Acc NoAcc 81/1
Acc 81/2
Acc 81/3
TitleNORCO: The Records of the Northern Co-operative Society
DescriptionThe collection comprises minutes, correspondence, administrative papers, scrapbooks and poster books, financial records, legal records, reports, publications, photographs, plans and a small section of ephemera.

NORCO/1: Minutes (1867-1984);
NORCO/2: Correspondence (1916-1987);
NORCO/3: Administrative Records (1868-1988);
NORCO/4: Scrapbooks, Poster Books and Centenary Cuttings (1856-1991);
NORCO/5: Financial Records (1861-1986);
NORCO/6: Legal Papers (1906-1980);
NORCO/7: Reports (1861-1987);
NORCO/8: Publications (1913-1991);
NORCO/9: Photographs (1870-1989);
NORCO/10: Plans (1920-1990);
NORCO/11: Miscellaneous (1861-1987)
Date1856 - 1991
CreatorNorthern Co-operative Society
Extent235 volumes, 199 files, 57 envelopes, 10 bundles, 28 papers, 13 items, 8 cards, 13 copies, 30 booklets, 337 photographs, 4 sketches, 57 plans, 3 books and 1 stamp
​Open or Restricted AccessOpen
Access ConditionsThese records are stored remotely. Please contact Aberdeen City Archives in advance to make an appointment.
Administrative HistoryIn the 1850s, several of the Aberdeen trades had formed their own co-operatives clubs and although attempts had been made to try to link these threads together, nothing was achieved until 1861. George J. Holyoake, a prominent English Co-operator had included Aberdeen in his lecture tour of Scottish centres and he inspired local enthusiasts to make a fresh start.

On 2 February 1861, William Lindsay, a bookseller in the Gallowgate, convened a meeting at Dr Brown's Kirk in Belmont Street where it was decided unanimously that a co-op should be formed. A Provisional Committee obtained the rules of the Rochdale Pioneers Society and after hearing the Friendly Societies and Limited Liabilities Acts explained, it was decided to go ahead with the project.

About this time, another organisation had been put into motion under the designation of the Aberdeen Co-operative Society and was registered under the Friendly Societies Acts. As neither party had completed their preliminary arrangements a fusion of the two was suggested and duly carried out. The Northern Co-operative Company Limited emerged with a fixed capital of £1000 in shares of £1. With one exception, the directors were all ordinary working men.

On 4 May, a Public Meeting was held in the Court House for the purpose of explaining the objectives and rules of the newly formed Company and this had the desired effect of increasing its membership. Immediately after the Public Meeting, a General Meeting was held to fix the business premises and arrange for the appointment of a manager. The officials were appointed and the Company was formally established. On 4 July 1861, 5 months after the first meeting in the Belmont Street Kirk, the grocery and provision shop at No. 51 Gallowgate was opened and was to become the nucleus of all subsequent developments of the business in the early years. It eventually expanded to a large site between the Gallowgate and Loch Street, with an arcade running between the two streets.

Over the years the Company flourished with branches and new departments opening all over the city. On 17 October 1917, it converted into a Co-operative Society and the rules were registered on 31 December 1917. The Society took pride in its independence, it being the only large retail Co-operative in the country not a member of the Co-operative Wholesale Society or the Scottish Co-operative Society. In 1921 the Society expanded its field of customers when it took over the business of the Don Co-operative Society Ltd which had branches at Inverurie, Kemnay and Port Elphinstone.

In 1968, building work began in George Street, on a large department store for the Society, with the purpose of incorporating the smaller, individual stores which had sprung up around the George Street/Gallowgate area. The Store was opened in 1970 and became known as Norco House. This saw the introduction of the Norco name which the Society then adopted for all their operations. In 1977, the Society was to move from this central premises in the city to a new Superstore at Berryden Road, situated next to their Discount Store and conveniently situated beside their offices and administrative centre at Millbank House.

The actual demise of the Society came suddenly, surprising both shoppers and staff alike. The first public signs that the company was failing appeared in April 1992 when the Chief Executive announced his resignation in the wake of a massive trading deficit of some £7.4 million. In a desperate attempt to save the situation, the Directors sold off the Dairy and five pharmacies, and employees were asked to accept a pay freeze. However, this was not enough and in April 1993, Norco was forced to sell its flagship, the Berryden Superstore to the Scottish Co-operative, raising £15 million (it was later sold onto Sainsbury's). In a final attempt to try to salvage the company, Directors turned to the Co-operative Wholesale Society and asked to be merged with it but the request was turned down. So on 17 June 1993, Norco was put into liquidation effectively ending 130 years of independent co-operative trading in Aberdeen.


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