Do You Remember?

Do You Remember the Old Brighouse and its Villages?

The Old Co-op Where Did They Go?

The Co-operative Group. The Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS), Co-operative Retail Services (CRS).

Not just in Brighouse but most of the north of England at one time had a Co-op close to where you lived, worked and socialised? (did you know the Co-op was formed the other side of the Pennines in Rochdale 1844 the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers and at one time produced a lot of their own products). So what went wrong was it just a case of downsizing or was it deeper hidden problems that brought the biggest chain of shops to their knees?

I worked for the co-op in my teens as a milk man (or boy) although it did make you grow up fast, in Brighouse the Co-op were the biggest delivery company of milk in the area and at one time delivered more milk than all the rest of the milk delivery people put together, they also delivered Meat, Fish, Grocery’s, Coal and other family needs with a fleet of mobile shops.

My milk round took in Clifton, Brighouse Town Centre, part of Rastrick, Daisy Road, Birds Royd taking in J. Blakeborough and Sons Ltd, The Druy Soap Works right to the end of River Street, Wakefield Road area, both sides of Bradford Road taking in Waring Green, Bailiff Bridge and the lower end of Wyke, the round not only supplied Houses and Businesses but every school in the area with a third of a pint glass bottles, these little glass bottles were in heavy metal crates with 30 glass bottles to a crate and I delivered over 30 crates a day which were stacked high across the back of the truck, I once came off the end of Victoria Street (which at the time was unmade and just rough old mud & stones which shook the truck) up Clifton Common and turned up the hill when about a dozen school crates had come loose on the rough unmade road and fell off the back of the truck all these little bottles rolled down the hill and local people came to sweep them all up (load smashed, some the foil top came off and some were OK), we also supplied to every Co-op Shop with their daily supply of milk to sell in their shops.

I drove a large red Commer 5 ton petrol milk float with open sides, and had to go back to the Co-op depot which we shared with their own Butcher Depot, who even had their own slaughter house, Garage with Petrol pumps just for their own fleets of trucks off Wakefield Road (behind the Shell Filling station) to refill half way round, my round which was the largest in both quantity delivered and the distance of around 30 miles, originally there were 5 rounds in Brighouse this was reduced to 4 while I was there so we all had a lot more to milk to deliver, the work was long and hard and the pay was not very good, even when we got the extra areas to deliver we never got any more money, imaging today if they increased your work load and didn’t give you any more money. It would cause a riot? I lived in Elland and started a 5am and normally finished between 1.00pm or 2.00pm then I went back to Elland to start my afternoon job on a farm till 8.00pm.

The Co-op in their madness decided these heavy petrol trucks were costing too much on fuel and introduced even heavier slow electric milk floats, this was a disaster for me as you had to charge them up over night and once a week you had to remove the back floor that was big heavy aluminium sheets that seemed to be held down with hundreds of bolts (most likely only a couple of dozen but seamed a lot more) then you had to fill all the batteries with acid out of great big glass tubs which were in a metal crate and packed in straw so they did not break, filling the batteries up with acid took about three hours after you had finished delivering the milk, which again you never got paid for? If that wasn’t bad enough, my petrol truck could go up to 50 MPH and the electric float could only travel at best 15 MPH.

Because my round was the largest the batteries only got as far as Bailiff Bridge before dying, so someone had to come out to tow my truck back to the depot and then I had to transfer my milk on to the spare float and finish my round up Wyke by the time I finished it was almost tea time some days, after two weeks of this I got my old truck back, also where I worked in the afternoon. they were not very happy when I turned up late every day and offered me more money if I left the Co-op and worked for them full time which I did, but I still enjoyed my time at the Co-op and the people I met.

Anyway back to the old Co-op’s of the past: How many do you remember and how many have I missed off the list?

King Street in Brighouse was at one time known as Co-op Street as they owned both sides of the road.

They had a Co-op on Towngate Clifton set back off the road side, there was a Co-op up Huddersfield Road just past the Railway, they had a Co-op with a separate Butches shop at Brookfoot, there was a Co-op on Old Lane and one just below on Bradford Road, there was a Large Co-op at Waring Green with a separate Butches shop, this was later pulled down and the land is still vacant and fenced off today, (they also had a Co-op at the back of Lightcliffe Road area I think it was off Piggott Street but this was not on my round), they had a large Co-op half way up Smithy Carr Lane with a separate Butches shop, there was a Co-op in Bailiff Bridge and a further three shops in Wyke.

The above was the only shops on my round and I know there were dozens more all around Brighouse, maybe you remember some of these including at least three up Rastrick, Hove Edge and Hipperholme, Smith House, Lightcliffe?

Remember their Co-op Divi (dividend) cash back to entice you to shop and stay loyal with them later to become Co-op Stamps? Do you also remember Green Shield Stamps along with others?

A true fact about the Co-op that a lot of people maybe didn’t know was they made their doors bigger than any other shop doors and were specially made extra wide, the reason was so they said is that if someone was coming out of the shop at the same time as somebody was coming in to the shop the person coming in to the shop thought the shop was full and many would change their mind and not bother going in if they was only popping in for a packet of cigs or other small items?(before the days of double automatic doors, just maybe the Co-op had the right idea regarding doors?). Another point that a lot of people never noticed was the structure of their iconic shops they had large shaped stone arches not only to make the shop stand out as been bigger than it was, but the also housed a set of pulley or a crane to pull large sacks up in to their upper floors, while retaining the shop floor area to display their normal stock, there was no doubt the Co-op were very cleaver people making everything look bigger than it was, they also had most popular seller in bulk again they implied you got more for your money, another trick they were told to do was if you asked for 1lbs of flour they would deliberately put more than a lbs in a bag then say sorry with talking to you so much I have put a bit too much in the bag and its an extra sixpence (2.5p) is it alright or would you like me to take some out! you would be surprised how many ladies said no it will be alright, also they felt a little guilty as though it was their fault for talking. this was always used in their butchers and today most butchers still always cut the meat a bit bigger than you asked for.  

The Co-op today is still a strong retailer although not in the same league as they were before the big four or maybe now the big six supermarkets came to dominate the supermarket outlets, although the Co-op still have a lot of smaller supermarket mini type shops along with a few large Superstores, with a large number of Filling Stations, they are also the largest Funeral Care Companies in the UK, they are also a large company in Insurance & Banking, Farming & Milk Suppliers, Car Agents & Garages, Travel Agents along with other consumer related interest.

Today Around Brighouse the Co-op still have a large number of loyal customers.