Co-op architecture book complete!

It’s taken a while, but the co-op architecture book is now complete and with the publisher, Liverpool University Press, who will publish it under the Historic England imprint sometime in 2020 hopefully. The whole project has lasted about five fascinating years, travelling around looking at co-op buildings and delving into archives. Thanks to all the staff at the many libraries and archives visited, especially the National Co-operative Archive in Manchester, with whom I shared the joys of working while the surrounding co-op estate was being renovated! Never a day without scaffolding….. These two pics, art deco Tamworth and brutalist Aberdeen, show just how varied co-op architecture can be. Can’t wait to see the proofs.

Co-op architecture book progress report

Just getting my head up from writing for a quick progress report – the book is now two-thirds written, so not too long to go. Then I have to write the captions! Enjoyed a trip to sunny Manchester to see the Co-op Quarter looking good, now refurbishment heading towards completion. What makes the area stand out is not simply the height of the buildings, there are many others in the city of a similar or greater height, but their density on the ground; the roads between are very narrow.

CWS cigarette cards

This is one of a set of 28 cigarette cards issued by the CWS around 1914-16 on the theme of CWS buildings and works. The quality of the images is obviously not great, but the fact that they are in colour is really useful architecturally. The series didn’t have a proper title, and the individual cards weren’t numbered, but I gather a collectors’ handbook has given them numbers. I’ve seen 25 out of the 28 as follows: 1 Tralee, 2 Crumpsall, 3 Leicester, 4 Bristol, 5 Leeds, 6 Dudley, 8 Manchester HQ, 9 Luton, 10 Desborough, 12 Avonmouth, 13 Dunston (flour mill), 14 Silvertown (flour mill), 15 Manchester (Sun Mill), 16 Huthwaite, 18 Middleton, 20 Newcastle, 22 Longsight, 23 Dunston (soap works), 24 Irlam, 25 Silvertown (soap works), 26 London (tea), 27 Manchester (tobacco), 28 Bury. I also know that there are cards for Pelaw (see pic) and Keighley, but I don’t know their numbers. So if anyone knows what numbers 7, 11, 17, 19 and 21 are, it would be great to hear from you!

Letters from Retford

This cool piece of lettering comes from a former butcher’s in Retford, put up by the local co-operative society in 1912. Not sure where the white faience comes from but it could have been the Hathern works. The whole shop is an almost complete (externally) branch, and the butcher’s even has some tiling – white with brown trim – surviving inside. If you are changing trains at Retford station, the branch is a minute or two north-east. Writing going well, one-fifth of book completed.

Not as pretty as a postcard

This is Edmonton Green in north London, the shop in question originally being a fine store built for the local co-operative society in 1903. If you look only at first floor level upward, it remains almost exactly the same as it was on several colourful postcards issued at the time to mark its opening. It really must have been quite THE place to shop back then. The architect was Tom Yates of the CWS London branch Architects’ Department. Now, of course, all the old shopfronts have disappeared, but I suppose we should be thankful that the whole building has not gone the way of Edmonton’s town hall, which stood close by on Fore Street. All that remains is a clock, looking rather sorry for itself opposite a huge retail park!

Carnival time

Just a quick update on the progress of the co-operative architecture book. Having been buried in the various archives for about two years, I’ve now accumulated more than enough material for the book – but no doubt I shall be rushing back to Manchester, London or wherever when I come across some missing link. So organising starts today, and writing shortly after for completion spring next year – hopefully! The weather has been kind lately so most of the photography is done. In fact the weather has been rather like June 1921 when this carnival-related shot was taken, probably in Manchester. It shows a group, mostly children, carrying and wearing all sorts of adverts for CWS own-brand products. They must have been an entry in one of the carnival competitions. Talk about brand loyalty!

Talking Shops at Stirling’s Engine Shed

I’ll be in Stirling on 26 Feb for the Talking Shops seminar on shopfronts, part of the History of Scotland’s Shopfronts exhibition and related events at Historic Environment Scotland’s Engine Shed centre. I’m speaking on Shopping at the Co-op; looking forward to showing off some of my huge number of photos of Co-op shopfronts! This image is of a rather grand branch in Reading, built in 1901, even though the building says it was 1900 (clearly intended to confuse historians….).