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15 decades of community co-operation commemorated with a new plaque

19 September 2023

15 decades of community co-operation commemorated with a new plaque

A new plaque is set to mark a historical moment in Portsmouth - 150 years since Southern Co-op opened its first community store.

Millions of pounds have been distributed to good causes and the local community since the organisation, originally known as Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society, was first formed in 1873.

With community continuing to be at the heart of its purpose, Southern Co-op is one of only a few remaining independent societies in the country set up 15 decades ago.

On Monday, colleagues from across the organisation gathered to present a commemorative plaque to Enable Ability which runs a community centre just metres from where the first store stood in Charles Street.

Mark Ralf, Chair of Southern Co-op's Board of Directors, said: "It's an honour for me to mark such a historical occasion. Southern Co-op's founders set out to benefit the whole community and community is still at the forefront of Southern Co-op's work.

"Our support for Enable Ability is an example of this, which our retail and funeralcare colleagues have been actively involved with for a number of years. So it's incredibly fitting that they can be part of these celebrations."

Enable Ability is a long standing charity that focuses on building inclusivity and empowering people to achieve their full potential through work experience, volunteering and social enterprise. 

Southern Co-op's Director of Corporate Affairs, Silena Dominy, who has worked at Southern Co-op for 33 years, said: "From the very start, our co-operative put people's best interests at its heart by creating a system where profits are put back into the communities we serve - whether through jobs, community activities, or education.

"Today, we provide free support for people through our Bereavement Care team and have donated more than £12million to local good causes across the south over the last decade. We also provide employment for around 4,500 people across our branches of The Co-operative Food, The Co-operative Funeralcare, Starbucks franchises, crematoria and beyond.

"Southern Co-op is proud to be a part of Portsmouth's history and is grateful to the Landport Community Centre for helping us to mark this momentous anniversary."

Throughout 2023, Southern Co-op has been supporting Enable Ability and its Landport Community Centre with donations to its community larder, including gift cards for its users.

It has also been working with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and KBI UK to revamp its garden area as part of Wilder Portsmouth, which is encouraging people to take action to create and enhance wild spaces where they live.

To find out more about Southern Co-op's history, visit