Fifty Years of Progress


The Golden Jubilee (1881-1931) of the Birmingham Co-operative Society.





Film type:

Black & White / Silent



Master format:



The film opens with a book on the company's history being leafed through. An inter-title introduces us to the President of the society, J. Millington, and we then see women in Victorian costume standing looking at a shop window recreating the first Birmingham co-op store on Great Francis Street. After inter-titles about the firm's growth we see an exterior of the main shop in Birmingham city centre followed by exterior views of other city co-operative society stores (they have 275 in Birmingham), and Vice President A. Green and Assistant Secretary, J.W. Whatmough posing for the camera. The society's jubilee celebrations begin with a group of children waving to the camera in the city and then a train arriving at Sutton Park station followed by a parade of children to the park in Sutton Coldfield. At Sutton Park we see fairground rides, a picnic and a group of children running past the camera. We then see committee members laying a wreath on the grave of William Roberts who was local president for 29 years and finally in part one, a group of older members boarding coaches outside Bingley Hall. Part two begins with a parade of society vehicles through the city in wet weather. There are many horse drawn vehicles and fleets of decorated lorries. At an indoor event Sir Charles W. Rafter, the Chief Constable of Birmingham distributes prizes to drivers of vehicles in the parade and then we see further shots of the procession. After a view of members leaving a conference at the Temperence Hall we see scenes inside the Jubilee exhibition at Bingley Hall. Journalist Hamilton Fyfe is seen arriving by car followed by T.J. Henson, the Birmingham Director of the C.W.S. who tours the exhibits. We also see Fred Longden MP and Councillor Mrs Longden arriving and the official opening by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham Walter Saunders who makes a speech. We then see views of various exhibits including retail displays ranging from footwear, to women’s fashion and a meat counter. Part three begins with a women’s fashion show with models wearing the clothes of 1881 and 1931 and scenes at a women’s meeting chaired by Mrs M.J. Rawes and addressed by Mrs E. Barton, General Secretary of the Women's Co-operative Guild. Views inside the exhibition continue with shots of a fruit and vegetable stall, laundry display and the society’s coal products. This is followed by views inside a mock-up bungalow (the Jubilee House) and finally a demonstration by clerical workers of their role. Part four begins with the hairdressing department demonstrating the application of a permanent wave to a woman’s hair. We are introduced to the education committee with Chairman E. Curtis and Secretary E. Fennelly followed by views of a display of their arts and crafts. After a shot inside the café at the exhibition we see the ‘Temple of Co-operation’, a living tableaux display with people depicting various aspects of co-operation. The reel ends with a further celebration held at Birmingham Botanical Gardens including another procession, an open air meeting, a speech from C.W.S. Director George Riddle and finally the grocery manager J. W. Fletcher and his staff providing tea for visitors.


B.C.S. Production
Photography by the Gaumont Co. Ltd