Our history

See the key events that have seen our Co-op grow from a small shop in Lancashire to a worldwide movement.

1901 to 1950 | 1951 to 2000 | 2001 to present

1844 – 1900


Rochdale Pioneers Society established, starting a period of phenomenal co-op growth. Based on their eight 'Rochdale rules', including distributing a share of profits according to purchases that came to be known as 'the divi'.

Labor and Wait - registered trade mark

The first Co-operative Wholesale Society poster


Industrial and Provident Societies Acts (I&P Act) gave co-ops a corporate status for the first time, providing a proper legal framework for them. The first I&P Act had been enacted in 1852.


Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) established, originally called the North of England Co-operative Wholesale Industrial and Provident Society Limited; the Scottish CWS followed in 1868. 


The Co-operative Insurance Company (CIC) becomes a limited company. The CIC later converted to the Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) in 1899. 


Co-operative Union established (initially known as the Co-operative Central Board) as an outcome from the first national Co-operative Congress, held in 1869.


The first edition of Co-operative News is published.


The original Co-operative Bank building in Manchester

The Co-operative Bank established, initially as the CWS Loan and Deposit Department, registered as a separate wholly-owned subsidiary of CWS in 1971.    


CWS entered manufacturing and later became substantially involved in importing, ship owning and in many overseas ventures, including joint CWS/SCWS tea estates.   

The Co-op owned ship, SS Equity

The Co-op owned ship, SS Equity


International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) established and held the first international congress in London.


A total of 1,439 co-op societies now registered.

The Dalton in Furness Co-op Store

The Dalton in Furness Co-op Store

1901 to 1950 | 1951 to 2000 | 2001 to present

This is our history – be part of our future and join us today