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University of Dundee Archives


From the production of textiles within the home through to mass industrial works such as cotton production at New Lanark, Turkey-red cloth in the Vale of Leven, and the creation of haute couture garments, Scotland has a rich and diverse textile heritage that has been successfully preserved within Scotland's archives and museums. 

C. A. Oakley in his 1953 book Scottish Industry states that "textiles were one of the first things that Scotland made to sell abroad in really noticeable quantities. Seventeenth-century commercial reports describe how consignments of sturdy hand-knitted stockings were then going through the port of Aberdeen to Scandinavia, of heavy Border grey cloth through Leith to the Netherlands and of colourful plaidings through Glasgow to France."

These international trading links continued to be important for Scottish textiles and to this day the industry has international connections and a global reach. The records of this industry are an excellent source of information about impact and global connections of Scottish business.

Scots at Work

The Scots at Work exhibition ran from April to June 2013 at General Register House, National Records of Scotland. Vistors had the opportunity to view the following items which were on display in the 'Textiles' case:

  • Historic Caledonian Railway enthusiasts’ tartan, 2012 - National Records of Scotland
  • Order for ‘Caledonian’ tartan, 1823 Scottish Tartan Society
  • Harris Tweed sample and labels, 20th-21st centuries - Harris Tweed Authority & Museum nan Eilean, Stornoway
  • Harris Tweed stamping book, 1956-1958 - Harris Tweed Authority
  • Image of women waulking blankets - Western Isles Libraries
  • Colloquial Hindustani for Jute Mills & Workshops, 1947 - University of Dundee Archive Services, Charles Lorimer papers
  • Image of child workers in the Old Turning Shop of J & P Coats, thread manufacturers, Paisley, 1887 - University of Glasgow Archive Services

Textile Records in Scotland

There are over 700 archive collections relating to textiles in Scotland. The Archives Hub has a very useful summary that includes companies such as the Paisley thread manufacturers, Dundee jute firms, Scottish Borders tweed manufacturers. There are also examples of trade and employers associations and the records of institutions which taught, and continue to teach textiles.