Remembering Derby’s Emmanuel Merchant JP

Posted by lauryn mellor | Published: 30/01/2024

On Wednesday 17th of January, Central Co-op hosted around 70 guests to gather at Duffield Cemetery for a re-dedication service for Emmanuel Merchant JP, once General Manager of the former Derby Co-operative Society, exactly 100 years after his death. This was followed by a celebration of his life at Makeney Hall Hotel in Milford.

Emmanual Merchant JP made a huge impact on Derby and its Co-operative Society during his lifetime, including building the iconic Central Hall during the First World War, being an active Member on the Derby Co-op Education Committee - which he set up as a separate entity, and founding the Senior Members’ Gathering in 1912, which is still held in Derby today, over 112 years later.

After his passing, Emmanual Merchant JP had granted £2,195 of what was left of his estate to the Derby Co-op Society, to be paid after the death of his wife.

With no direct descendants, Merchant's grave was consequently overgrown and neglected when it was found by Central Co-op in 2022. The Northern Region Member and Community Council paid to renovate the grave, where people left yellow roses during the recent re-dedication service, and a memorial plaque has been laid to help remember the local Co-operator and Philanthropist.

Two of the listed attendees of his well-attended funeral back in 1924, were the grandfather and great-uncle of the current Central Co-op President, Elaine Dean, who commented: “It was a frosty and bitterly cold morning on January 17th, but we enjoyed blue skies and some sunshine as around 70 people made their way to the recently renovated grave.

"It was a lovely ceremony celebrating the people and history that have helped form the modern Central Co-op Society we see today. Emmanual Merchant JP was known as a man of principle and enthusiasm, which is something we aim to carry with us even over 100 years later."

Emmanuel Merchant was a man of humble birth who worked in the mill at Belper and later at Midland Railway, he became involved in strike committees for better conditions and pay for workers. Merchant stood to be General Manager in 1902 and was elected after a landslide vote, receiving more than twice as many votes as his nearest rival.

The next 21 years would then see continual progress in Derby and surrounding areas, with new Co-op branches opening in all areas of the city and in many of the surrounding towns where very small co-ops transferred their engagements to Derby, spreading out to Ashbourne in 1904, Uttoxeter in 1906 and Melbourne in 1911.

To find out more about Emmanual Merchant JP and Central Co-op’s history within Derby, visit the blog.  For further information on Central Co-op’s initiatives, head to the Central Co-op website, or find on socials. Details on becoming a Member can be found on the Membership site



For press information:

Press Office


Lauryn Mellor, PR and Media Specialist at Central Co-op

07385 048004