CWS Architects Department
Established in 1864, The Co-operative Wholesale Society was the wholesale provider for the 1,200 or so retail societies affiliated to it. By the end of 1874 it had become a mercantile, banking, and manufacturing federation working on a national scale. Branches were subsequently set up at West Blandford Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Leman Street, London, E. Until the establishment of an Architects Department and the appointment of F E L Harris, the C.W.S. plans were drafted by or for the head of the building department, otherwise the services of an architect were commissioned in the usual manner.
The CWS Architects Department was formed on 2 January 1896 at Balloon Street Manchester. To provide the necessary professional expertise, the architect F E W Harris was appointed to take charge in 1897. Henceforth all the buildings erected and the extensions made by the C.W.S. at home or abroad offices, warehouses, flour mills, weaving sheds, boot factories, and so on have been built from the designs and under the supervision of Mr. Harris and his department. The Dunston Soap Works forms the only exception, inasmuch that the architect was L G. Ekins, who had gone to Newcastle from the architects' office at Manchester, to establish a branch office there. He would later take charge of the branch office in London (1916-1945). In 1917 the Newcastle office had eight staff and the London office four. In 1905 the head office at Balloon Street had 13 staff but by 1917 this had tripled to 42 staff.
The CWS also offered their architectural services to the retail societies, although such societies were still at liberty to appoint an architect of their own choosing. During the early months of 1913 some sixty plans were in preparation at the Manchester headquarters for the retail societies. From Cambridge to Colne, and from Walsall to Hull, central premises for societies have been designed in this manner, while the credit for Holyoake House, the headquarters of the Co-operative Union, also belongs to this department.
CWS Chief Architect
1897-1918 F E L Harris (qv)
1918-19 W A Johnson (qv)
1961 G S Hay
Balloon Street, Manchester