The Rochdale Pioneers Museum

In 1832 the Rochdale Friendly Co-operative Society was founded by local weavers.

The Rochdale Pioneers

In 1833, inspired by the enthusiasm for the ideas of Robert Owen, the society opened its own shop at 15 Toad Lane. This first shop only lasted two years before it was forced to close.

In 1844 the Rochdale economy was in another of those dizzying nose-dives that once again led to wage reductions which in turn triggered strikes. Unemployed weavers meeting at the Socialist Institute and no doubt debating Chartist and Owenism philosophies established a new society. These Rochdale Pioneers formulated the Rochdale Principles upon which their version of co-operation were founded. These principles were:

1. Democratic control, one member one vote and equality of the sexes.
2. Open membership.
3. A fixed rate of interest payable on investment.
4. Pure, unadulterated goods with full weights and measures given.
5. No credit.
6. Profits to be divided pro-rata on the amount of purchase made (the divi).
7. A fixed percentage of profits to be devoted to educational purposes.
8. Political and religious neutrality.

With money raised from the original 28 subscribers, a shop was founded in a warehouse at 31 Toad Lane and it was equipped and stocked.

The shop opened on the 21st of December, 1844. By 1848 the Co-operative had 140 members. At first only a few basic commodities like butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal and candles were sold.

That shop, situated in the conservation area around Toad Lane in Rochdale, has now been converted into a museum. Inside the original building you can see:

a reconstruction of the shop
a museum room displaying original documents and artefacts

Upstairs, in a room used by the Pioneers used for educational purposes, is an assembly room for meetings and exhibitions.

The beehive, which used to stand atop the now demolished Central Store of the Co-Operative Society at 45-51 Toad Lane, has been preserved and incorporated into the outside wall of the museum. The beehive was used to symbolise industry.