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Wardle Co-operative Heritage Trail

Wardle Co-operative Society

The Co-operative in Wardle

Wardle was a relatively isolated village in the mid 19th century. Nearby Smallbridge was larger, better known and more populous. Wardle had its mills, like Smallbridge, but no colliery; there were more farms in the vicinity and long established links to Methodism. Unlike Smallbridge, the village of Wardle had a recognisable focal centre, with chapel, church and public house. All were situated at the crossroads of a former packhorse road which linked this small area called Wardle Fold to Syke, to the farms and villages of Watergrove, and to Shore and Littleborough.

The formation of a local Co-operative Society in an area like this in 1860 was not unusual for the time. The knowledge of the Pioneers' methods and success had spread quickly. Textile workers here in Wardle were poor too; they were weary of adulterated food and little financial security. They were also aware of the social and economic discussions and movements of the early 19th century, and were an independent group of people. They played their cards right and they built their new Store in the early 1870s in the best place. It towers over nearby houses and the pub. Its solid front and three storeys demand to be looked at. Wardle Industrial Co-operative Society's Store created a fierce loyalty amongst its members and became an integral part of village life. It is one of the largest purpose-built Co-operative Stores still standing in the Borough. No other Co-operative in the village was successful. The Society's Branch Store was short-lived. The Conservative Co-operative Society petered out. The building remains, used for other purposes now but we are still unable to ignore it visually.


Read how the volunteers of Co-operatives History Group (Rochdale) have been raising awareness and the Co-op Heritage Trail maps. For more information about the trail or to pick up the leaflet, contact Rochdale Visitor Information Centre on 01706 924928 or online at

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