Echoes of the past: What happened to the Co-op?

editorial image

I recently read on Facebook ‘Memories of Brighouse’ page questions being asked about the old co-op building in Smithy Carr Lane.

Well this week’s featured photograph shows that very building as the Brighouse Co-op branch not long after it opened on July 4, 1914.

Looking closely at this photograph, and the next time you pass this building, there is a date stone high above the shop doorway.

The date is 1914 which with the world in a state of turmoil with the First World War it is difficult to imagine that opening a new branch of the Brighouse Co-op would have been high on anyone’s agenda. There were far more important matters to consider at the time.

The houses to the right of the shop look as new as the shop, maybe these were built as Co-op houses such as the ones in Cooperative Buildings Bailiffe Bridge, or The Crescent in Bonegate Road.

The land to build in Bonegate Road was bought from William Kershaw in 1875.

It was five years later that 16 houses were built by the Co-op and sold to some of its members.

The properties in Bailiffe Bridge were built and sold in 1877. Further large plots of land were purchased in 1890 from the Mark Blackburn estate. This included almost 8000 sq yards which saw the building of 45 houses - 24 in Rayner Road and 21 in Harriet Street. This was a time when Brighouse Co-op was doing really well an indication of that is in the 1899 history of Brighouse and its Co-operative Society.

In 1898 the co-op branch network sold: 736 tons of sugar; 273 tons of butter; 161 tons of lard; 452 tons of potatoes; 171 tons of soap; 75 tons of soda; 66 tons of currants and raisins; 44 tons of tea, coffee and cocoa, 8550 eggs and 26,997 packs of flour.

These figures are just some of the statistics shown in the book for that year. With a population of more than 20,000 the Co-op was a powerful company in those days. Not only have all these branches closed but so has the Brighouse Co-operative Society and the Bradford Co-op that was to eventually buy out Brighouse Co-op.

Now for all those people who were employed at Brighouse Co-op here is a happy story I was told recently.

For a very short period of time a couple of retired employees of Brighouse Co-op paid into a superannuation scheme and then stopped paying in and forgot about it.

That was until one of them found an old document they had kept tucked away in the loft.

It was the best thing they did when deciding to keep the document, although they had forgotten about it. Enquiries with the Co-op in Stoke saw them being awarded a Co-op pension of about £30 a month.

Not much I hear you say but multiply that by 12 and you have £360 a year for the rest of your life, and not forgetting a lump sum as well. Not a bad return for something that had been forgotten about and long since lost.

It is probably time for you to check out the dark corners of cupboards and in the loft for any long forgotten pension documents the internet makes it much easier to track an old pension down now.

Do you have any pictures of Brighouse from past times. We’d love you to share your memories from the 50s, 60s and 70s? Please email us at