Owing to the indisposition of the scheduled speaker the advertised talk "The Development of the Police Force" was replaced, at short notice, by a talk given by Mr Ned Williams entitled "The History of the CO-OP". The talk, which was illustrated with an interesting selection of photographic slides, dealt with the formation of what came to be known as Co-operative Wholesale Society, the CWS or just the Co-op.
As a result of mechanisation during the industrial revolution more and more skilled workers were forced into poverty therefore a number of men in Rochdale joined together in 1844 in order to buy in bulk, and therefore obtain more cheaply, the necessities of life. They called themselves the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers and they opened a store in Toad Lane in Rochdale. Their venture was a great success and was copied in other towns and cities. Within ten years The British Co-operative Movement had grown to over a thousand members.
Mr Williams encouraged discussion during the presentation, with members remembering their dividend numbers and the various Co-op shops they patronised. Many of the slides showed the high quality of some specially built C.W.S properties of later years although many have now been taken over by other businesses. The C.W.S eventually expanded to offer their "own brand" of products besides food. For example CWS cycles were manufactured here in Birmingham at the Federal Works, Kings Road, Tyseley.
Mr Williams finally discussed Co-op dividends and compared them with Loyalty Bonus Cards which are so prevalent today.