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The Fenwick Weavers Society – the first Co-op

The Fenwick Weavers Society – the first Co-op

The story of Cooperatives started not in Rochdale within Greater Manchester as is often taught. The first Cooperative society had actually been formed 83 years earlier in 1761, by pioneers in the Ayrshire village of Fenwick. It began humbly enough when a small group of self-employed weavers met in secret in the village to sign a pledge of loyalty to one another and, "to make good & sufficient work and exact neither higher nor lower prices than are accustomed". Until this point the tradesmen and farmers of Fenwick had, like the other the workers of all the surrounding towns and villages, been dependant on the patronage of the local landowners and aristocracy. The idea that the working classes could organise themselves and cooperate with each other in a way that was mutually beneficial and which enabled them to operate on their own was brand new.

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