Middletonia
People and places of Middleton
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The End of Lowbands

All that remains is to wrap up the story at the Jumbo farm end. After the Jumbo tea party George Booth wound up the Jumbo Farm Co-operative in 1861. The stock of the shop at 204 Grimshaw Lane was bought by the Middleton Society for £13-5s on 4th February 1861. (Which is why 204 never appears on a census as the shop) I believe he left the farm in May 1862 and moved to his own house at 204 for the first time since he had built it in 1853. He appears as living there on the 1871 census. It would be here that other previously described meetings which were held at Jumbo in connection with the CWS would have been held. I think the reasons for this were that 204 was larger and most of the "follow up meetings" which took place in Jumbo were held In the winter and George Booth's house at the farm doesn't appear to have a chimney. Certainly the last meeting on 5th December 1863 took place at 204 and is it described as "the old Jumbo meeting place" indicating that other meetings had previously taken place at the shop and as "a branch store of the Middleton Society" which it was no longer. (Obviously the shop counter was still there though to have given this impression).

The 1861 census shows the single house next to the barn being occupied by George, wife Mary, sons Joseph 19 and Charly 16 and John Greenhalgh II minor (George's nephew). The house on the other side of the barn housed Robert Heywood, wife Jane, daughters Agnes 20, Mary 15, Elizabeth l4, Ann 8, son John 17 and probably due to some tragic death, Alice Sutlife 23 boarder, Priscilla 4 and Ann 2 (grandchildren). A total of ten people in a two up two down. The end house was James Fitton, the Agricultural Labourer who helped George and wife Elizabeth and granddaughter Jane.

Early 1861 and the Middleton Society is in deep trouble. The Jubilee book records "There was considerable uneasiness in 1861. On Jan 31st a minute is recorded that expenses were to be reduced. The Committee met again on February 4th and resolved to withdraw all money other than what constituted membership from the Rochdale Corn Mill. Ten days later a special meeting was called by circular delivered door to door in Rhodes and Middleton and no withdrawals were to be allowed until after the meeting in the Temperance Hall. The business was 'for the purpose of taking into consideration the present position of the society, and also to consider whether the servants employed at the Stores are entitled to the confidence of the members'".

It was at this meeting that the stock of Jumbo was bought and following this George Booth was appointed the General Manager of the Society on 26th Feb 1861. James Fitton, his labourer at the farm became the secretary. Incredibly this was a repeat of the 1853 situation all over again. The farm was in trouble, nobody trusted Jagger and George Booth was brought in. Now we have the Middleton Society in trouble, indications of a mistrust of the employees and a fear of a run on the funds of the Society as people lost confidence and withdrew their money. Solution, bring in a man who has the trust and confidence of the members. This speaks volumes for the character of George Booth, his integrity, ability, and the respect and trust in which he was held by his peers and the community generaly.

George Booth's term as General Manager was nothing short of magnificent. Whilst to view his appointment as measure to regain the confidence of the members and save the Middleton Society from collapse caused by a run their funds, would be correct, his record of leadership indicates management skills far and above the norm. From 1861 proper minutes were kept at meetings for the first time. The Middleton Society was formerly registered under the Industrial and Provident Act, something he did for Jumbo Farm way back in 1853 thus giving them reduced liability for income tax and a limited liability legal protection. The Middleton Wood Branch was acquired. 12 months after his take over of a financial crisis, John Hilton stated at the March 1862 meeting "that they were never in a stronger position". In 1863 the Newsroom and Library were opened. By 1864 meeting the society was able to announce that they had "Attained a good and firm position". At the June 1864 meeting the society had amassed £2,000 in capital, not required by the business and this had been invested in other societies. Such was the confidence in them that organisations such as Sick Clubs were asking to invest in them. From 1861 to 1864 Sales increased from £12,837 to £15,092. Profits increased from £739 to £962. Dividends paid rose from £607 to £962. In August 1864 George Booth resigned. The following month James Fitton the secretary followed suit. During the year following his resignation sales dropped from £15,092 to £12,802. Profits fell from £962 to £738. Dividends fell by a similar amount and were the lowest for 4 years. That is a period of management that anyone would be proud of.

George Booth was at the very first meeting which founded the Middleton and Tonge Industrial Society. He supported them throughout the difficult years when they couldn't lease a shop. He worked for them in a variety of jobs. He took over Lowbands when it was about to collapse. He negotiated between Jagger, the members, Bradshaw Hall and found a solution to suit everyone. He struggled to run an under-funded and under capitalised farm. He built a shop which was supplied by its own farm produce, supplemented by his activities as buyer in the Manchester markets, to all intents and purposes virtually running a wholesale and retail business on his own. He supplemented this by organising the silk manufacturing business in the two houses of which he surely instigated to have built next to his own and in which a warping mill was erected. He rescued the Middleton Society from collapse due to a crisis of confidence and turned the business round. When he left he had put the society on such a sound financial footing that it never looked back afterwards. HE FOUNDED THE CWS at his Jumbo tea party meeting. He was a man of vision but far more importantly had the talent and skills to turn his ideas into realities. For all the claims of Greenwood that he "was asked to produce a plan" he should have produced it between 1851 to 1859 when Rochdale's attempts to establish a CWS failed, and the plain truth is that he didn't. If George Booth hadn't laid the foundations of the CWS at his Jumbo meeting Greenwood might well still be sat in Rochdale waiting for someone to "ask him to produce a plan". Greenwood built on Booth's foundations. he did not lay them himself.

Greenwood was wrongfully honoured as founder. Even Holyoake who merely acted as a scribe producing propaganda under the guise of history has Holyoake House in Manchester named after him. That the tribute to George Booth is one and a half lines in the Middleton and Tonge Industrial Society Jubilee Book is an absolute disgrace bordering on an insult. Propaganda is not too strong a word. It is how the CWS itself describes its books, tracts and the methods by which it sold itself to the public. Unfortunately it results in what purports to being history, being portrayed in a very white-washed fashion. Anything derogatory to the "Party Line" is omitted completely or dismissed in a sentence. An example of this is the ill feeling in Middleton over Abraham Greenwood as founder of the CWS so strong that it still exists today which in itself proves it to be an historical fact. But where is the mention of this in the CWS history books? Even the writer of Middleton's own Jubilee book, so intent on twisting his forelock to Rochdale omits it. The fact is that Greenwood controlled the propaganda machine assisted by Holyoake and therein lies the real secret of how he became to be the founder of the CWS.

George Booth founded an organisation which also led to the Cooperative Union, the Cooperative Insurance and the Cooperative Bank. Directly and indirectly this has man secured jobs for what must be millions of people over the years. Ask the CWS library for information on George Booth and you have to explain who he was! If George Booth had been given the credit he rightly earned, he would be as famous as Samuel Bamford and deservedly so. George Booth is an unsung hero of British social history, helping better the prospects of the poor in the most practical of ways. He didn't wait to be "asked to produce a plan", he rolled up his sleeves and got on with it. He made things happen.

It is not known why Booth resigned in August 1964. He next appears as a retired 79 year old living in Hebers giving his version of events for the Middleton Jubilee. A book published in 1923 states that he was for many years the Butter Buyer for the CWS in Tipperary. However the Tipperary Depot only came into being in 1866 so this is not why he resigned. Also he is on the 1871 census as living at 204 Grimshaw Lane, so when exactly these "many years" occurred is not clear.

...... one of the ardent co-operators of his day, like Old Dog Tray, "ever faithful, ever sure" These few words in a widely unread local Jubilee book are the full and totally inadequate tribute of the Middleton Co-operative Society, the vast CWS organisation and the people of Middleton to a man they owe so much.

It's time for the CWS to admit that the early "company politics" have led to a great injustice. It is long overdue that this travesty of justice was corrected and that George Booth and the Middleton Co-operator's took their rightful place in history by being formerly acknowledged by the present Board as the real founders of the Co-operative Wholesale Society. Fitting opportunities for this to take place are on the horizon. 2001 is the 150 year anniversary of the start of Lowbands. 2010 is 150 year anniversary of the Jumbo Tea Party and 2013 of the CWS. If a favourable response is not forthcoming soon then the JFO. (the Jumbo Foundermentalist Organisation) will take action!


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