The first co-operative pub – latest

I have mentioned before the interest in co-operative pubs, with our new report out “Calling Time on Pub Closures“.

I thought the Star in Salford,our latest member, was Britain’s first urban cooperative pub (and The Old Crown in rural Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria, the very first). That is what I told the Independent which has now done a great feature on the case for cooperative ownership. But in fact, I was wrong.

Les Double, who I met in Swindon this weekend, sent me this photo of a much earlier co-operative pub, dating back to the nineteenth century. In 1881, the local co-operative society took over The London Tavern Pub in Harwich. This led to a fair amount of democratic debate. Some members were teetotal, but there were enough to enjoy their pint and they could always get the groceries next door too.

On February 11th 1922, in what locals called the Harwich Co-op Fire, the pub burnt down. Such was the outcry that the pub was rebuilt as the Wheatsheaf, which thrived before being sold off some decades later.

We are campaigning for an emergency service for pubs that are closing to help them into community ownership – along the lines of the work by our federal member, the excellent Plunkett Foundation, to save village stores under threat.

One thought on “The first co-operative pub – latest

  1. Three weeks ago I visited the George and Dragon pub in Hudswell, a small village in the Yorkshire Dales, which had just been bought by a community co-operative.

    About 30 local people, from pre-teens to pensioners, were engaged in a mass clean-up of the pub and large garden which had stood empty and neglected for 20 months.

    There was no beer, but plenty of community spirit. Excitement, joy and a mixture of pride and disbelief at what they had achieved.

    There’s no shop or post office in the village so when the pub closed in August 2008 many residents felt the village was dying. After it had stood empty for nearly a year with no one interested in buying it, the villagers started to have a crazy dream: ‘maybe we could buy it ourselves’.

    They formed an industrial and provident society, prepared a business plan, issued a prospectus and raised £224,000 in share capital, negotiated with the vendor (a bank that didn’t take them seriously at first) and bought the pub outright without needing a mortgage.

    They received advice and support from a number of sources including The Co-operative Enterprise Hub.
    You can read more about it at

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