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Albany Co-operative Society

By: Joan Blight and Andrew Eyden

Original: May 2007 Published: 23 May 2024

ALBANY CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY LIMITED

After the departure of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.

In 1867, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P & O) Agent, William Carmalt Clifton encouraged his large staff at P&O to form a Co-operative Society, later to carry out its business at the Corner of Fredrick and Spencer Street.  Clifton became well-known in Albany for his instrumental role in establishing the the Co-operative Society and putting the coaling station on a firm footing, organising the systems and management which enabled Albany to be an efficient transit point for P&O and then by other steamer companies later in the century.

In February 1861,  Clifton arrived in Albany to take up his new position as branch manager of P&O and became involved with the leading citizens of the business community including a stormy career on the Albany Council. Clifton leased the Belle-Vue property (now known as Norman House) from George Cheyne for the first half of the 1860s.  

In 1870, John Green constructed the purpose-built Co-op building in Frederick Street. The original building was constructed of granite and brick and was a simple rectangular stuccoed building with a double hipped roof.


Despite strong trading in the first decade, by 1878, business started to decline, mainly as a result of the regular shipping service between Albany and Melbourne that was now in operation. The Co-operative society was wound up in 1883 and the building was sold at auction in 1885 to Alexander M Moir who leased it to Edward Barnett from 1890 which was used as a store and dwelling for Mrs H Barnett. The Rate Books of 1918 recorded the owner to still be Alex M Moir and the occupant was a labourer called Joseph Fisher. At the time, Mr Moir owned a great number of buildings in Albany. 

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Photograph: Albany Co-Operative Society Limited c.1870

In 1925, the occupant was Kingsley Corry of Kingsley Corry, Auctioneers. In the 1930s, the upper floor was occupied by the Payne Family and the lower floor by Mr Con Baesjou, who had married Jessie Eliza Moir on 11 April 1886. In 1935, Len Lambert used the lower floor for his printing business.

 

There were three rooms comprising a large room on the eastern side with timber posts supporting the upper floor, an office in the south-west corner and a storeroom in the north-west corner. By circa 1940, Ernest George Tompkins converted the building into four flats, removing the redwood counters in the process. In June 1955, the Albany Branch of the WA Water Authority records showed Lancelot Shaw as the owner. At this time the toilets were connected to the sewer. Alex Richard Lange and Lillian Kathleen Lange purchased the property in November 1959 from the Estate of Lancelot Shaw. From March 1960 to April 1975, Alex Lange operated the building as the Alcona Guest House and additional toilets were added to the sewer. In December 1975, K & DE Campbell purchased the property. The Public Works Department acquired the property in June 1978 and used it for the Westrail Train Men’s Barracks, vacating it in 1991.

In April 1992, John Taylor, Heritage Architect, completed a report on the cultural heritage significance of the building and in August/September the same year, Ron Bodycoat, Conservation Architect, assessed the condition of the building for the Town of Albany.

 

Urgent electrical upgrading was carried out in April 1993 and a wall that had been added in the eastern area of the ground floor, was removed to open the space again. Further repairs were carried out in June 1993. In September 1995, a conservation plan for the former Barracks building was prepared for the Town of Albany.

 

The building was then vested in the Council for long-term use by the Albany Historical Society. The idea was to have a display storage area in the lower warehouse section and curatorial workrooms upstairs.

 

Members have been asked many times to show donated items to descendants or families and had been unable to do so. With display storage, all relics are marked with the donor’s name and displayed on shelves or in cabinets.

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Photograph: Albany Co-Operative Society Limited c.1910

When the Langes owned the building, major construction occurred with dark brick walls enclosing the verandah's, wrought iron balustrades were added to the verandah and timber framing added to the windows. The present roof covering is modern profiled metal decking. The rear verandah and service rooms are clad in asbestos sheeting. The building has been deteriorating for years. There are large cracks in the outer walls, particularly the west wall. These have been ‘shored up’ by the City Council. Some doors and windows have been re-aligned. Some internal repairs are necessary.

Heritage Minister, Fran Logan, inspected the building when in Albany on a Ministerial Tour. Grant money could be available from different areas and for different purposes, but the cost of restoring the Co-op Building would be exorbitant. Ideas and suggestions for the restoration, or otherwise, were being considered by the Executive Committee.

On further enquiries, Andrew Eyden (AHS CEO) found the only funding available was through Lotterywest and this was limited to $50,000 per year. The approximate quote for the restoration was in the order of $600,000 in 2007 with approximately $250,000 of this being for asbestos removal. With the limited amount of $50,000 per annum from Lotterywest, it would take approximately 5 years just to cover the cost of asbestos removal, during which time the building would be rendered unusable due to Government Regulations covering removal of asbestos.

 

The AHS Committee felt that the Society would undertake as much work as it possibly could to restore the building to a presentable state. Andrew Eyden approached Dave and Pam Northern and Eddie Summerbell who had been voluntarily painting Patrick Taylor Cottage and asked them if they would consider taking on the refurbishment of the interior of the Co-operative Store, to which they kindly agreed. 

After several months of painting and removing of old floor coverings, coupled with the sorting of the Collection, the project was then taken over by our Display Technician, Annette Howard, along with participants of the Work for the Dole Programme. Over the following twelve months, Annette, assisted by the Work for the Dole participants and help from her family, completed the work started by Dave, Pam, and Eddie, ready for the State Conference of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society hosted by the Albany Historical Society in September 2010.

 

The completion of this project has seen the Co-operative Store, particularly the interior, restored to some semblance of its original condition. It has also enabled the Society to open the building to the public as a storage display museum. The cost to the Society had been borne by  our own funds, totalling in excess of $17,000, with some limited assistance from the City of Albany, in particular the fixing of several roof leaks.

On further enquiries, Andrew Eyden found the only funding available was through Lotterywest and this was limited to $50,000 per year. The approximate quote for the restoration was in the order of $600,000 in 2007 with approximately $250,000 of this being for asbestos removal.

 

With the limited amount of $50,000 per annum from Lotterywest, it would take approximately 5 years just to cover the cost of asbestos removal, during which time the building would be rendered unusable due to Government Regulations covering removal of asbestos.

 

After a long debate, the Committee felt that the Society would undertake as much work as it possibly could to restore the building to a presentable state. Andrew Eyden approached Dave and Pam Northern and Eddie Summerbell who had been voluntarily painting Patrick Taylor Cottage and asked them if they would consider taking on the refurbishment of the interior of the Co-operative Store, to which they kindly agreed.

After several months of painting and removing of old floor coverings, coupled with the sorting of the Collection, the project was then taken over by our Display Technician, Annette Howard, along with participants of the Work for the Dole Programme.

 

Over the following twelve months, Annette, assisted by the Work for the Dole participants and help from her family, completed the work started by Dave, Pam, and Eddie, ready for the State Conference of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society hosted by the Albany Historical Society in September 2010. The completion of this project has seen the Co-operative Store (particularly the interior), restored to some semblance of its original condition. It has also enabled the Society to open the building to the public as a storage display museum. The cost to the Society has been borne by its own funds, totalling in excess of $17,000, with some limited assistance from the City of Albany, in particular the fixing of several roof leaks.

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