The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, founded in 1844, was an early consumer co-operative, and the first to pay a patronage dividend, forming the basis for the modern co-operative movement. [1] Although other cooperatives preceded them[2], the Rochdale Pioneers' co-operative became the prototype for societies in Great Britain. The Rochdale Pioneers are most famous for designing the Rochdale Principles, a set of principles of co-operation that provide the foundation for the principles on which co-ops around the world operate to this day. The model the Rochdale Pioneers used is a focus of study within Co-operative economics.


The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was a group of 28 weavers and other artisans in Rochdale, England, that was formed in 1844. As the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution was forcing more and more skilled workers into poverty, these tradesmen decided to band together to open their own store selling food items they could not otherwise afford. With lessons from prior failed attempts at co-operation in mind, they designed the now famous Rochdale Principles, and over a period of four months they struggled to pool together one pound sterling per person for a total of 28 pounds of capital. On 21 December 1844, they opened their store with a very meager selection of butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal and a few candles. Within three months, they expanded their selection to include tea and tobacco, and they were soon known for providing high quality, unadulterated goods. Ten years later, the British co-operative movement had grown to nearly 1,000 co-operatives.

The Pioneers built new central premises which opened in 1867. The original store on Toad Lane was not owned by the co-operative society and it was occupied by various businesses before being purchased by the movement, and opened as a museum in 1931.[3][4] The museum resurrected the legal name Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society in 1989, the name having been abandoned by the original co-operative in 1976 on merger with the Oldham Co-operative.[5][4]

The first minute book of the Rochdale Pioneers is held in the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, the later ones are held by Local Studies, Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust. [6]

Rochdale Pioneers traded independently until 1991, with name changes inspired by mergers with neighbouring co-operatives, as Pioneers from 1976, and Norwest Pioneers from 1982, based in Wythenshawe, Manchester by 1991. In 1991, then Norwest Co-operative Society transferred its engagements to United Co-operatives, that was run from Rochdale when it in turn transferred to the Manchester-based national hybrid society, The Co-operative Group, in 2007[7][8][9][10][11]



  1. John K. Walton "Co-operative movement" The Oxford Companion to British History. Ed. John Cannon. Oxford University Press, 1997. Oxford Reference Online. Retrieved via county library service on 25 June 2008.
  2. Sidney & Beatrice Webb, The Consumers' Co-operative Movement, 1930, p. 5
  3. Rochdale Pioneers Museum
  4. 4.0 4.1 Template:Cite news
  5. Template:Cite web
  6. Link4Life | Local Studies | Provider of arts, sport and heritage development work in the Rochdale area
  7. Template:Cite web
  8. Template:Cite web
  9. Template:Cite web
  10. Template:Cite web
  11. Template:Cite web

External linksEdit

Template:Co-operatives Template:Defunct UK grocers

br:Difraosterien Rochdale de:Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers es:Sociedad Equitativa de los Pioneros de Rochdale fr:Équitables Pionniers ja:ロッチデール先駆者協同組合

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