Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 23, 2017.
Webpage updated: September 24, 2017

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The history of the Plymouth Mutual Co-operative and Industrial Society, as it was initially known, belongs to Old Plymouth, where it's Foundation took place in 1860.  It was to take over a decade before Devonport saw its benefits even though there were apparently members living in that Town and presumably travelling into Plymouth for their shopping.

In fact their first venture into Devonport ended quickly in disaster.  Some members of the Society had formed the Plymouth Co-operative and Industrial Building Society in 1866.  They were contracted to construct a sewer at Stoke Hill to the Royal Military Hospital but although the quality of their workmanship was good their ability to estimate costs accurately and a lack of capital brought the Building Society to an abrupt end.

Some of the members living in Devonport asked in 1874 for their bread to be delivered.  This request was turned down on the basis that the cost of transport would exceed the value of the business.

The first Co-op shop to be opened in Devonport was a grocery branch at number 1 Ross Street, Morice Town.  That was in 1877, seventeen years after the Society had been founded.  This was followed in 1879 by the acquisition of a house in Duke Street for use as a grocery.

In 1880 a property in Albert Road was acquired for a butchery and the following year a boot shop was opened in Morice Town.  A butchery and a dairy branch were opened in Devonport during 1885 and a grocery branch was opened at Torpoint, the Society's first venture across the Hamoaze.  The Society's Building department erected four cottages at Ford in 1885.  Wilton Street received a grocery branch in 1887 and a butchery and dairy were opened at Ford.

A grocery and a dairy were opened in Princes Street, Devonport, in 1891 and the Society also completed the purchase of 4,250 square feet of land at Tavistock Street upon which drapery and tailoring branches were to be erected by Mr Samuel Roberts, the Plymouth builder.  This block was opened for business in 1893, a year before the first block of the massive Central Premises was opened in Plymouth.  At that event there was a parade of the Society's vehicles: 11 bread vans, 3 milk floats, 16 hand milk barrows, 3 grocery vans, 5 oil wagons, and 8 coal wagons.  The Parade was not seen in Devonport, however.

1896 saw the opening of a butchery at Albert Road and in 1898 a store at Tamar Wharf, Morice Town, was acquired for the expansion of the Fuel Department.  A grocery was opened in Tavistock Road, Stoke in 1900.

By this time the new houses on the Keyham Barton Estate were occupied and those in Keyham were under construction for Dockyard workers.  A grocery branch and a butchery were opened in Fleet Street on May 20th 1901 and was followed on September 9th by two of the same being opened in Station Road.  Both events met with some opposition but the opening ceremonies, both carried out in the early evenings, were attended by large crowds.

The grocery in Tavistock Road, Stoke, was joined by the seventeenth butchery branch in April 1902. 

Greengrocery delivery vans, supplying customers on a door-to-door basis, started in April 1903 but it is not known if or when Devonport members benefitted from this development.  In June 1903 a grocery and working dairy were opened at Ford.  Although not technically within the Borough of Devonport, the Society's members in the "new territory" at Pennycross benefitted from the opening on October 7th 1903 of grocery and butchery branches at Peverell Corner, Plymouth, and employment was soon to be afforded by the new Model Bakery in Beauchamp Road, which was in Devonport, for which the foundation stone was laid on the same date.

The Morice Town Boot Store in Albert Road was rebuilt and re-opened at the end of 1903.

A firewood factory was started at Devonport in January 1904 and in September the Society ventured once again across the Hamoaze and opened a grocery, a butchery and a dairy at Millbrook.  A drapery and a general store were opened the following year.

Ford Hall, in Alexandra Road, Ford, was opened on September 29th 1905 and became a popular venue for whist-drives, jumble sales and public meetings.

The new Model Bakery was in production in May 1906 and was thrown open to enthusiastic public inspection.

A large house was purchased at Ford in 1908 for further expansion in that district.  That year also saw expansion at Torpoint, where, on May 21st, a large store for the sale of drapery goods, boots, shoes, and hardware, was opened.  Similar premises were opened in June 1908 at Saint Budeaux.

The large house mentioned above was presumably the location of the hardware and drapery shop that was opened at Ford in 1909 and in the same year additional land was purchased alongside the Model Bakery for the purpose of retail premises.  In that year the Society also bought a house at Morice Town for a dairy shop.  This was presumably the dairy and confectionery that was opened in Albert Road in 1910.  To celebrate the Society's 50th anniversary the grocery and butchery at Peverell Corner were rebuilt and, with the addition of a dairy, were re-opened as Jubilee Buildings.  The Co-op Laundry in Langstone Road was opened in 1911.

Upon the declaration of the Great War on August 4th 1914, the Society saw all its horses requisitioned by the Government and they had to be replaced with motor vehicles, as the result of which a Transport Manager was appointed in September 1914.  Only one new branch was opened that year, a grocery, in William  Street.

Thus at the time of the amalgamation of Devonport with Plymouth in November 1914 the Plymouth Mutual Co-operative and Industrial Society had a substantial presence in Devonport.