Visiting the Rochdale Pioneer Museum on Toad Lane

The home of the British co-operative movement

As part of a Central Co-op learning event, I got the chance to visit the Rochdale Pioneers Museum. The museum is in 31 Toad Lane, where the Rochdale Pioneers started the British modern co-operative movement. The building has been kept in keeping with the original period features of the time the Co-operative was formed in 1844. It was my first opportunity to visit the home of the British co-operative movement, which I was very excited about.

Toad Lane

The Rochdale Pioneers Story

In the morning I participated in a Central Co-op Strategy event.  In the afternoon the second activity that I took part in involved us listening to a wonderful speech from one of the museum employees. She told us about the origins of the Rochdale Pioneers. In 1844 food was expensive and often tampered with. 28 men had the idea to try and do business a new way where members would buy into the co-operative for £1 and would access “unadulterated “food, of high quality. £1 was a big commitment in 1844. Member owners could buy staples like butter, sugar, flour and oatmeal. The Rochdale Pioneers raised £10 to rent the Toad Lane premises. There attempts were met with disdain by other business owners who refused to work with them. This meant that to be able to buy stock to sell for the shop opening, the Pioneers had to walk to Manchester to be able to buy stock as local businesses refused to sell to them. Despite the difficulties the shop was a success and grew greatly.  The Pioneers established the Co-operative Values and Principles, which have been modified since, but are still in keeping with those written in 1844.


After the talk finished, we had the opportunity to explore the museum, that has co-operative artifacts and tells the rest of the story of the Rochdale Pioneers. It was great to round up our Central Co-op Networking trip by learning about our co-operative history. I also had the chance to have a quick look around the pub next door, The Baum. The Baum is a pub full of local character.

As a long term co-operator, it was fantastic for me to visit the home of the British co-operative movement. I was able to learn about the difficulties the original co-operators had in starting up. They started up in a time of crisis and used co-operative values and principles to work together, allowing everybody involved to succeed together. The lessons from the Rochdale Pioneers are still as relevant today as they were in 1844. Co-operative solutions to societal problems are still important. If you are interested in the co-operatives and the co-operative movement, I would highly recommend visiting the Rochdale Pioneer Museum on Toad Lane.

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