To commemorate our milestone, an exhibition will open in Chelmsford Museum on 24th June. Chelmsford Star: Supporting Essex for 150 years will detail some of that history and support. For more details CLICK HERE
The Society is celebrating 150 years serving and supporting the communities of Essex.
A local and independent co-operative Society, beginning life as a small store in Tindal Street, Chelmsford, in 1867, selling coal, milk and flour. Now we own 42 food stores across mid-Essex, 2 department stores, 2 travel agents, 4 post offices, 7 funeral homes and a petrol station.
A group of workers from the London Road Iron Works decided to set up a co-op 150 years ago, as it was the only way they could think to improve their lives. The cost of heating their homes was extortionate, the food was adulterated and tampered with to save shopkeepers money and it was making people sick, and the price of meat and produce was hiked due to greedy and unscrupulous businessmen out to make a buck. Co-operative businesses share their profits out between their members and have strict guidelines to follow regarding the provision of honest and trustworthy products so it seemed the ideal solution. As they hoped the shop would be a ‘beacon of hope’ in Chelmsford’s gloomy shopping experience and shine a light on all the dark deeds shopkeepers were doing, it was named ‘Chelmsford Star’.
In the Society's first year, sales amounted to £4,316. Profits were shared out between just over 100 members, and funds were donated to support the homeless of the region, with shop workers building new homes for them to live in during their spare time.
At our AGM in 2017, gross takings amounted to £103,584,570, with over 28,000 members receiving a share of the profits, plus thousands of pounds of additional prizes were distributed. Over £34k was donated to a local children’s charity (KIDS Inspire) whilst another 330 Essex-based groups benefitted from fundraising of some kind. Their oldest premises, the Chelmsford Quadrant department store, is still going strong and remains the longest continuously operating shop in the region.
Whilst the issues have changed, Chelmsford Star remains proudly supporting the county of Essex, with a third of all money spent in their shops being invested into the local economy in some way. The Society have extended the reach of their support, outlasted many better known names and raised an incalculable amount of money for charities, good causes, and even other co-ops across the world. The small band of workers who hoped to improve the lives of people in their community all those years ago should be proud.
A free publication, Chelmsford Star: 150 Years and Counting... will also be published later this month.