The Co-operative Stores Abertillery.
In the late 1880’s there was small Co-operative Stores in the valley, there was a store at Cwmtillery situated in the entrance of the colliery at High Street. At this time the parent Co-operative Society Store was in Blaina, the manager was Mr T. W. Allen. It was decided that a Co-operative Society Store be set up at Abertillery Town and Mr Allen of Blaina was chosen to be the new manager at the Abertillery branch.
Plans were issued, the tender of Mr A. P. Williams of Abertillery at a price of £3,000 was accepted and the work on the building was started in about 1888.
The Official Opening.
On Monday October 6th 1890, the Co-operative Society Store in Church Street Abertillery was officially opened. The proceedings opened with a procession, the streets of the town were paraded by the co-operators headed by the Abertillery Temperance Brass Band. In the afternoon a co-operative conference took place which was presided over by Councillor W. H. Brown of Newport.
The delegates were as follows – Mr Drew and Mr Whitmore (Blaina); Mr Moile and Mr Rees (Blaenavon); Mr Codrington (New Tredegar); Mr David Edwards (Cwmtillery); Mr Coles and Mr Forward (Risca); Mr Thomas Williams (Garndiffaith); Mr John Matthews (Pontnewynydd); Mr John Price District Secretary (Blaina); Mr W. Bryant Statistical Secretary (Blaenavon) and Mr Fred Long of the Wholesale Co-operative Society London.
After the conference tea was served to the delegates and the public. The waitresses who presided at the tea tables were as follows – Mrs Ashley; Mrs Handy; Mrs Bennett; Mrs Jenkins; Mrs Brewer; Mrs Snellgrove; Mrs Webber; Mrs Davies; Mrs Holer Mrs Coles; Mrs Francis; Mrs Collier; Mrs Richards; Mrs Williams; Mrs Challenger; Mrs J. Williams; Mrs Allen; Mrs A. P. Williams; Mrs Harding; Mrs Prosser: Messrs Ashley, Price and Handy acted as carvers. It was reported that 1,400 people were served with tea during the afternoon.
In the evening a public meeting was held at the Tillery Hall. The platform was occupied by Chairman Mr John Price; Mr Joseph Clay (Gloucester); Councillor Brown (Newport); Mr Fred Long (London): The entertainment was provided by Mr Eli Nash who rendered concertina solo’s and Mr Jos Collier gave violin selections. Mr W. J. Collier gave comic songs, accompanied by Mr Challenger and Miss M. A. Evans.
Description of the Building.
The building was 3 storey’s high, built with blue stone, relieved with buff and red bricks and also terracotta work. It was topped with a tasteful clock turret with the clock being supplied by Messrs Benson and Co of London. There were two shops devoted to grocery and drapery departments, the upper floors in the grocery section being devoted to ware rooms, while above the drapery department there was a spacious workroom on the first floor and a suitable committee room on the second floor. The shops were fitted up by Messrs Parnall and Co Bristol. The premises were illuminated by electric light, which was introduced at a cost of £600. The electric engine house and stables were situated at the back of the building.
The Contractor and Architect.
The contractor was Mr A. P. Williams of Abertillery. The architect was Mr James McBean surveyor to the Abertillery Local Board.
When the store first opened the trade was said to have been between £16,000 and £18,000 per quarter. Over the following few years the population of Abertillery grew and the Co-operative Store in Church Street Abertillery became too small for purpose and plans were put forth for an extension to the current store. The store underwent considerable improvements.
In October 1902 a new bakery was installed and opened at the Abertillery Co-Operative Store.
The New Extension.
On Monday 10th August 1903 the new extension to the Abertillery Co-operative Store was opened. The store now had twenty-eight spacious rooms inclusive of shops for grocery, drapery, boots and shoes, millinery, out-fitting, butchery and furnishing. The was also a bake house in which there were eight well adapted ovens to meet the requirements and a splendid electrical plant where they produced their own electric light. In addition to that there was an assembly hall where the members and friends could meet. The cost of the new extension was £5,000 and all paid for out of their own share capital.
The Co-operative Stores Profits.
At this time it was stated that during the past 13 years, 1890-1903 the trade had grown from between £16,000 to £18,000 per quarter, to £48,000 per quarter at present 1903.
In the evening a procession was formed and headed by the Salvation Army Brass Band proceeded through the streets of Abertillery town to the Powell’s Tillery Gymnasium Hall. After the meeting entertainment was provided by Messrs Haysom and Prosser and Miss Gunter; Mr Amos Harding A.L.C.M. accompanying:
Small branches of the Co-operative Stores were as follows – Victoria Street Blaenau Gwent, Tillery Road Cwmtillery and Gwern Bethi Road Cwmtillery, Six Bells and one at Penybont Cwmtillery.
In 1937 it was reported the Co-operative Society had opened Funeral Services.
The Later Years.
The Co-operative Store at Abertillery closed in the 1980’s. The building and extension at street level was converted into small retail shops, accessed from the street with the main structure being converted into residential flats.