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London Co-operative Society

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0372 LONDON CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY
Held at: Bishopsgate Institute
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Full title: London Co-operative Society
Date(s): c1850-1995
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: c1500 volumes, 50 large boxes
Name of creator(s): London Co-operative Society


Administrative/Biographical history:

The London Co-operative Society was formed in September 1920 by the amalgamation of the Stratford Co-operative Society and the Edmonton Co-operative Society, two of the largest societies in the London Metropolitan area. In 1921, the LCS was also joined by the West London Society, the Kingston Society and the Co-operative Brotherhood Trust. In addition, the LCS also took over 2 branches of the Staines Co-operative Party. The consolidation of co-operative societies in the Greater London area continued until 1938, with the absorption of Hendon Co-operative Society in 1925, the North West London Co-operative Society in 1928, the Epping Co-operative Society in 1929, the Yiewsley Co-operative Society in 1931, the Willesden Junction Railway Society in 1935 and the Radlett Co-operative Society in 1938. Hence, the LCS was able to extend its area of the counties of Middlesex, Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey.
The LCS played a large part in the national co-operative movement and was a member of the national and regional organisations, chief of which being the Co-operative Union to which the LCS subscribed. The LCS was also a shareholding member of the English Co-operative Wholesale Society, generally known as the CWS, a federal wholesaling organisation for co-operative societies in England and Wales. By 1952, the LCS and its associated co-operative organisations, the major being the London Co-operative Chemists Limited, had over 550 establishments of sales and services, varying from large department stores to small grocery shops. These establishments consisted of grocers, butchers, fruit, vegetable and flower sellers, coal depots, furniture sellers, drapers, tailors, footwear sellers, chemists, laundries, estate agencies, funeral services and even guesthouses. The LCS also administered many manufacturing and processing establishments. The Society was amalgamated with the Co-operative Retail Society in 1981.
Politically, the LCS has also had a major impact. In the interwar years, the LCS Political Committee played an important role in winning Londoners over to the Labour Party, mobilising people behind co-operative ideals, and shaping policy at a national level. At the 1945 election, all 11 LCS sponsored candidates were elected, including Don Chater in Bethnal Green North East, Percy Holman in Bethnal Green South West and C.S.Ganley in Battersea South. Alf Barnes, also elected for East Ham South, even became a Cabinet Minister in the Attlee administration after 1945. In the post-war world, it has continued as an important campaigning force, providing key organisational backing for mass movements like CND, supporting the fight against the Vietnam War and campaigns during the miner's strikes, and generally at the forefront of the campaign for peace, co-operation and socialism. A political presence was also maintained in the House of Commons through the work of MPs, such as Stan Newens, Alf Lomas and Laurie Pavitt.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of the London Co-operative Society, c 1870-1995, including papers and correspondence relating to all areas of LCS political, educational, trading and financial activity, and material relating to the Co-operative Retail Society, c1920-1995; minutes of all LCS Committees, including its Political Committee, Education Committee, General Manager, Chief Accountant and Secretary's reports on accounts and other matters, c1920-1975; minutes and reports of LCS Sub Committees, 1920-c1975; minutes, papers, accounts and balance sheets of the following local societies: Aylesbury Co-operative Society, Barking Co-operative Society, Berkhamsted Co-operative Society, Brentwood Co-operative Society, Canterbury and District Co-operative Society, Chadwell Heath Co-operative Society, Chesham Equitable Co-operative Society, Croxley Co-operative Society, Edmonton Co-operative Society, Epping Forest/Longton Branch of the National Guild of Co-operators, Grays Co-operative Society, Harrow Road and Queen's Park Co-operative Society, Hendon Co-operative Society, High Wycombe Co-operative Society, Hitchin Co-operative Society, Kingston and District Co-operative Society, Newmarket Co-operative Society, North Battersea Co-operative Party, North Ilford Co-operative Party, North West London Co-operative Society, Radlett Industrial Society, Seven Kings Co-operative Party, South Western Industrial Co-operative Society, Southend Co-operative Party, Staines Co-operative Society, Stratford Co-operative Society, Tring Co-operative Industrial and Provident Society, Upminster Men's Co-operative Guild, Watford Co-operative Society, West London Industrial Co-operative Society, Willesden and District Co-operative Society and Wood Green Co-operative Society, c1870-1970; photographs of LCS and individual branch activities, retail outlets, personalities and educational and cultural events, c1875-1990.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

No further arrangement at present

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

Documents cannot be photocopied at present. Digital photography (without flash) is permitted for research purposes on completion of the Library's Copyright Declaration form and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Finding aids:

Various small handlists exist. The London Co-operative Society is currently in the process of being catalogued. Therefore, the scope and content outlined above is not exhaustive and will be added to and changed in the immediate future. For further information about consulting the collection at the Bishopsgate Institute or further queries about its content, please contact the Archivist at

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

No further information at present.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Entry compiled by Stefan Dickers.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
8 August 2005.

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