The first years of Portsea Island Co-op’s life were times of both struggle and optimism.
The Co-op faced a virtual blacklist by other companies and suppliers, as many businessmen were eager to the see the co-operative fall flat on its face.
However, the men and women who opened the first Portsea Island Co-op store in Charles Street, Landport, Portsmouth, on May 9, 1873, showed such enormous dedication and vision that by the eve of the First World War the Co-op had shops throughout the area.
Many of those men and women had first-hand experience of the benefits of co-operation as they had come from other parts of the country to work in the Dockyard.
In the Britain of 1873 there was no government help for those who were ill or destitute, except for the poor house or debtors’ prison.
And there was no protection from unscrupulous businessmen or employers and no political party interested in representing the views of the less well-off.
It was these circumstances that led to the birth of the Portsea Island Co-op as people realised if they were ever going to get help then it was up to them to help themselves, pool their resources and talents and create a business meeting the needs of all involved, not just a handful of rich shareholders.
In December 1872, 30 people attended a public meeting and all agreed to pay a shilling (5p) to set up a local co-operative.