FP100: No. 25

Beehive sign, Leven
Beehive sign, Leven
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Beehive Signs, Leven

The strikingly-designed beehive symbols on facades overlooking Leven’s Durie Street are signs of past times when the only superstore in town – in almost every town – was the Co-op.

Although co-operative societies existed before 1844, that was the year the movement really took off with the establishment of a group called the Rochdale Pioneers.

They opened the first shop and formulated a list of Co-op ideals: democratic control, one member one vote and equality of the sexes; open membership; a fixed rate of interest payable on investment; pure, unadulterated goods with full weights and measures given; no credit; profits to be divided pro-rata on the amount of purchase made (the dividend or divi); a fixed percentage of profits to be devoted to educational purposes; and political and religious neutrality.

It was also the Pioneers who adopted the beehive or ‘skep’ symbol (an upside-down basket).Ten years later, there were 1000 Co-ops and the network held sway in UK high streets until well into the 20th century.

Thanks to the sensitive conversion to flats and library of old Leven’s Co-ops, the retained beehives remind of the way many past generations once shopped.