I knew the Co-op was good with food and had an ethical bank, but I didn’t know it was the UK’s “number one provider of funeral services”. It also has an amazing collection of buildings (most listed) in the centre of Manchester, where its head offices have been since 1863. I went to visit them yesterday and have a look at an excavation that is just starting on the site of their proposed new HQ, which they hope to open in 2012. It somehow seems appropriate that this is happening where once stood some of Europe’s worst industrial slums (whose horrors were described by, amongst others, Friedrich Engels). Co-op staff are apparently queuing up for tours of Oxford Archaeology North’s dig, which promises to add intimate colour to the historical records.