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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Miners planned their shops empire in secret

THE Dalton society was founded on March 11 in 1861 by a group of iron ore miners who met at the George and Dragon pub.

Around eight to 10 met again a week later and Thomas Harrison agreed to be the new society’s public face while other members could remain secret to avoid victimisation from employers.

Many of them were miners working in the local iron ore pits for Schneider and Hannay.

It was said during the society’s golden anniversary in 1911: “Some actually lost their jobs and to leave the locality in order to find bread and butter elsewhere.”

Many thought the new society would fail until George Huddleston put in £20 and sparked the confidence for open trading to start.

The first recorded meeting was on May 4 in 1861 when Thomas Harrison became president and James Peters and James Harrison were joint secretaries.

The first shop is thought to have been rented in Skelgate (possibly on the corner of Ann Street) with Thomas Harrison being shopman and general manager.

A new shop was built in Wellington Street for £540 and completed in June 1862.

Land and cottages were bought in Broughton Road in 1869 and another shop built in Chapel Street. Land for building cottages in Rawlinson Street was bought in 1873.

There was a co-operative hall and eventually a co-operative cinema and a library with 2,000 books.

The reading room reflected the origins of many of the members and carried journals from Cornwall and the Isle of Man.

By the end of 1873 there were 1,787 members and a share capital of £23,560.

Trades covered included grocery, drapery, millinery, tailoring, hardware, clogs, shoes and coal.

A branch shop was rented at Lindal and a new shop and cottages built at Askam.

A larger new Dalton grocery store and warehouse was built in Chapel Street in 1873 by James Garden for £1,986.

A new Broughton Road store was opened in 1888 and was followed by the drapery, butchery and office block in 1892.

The Castle branch was opened in 1898. This building is next to the castle and has been a takeaway in recent years.

From the start the society had strict rules.

In the rulebook for 1861 a member could be fined five shillings for disclosing the affairs of the society.

In 1862 you could be fined five shillings for smoking in the shop.

The years after the First World War saw very tough trading conditions.

A new bakery was opened in 1931 and a furnishing department.

A mobile grocery shop was bought in 1950.

The last new branch came in 1955 at Ruskin Avenue to serve a new housing estate.

In the centenary year of 1961 there were 3,458 members each spending around £100 a year. Share capital was £136,074.

By 1967 annual sales came to £382,000.

The Dalton society’s century of independence ended in 1969 when it was decided to merge with Barrow.

However, this was not the end of co-operative trading in Dalton as the town now has a Co-op supermarket.

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