A piece of history: Archives uncovered as the Co-op Group leaves Miller Street

The Group has been working with the Heritage Trust to preserve the archives from its former head office

Some of the items charting the history of the co-operative movement are finding new homes as the Co-op Group completes its move out of its former head office in the CIS Tower on Miller Street, Manchester. 

Over the past two years, the Group’s Property and Legal teams have been working with the Co-operative Heritage Trust to preserve items and archives accumulated by the Group, which have been held in storage in the building’s basements.  

Some of the items found include decorative biscuit tins

The Trust employed two additional archivists to sift through all materials and has been advising on the preservation of co-operative assets of historic value. Items identified as having historic value and which are not duplicates of previous materials with the collections will be moved into an extended archival space within neighbouring Holyoake House so more detailed archiving can take place.

“These records will be then used for both historical purposes and to inspire the co-operators of the future, in line with Principle Five,” said Ed Powell, partnerships manager at the Co-op Group and secretary of the Heritage Trust.

Some of the items include architectural plans, business documents (including those pertaining to the ill-fated Brittania deal) and AGM papers. Also discovered were glass slides used to project adverts onto walls for painters – and the Co-op press Centenary Trophy which was commissioned in 1971 for the Press’s 100th anniversary and presented annually for the advertising that best reflected the ‘movement’s social purpose’. 

The Co-operative News Centenary Trophy

The work carried out by the Co-operative Heritage Trust was complete by October 2019 and the Trust is now awaiting agreement from the Legal Team overseeing the project to be able to move materials into the archive and commence the next stage. 

“The Property Team and Co-operative Heritage Trust have taken considerable time and effort to try to make sure that we ‘do the right thing’ with the material available,” said Mr Powell. “This collection will considerably extend the holdings overseen by the Trust, who have just received notice that the first part of the collection is now ready to be moved. 

“Currently there are restrictions to access in place both at Miller Street and Holyoake House, as well as a reduced capacity within the Trust team to start the next stage of archiving. As lockdown restrictions ease and in line with guidance, the Trust will carry out this next phase and, with permission of the Group, look to share this archive for the benefit of current and future co-operators.”

Brass scales, glazed storage pots and medals are among the items to be auctioned

Alongside the Trust’s support, other historic assets of value or interest were identified and details provided to the Property Team to make a decision on their use. To move towards this, the Property Team has arranged an auction of some of the items of value, which is taking place online and at Miller Street on 4 June. 

Viewing takes place on Tuesday 2 June 2020 (by appointment between 10am and 3.30pm). Some of the items include commemorative china, biscuit tins, milk bottles, medals, steel deed boxes, trophies – and a number of framed artworks and Chinese tapestries.