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BUSINESS HOUSES

Messrs PLYMOUTH CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY Ltd

Updated:  13 September 2012 

In 1916 the Plymouth Mutual Co-operative and Industrial Society, which had been formed in 1860, was renamed as the Plymouth Co-operative Society Ltd.

During the early years of the Great War the Society saw its steamer, the "Charles Goodanew", requisitioned by the Admiralty for war service.  When she was sunk by a mine off the Scottish coast the Society received about £40,000 in compensation and this enabled them to purchase another schooner in 1917, which they named the "PCS".  Another vessel, the "M A James", was acquired along with several barges and fishing boats.  It was hoped to have a Co-operative fishing fleet but this idea failed.

1918 passed quietly, no doubt with relief at the end of the Great War, although it did see the formation of the Motor Coach Department with orders being placed with manufacturers for 14 or 15 vehicles.  The following year the first shop that the Plymouth Society had occupied, by now known as 48 and 49 Stillman Street, came into the hands of the Society.  That year also saw the opening of the first shop outside the Borough boundary, at Newton Ferrers.

The Diamond Jubilee was celebrated on Wednesday August 4th 1920 with the laying of the foundation stone of the Preserve Works in Recreation Road, Peverell, and the opening of the Radnor Dairy in Radnor Place.  On August 7th 1920 the children of members were entertained at Home Park and for a week in September 1920 there was an exhibition in the Co-op Hall in Courtenay Street of the Society's own produce.

At the time of the Diamond Jubilee the Plymouth Co-operative Society Ltd had 66,712 members; 2,519 members of staff; 215 horses; 140 vans; 7 steam wagons; 35 motor lorries; 100 railway trucks; 17 chars-a-banc; 7 touring cars; 9 milk floats; 3 milk collecting wagons; 110 milk barrows; 215 milking cows; 336 bullocks, etc; 850 sheep; 1,200 head of poultry; 264 pigs; and 2,930 acres of farm land.  They supplied 4,000 gallons of milk every day and had 1,080 sacks of flour turned to bread and confectionery every week.  The Society's share capital was £1,033,068 and the sales amounted to £2,450,496.

A Plymouth Co-operative Society horse-drawn vegetables and fruit van at Saint Mawes Avenue, Keyham Barton.
A Plymouth Co-operative Society horse-drawn vegetables and fruit van at Saint Mawes Avenue, Keyham Barton.
©  Not known.

New footwear stores were opened in 1920 at Drake Circus and in Embankment Road; there was a new greengrocery in Union Street, Stonehouse; and the first shop for the sale of tobacco was opened at Drake Circus.  A second shop outside the Borough boundary was opened at Modbury in 1920 and the 279-acre Longbrook Farm, near Endsleigh, and Poole Far, which had been rented since 1888, were both purchased outright.

It is interesting to note the opening times of the various Departments in 1920.  The butchery shops opened first, at 7.30am.  They were followed at 8.15am by the groceries, confectioners and dairies and at 8.30am by the greengrocery shops.  All the non-food Departments - boots, drapery, tailoring, furnishing, ironmongery and china - plus the restaurant in Courtenay Street, opened at 9am.  [1]

Closing times were much more varied.  The butchery shops, having been first to open, were also first to close.  They finished at 4pm on a Monday; 5pm on a Tuesday; 12.30pm on a Wednesday; 6pm on a Thursday and Saturday; and 7.30pm on a Friday.  All the other Departments - with the sole exception of the restaurant - closed at 6pm on a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 1pm on a Wednesday; 7pm on a Friday and 8pm on a Saturday.  The restaurant closed at 7pm every day except Wednesdays, when it was 6pm, and Saturdays when it closed at 8pm.  [1]

The Pharmacy Department was born in 1921 with the opening of a chemist shop at Drake Circus.  The shop not only dispensed medicines but sold cosmetics and toilet products and did camera repairing and film development.  Other new Co-op shops opened at Drake Circus were a dairy and an outfitters.  Longbrook Farm at Tavistock was added to the Co-operative estate.

The early years of the 1920s were hit by the depressed aftermath of the Great War.  The slump in trade was causing prices to fall although the costs of production continued to increase.  Unemployment was increasing and wages were falling, bringing misery to millions.  Co-op dividends were expected to fall.  The farms and the new preserve works were amongst those departments which made a loss in 1921.  In spite of the poor trading conditions the Society opened more stores outside of Plymouth in 1921; butchery and bakery branches at Yelverton and at Callington.  Although the latter shop came in for much criticism, it was pointed out that during its first three days 150 new members had been enrolled there and by the third week the membership had increased to 350.

In 1921 a new butchery branches were opened in Patna Place and Duke Street and the first china shop commenced trading in St Aubyn Street, Devonport.  Two unusual developments in that year were the coal depot at Millbrook and the "Homeward Bound" restaurant, in William Street, Devonport.  At the Central Premises in Courtenay Street a series of new shops had been opened enabling the Furnishing Department to expand and a tobacconists to open.

New shops were opened in Swilly Road and North Down Crescent in 1923, both on the newly developing Swilly Estate.

The last of the Plymouth Society's pioneers, Mr Thomas Reynolds, died on February 24th 1924 at the age of 92 years.

Only one new branch was opened in 1925, at Yealmpton, in the South Hams.  During that year the Furnishing Department was transferred from Frankfort Street to Courtenay Street, thus enabling the extension and modernisation of the Drapery Department.  The confectionery branch in Waterloo Street was converted into a grocery and the Motor Coach Department purchased four up-to-date chars-a-bans with pneumatic tyres.  The Whympstone Estate and holiday home were sold in 1925.

1926 was a big year for the Motor Coach Department: in the July, after many years of battling, they finally got the approval of the Society's management to operate coach tours on Sundays.  A grocery branch was opened in Fore Street, Devonport, in 1926, the first incursion into Devonport's main thoroughfare.

A new milk bottling and pasteurising plant was opened at the Radnor Dairy on March 26th 1927 while the Grocery Department opened a larger branch at Laira and new stores ain Pasley Street, Stoke, and Randwick Park Road, Oreston, Plymstock.

On February 2nd 1929 the president of the Society, Mr J Hayne Pillar, opened a new library and reading-room situated in Plymouth Chambers.  The library had over 8,000 books.  Another new grocery branch was opened at Crownhill on March 18th 1929.  On June 19th 1929 the president set in motion the new bakery machinery in the bakery at Peverell.  This included the most modern kneading machines and mixers and enabled the travelling oven to increase its production capacity.

Additional premises were provided in Courtenay Street during 1930.  This was occupied by a chemists, jewellers, optician, dental practice, and fancy goods.  By April 1930 all of the Society's motor coaches were being garaged in a brand new garage on North Quay, Sutton Harbour.  The Society's dividend reached a high point in 1930 - 1s 6d in the pound.

By 1931 the country was beginning to suffer from the Great Depression that had started following the Wall Street Crash of 1929.  Trade decreased a little but the dividend was maintained.  A new grocery (the Society's 49th) was opened at 131 Beaumont Road, St Jude's during the year.

On Wednesday November 16th 1932 the furnishing emporium on the island site between Courtenay and Raleigh Streets was officially opened.  This was situated opposite the Central Premises and was to be the only part of the Co-op in the City Centre to survive the Blitz.  In addition to the products from the Co-operative Wholesale Society's own factories, the new store also stocked goods from many other specialized manufacturers.  The additional space created by this new building enabled the ironmongery, china and glass goods to be transferred from their previous locations in the Central Premises.  [2]

The furniture emporium was erected by the Society's own Works Department and contained an electric passenger lift.  The opening ceremony was undertaken by the Society's president, Mr J Hayne Pillar, and was watched by the Mayor of Plymouth, Mr R R Oke, and Mr E Carwithen, the works manager.  [2]

There were no new developments until January 1935, when a confectionery branch was opened in Marlborough Street, Devonport, and a vegetable and fruit stall was opened in the Plymouth Market.  Shortly afterwards a butchery was opened at Crownhill, which was still outside Plymouth at that time, and another was planned for Randwick Park Road at Oreston.  The premises on Mutley Plain were modernised during 1935, which turned out to be rather fortuitous when the Central Premises were destroyed six years later.

In April 1937 it was announced that some changes were to be made at the Jubilee Buildings, Peverell Corner, where the dairy was to become a greengrocery and new shops were to be opened for confectionery and a pharmacy.

The Ladies Hairdressing Department was started late in 1938, offering permanent waves from 12s 6d and easy terms if required.  A new grocery branch was opened that year at Higher St Budeaux but was known as the West Park Branch.

There was only one development in 1939, the opening of a branch in Bridwell Road, Weston Mill.

On March 16th 1940 the new emporium in Fore Street, Devonport, was opened by the Society's president. 

Empire apples were being advertised at 6d and 7d per pound in August 1940 and the Co-operative Travel Service were advertising their tours starting from outside number 23 Frankfort Street:

Saturday August 17th 1940 -
10.30am to St Austell and Crinnis Sands. 7 shillings;
10.30am to the Moors and Teignmouth, 8s 6d;
10.30am to Widecombe, Haytor and Torquay, 8s 6d;
10.30am to ooe and Polperro, 6s;
10.30am and 2.30pm to Bigbury, 4s 6d;
10.30am and 2.30pm to Stoke Beach, 2 shillings;
2.30pm to Widecombe and Haytor, 6s 6d;
2.30pm to Salcombe and Hope Cove, 6s;
2.30pm to Berry Head and Goodrington, 6s;
2.30pm to Becky Falls and Manaton, 6s;
2.30pm to Dart Valley and Buckfast, 4s 6d.

Sunday August 18th 1940 -
10.30am to Teignmouth via the Moors and return via the coast, 8s 6d;
10.30am to Widecombe, Haytor and Torquay, 8s 6d;
10.30am to Fingle Bridge, 8s 6d.

Other tours were also available at 10.30am and 2.30pm.  [2a]
 

With the Second World War on Plymouth's doorstep, it was no surprise when the Central Premises in Plymouth were destroyed during the night of March 21st/22nd 1941 to be followed on 22nd/23rd April by the Devonport Emporium and the premises at Drake Circus.  Ironically, the administrative offices had just been moved from the ruins of Frankfort Street to Drake Circus when those premises were destroyed.  Instead the new temporary general office was set up in two large houses in Thorn Park, Mannamead.  They also took over a building at number 83 North Road. 

The only central building that survived was the comparatively new Furnishing Emporium.  Although the Devonport Emporium building was also newly constructed it was not so lucky and was completely gutted.  A fire at the Society's garage destroyed six coal lorries and seven motor coaches.  The Society's strong room in Frankfort Street withstood the bombs and fires and the Works Department had the job of rescuing documents from it.  The Co-operative Wholesale Society allowed its furnishing depot in Summerland Place to be used as the central grocery store.

Co-operators could purchase the 'Finest Self-raising flour' at Co-op grocery stores in November 1941 for 8d per 3lb bag or at the Co-op Chemist's a 3½d, 6½d, 1s 3½d, and 2s 6½d packet of Aspro", which the adverts claimed "In times of Stress, ASPRO Soothes Nerve Strain and brings Sweet Sleep".  [2b]

In Devonport the recovery after the Blitz was quite quick and on Thursday November 27th 1941 a new gents' and boys' outfitting branch opened at number 26 Marlborough Street and a drapery branch was started at number 47.  At that time the Paper Control Order prohibited the use of paper for wrapping goods sold over the counter, with the exception of foodstuffs.  Consequently customers were requested to: 'Kindly help by bringing your attaché case, paper bag or carrier when you come shopping'.  [2c].

For more than twenty years the Society had been enrolling members in the Launceston area of Cornwall and serving them by means of a weekly delivery service from the main grocery warehouse in Plymouth.  As more and more Plymothians were evacuated to that district it became urgent to obtain premises in the town.  During 1942 the Society bought the business of Mr S Rockey at 4 Southgate Street, Launceston, for use as an outfitters and drapery and then took over another going concern as a butchery.  Finally in May 1942 they bought the premises of Messrs Dunn Brothers and converted it into a grocery.  In fact the drapery business did not last long as the Board of Trade issued a directive that all new dry goods businesses had to be licensed and as the Launceston Chamber of Trade objected to this new venture, the Board declined to issue such a licence.  Interestingly, the Society got around this problem by offering to refund members' train fares from Launceston to Plymouth if they spent over £1 10s in the dry goods departments and a little less if they spent between 15s and £1 10s.  An old established coal and agricultural business was also acquired in Launceston and opened for business in July 1942.  Nearer Plymouth, the Society purchased a pharmacy at Yelverton.

A shop run by Mr E W Farley in Efford Road was acquired in 1943 and opened as a grocery.  Later in the year the Society purchased a business at Torpoint and re-opened it was a drapery branch.  In August 1943 a branch was opened at number 3 Brooklyn Terrace, Camel's Head.

As the air raids continued so did the damage to other Co-op premises.  The offices at North Road, the grocery in Adelaide Road, the butchery in Manor Street, the confectionery in Lipson Road and the premises in Alexandra Road at Ford all suffered damage.  Meanwhile, the market gardens at Efford, which the Society had purchased for housing back in 1898, was sold to Plymouth City Council for the same purpose.

The Plymouth Co-operative Society grocery store at 3 Brooklyn Terrace, Wolseley Road.
The Plymouth Co-operative Society grocery store at 3 Brooklyn Terrace, Wolseley Road.
©  City of Plymouth Museum & Art Gallery.

Gubb's Farm at King's Tamerton was purchased in 1944 and other property was bought at Camel's Head and Weston Mill for later development.  Later in the year Membland Farm was acquired and added to Caulston Farm next door and Chittleburn Market Gardens were bought to replace those at Efford.  There was only one new opened, on October 16th 1944, at Elburton.  However, a property at Endsleigh Place, Plympton, was acquired and used as a laundry, boot repair receiving depot and a milk distribution centre.

A couple of new branches were opened before the Second World War ended.  The one at Bere Alston opened on January 8th 1945 and was followed by a butchery at Newton Ferrers.

With the coming of peace in 1945 came the need to reconstruct the buildings, both shops and homes, that had been destroyed.   The Society found that as from March 5th 1945 its centre of business in Frankfort Street/Courtenay Street became part of Reconstruction Area number 1 with the ownership of all the land passing into the hands of Plymouth City Council, who would, in due course, lease it back for redevelopment in periods of up to 99 years.  The period following the hostilities also saw the amalgamation of many of the smaller Devonshire Co-op Societies into the Plymouth one, the first being the Lee Moor Co-operative Society in 1945.  The Society also took over many dairy rounds from private owners.

There were a few smaller developments during 1945.  A new branch was opened at 115 Blandford Road, Efford; a drapery business in Albert Road, Devonport, was taken over; and a pharmacy at 91 Wolseley Road was acquired.

In September 1946 a pharmacy was opened at Millbridge.

The Plympton and District Co-operative Society Ltd was amalgamated with the Plymouth Society on March 17th 1947, as a result of which the Society added grocery, butchery and drapery branches at Plympton; grocery and butchery branches at Ivybridge; a grocery branch at Hemerdon; and a coal depot at Plympton.  On May 27th 1947 a new branch was opened at Honicknowle and the following month a pharmacy in George Street, Devonport, was opened.  A further pharmacy branch was added at Torpoint in September 1947 and it was announced that Plympton was to get a footwear branch.

In Courtenay Street, right in the centre of the City, some temporary shops were opened for business on August 5th 1947.  This relieved some of the pressure on space in the former Furniture Emporium.  The Society introduced its first electrically propelled vehicle in September 1947, a greengrocery van.

A new grocery branch was opened at Kingsbridge on January 5th 1948 and was followed by another in Torridge Way, Efford, in June or July 1948.  It is believed that another in Beacon Park Road was opened that year.  Two pharmacies, at Plympton and West Park, were also opened.  Towards the end of 1948 the grocery in Courtenay Street became a self-service store, the first in Plymouth.  It was followed by the branch at Jubilee Buildings, Peverell Corner on March 7th 1949.

The Plymouth Society earned national publicity on June 7th 1949 by opening a grocery in the ground floor of a Cornish Unit council house at 90 Rochford Crescent on the Ernesettle Estate.  The following month the new grocery and butchery in Merrivale Road, Beacon Park, were opened.  In August 1949 the Co-op grocery in Launceston was converted to a self-service store, the first in Cornwall.

During 1950 new grocery stores were opened at Wolseley Road and King's Tamerton, while the latter place also got a bread/confectionery, greengrocery/fishmonger, butchery and pharmacy.

In 1951 the premises formerly occupied by Messrs W Mumford Ltd at Billacombe, Plymstock, were purchased for the use of the Traffic Department.

The new grocery warehouse on North Quay was opened in 1951 and work started on building anew butchery small goods factory at Recreation Road to replace the one in Water Lane, Stonehouse.  In June 1951 the grocery at Honicknowle was moved to new shops at Honicknowle Green. 

Wrapped and sliced bread was introduced by the Plymouth Co-op in 1952.  In July 1952 a new grocery was opened in the village of Horrabridge and arrangements were being made to transfer the Ross Street branch to Albert Road.  In September 1952 the Education Department finally moved into the former Western College building at Mutley.  The year ended with the biggest event of all, the opening by the Society's president, Mr A N Stroud, of the new central premises at Derry's Cross on Thursday November 6th 1952  [2d].

Designed by Mr W J Reed, chief architect for the Co-operative Wholesale Society, the new headquarters were constructed of a steel frame and prestressed concrete floors and roof.  The building was faced with Portland stone and, below the canopy, Cornish granite.  The cost, exclusive of shop fittings, was £900,000.  The restaurant was on the third floor, overlooking Royal Parade and could only be accessed from the lift at the Royal Parade entrance.  A passage past the staff dining room gave access to the Co-op office.  The Food Hall on the ground floor ran the full length of the building from Raleigh Street to Courtenay Street.  [2e]

The first sections to open were the furnishing and drapery ones on the ground and lower ground floors.  Departments for travel, jewellery and tobacco were to be opened on the ground floor and a drapery showroom on the first floor.  Remaining furnishing items were to be housed on the second floor and the top floor would be used for offices and storage.  The ladies' hairdressing department was to be moved from its temporary home in Cambridge Street to the new mezzanine floor.  Four of the display windows measured 22 feet 6 inches in length and 7 feet 6 inches in height, each containing a glass window weighing some 8 cwt.  [2d]

Before the second stage of the new building could be completed the furnishing and drapery emporium had to be demolished.  [2d]

During 1953 a new grocery was opened at Pomphlett, Plymstock, and the grocery in Chapel Street, Stonehouse, was transferred to number 35 Edgcumbe Street, where it opened as a self-service store.  The huge success achieved by the grocery at Ernesettle - it was the only store on the estate - had quickly made the temporary premises in a house totally inadequate and customers and staff were relieved when it was moved in 1953 to more suitable premises at Ernesettle Green.

On February 27th 1954 the last of the Co-op's horses was disposed of and the stables by the Peverell bakery were turned over to the storage of furniture.  Two new pharmacies were opened in 1954, at Whitleigh Green and Torridge Way.  Whitleigh Green soon benefitted from new grocery and butchery stores.  The former confectionery branches in Grenville Road, Lipson Vale and Southside Street were transformed into grocery branches.  With the death of the old Devonport shopping area, the tailoring branch in Marlborough Street was closed.  A temporary greengrocery shop in Lisson Grove, Mutley, was replaced with an ultra-modern greengrocery and florist.

A new grocery was opened in West Hoe Road in 1955 and was followed in October 1955 by a new one at Butt Park Road, Honicknowle.  Towards the end of the year the butchery at Jubilee Buildings carried out an experiment to provide meat by self-service.

On May 17th 1956 the Cornwood and District Co-operative Society Ltd decided to join with the Plymouth Society.  The amalgamation took place with effect from June 25th 1956  [3].  During the year the Society opened a grocery at Dean Cross, Plymstock, and a pharmacy at Pomphlett, also in Plymstock.  The food hall at the central premises was opened towards the end of 1956.

The changing nature of trade in Devonport in 1957 brought about the closure of the grocery in Princess Street, which re-opened in Marlborough Street as the 27th self-service store.  The Society's 20th pharmacy was to be opened in Congreve Gardens, Chaucer Way.  A grocery was opened in Seymour Road, Plympton.

In 1958 the Dartmouth Co-operative Society Ltd was amalgamated into the Plymouth Co-operative Society Ltd and thus was acquired grocery stores in Victoria Road, Dartmouth, and Fore Street, Kingswear.  A new pharmacy was opened during the year at Dartmouth.  Later that year what had always been known as the "central premises" became "Co-operative House".

A new grocery was opened in 1959 at Cawsand, Cornwall, and a butchery was established at Plympton St Maurice.  The preserve works at Peverell, the last to be run by a local Co-op Society, was closed down.

There was only one major event in 1960: the opening of a supermarket at numbers 21/23/25/27 Broadway at Plymstock, on Monday October 17th 1960.  The opening was performed by Mr C R Westlake, the vice-president of the Society.  Covering some 3,300 square feet, it was mainly a food shop but it also sold hardware, stockings and haberdashery.  It was the third shop to be opened in the new shopping area.  [4]

Given that the 1960 was only fifteen years after the Second World War ended and the reconstruction of Plymouth was still not yet completed, that year was something of a watershed in the post-war expansion of the Plymouth Co-operative Society.  Most events before 1960 were about "openings": after 1960 it was all about "closings".

The first of the closures took place on Saturday January 14th and involved the confectionery branch in Cattedown Road.  That was followed on Saturday January 21st 1961 by the closure of the Fuel Depot at Plympton and Friday March 3rd 1961 by the closure of the confectionery branch in Peverell Park Road, the footwear branch in Wolseley Road and the pharmacy at Torpoint.  Admittedly, the grocery branch at Merrivale Road, Beacon Park, and the furniture store in Launceston were modernised during the first months of that year.  [3]

On Monday March 27th 1961 the Society signed a lease with the Co-operative Insurance Society to occupy three ground floor shops in their building in New George Street.  [3]

A Milk Bar was opened on the ground floor of Co-operative House on Wednesday March 29th 1961.  But that was the end of the good news.  On Saturday June 3rd 1961 the grocery in Adelaide Road and the confectionery in Fleet Street were closed and on Saturday June 10th 1961 the drapery at Torpoint and the confectionery in Albert Road followed suit.  On Saturday June 17th 1961 the confectionery at camel's Head closed.  [3]

The grocery in York Street, Plymouth, closed on Saturday July 8th and was followed by the beginning of September by the footwear store in Embankment Road; the grocery in Alexandra Road at Ford; the confectionery in Union Street; and the grocery at Cornwood.  It will be recalled that the Cornwood and District Co-operative Society Ltd only joined with the Plymouth one in 1956.  [3]

An oasis of happiness opened up on Saturday September 16th 1961 when a ladies hairdressing salon commenced in Co-operative House.  [3]

1961 ended with more closures: the grocery and butchery branches in York Street and the greengrocery shops in Wilton Street and Beacon Park Road, all on Saturday September 30th 1961.  The last-named premises were taken over by the adjacent grocery stores.  [3]

On Friday December 1st 1961 the Motor Coach Department was sold to the Embankment Motor Company (Plymouth) Ltd.  [3]

The new year commenced in the same vane as the old year had ended.  The butchery in Salisbury Road closed on Saturday February 3rd 1962.  As from Sunday March 4th 1962 the bakery in Beauchamp Road, Peverell, was transferred to the control of the Co-operative Wholesale Society.  [3]

A new butchery was opened at number 85 Cornwall Street on Monday March 19th 1962.  [3]

During March 1962 number 7 Hornchurch Road, at Ernesettle, was rented for use as a pharmacy and the grocery shop was transferred into the former pharmacy.  [3]

By June 1962 the Transport Department, formerly known as the Traffic Department, had completed its move from Billacombe to the former Preserve Works at Peverell.  [3]

Two of the three premises leased from the Co-operative Insurance Society in 1961 were opened on Monday July 16th 1962, as a tobacco/sweets shop (Courtenay Street) and a delicatessen/pork butchers shop (New George Street)  [3].  The third shop had been reserved for a laundry receiving depot and was presumably opened at the same time.

Saturday September 1st 1962 saw three more closures: the grocery at Lee Mill; the confectionery at St Budeaux; and the footwear shop in Albert Road.  On that same date all the stores in Launceston, Cornwall, were transferred to the Co-operative Retail Services, who were already running all the other Co-op stores in the county.  [3]

A self-service, instant dividend, grocery store was opened at 53/55 Cornwall Street in April 1963.  The instant dividend turned out to be difficult to administer and was stopped in July to be replaced by the much simpler expedient of -- lower prices.  [3]

On April 27th 1963 Netton, Caulston and Lambside Farms were sold and on July 16th 1963 the former Transport Department premises at Billacombe were disposed of to the Albany Meat Products Company for £61,500.  [3]

The premises formerly occupied by Messrs Snell & Company, tobacconists, at number 33 New George Street were re-opened by the Society as a tobacconists on Monday July 22nd 1963.  A new pharmacy at number 16 Cornwall Street was opened on Saturday November 30th 1963.  [3]

At Plymstock the Randwick Park butchery was closed on January 18th 1964 and Pomphlett Mill was closed down on September 5th 1964  [3].  But the year ended on a positive note when the departmental store at Tamar House, St Budeaux, was opened on Thursday September 24th 1964.  Mr D G E Moore, president of the Society, performed the opening ceremony.  The store comprised a food hall and off-licence on the ground floor with fashions, footwear, children's wear, records, dress fabrics and soft furnishings and much more on the first floor.  To celebrate the opening the Co-op offered a double dividend on all purchases and the it was open until 8pm on Friday evenings, probably the first such late-night opening in Plymouth since the end of the War.  [5]

Once again the new year started well but it soon went downhill.  The first ever "Double Divi Week" was held between January 25th and 30th 1965.  But on April 17th 1965 the butchery in Alexandra Road, Ford, was closed; on June 5th 1965 the grocery in Randwick Park Road, Plymstock, was closed; on June 26th 1965 the grocery in Butt Park Road, Honicknowle, was closed; and n July 17th the grocery stores in Holborn Street and Southside Street were closed.  [3]

Back in March 1962 the Society had purchased numbers 5, 6, and 6A, Gilwell Street for the planned expansion of the Radnor Dairy.  The enlarged and modernised dairy was re-opened on Friday July 16th 1965.  The dairy manager was Mr W J Akers.  During the speeches at a luncheon held in the Guildhall afterwards, the Society's president, Mr D G E Moore, said that the Dairy supplied about one third of Plymouth's population with fresh milk and cream.  [6]

The grocery at 22/24 Priory Road, Compton, closed on September 4th 1965.  [3]

To overcome some problems with the finances of the pharmacies, it was decided to form a new company to take them over.  Thus, the Plymouth Co-operative Drug Stores Ltd was formed on October 12th 1965 and on December 28th 1965 the pharmacy at Torridge Way, Efford, was transferred into its care.  It was followed in January 1966 by the pharmacy in Beaumont Road.  [3]

On January 20th 1966 a new receiving shop for laundry and dry cleaning was opened at 29 Mayflower Street.  The greengrocery in Fleet Street, Keyham, was closed on March 5th 1966 and the pharmacy at Millbridge was transferred to the Plymouth Co-operative Drug Stores Ltd on March 28th 1966.  [3]

Plym House, the departmental store at Broadway, Plymstock, was opened on Tuesday April 5th 1966, and resulted in the closure of the grocery and butchery shops.  Mr James Finnigan, chairman of the Devon Redevelopment Committee, removed the rope barrier across the entrance to allow the long queue of people to start their shopping.  [7]

Up until 1966 the Co-op was one of those organisations that used the Lamson Paragon Vacuum Suction System to transfer cash from the sales counters to the cashiers, who then sent any change back the same way.  That all changed in around April 1966 when the system was replaced with Hugin Cash Registers.  [3]

On May 7th 1966 the grocery in Cornwall Street was closed and this was followed on September 5th 1966 by the closure of the groceries in Admiralty Street, Stonehouse; Belgrave Road, Mutley; Bretonside; Ebrington Street; North Down Crescent; Patna Place; and Lee Moor.  On September 5th 1966 the Torquay Co-operative Society Ltd was amalgamated into the Plymouth Co-operative Society.  (It should be mentioned at this point that developments in Torquay are not covered in this history.)  The year drew to a close with the closure, on November 26th 1966, of the Cattedown Road butchery and the conversion of the four shops in Fore Street, Torpoint, into a supermarket.  [3]

1967 continued much like all the previous years of that decade, with a large programme of closures.  The groceries in Grenville Road and West Hoe Road ceased trading on April 29th 1967; the fuel depot at Horrabridge closed on July 15th 1967; and the groceries in Alexandra Road, Blandford Road, Pasley Street and Pomphlett closed on September 2nd 1967.  [3]

Another smaller Society, the Tavistock and District Co-operative Society Ltd, founded in 1904, transferred its shops and members to Plymouth on October 15th 1967.  [3]

March 2nd 1968 saw the closures of grocery stores in Duke Street, King's Tamerton, Merrivale Road, and Salisbury Road; the closure of butcheries in Bridwell Road and King's Tamerton; and the closure of the drapery and menswear departments at Plymstock Broadway.  [3]

Some redevelopment had occurred at Crownhill and on March 7th 1968 the new grocery at 3/4 Tavistock Road and the new butchery at 12 Morshead Road were opened.  Jubilee Buildings at Peverell Corner also received modernisation and new grocery, butchery, pharmacy, and drapery were re-opened on May 10th 1968, with the addition of a laundrette.  But the year closed with yet another closure, the butchery in Merrivale Road, Beacon Park, which happened on September 7th 1968.  [3]

With the Plymouth Co-operative Society Ltd now responsible for stores in Dartmouth, Tavistock and Torquay, it was felt that the Society should change its name to reflect this newly acquired territory.  Thus, on March 14th 1969 the Plymouth and South Devon Co-operative Society Ltd was registered.  The affairs of the Plymouth Society were transferred to the new Company on March 30th 1969 and the Paignton Co-operative Society Ltd was amalgamated with it on March 31st 1969, on which date the Plymouth Co-operative Society Ltd legally ceased to exist.  [3]

The story continues with the Plymouth & South Devon Co-operative Society Ltd.


Principal Source:

Briscoe, Robert, "Centenary History: A Hundred Years of Co-operation in Plymouth", Co-operative Press Ltd, Manchester, 1960.

Other Sources:

[1]  Plymouth Co-operative Society Ltd, "Diamond Jubilee Special 'Record'", held at the Plymouth Local Studies Library.

[2]  "Expansion of Trade: Plymouth Story of Progress: New Furniture Emporium", Western Morning News, Plymouth, November 17th 1932.

[2a]  Adverts, Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, August 16th 1940.

[2b]  Advert, Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, November 14th 1941.

[2c]  Advert reference New Branches, Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, November 25th 1941.

[2d]  "Building Will be Biggest in Plymouth: Part of Co-op Store Opens Tomorrow", Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, November 5th 1952.

[2e]  "Architects' Journal", Architectural Press, London, June 12th 1952.

[3]  Barton, Victor Rowland, "Plymouth & South West Co-operative Society Ltd: History: 1960-1990: Regionalisation", typescript, Plymouth & West Devon Record Office, Plymouth, accession number 3503/G223/3.

[4]  "Supermarket opened at Plymstock", Western Morning News, Plymouth, October 18th 1960.

[5]  "New store at St Budeaux opens", Western Morning News, Plymouth, September 25th 1964.

[6]  "New Dairy 'For 21st Century'", Western Morning News, Plymouth, July 17th 1965.

[7]  "Faith in the Broadway 'was justified'", Western Morning News, Plymouth, April 6th 1966.

©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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