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Scottish Wool and Tweed


Although a company of wool weavers was incorporated by the town council of Edinburgh in 1475, the cloth worn by the wealthier classes down to the beginning of the 17th century was of English or French manufacture, the lower classes wearing “coarse cloth made at home,” a custom which was very prevalent in the remoter districts of the Highlands.

In 1601 seven Flemings were brought to Edinburgh to teach the manufacture of serges and broadcloth, and eight years later a company of Flemings was established in the Canongate (Edinburgh) for the manufacture of cloth under the solemn protection of the king; but, notwithstanding also the establishment in 1681 of an English company for the manufacture of woollen fabrics near Haddington, the industry for long made little progress.

In fact its importance dates from the introduction of machinery in the I9th century. The most important branch of the trade, that of tweeds, first began to attract attention shortly after 1830; though still having its principal seat in the district from which it takes its name, including Galashiels, Hawick, Innerleithen and Selkirk, it has extended to other towns, especially Aberdeen, Elgin, Inverness, Stirling, Bannockburn, Dumfries and Paisley.

Carpet manufacture has had its principal seat in Kilmarnock since 1817, but is also carried on in Aberdeen, Ayr, Bannockburn, Glasgow, Paisley and elsewhere. Tartans are largely manufactured in Tillicoultry, Bannockburn and Kilmarnock, and shawls and plaids in several towns. Fingering and many other kinds of woollen yarns are manufactured at Alloa, the headquarters of ‘the industry.

In 1901 the number of operatives in the woollen industry (including combers and sorters, spinners, weavers and workers in other processes) amounted to 24,906. In 1850 the employed numbered 10,210.

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