To design is to know you have achieved perfection not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing to take away .............
Antioine de Saint-Exupery.
clock watching and to hopefully keep them in business in these trying times.
pub or cafe to sit and have a drink before heading back to my dear Thimble Cottage.
"The vast group of factories which occupied the ground between Shields Road and the railway was established by the Lancashire cooperative movement, to spread the commercial principle of cooperative trading into the North-East at the turn of the century.
At first the cooperative movement was entirely made up of retail stores sited in heavily populated industrial areas, particularly in the North of England. In the 1870s a change to manufacturing began, again in Lancashire, round Manchester. The Coop saw the advantage of producing its own goods. Soon it required to expand its manufacturing base, and Tyneside was seen as a splendid place to put up new works.
Before the first factory could function, a workforce had to be found and trained, and skilled men came from Lancashire to start this process. There are still families in and around Pelaw today, whose grandfathers came and settled down to work for the rest of their lives in the C.W.S. works.
In the clothing factory, women workers at their sewing machines turned out not only shirts, nightwear, underwear, coats and suits, but also industrial clothing - overalls, boiler-suits, and pit clothes. A memo on this last read "In the North-east, so strong is the tradition, that men’s pit-drawers of flannel kersey are still in use and must be supplied."
Pelaw’s famous Down Quilts were first made in 1914, in the Quilt factory. Again the workers were women. They were clever quilters, probably because here in County Durham there was an ancient tradition of quilting, and the skills thus acquired were drawn on for the Pelaw workforce. But the Durham quilts though popular, were later eclipsed by the Eiderdowns, filled with the soft, warm and light down feathers of the eider duck. The covers were in satins and silks of deep, lustrous colours and strong patterns.
The Pelaw Quilt factory had its own buyers, who travelled the world to find the finest materials. Its first year’s output realised £396, and in 1933, so great was the demand, the factory was enlarged and the staff increased. In 1938, its total sales were over £90,000. Not only were eiderdowns made, but there was a thriving service in the recovering of old eiderdowns originally made there. Some people still have them! In the Second World War the quilting works made uniforms and flying suits.
The tailoring factory grew like the others, and was extended twice, in 1933 and 1937. The women who worked there were all expert machinists and tailoresses. All the female workers were paid less than the male staff, as was the general rule. There were wage disputes at times even in this benevolent regime.
One would suppose that this vast and busy works would continue to progress and expand after the War when demand for goods returned, and prosperity was much improved. It proved not to be the case. As the 1960s passed, the Coop fell behind its competitors in both retailing and manufacturing. It was slow to see the potential of supermarkets, and did not modernise its production methods soon enough, losing a large share of the market.
Some say that its employees were busy looking after themselves rather than customers. Others assert that the management was too old-fashioned and the goods likewise. Retail Cooperative societies began to amalgamate or disappear, and membership fell. A general decline began which in the 1970s greatly accelerated and by 1980 most of the factories were closed, a sad blow to the district which had for so long taken it for granted. The printing works gave up in 1993, but still stands forlorn and battered by vandals. In 1998 only the Shirt Factory is alive. The other buildings have been demolished and in part replaced with private houses and an Aldi supermarket.