What is the Co-operative Heritage Trust?

We exist to preserve the heritage assets of the co-operative movement in the UK.

This means that we look after collections from records to objects which tell the story of how the movement began, the way it grew and its influence on the social, economic and political history of the country.

One of our assets is the building in which the first successful consumer co-operative began. Number 31 Toad Lane was where 28 working class people came together to try to create a fairer way to live and work to benefit their community.

The 28 were known as the Rochdale Pioneers after the name of their society of Equitable Pioneers. They had decided to try to open a member owned, and run organisation to provide local people with affordable, good quality food in a time of great deprivation and austerity in the 1840's. They did so by establishing a set of values and principles which formed the basis for co-operative organisations all over the world.

From the small, sparse shop front, the society grew its local membership and was copied all over the North West region and the rest of the UK. Individual 'Co-op' societies grew their membership, sometimes merging together to form larger organisations which could provide their members with all the goods they would need in their daily lives. Federation of co-operative led to one of the biggest and best known societies  - The Co-operative Wholesale Society which was formed in 1863 and is now know  as the Co-operative Group. The original building on Toad Lane, which has been open as Rochdale Pioneers Museum since 1931, remains a source of inspiration for people wanting be a part of positive change.  Visit us to find out more about the way co-ops formed and how they became part of the social and economic life of Britain. *We are an accredited museum.

We also provide secure storage for and access to records in our National Co-operative Archive; housed at Holyoake House, in Manchester where members of the public visit by appointment to do their own research.

Our collections cover the history of the British Co-operative Movement in documents, film, photography as well as packaging, advertising and other media.