Catalogue description The Records of Sunflower Wholefoods Co-operative Ltd, 103 Castle Road Bedford (1978-1996)

This record is held by Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service

Details of Z 909
Reference: Z 909
Title: The Records of Sunflower Wholefoods Co-operative Ltd, 103 Castle Road Bedford (1978-1996)
Note: "
Date: 1978-1996
Held by: Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Sunflower Wholefoods Co-operative Ltd

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acc. 7731


The records of Sunflower Wholefoods Co-operative Limited were deposited in the County Record Office on 18th April 1996 , by Terry Newholm (member), 43, Phillpotts Avenue, Bedford, MK40 3UE.

Administrative / biographical background:

During the mid 1970's, Chris Dakin and Peter Harris established a wholefood shop at 103, Castle Road, Bedford. This venture was short-lived. In 1978 the shop was taken over by a committee formed from the local Friends of the Earth. Sunflower Wholefoods Co-operative Ltd. was registered as a society in 1979.


The shop was initially staffed with volunteers. Paid servers were later introduced. During the 1980's interest in health foods increased dramatically. The shop stocked cruelty-free cosmetics. Local organic products such as goats milk yogurt, free range eggs and honey were also to be seen on the shelves. Minimum packaging was used. The society commissioned a local artist, Norman Beckwith, to make a traditional hanging shop sign.


The shop became a local centre for humanitarian and environmental issues. It supported groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, animal welfare and anti-nuclear campaigners.


In 1982 the Co-operative decided to withold 11% of their bill to Eastern Electricity as part of a consumer campaign against the generation of nuclear power. They also tried to persuade the Local Authority to use re-cycled paper and sent them samples of their stock. In 1986 the society temporarily stopped stocking Jordan's cereal products in protest to a letter published in the Biggleswade Chronicle by John Jordan, which members felt contained racist sentiments.


Number 103 Castle Road was put up for sale in 1982. The Co-operative was offered first refusal. A mortgage of £23,000 was taken out with the Co-operative Bank. Loans were raised from amongst the members to pay the deposit.


The 103 Fund was formed in 1985 to raise £20,000 to pay off the mortgage and extend the shop to include a small cafe, office, workspace, and green library for environmental and peace groups.The shop and cafe were to be run by a workers co-operative whilst the building remained in the common ownership of the community. The funds needed to finance this project failed to be raised.


The planning application was rejected, due to opposition from a number of local Conservative councillors, and in spite of a recommendation of acceptance from the Borough officers. However, they won a subsequent planning appeal.


The shop began to loose money due to rising interest rates and increasing competition. By the end of 1988, a business plan to re-organise the co-operative had been assembled. The turnover increased steadily due to the more efficient service provided to customers, but it still fell short of breaking even.


In 1992 the shop was sold to become The Eagle second-hand bookshop. However, Sunflower Wholefoods Co-operative Ltd was able to pay all its debts, including redundancy payments to its workers. In 1994 the co-operative donated £500 each to Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. The residual assets of £20,000 were donated to Industrial Common Ownership Finance (I.C.O.F.) for a local revolving loan fund to support other common ownership's.

Link to NRA Record:

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