The Rochdale Pioneers Shop was chosen as one of ten sites in industry, trade and commerce that have shaped England’s history.
The Toad Lane building dates back to 1844 when a group of 28 men, mostly weavers, set up the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers to sell quality food at affordable prices. The shop, created to alleviate the extreme poverty in the area, was owned and run by its members based on co-operative principles that were later adopted by other communities across the world, making Rochdale the birthplace of the modern-day co-operative movement.
The list is part of Historic England’s A History of England in 100 Places campaign, which highlights the groundbreaking work which was done at key sites around the country. It was set up in response to national YouGov poll which showed a lack of public awareness of some of the turning points of the country’s history, and where they took place.
The campaign, sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance, will include a podcast series and a handbook featuring all 100 sites selected by the panel of judges.
The judge for the industry category was former Labour MP Tristram Hunt, who is now director of the V&A Museum, who chose his top 10 from a list of 799 public nominations.
Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “We had an overwhelming response from the public in this category, with nearly 800 nominations of places which help tell the story of our industrial and commercial past. Each of these 10 places chosen by Tristram Hunt demonstrate that many different industries and enterprises, from brewing and coal mining to financial services, have defined who we are as a nation and although some have changed uses, they remain a central part of our lives today.”
Mr Hunt said: “Out of the Industrial Revolution came new ideas about the organisation of society and what the Rochdale Pioneers did was to bring a new model of sharing wealth to the world. On the one hand industrialisation was a celebration of capitalism but on the other hand ideas around socialism, communism and co-operation emerged which changed the country.”
The Toad Lane shop is now the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, which preserves the Rochdale Pioneers’ original store and and celebrates the ideals and principles of the co-operative movement.
Kate Gronow, visitor experience and operations co-ordinator at the museum, said: “The whole team at the Pioneers Museum are thrilled that the movement has been recognised nationally with this accolade.
“The Rochdale Pioneers came together to improve the lives of the working people of the town. We celebrate this and continue to make our museum an active participant in co-operation.”
Amendment: This article has been corrected on 17 May. Tristram Hunt is a former Labour MP, not Conservative as originally stated in paragraph 5.