Cooperative Wholesale Society industrial complex at Pelaw

Event date(s)

1 January 1903 to 31 December 1979


In the late 1890s CWS began to construct what would become one of its major industrial complexes in the country, at Pelaw in Gateshead. Situated near the banks of the Tyne, and on major rail links and roads, this was an ideal location both for the bringing in of raw materials and the delivery of finished produce to co-operative societies around the country. By the 1930s cabinets, furniture, drugs, quilts, clothing, engineering goods were among the commodities produced at the Pelaw complex, which continued to employ thousands of workers until the 1970s, when one by one the various productive units were closed. It is mostly now housing estates, though the old shirt factory in Bill quay still houses a private business.

Location/map point


Further reading

J. Birchall, Co-op: The People’s Business  (1994); J.F. Wilson, A.Webster & R.Vorberg-Rugh, Building Co-operation: A Business History of the Co-operative Group, 1863-2013 (2013); P. Redfern, The Story of the CWS (1913); P. Redfern, The New History of the CWS (1938). Images of the site can be found at