The documentation and mapping of Central Premises of the Co-operative Movement in the North-West of England (1844-2012)
RIBA Research Trust Award 2010
The modern British Co-operative movement began with the Rochdale Pioneers in a warehouse. It has grown a collection of significant buildings across the UK, and beyond. Property became both a practical necessity and the realisation of high-quality investment for Co-operative Society members, using architecture to demonstrate their 'Progress' with the times. The result is a mix of social, commercial and industrial buildings and while some premises remain in use today, have been listed and/or become local landmarks, others have lost their original purpose or have disappeared altogether.
While societies emerged everywhere, the movement's home has always been the Northwest, stemming from its Rochdale origins and the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) premises in Manchester. This study is therefore limited to Central Premises in the North-West but will not preclude references to premises outside this region. Unfortunately the CWS architects department, who undertook much of the work, no longer exists and it seems their records have been destroyed. It is intended to involve a former CWS architect in this research but the main source will be the National Co-operative Archive and other repositories.
This research will be a source for subsequent studies of similar premises in other regions of the UK and abroad particularly as the Co-operative Group will vacate many of the premises to be discussed over the coming years. It will gather previously disconnected research and archival material by academics, practitioners, and co-operators and discuss it as a body of work that has played a key part in social change and the architectural context of cities and towns of the region.
Stephen McCusker is an architect and Director of Loop Systems Ltd, a co-operative business, and is currently working on proposals for the original Pioneers warehouse in Rochdale. This research compliments his past work in reinterpreting familiar places and his ongoing work as an Associate Lecturer at the Manchester School of Architecture. He has previously been awarded the Alan Barnes Travelling Scholarship, the George Simpson Dissertation prize and has contributed to local journals. Stephen can be contacted at email@example.com