The Minute Books of the Skelton Co-operative Society Committee.

In the 1990s James Wilks of Skelton obtained his first employment at the Skelton Co-operative Society shop in the High Street.
A couple of years before it was taken over by the North Eastern Co-operative Society he was given the task of gutting the attic and was told to throw everything out.
Fortunately he had the good sense to realise that some of the "rubbish" was part of our History and asked if he could keep a few items including a framed photograph of a previous Co-op President, William Mott, some leather bound books and advertising lantern slides.
He has kindly emailed a scan of the photograph and loaned the books, which are the Minute Books of the Society's Committee, covering the period from 1894 to 1901.
The books reveal how an all male Committee of seemingly twelve, with nine or ten usually present at each meeting involved themselves in the smallest minutiae of running a Grocery, Drapery, Millinery, Boot, Butchery and Coal Leading Business in Skelton with Branches at Boosbeck and Saltburn.
The idea of Co-operatives began in 1844 with the Rochdale Pioneers and quickly spread in the North.
By 1863 the Co-operative Wholesale Society was established, originally called the North of England Co-operative Wholesale Industrial and Provident Society Limited.
An entry in the Books shows that the Skelton Co-operative opened in October 1873.
By the year 1900 there were 1,439 Co-operative Societies registered in the UK.
Most of the Skelton Committee records are repetitive entries for ordering Goods and settling Accounts. Nothing was ordered or paid for without the Committee's approval and they personally did the Stocktaking.
In the days when people baked their own bread the question of where to buy Flour, its cost and quality was a constant issue; closely followed by Coal, when everyone had an open fire.
The Skelton Co-op Society seems to have paid a 4 to 5 percent return to those who had Share Capital in the organisation and announced a Dividend each Quarter on profits that ranged from 700 to 800 in the late 1890s.
Members received back in "divi" up to an eighth of what they had spent on Groceries etc and lesser amounts for using the Co-op Butchers and buying Co-op Coal.
[I have never personally seen why they did not simply sell at a much cheaper price than the competition and thus avoid what must have been in those days a massive paperwork job of recording every transaction.]
Investors had to have the Committee's permission to withdraw their Share Capital.
I already had a record in the website for the 28th June 1894 that the "Skelton Co-operative Society's committee have decided to decrease the working hours of their employees from 54.5 hours to 50 hours per week to take effect from 23rd July."
The books reveal that wages then were around 5 shillings for the Errand lad up to 35 shillings for the General Manager.

William Mott.
Headmaster of Skelton Green Junior School.
Skelton Co-operative Society Committee Member from 1905.
President 1923 to 1956.
Lived at 92 High Street, Skelton.
[Photograph kindly contributed by -
James Wilks of Skelton.]

Apprentices were bound to their Employer in those days for 5 years and workers had to apply to the Committee for a position, an increase in pay, to have a "holliday" and obtain permission to quit.
I have found no record of how Members elected the Committee or how long for.
I have identified some of the Committee from the 1901 Census. They were mainly experienced, middle aged Ironstone Mine workers with no apparent Commercial expertise:-

Charles Clark, 67 Boosbeck Road, Ironstone Underground, age 56, born Fransham, Norfolk.
John Clayton, 49 Boosbeck Road, Ironstone Blacksmith Foreman, age 48, born Pittonton Durham.
George W Gardener, 26 William St, Ironstone Platelayer Below, age 57, born Filey, Yorks.
John Hanson, 11 vaughan St, North Skelton, Ironstone Rigger above ground, age 52, born Ruswarp, N Yorks.
William Hardwick, 4 Green Road, age 46, Ironstone Clerk, born Middlesbrough, N Yorks.
W Hugill, 43 Wharton St, North Skelton, Ironstone Miner, age 54, born Broughton, N Yorks.
Robert Jex, 55 Harker St in 1881 and 75 Boosbeck Rd in 1901, Ironstone Mine Deputy, age 49, born Swanton Morley, Norfolk.
Walter Palmer, 19 William Street, age 42, Insurance Agent, born Greenshall, Norfolk.
Edwin G Rowland, 53 Boosbeck Rd in 1901 age 38, and Rock Villa, The Hills in 1913, Ironstone Clerk, age 38, born Loftus, N Yorks.
Henry Sedman 1894, 11 Boosbeck Rd, Ironstone Deputy Overman, age 52, born Stokesley, N Yorks.
Alexander W Wallace, 21 Milbank Street, Ironstone Miner, age 40, born Chatham, Kent.
Others named are R Alcock, Henry Bell, William Brooks, Carter from May 1900, Downes from May 1900, Foster, J Jackson, W Jackson, R Nelson 1894, J Russell, Thompson, W Varty 1895, J White 1894.

They appear to have had two meetings per week and presumably, unlike our pocket-lining public representatives today, gave of their time without payment, as one record shows that they could not get a unanimous vote to claim even one shilling for expenses to attend events in other places.
They seem to have run the organisation in an aggressive manner to maximise profits and expand the business by diversification and acquiring more premises.
They were also into the buy-to-let business and bought up local dwelling houses that came up for sale.
At least they gave an annual 5 shillings or so to the childrens' Sunday School Treats. In those days the Parish Church, the Wesleyans and the Primitive Methodists each had classes of well over a hundred.
Many such entries give a glimpse back to how life was in those times and a selection follows.


7 Aug. Resolved that the sum of 5 be allowed for winning Hay and Thatching and completing the Hay Stack.
Resolved that Messrs Jex and Jackson be appointed to make the necessary arrangements for tea tables, forms etc for the Celebration Tea on the 18th.

10 Aug. Manager with Mr Ross be directed to purchase a Horse suitable for Butcher's Department.
Mr Atkinson be directed to secure 24 Tea Urns for Celebration Tea on the 18th.
Quarterly statement be accepted and that we pay a Bonus of 2 shillings and threepence in the pound on the Grocery and 1s 8d on the Butchering and 5 be added to the Reserve.

14 Aug. Cheeses. Resolved we purchase 2 hundredweight each Wensleydale, Derby and Edems.
That we purchase Hepworths Profit Calculator for use of Committee and Accounts. That our Manager make provision to lend spoons to each table for Tea on the 18th.
That Mr Clark be appointed to assist with Mr Jex in the necessary work in field for Tea.
That shops be closed at 4 o'clock on Saturday for Employees to attend Tea and Meeting.

17 Aug. That the necessary repairs be done to the Boot returned by Mr W Jackson.

21 Aug. That Mr Sedman be allowed the sum of 5 shillings for standing all day at the Ginger Beer Stall.
That a vote of thanks be sent to Park Pit for the loan of material etc for the Tea.
We accept the offer of Miss Reddish of the Cooperative Womens' Guild to lecture in the Wesleyan School from Monday, September 10th. A very strong letter be sent to the Secretary of the Committee of the Wholesale complaining of the inferior quality of the Boots sent to us from their warehouse.
Our Furniture trade to be done through Mr Atkinson, Saltburn and that arrangements be made through our Manager.

7 Sep. Our Manager be instructed to try to purchase the property adjoining the Offices in High Street, Skelton. It was resolved that the limit purchase money be 210.
Mr Cawthorn's wages be increased to 30 shillings per week.

11 Sep. The question of selling the "gray" pony be left over until the new Horse's worth is safisfactory to the Manager.

18 Sep. Mr Atkinson, Manager, be allowed a "holliday" on Thursday.

21 Sep. The Cutter [Mr Johnson] be requested to meet the Board on Tuesday the 1st.

28 Sep. Application granted for the Women's Guild Committee to meet in the Society's offices each alternate Thursday evening.

2 Oct. In future no employee in Tailoring will be allowed to bring material on their own responsibility to make up on the Society's premises.

9 Oct. We purchase Flour from Messrs Leetham and Sons, York. Ex Super 20 shillings, Super 18s and Fine 16s 6d.
The President be appointed to attend the Fruit Sale at Newcastle along with the General Manager.

12 Oct. Secretary be instructed to write to K Ross respecting changes for Leading Coal.

16 Oct. General Manager and Mr Cawthorn's attention be called to the inferior Wensleydale Cheese.
Committee members were appointed Stocktakers.
Skelton Grocery and Boots - Mr R Jex.
Skelton Drapery - J Clayton, W Hardwick and W Jackson.
Boosbeck Branch - Brooks and Nelson.
Saltburn Branch - Alcock and Russell.

19 Oct. Miss Barber's wage be increased to 10 shilling per week.

30 Oct. A note to be put up in Skelton and Boosbeck shops advertising for an Apprentice to the Grocery Business for the Boosbeck shop.

2 Nov. Mr Clayton be delegated to wait upon the Tailoring Manager, Mr Johnson, with respect to the small amount of work that he is turning out.
Resolve we forward the cheque for 180 18s 0d to W C Trevor Esq, Solicitor, Guisborough to enable him to complete the purchase of House No 75 High Street, Skelton.
The Manager, Mr Atkinson's wages to be increased to 35 shillings per week.

6 Nov. Election of Apprentice for Boosbeck Branch. Thomas Waite 6 votes, William Rix 3.

9 Nov. The Financial Statement be accepted and we pay a bonus of 2s 6d in the pound on the General and 1s 6d on the Butchering.

13 Nov. Mr Hodge be allowed to attend the Wholesale for the purpose of selecting Fancy Goods for Xmas.
Resolved to have 1,000 Book Almanacks for 1895 from the Coop Printing Society as per sample.
A pipe for the stove be provided for the Saltburn Shop.

The Saltburn Branch of the Skelton Co-operative Society on the Right in Garnet Street.

20 Nov. The question of hiring a Horse for a fortnight to take the place of the cart horse, Jock, be left in the hands of the Manager.
Mr Hodge wages to be advanced 1 shilling per week and the rest of the applicants be not advanced at the present time.

23 Nov. Mr Cawthorn to be allowed to withdraw 100 from the Society.
Christmas Candles be purchased to present to the Members as usual from the Wholesale.

27 Nov. Resolved we nominate our President, Mr J Clayton as a candidate for the Urban District Council for the South Skelton Ward.

30 Nov. Mr W Barker and Ken Ross to be paid 5 shillings for Tipping Truck Coals at Boosbeck Depot.
Resolved the Secretary write to Messrs Bell Bros complaining of the inferior quality of Turndale Harvey Coal.

4 Dec. A Goose to be given as a prize to the Skelton Volunteers Xmas Shooting fund.

18 Dec. Proposed that we give a Tongue to the Saltburn Congregational Church Tea on Xmas Day.

29 Dec. Resolved that Boots belonging to Mr Hutton, placed on the table for inspection, be thoroughly repaired by our Shoemaker at the expense of the Society.
A serious complaint was made about the quality of our sausages. Mr Clayton was appointed to see Mr Marshall respecting same.

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