Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society
ADMINISTRATIVE/BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY: The first Co-operative in Chelmsford - a coal club - was formed in 1847. Then,
in 1867, Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society was established by a small number
of employees of the London Road Iron Works: it was their intention to become "the
Star of the County". The first shop was opened in Tindal Street and despite the
economic problems of the 1870s the Society prospered to such an extent that its
members soon decided to build a new store in Moulsham Street on the site of the
present day Quadrant. Opened in 1881 by the author of "Tom Brown's School Days",
Thomas Hughes. The Countess of Warwick, a leading advocate for the Co-operative
movement, opened an extension to the building in 1902. Year by year, the range
of products increased. More shops were opened in other parts of Chelmsford and
in the surrounding villages. The Society also acted as an agency for the Co-operative
Building Society and the Insurance Society.
A Co-operative Women's Guild was established by the Society's membership in 1906
and an Education Committee, funded and elected by members was formed in 1925.
The promotion of Co-operative principles was a key element of the Education Committee's
work and, with the establishment of International Co-operative Day in 1923, it
pursued its task vigorously. International Co-operative Day held on the first
Saturday in July, was a grand affair for the whole community. From then until
the Second World War up to a thousand children participated in the celebrations.
During the First World War, with food shortages a serious problem, the Guild played
its part in ensuring that food was shared fairly. Then, when unemployment became
a social catastrophe during the 1930s, Chelmsford Star helped to alleviate some
of the harshest cases of poverty by providing families with boots, clothing and
food parcels. Later when the Hunger Marchers passed through Chelmsford on their
way to London it was Chelmsford Star that provided them with a meal and repaired
their boots. By the Second World War Chelmsford Star had a shop in virtually every
locality within the town and surrounding countryside. It had established its own
abattoir, mobile shops, travel department, clothing store, funeral service and
much more. It had also established a Co-operative Party Council in 1943 and the
Education Committee had formed Youth and Children's Clubs.
Since its formation, Chelmsford Star has supported the community; as early as
1883 when donations were needed for the Chelmsford Infirmary, the membership regularly
agreed to allocate part of their surplus to the hospital. Throughout its entire
history the Society has sponsored many local organisations. That tradition has
continued. In the 1970s the Society organised a series of annual "It's a Knockout"
competitions; a new phase of community activity commenced in the 1980s when it
held its hugely successful "Fun Days". These attracted leading stars of stage
and screen, many thousands of people enjoying the entertainment. Of no less importance,
through its Education Committee, Women's Guild, membership, staff and supporters,
huge sums were donated each year to local charities.
The Society's award winning Community Card now fulfils the same objectives, and
the basic Co-operative principles that were established in the middle of the 19th
century, are still an essential feature of the Society's present day trading strategy.
The Society continues to support many local causes and activities, including
the Essex Adversity Awards and Newpalm Productions, who produce Chelmsford's annual
pantomime at the Civic Theatre.
Finally, the Society became a founder member of Co-operative Action, established
in 2002. It was set up to promote the development of Co-operative, mutual and
social enterprise solutions, throughout the country and provides financial assistance
via grants or loans.
SCOPE AND CONTENT:
- Reports and balance sheets, 1884-1920.
- Correspondence with various national societies regarding credit trading, 1915-1916.
- Report by the Co-operative Union on the office, organisation and method of the
Chelmsford Star Industrial Co-operative Society, 1964.
- Miscellaneous papers, correspondence and ephemera regarding the Chelmsford Star
Industrial Co-operative Society, the Good Samaritan Optical Fund, Braintree Co-operative
Society, Maldon and Heybridge Co-operative Society, the Essex and Suffolk Hours
and Wages Board, the Essex Co-operative Funeral Furnishing Society, the Essex
Co-operative Boot and Shoe Repairing Society, the Essex Co-operative Ice Cream
Society, the Joint Advisory Committee of East Anglican Co-operative Societies,
1893 - 1975.
- Delegate pack, including handwritten notes for the Chelmsford Star Industrial
Co-operative Society delegate at the Co-operative Congress, Eastbourne, 1971.
QUANTITY: 6 Boxes