THE idea of community groups coming together in a co-operative trading venture is as old as the streets of mid-Victorian Barrow and the concept was revived at Ormsgill in 1994.

A not-for profit food co-operative signed up its first 80 households by November and was based at a building made available without rent and rates next to the Barrow Borough Council housing office at Middlefield.

The Mail, on November 7, noted: "Volunteers from the Ormsgill Housing Association have been spending the weekend armed with paint brushes getting ready for the opening of their food co-operative.

"The venture will be officially opened by the association's oldest member 80-year-old Jenny Holmes, who will cut the ribbon to signal its launch at a ceremony."

Chair of the residents' association Jim Hamezeian said: "The idea is to help people on a low budget to afford fresh fruit and vegetables.

"The scheme will be run by volunteers and we will buy the food in bulk."

There were pre-printed order forms which had to be handed in by Wednesdays and the produce would be ready to collect on Fridays.

The article noted: "The disabled and elderly can have their orders delivered free while others can collect them or have them delivered at low cost.

"Any profits the co-operative makes will be plough back in discounts."

There was some opposition to the scheme as a potential threat to existing shopkeepers - the same happened in the Victorian era when co-operative shops were set up in places such as Barrow, Ulverston, Askam, Dalton and Millom.

The new base at Ormsgill was in a former branch of the Barrow Co-operative Society and was a hive of activity on Fridays.

The Mail, on January 3 in 1995 noted: "Stand around for more than a couple of minutes and the feeling that you should be joining in and helping out is overwhelming as potatoes, carrots, oranges and apples are all weighed, wrapped and priced to order.

"All around, white carrier bags bulge with caulies and cabbages. Attached raffle tickets denote destinations.

"Prices are keen, providing fresh produce at up to 50 per cent off the market prices.

"Entirely non-profit making, a 10p handling charge is made on each order to cover administrative costs and overheads.

"All discounts are passed on to the customer.

"Another of its aims, apart from providing a more affordable food source is to encourage people to change to healthier eating habits."

A total of 160 households - covering up to 500 people - had signed up for the project.

Jenny Holmes, who opened the new shop, said: "I don't have to trail around, prices are very reasonable and the quality has been very good."

Ormsgill Labour councillor John Smith said: "The co-operative is a good thing for the community in the present economic climate and anything that can help the people has to be encouraged."