Similar to the Oddfellows Beehive, the following is not directly about the Manchester Bee but it’s interesting to look at similar iconography that developed from around the same time period.
The beehive has long been one of the main symbols of the Cooperative movement, representing working together for the good of the whole.
When the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society opened their store selling food items on the 21st December 1844, a beehive adorned its exterior. As the society was the basis for the modern cooperative movement through the designing of the Rochdale principles – a set of ideals for the operation of cooperatives – other societies did the same thing. You can still see examples on old cooperative buildings across the country, with the examples below located around the Stockport area.
Photograph copyright of Rochdale Pioneers Museum.
I highly recommend a visit the museum, which details the begins of the society, the history of the cooperatives movement and its worldwide influence. You can also buy books there about Harmony the Honey Bee, which are aimed at introducing children to the ideals of the cooperative movement.
Over the years different societies merged together, leading to the birth of the Co-operative Wholesale Society in 1872, renamed later as The Cooperative Group. It’s been headquarted in Manchester for many years, originally at the CIS Tower but more recently at One Angel Square since 2013. During the design phase for the new headquarters, the architects drew inspiration from Co-operative symbols, leading to an initial design based on a beehive. This later morphed into the final design, known as the “winter garden”, though some elements did carry over.