank, Grocery, Drapery, Clothing, Boots, Millinery, Hardware, Furniture, Confectionery, Bakery, Butchery, Farming and Grazing, Dairy, Brick and Tile Making, Iron-ore Quarrying, and Coal Distributive Department. There is also a Copartnership Boot Manufacturing Society known as the "Crompton Boot Manufacturers Limited," and the Co-operative Wholesale Society have their Corset Factory established here. Private enterprise is represented by the boot and shoe industry and iron-ore mining. Perhaps the most apparent sign of the prosperity of this town is the "well-to-do" appearance of the working-class section of the population, and the considerable stake they have in the district as landowners. Nearly every male adult possesses an allotment or small holding, having bought and paid for them through the Co-operative Society's land purchase scheme, a scheme by means of which the working men of Desborough have been able to acquire a position the like of which few similar communities have excelled. This Co-operative scheme has covered other areas with houses to be let or sold on easy terms to its members. And in addition to this the Society builds houses according to the members' requirements; thus a good house is obtainable at the lowest market value.

Last, but not least, of this Society's enterprises was the acquiring of the Manor Estate, Church Farm Estate, Loatland Wood Estate, and the Thorpe Underwood Estate, amounting in all to the total of 1,100 acres. A small portion of the above is let to a local farmer, but all the other is being developed in the interests of the Society. Farming operations, iron-ore quarrying, and brickmaking are all being carried on ; whilst large portions are laid out from time to time, as the demand arises, into building lands with gardens.


The district around Desborough is rich in historical and antiquarian interest.

Desborough is near to the centre of Cromwell's operations, and large bodies of Roundheads bivouacked near here. It was from Market Harborough, five miles distant, that Cromwell dated his letter to Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons, with an account of the engagement at Naseby. Naseby Plain is really a plateau or table-land, from whence one obtains an extensive view which comprises some forty churches, while the rivers Avon, Welland, and Nen each have springs in the vicinity. The village of Naseby occupies the highest ground in Northamptonshire. The obelisk which stands on the highest part of Naseby Plain bears one of those moralising inscriptions which were so popular early in the last century:—"A useful lesson to British Kings, never to exceed the bounds of their just prerogative; and to British subjects, never to swerve from the allegiance due to the legitimate monarch." The area of Naseby Plain is about 3,376 acres. Up to the year 1822 this was a bare expanse of heath without tree or hedge, but since the Act of Enclosure this sterile aspect has been considerably mitigated, and the Plain is now a thriving agricultural village, the greater part of which is owned by Lord Annaly, who is also the fortunate possessor of the historic Holmby House.

Old Cross
Old Cross
St Giles Church
Desborough Church from Rothwell Road

Previously to the battle Fairfax was encamped near Borough Hill, while the King's headquarters were at Market Harborough, and his rearguard at Naseby. In a skirmish Ireton attacked Naseby and drove off the Royalists. On the fatal morning of June 14th, 1645, Fairfax advanced from Guilsborough and made his rendezvous at Naseby by five in the morning. Soon afterwards great bodies of the Royal Horse were seen on the top of the hill towards Harborough. Fairfax drew up his army in a fallow field on the north-west side of Naseby field, flanked by a hedge. This movement of retirement brought out the Royalists in battle array. The numbers engaged on either side were about equal, but Charles' army excelled vastly in seasoned officers. After the battle the Royalists were pursued almost to Leicester, and 5,000 of the retreating force were taken prisoners. The unfortunate King escaped to Leicester, thence across Charnwood Forest, the blue hills of which form a delightful view to the north of the historic battlefield, thence to Ashby-de-la-Zouch into Wales.

Among the objects of interest discernible from Naseby field are the remains of the great mansion of Holdenby or Holmby, erected by Sir Christopher Hatton, which served first as a palace and, later, as a prison for Charles. In the opposite direction are the Borough Hills, an ancient British stronghold, called, by Tacitus Benvenna, equivalent to Ben-Avon, or the head of Avon. More northward at a like distance stands Lutterworth Church, wherein is still preserved the pulpit whence Wycliffe uttered his denunciations. West of this, but hardly visible, is the High Cross, another obelisk with an inscription concerning the intersection at this point of two great Roman roads, and also one of Claudius,- who "had a camp toward the street, and toward the fosse a tomb." In the old days the advocates of the divine right of kings ascribed the sterility of Naseby field to a curse from heaven, on account of the share which the field bore in the discomfiture of Charles ; the actual cause being doubtless the interment of the 6,000 slain men beneath it. Naseby has a remote relation to Shakespeare, for the Warwickshire Avon, which he knew so well, rises at the Avon-well, opposite the Church. Some time back the lord of the manor formed a handsome basin for the spring, and over it placed a stone swan. Our Ise also rises in Naseby parish.

Within two miles of Desborough is the pretty, little town of Rothwell, which possesses a curious old market house, built by Sir Thomas Tresham, who lived at Rushton Hall, about three miles distant. The quaint old structure was left unfinished, and remained so until recently, when it was completed by the local Council.

Decorative image

High St
High Street
Tithe Barn
Old Tithe Barn

History of the Society

It was during the latter part of the decade commencing 1850 that Co-operation, in the form of Distributive Societies, made rapid headway in the Midlands. The artisans of Desborough were weavers at this period. The message of Co-operation was brought to them from Leicester and Market Harborough. A fervent missionary named Mr. John Jarman also expounded its principles in their midst. He came from the small village of Clipstone, a remote village which has reared more than one genius, notably the Jarman who worshipped at the shrine of Orpheus. It was the day of the village choir, a day associated in our minds with the names of Burditt, Aprice, Foster, and Freer, as well as that of Jarman, who became a composer of good repute.

The silk plush and velvet weavers at that time in Desborough were a very clean, healthy, and intelligent class of artisans. It was amongst these men that the first seeds of collective effort were sown, and the sapling which was eventually to develop into such sturdy growth, and bear such wonderful fruit, first took root.

At this time the industry of lace-making was introduced through the agencies and representatives of manufacturing firms from Leicester and Northampton. These agents amassed fortunes by means of an unhealthy, slavish system known as the truck system. The agents took advantage of their positions as agents. They gave out work to the weavers and lace-makers on the understanding that the money thus earned should be spent at their own particular shops, for the agent was usually a small private trader, such as a grocer and general dealer. This method led to serious abuses. The craftsman became no longer a man of real liberty; his independent purchasing power was lost, and he soon found himself bound hand and foot in the fetters of debt and other obligations to the wily parasite of a shopkeeper. For his skilled work he received goods, not wages. When the finished work was taken in, the "trucksters" paid him with second-rate groceries ; he rarely received money in payment.

But a few men were beginning to think. The work of the Co-operative missionaries began to show some result. Meetings were held at the Cross, and the ethics of Co-operation pointed the way to a system free from the thraldom of debt. Following out the fundamental idea of Co-operation, a few of the thinking men soon perceived that it would be greatly to their benefit to concentrate their purchasing power and to take collective action for the supply of the necessaries of life. The grocer "truckster," of course, ridiculed the idea of starting a Co-operative Society. His negative arguments fortunately were of no avail. The small group of pioneers were in earnest. One of our old members tells, with a merry twinkle in his eye, of how he borrowed £1 from the neighbouring grocer to join in the "ridiculous" venture, but not telling him for what purpose he desired such a magnificent loan.

Original Shop, 48 High Street

Original No.1 Member (Edward Coe)
Original Committee and First Storekeeper
William Fenton,
John Coe, John Leago,
Mrs Ann Marlow (wife of Mr R Marlow, first Storekeeper),
Samuel Ginns, Charles Allen,
Reuben Coe
Past Treasurers of Society

John Leago (First Treasurer),
William Burditt, James Feakin

It was the custom amongst these weavers and the agricultural labourers to procure goods from the grocer and baker one week over another, paying for the previous week's supply and taking the current week's goods on "tick," being always a week behindhand, always in debt, always fettered to the yoke so easily and craftily hung about them by the wily traders, who at this early stage posed as persons of "light and leading." However, these "superiors" did not hesitate to corner goods, such as flour, &c., when opportunity served.

One of our old members tells of how he was fettered in this way by "strap; " how he longed to be free and join the Store, but he could not, he having a wife and eight children, and being in debt at the "white-haired, beneficent grocer's." A farm labourer friend, however, named John Ginns, who lived at Kilborn's Lodge, generously drew his accumulated dividend out of the Society, and lent it to our friend to pay off scores and become a free man, helping himself and helping others in the practical scheme of trading as the Society had now set up.


So in the year 1863 meetings were held by the weavers in Mr. Riley's room, and ultimately, at the final meeting in the large room at the Talbot Hotel, 28 members were enrolled, £28 capital subscribed, and a Committee formed. Officers were appointed pro tem, as follows: John Coe, junr., Charles Allen, John Leago, Samuel Ginns, William Fenton, Reuben Coe, and Robert Marlow, members of first Committee. John Leago was first Treasurer; Henry Marlow the first Secretary, and Robert Marlow was appointed the first Storekeeper. Goods were purchased and sold in the little cottage now known as No. 48, High Street.

The Society was launched at last, and the step then taken has been amply justified. To these pioneers, who banded together in such a brave and independent manner, no small share of the success and prosperity of the movement is due.


The Society was registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act on September 4th, 1865. Fortunately the writer was able to obtain sight of some old written balance sheets, through the courtesy of Mrs. William Allen. They show that in 1867 the membership was 72, and the trade for the year amounted to £1,208. Dividend was 1s. 8d. in the £, and the capital was £134. In 1873 the membership increased to 91, trade went up to £2,000, dividend was paid at the rate of 1s. 2d. in the £, while the capital was £208, and the reserve fund £12.

About this period the thoughts of Co-operators up and down the country were devoted to amalgamation, believing unity to be strength, with the result that the Desborough Society early became affiliated with the federation known as the Co-operative Wholesale Society. This step has never been regretted.


Until the year 1878 the business of the Society had been conducted first at the original shop, No. 48, High Street, and then at a shop opposite the Talbot Inn, No. 75, High Street. From there a removal was made to No. I, High Street, where an increasing business was transacted. In 1878 a bold step was taken, the present High Street premises being purchased from Mr. John Ginns, baker, and a commodious and convenient extension was thrown out fronting the High Street. Here a Grocery Department was conducted, and some years later the furnishing shop and a house for the Storekeeper were added.

Henry Marlow
First Secretary, 1863

William Allen
Past Secretary (until 1866)

At this period the Society could not boast of a Butchery Department, but during part of the time meat was sold by the Society through the agency of a Mr. Ross from Leicester. He retailed the meat from his cart while on the way to Kettering Market.

Mr. John Coe, who has already been mentioned, bought the first two live pigs for the Society, and he drove the pigs himself from Kettering Market. The pigs were killed and dressed by Mr. Richard Coe, and retailed to the members at the shop. No. 67, High Street.


In 1882 sufficient confidence was established to enable the Society to commence the sale of meat on a proper basis. The business was conducted at No. 109, High Street. A butcher named- R. H. Ward was engaged to carry out the required duties.

During the same year a site was purchased at the corner of King Street and Rushton Road. On this site No. 2 Store now stands. At this time the development of the Society was rapid and continuous, and additions and building accommodations were constantly carried out. A glance at the following figures will amply demonstrate this fact.


In this year the membership numbered 230, trade amounted to £8,000, and dividend was 2s. 6d. in the £, while capital stood at £1,706, and the reserve fund at £111. In the following year it was felt necessary that the Society should supply coal. Arrangements were accordingly made with the agents of private merchants, and the members were able to supply themselves with coal.

In the same year the missionary spirit imbued the Committee and the responsible officials with a desire for representation at the Annual Congress. A delegate was sent to the Congress at Derby in the person of Mr. William Allen, and the local movement undoubtedly received a stimulus from its first contact with the great national movement.


The first District Conference was held at Desborough in the year 1884.


Having found that the supplying of the necessities of life could be carried out successfully, the members at this time expressed a desire for the further development and expansion of useful activities in other directions. In 1885 the No. I Allotment Estate was purchased, at £57. 10s. per acre. This estate has been successfully developed as an allotment and garden area. Every inch has been bought and honourably paid for by the members. This estate has now become very fruitful, besides being one of the beauty spots of the neighbourhood. To a townsman's eyes it is a real Garden of Eden.

During the same year the Penny Bank was started. This was founded to afford suitable facilities for the convenience of small savings depositors. The sum of £100 was deposited in the first year.


The year 1886 was an anxious time with the members of the now rapidly-growing Society. The No. 2 Store was built, and it was with no little amount of trepidation that the Committee built a Store at the east end of the town. They feared that the building of cottage property would not keep pace with the requirements of such a commodious Store. These fears proved to be unfounded, and a successful Store has been run there ever since. At this time No. 50, High Street was purchased in order to accommodate the butchery trade, which was developing rapidly, and a removal was made from No. 109. Here Mr. Thomas Liner took charge.

Premises after the fire, 1891

Number 1 Stores

King Street Branch

Drapery and Clothing Departments


During this year the true spirit of Co-operation made itself evident in the new attitude the members adopted towards their coal trade. They considered the selling of coal through private purchase to be anti-co-operative, and decided to buy coal for the Society direct from the colliery. This was a good step forward, and the sustained success which has been evidenced by the Coal Department has quite justified the action then taken.


In 1889 the Society arrived at its twenty-fifth anniversary, and in looking back upon its humble beginnings and, early struggles, everyone interested felt that the Society had given a good reason for its existence and had amply demonstrated its practical usefulness.


It had now been proved that the Society could act as successful traders in food and other necessities of life, and the experimental first land purchase had brought increased prosperity. In 1890 it was deemed essential that the Society should turn its attention to the housing of its members. Twenty cottages were accordingly erected in Union Street, and have been sold to members on the easy terms of 4s. 6d. per week. We believe that the cottage owners who live there now thoroughly appreciate the first attempt the Society made in building comfortable cottages.

In this year the present educational fund was founded, and £5 was apportioned from the profits to form the nucleus of a fund for future propaganda work. How far this has been usefully employed and effectively rendered we leave it for our members to ponder over. A branch of the Women's Co-operative Guild was started, and an attempt was also made to form a Junior Guild. This praiseworthy project died an early death, unfortunately. It could not continue owing to lack of helpers. This is very much to be deplored, as at present the social side of our movement is somewhat neglected. If only the young society could have lived, and if only we could have continued our activities amongst the children right onwards from its foundation, we should doubtless by now have had amongst us many more sturdy and vigorous enthusiasts for the cause of Co-operation as we know it, actuated by keen loyalty to its principles of justice and equity. At this time the Society sustained a serious blow. The premises of No. 2 Stores were practically all destroyed by fire.


In 1891 our second suite of offices were erected.


The membership reached 548 at the end of this year. Trade amounted to £16,000; 2s. 6d. in the £ was paid as a general dividend, 1s. 4d. in the £ for butchery, and 1s. in the £ for coal by the ton. Capital stood at £7,000. but the reserve fund stood at nil, owing to the loss sustained by the afore-mentioned fire.

Butchery Department

Coal Department

Union Street Cottages

Rushton Road Cottages


The No. 2 Estate was purchased during this year, £60 per acre being paid for the land. Fire loss amounting to £400 was also cleared off this year, and the loyalty of the members of the Society during this anxious period cannot receive our too lavish praise and commendation.


In 1895 fourteen cottages were built in Queen Street. At this time the decline of the Desborough Freehold Land and Building Society provided the Co-operative Society with a good opportunity for the purchase of properties in Havelock Street, and various other pieces of land, from the Land Society, and thus closed a very honourable course of business by this Society.


In 1898 the erection of twelve cottages in Rushton Road was commenced, and a tree-planting scheme was discussed. Many curious objections were made against the latter project for the beautifying of the highway. Some of the more nervous stated that they dare not walk abroad lest the trees should fall on them. Others were fearful that their otherwise sound slumbers might be ruthlessly disturbed by the noise of the wind playing amongst the branches. The trees were planted, however.

At this time also the Manor Farm was purchased from Mr. Bryan Clarke-Thornhill, as it was thought essential that more land should be secured for the Society. It does not seem so long ago since the old-time landlords insisted upon their despotic rights, and were at liberty to plant barbarous man-traps about, hidden amongst the undergrowth of their enclosed land.

Man-Traps and Spring-Guns Set Here

was an announcement the writer well remembers seeing on the walls of the Manor Hall yard. It was to serve as a warning to trespassers and poachers and to those who dare walk abroad carelessly over mother earth. It served also to emphasise the jealously guarded and savagely defended rights and privileges of the ruling class. An illuminating contrast is afforded to-day in the fact that our members may walk abroad on their own lands free and unmolested. The spring-guns have gone, yet we have lived long enough to realise that there are other forms of traps for mankind. As Co-operators we have to fight the ensnaring device of the lure for profit and the cankerous growth of cruel, grasping greed.

At this time the office was removed from the rear of No. I Store in High Street to 41, Station Road. The Branch Butchery in King Street was also opened, and the important responsibility of supplying pure milk to the members was also undertaken by the Society.

Since this period the tendency to circumscribe the liberty and ambition of our members as free handicraftsmen has been very pronounced. He no longer enjoys any control over his tools, materials, or time. His pleasure in work and his joy of creation have been killed. He is now merely an appendage to machinery driven by a gas engine. We fear he has lost to a large extent his security of tenure in his employment. He recognises, or he must soon recognise, that he is but a wage slave to the competitive system, as he is divorced very largely from his skill as a maker of boots and shoes. The term "bootmaker" now is a misnomer.

A. J. Palmer, Cashier

John N. Lester, sole agent for the sale of Ore

General Committee
Top: G. Plowright, A. Coe, F. Cox, F. Coe, G. Frost, J. Coe
Bottom: P. Thomas, R. M. Sanders, S. Panter, G. Marlow (President), J. Marlow (Secretary and Manager), A. Panter

Educational Committee
Top: G. Plowright, S. B. Barnes, G. Frost, C. Marlow,
F. Cox, H. Whymant.
Bottom: H. Crouch, Mrs. J. Coe, Jos. Marlow (Chairman), J. Marlow (Secretary), Mrs. J. Marlow, H. Goodwin


In 1900 it was felt necessary to build eleven more cottages in Lower King Street. These are let at a rental of 4s. 6d. per week.


A new drapery shop and assembly-room were built in 1903. These premises are inferior to none in similar towns to our own. The provision of a comfortable hall allows facilities for the very useful propaganda and social work of the Society. It is greatly to be deplored that our members do not evince a greater desire to make more use of it in this all-important direction.


This year was an anxious and pregnant year for the Society. After many dubitations and hesitations, the iron quarries were opened, and labour was employed directly by the Society to work the pits. The greatest difficulty appeared to be the placing of the stone on the market. It was thought that the great capitalistic firms would undoubtedly boycott us, as we were a Co-operative Society. These fears were found to be groundless, and the halfhearted ceased their questionings. We have constantly placed goods on the market true to the nature and quality required, and we are now recognised as reliable sellers of good-quality iron ore. Our thanks are due to our efficient representative, Mr. John N. Lester (of Wolverhampton), and the practical oversight of Mr. John Clarke, foreman of the works. Our output amounts to 2,000 tons per week. We employ 120 workmen, and two locomotives ply over two miles of railway. A sum of £7,000 is paid away every year in wages. During this year also the Society adopted the "Climax" check system. The abolition of the old tin checks has been of great benefit to the Society, besides being much more hygienic from a health standpoint, and more sound from a business point of view.


In 1907 a new suite of Offices and a Boardroom were erected, known as 41, Station Road, providing greater facilities for routine work and for meetings of the Committee. These buildings certainly do not disgrace the Society.


It was recognised during this year that the Society would soon be reaching the fiftieth year of its existence, and the nucleus of a Jubilee Fund was formed.

A desire for the extension of farming operations was also felt at this time, and Park Lane Farm, Braybrooke, was leased for three years. At the end of that time the lease was not renewed, as the farm was found to be very unsatisfactory.

During this year a piece of land to the east of the Bakery was bought, with a view to the extension of the Bakery at some future date. The Society believes in the policy of looking ahead, and not having to buy in an emergency at greatly enhanced prices.


In 1909 the Clayworks were commenced. The new Dairy accommodation was built, and machinery, engine, and mill were put in at the Tithe Farm premises for the preparation of fodder and the grinding of corn.


A series of rapid purchases of freehold land commenced in 1910. A site on the north side of Harborough Road was purchased. Part of this was to be developed as building sites, and part of it was to be used for coal wharfage accommodation alongside the railway. This was felt to be a very necessary development. Freedom of action was now possible, and the necessity of paying rents to monopolists abolished.

Jubilee Festival Committee

Women's Guild

Federation Avenue Cottages

Thorpe Underwood

In Harrington Road the New Close was also purchased, and a large portion of the Church Farm and premises also became the property of the Society. The Loatland Wood Estate was bought during the same year, and in 1911 the Thorpe Underwood Estate was purchased. The main purpose behind this transaction was a desire to extend our mining operations, and to find employment for our members, who, I think, appreciate the action of the Committee on this point.


In 1912 the Urban Council opened up negotiations with the Society as to the provision of new and more extensive sewage farm accommodations, and also the provision of a suitable recreation ground for the town. The requirements were met in a satisfactory manner by the Society, whose prompt and generous action has been appreciated by all concerned.

The National Health Insurance Department was opened during the year, and at the time of the coal strike a relief fund was opened, as the quarrymen became great sufferers owing to the dispute. Relief money was advanced to them, and this has been most honourably repaid by the men. By this action we trust that the Society has made many more loyal adherents and faithful friends.

The blight consequent on the coal strike had a serious effect upon industry. It was not anticipated that workers in other trades would have felt it so soon and for so long. It brought distress to our quarrymen. To those men who could not be kept at work it meant, roughly, a £1,000 loss in wages. The "rock-getters" could not be retained all the time. The Committee did all they could to provide employment wherever and whenever it was possible, but scores of our fellows were compelled, by forces over which they had no control, to seek odd jobs about the town. Others were forced to receive assistance in the form of loans, and others were aided by means of organised charity. The Society came forward with a gift of £21 in cash to the Relief Committee, and also gave quantities of certain soups, &c., for the feeding of those in need.

Some of the more fortunate had their share capital to fall back upon. To-day, they must realise the advantage of having the Co-operative Society at their backs to supply sound goods at the cheapest rates, instead of at famine prices, which latter are invariably charged when the individualist-capitalist combine carries out its vaunted dictum, "Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest," in the meantime formulating cunningly-devised schemes to "rig the market," to oppose labour legislation, and to restrict supplies before the trouble is over.

Before concluding this brief account it might not be inopportune to refer to the educational activities of the Society. In this direction the Society might do a far greater work but for the lethargy of the majority of its members. Lectures are arranged from time to time on interesting or topical subjects. The lecturers engaged are men of note and ability. A Library has been formed, and the books are circulated from the Office. Some of the finest modern works on social, political, economic, and literary subjects are included in this Library. No studious young fellow need be starved for want of mental food and recreation. It is here, ready to hand. Conferences of the district are also held from time to time, and the Wheatsheaf is published monthly. This is a live little journal and deserves strong support in the way of literary contributions.

Heads of Departments

Office Staff

General Office

Employees Distributive Departments

Even now the whole story of our Society has not been fully told. As a Society we are local, yet, federated with others, we are a part of the great national movement as embodied in the Co-operative Wholesale Society, and we are also associated with various Productive Societies. Beyond that, the interests of International Co-operation always take a prominent place, as we believe that these international interests are united in the most vital manner with the interests and prosperity of our movement at home. Many of our old and respected leaders are passing away. Let us, then, use every opportunity to spread this great and peaceful gospel of home and world-wide Co-operation. We are inspired by one faith and animated by one cause, and that cause may be written as "The good of all, the duty of each."

Mr Jesse Marlow, C.C.

THE General Manager and Secretary of the Society is a man who has won many triumphs. No martial sounds have heralded his career. His life's work is embedded in the Co-operative movement.

He attained his jubilee this year, he being about six months old when the Society was formed. Born of poor but honourable parents, he indeed is truly a man of "the people," and he is never afraid of telling of his humble parentage. His educational course was commenced at a school kept by Dame Ruth Bamford, who was very fond of making sugar candy, to the delight of little Jesse, who often cast longing eyes for a sweet morsel. He graduated at the Church Schools under the able teaching of the late Rev. William Wilson and Miss Baggley, and commenced work as a half-timer at the age of nine. There was in those days little of the legal and social solicitude which nowadays surrounds child life. In the educated, smart business man of 1913 there is little trace of the poor, ill-equipped lad who went into the world with only his natural pugnacity and a stout heart to overcome the obstacles which lay before him.

Jesse Marlow,
Present Secretary 1886-1913

W. M. Kay, Public Auditor

Throughout life he has been passionately devoted to the people's cause, which he has championed in season and out. Early in life he was taught the ethics of Co-operation at home. He joined the Society in 1882, and four years later was appointed to the responsible position of Secretary. At this period the Society numbered 316 members, with a share capital of £1,750, loan £920, and 151 depositors in the Penny Bank. At the present time the number of members is 1,573, with a share capital of £42,346; and loan, £7,721. The Small Savings Bank depositors number 1,660, with a fund of £4,504. The annual shop trade amounts to the magnificent sum of £32,000, and the trade from productive and other departments amounts to £22,299, making a total of £54,299 per annum. The rapid and stupendous progress made by the Society during the last decade is in a large measure due to the untiring energy and zeal of Mr. Jesse Marlow, who holds in his hands the strings of a hundred and one different agencies connected with the Society. Besides selling tea and sugar the Society has launched its land purchasing schemes, its cottage building schemes, schemes for productive development and direct employment of labour, dairy farming, iron-ore quarrying, &c. , and many other departments too numerous to mention, all of which have been brought to a successful issue. And through all the years, with their many new departures, the Society has grown in usefulness and stability and has ever retained the confidence of its members. Happily the Manager and Society have nearly always been blessed with progressive and enterprising Committees, who have ever been imbued with the true spirit of Co-operation. Besides his multitudinous duties connected with the Society, which he always sets first, he has found time to be for a dozen years an overseer of the parish, and under the old system of assessment was co-assessor of taxes. He is also a member of the County Council. Some of his most valuable and most practical work in recent years has been done for the County Education, Smallholding, Agricultural Instruction, Asylum, and the district Old-age Pensions Committees. Technical education very naturally and deeply interests him, and he has the distinction of being Chairman of the local School Managers.

In 1906, owing to the recognised importance of the Society's enterprise in land developments, he was honoured by being called upon to give evidence before the Commission appointed by the Board of Agriculture in an inquiry upon the subject of smallholdings in Great Britain.

It would be difficult in the compass of the space at our disposal to refer to the many phases of Mr. Jesse Marlow's character and work ; suffice it to say that he is a keen observer with a reflective mind, unassuming in manner, but possessing a dogged perseverance which has helped him through many difficulties.

R. M. Sanders.

Chris Marlow, Local Editor of Wheatsheaf

George Marlow, Chairman 1893-1913

Mr George Marlow

There was born 54 summers ago in the ancient town of Rothwell "an atom" of humanity which was destined to preside over the deliberations of the most enterprising Co-operative Society in the Midlands. Young George with his parents came to reside at Desborough when he was eight years old. His course of education being nearly complete, he soon began to work for the "bread that perisheth." Truly his life was like an obstacle race, full of barriers and difficulties, and very early he learned that if you walk calmly up to the obstacle and then try and clear it failure is the result. It is the run, the momentum, that carries you over, and this has been his practice through life, and it has helped him through many difficulties. Very early in life he was brought into touch with Co-operation in its primitive moods. In his childhood days it was Co-operative lullabys that wooed him to sleep, and as he grew up to young manhood he was brought into constant touch with the local Society. It is a significant fact that the first £10 he ever saved in his life he loaned to the struggling Society; this was several years before he became a member. He joined the Society when he became of age, the same year as he entered into matrimonial felicity. I suppose at this particular time the Society would have to "stump up" the £10 towards buying furniture, &c. It is more than a generation ago since his official career with the Society commenced, first as a member of the Committee and for over twenty-two years its respected President. During his term of office rapid strides have been made, and he tells a nice little story of sleepless nights he had when the Society bought the Manor Estate for the modest little sum of £16,000. For over twenty years Mr. Marlow has served on the District Committee. What Mr. Marlow has lacked in educational attainments he has made up with force of character and honesty of purpose. His character is portrayed in the maxim, "Convince a man against his will, he holds the same opinion still." When he once makes up his mind that a certain course of action is right, woe betide the unfortunate individual who impedes his course. The writer of this article has had many "stacks up" with the President, but they have never impaired our friendship. Mr. Marlow is of a strictly religious turn of mind. For many years he has been a member of the Wesleyan community, for over twenty years a Sunday School teacher, and for some years he was a church steward. The parish has also claimed a part of his strenuous career. For a number of years he was one of the overseers, and when the 1894 Local Government Act came into force he was elected one of the first members. Mr. Marlow's earnest endeavour is to so live and work that he will leave the world just a wee bit better than he found it.

R. M. Sanders.

Farm and Estate Men

View in Flaxland

View in Rail's Field

View Manor Farm

Sheep Shearing / Washing

Poultry Feeding

View on Farm

Threshing on Farm
Loatland Wood Farm

Iron Ore Quarrymen

Making Quarry Embankment

Quarry Railway

Locomotives 'Progress' and 'Jubilee'

General View of Clay Works
and Entrance to Quarry

Employees, Brick Works

Brick Making

Engine House

Dunkirk Avenue

Boot Society's Factory

Interior of Boot Factory

C.W.S. Corset Factory

Employees C.W.S. Corset Factory

Progress of the Society's Farming and Productive Departments.

Statistics page one

Statistics Page two


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