Records of United Turkey Red Co Ltd, bleachers, finishers and dyers, Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Administrative records 1826-1934
  • Staff records 1845-1916
  • Financial records 1845-1939
  • Production records 1873-1934

Administrative / Biographical History

United Turkey Red Co Ltd was by far the largest firm in the bleaching, finishing, dyeing and printing industry in Scotland. It was formed during the 1890s, growing naturally out of a number of occasional associations between dyeing firms in the West of Scotland, set up to deal with difficulties encountered by the industry as a whole. In the 1880s  , for example, a German technical monopoly in the production of artificial alizarine, the chemical extracted originally from the madder root, which produced the Turkey-red colour, led to steep price increases for English and Scottish dyers, with consequent loss of business and unemployment. In the 1890s, the dyers set up a protective association, the Dyers in Glasgow and the West of Scotland , to contest what were seen as discriminative tariffs imposed on British dyed yarns imported into India . An important figure in the establishment of the new company was John Hyde Christie ( 1836-1926  ), who began work for John Orr Ewing & Co as chief chemist in 1859  , becoming general manager and, in 1878  , a partner in the firm. The companies involved in the merger were John Orr Ewing & Co (established 1830  ), Archibald Orr Ewing & Co (established 1830  ), Wm Stirling & Sons (established 1723  ) and, in 1900  , Alexander Reid & Sons was purchased.

The management of the new company maintained the commercial autonomy of individual firms for a while but eventually the business was reorganised under the overall supervision of John Christie , on a departmental basis. In time, three of Christie' s sons came into the business, and one of them, Henry Christie , became chairman following the death of William Ewing Gilmour , his father's successor, in 1924  . Together with James Morton ( 1867-1943  ), Henry's brother, John Christie Jnr , was responsible, during the 1900s  , for developing a new, cheaper and quicker turkey-red dyeing process. They also worked on processes to produce other artificial dyestuffs but the board of the company was not keen to diversify at that stage. The merger of a number of older and established businesses seems to have had a bad effect on labour relations, and there was a major dispute in 1911  resulting in a widespread strike and some violence.

In 1920  , the company underwent significant reconstruction. An advertisement for the company, some time after this date, described their business as "Dyers and Printers of Cotton Cloths and Yarns in all colours". At this time, the head office of the company was at 46 West George Street, Glasgow . There was also an office in Manchester . The Christie family maintained its connection with the company into the third generation, George Christie becoming a director. He retired from the company before 1960  . In 1960  , the chairman of the company was H Cowan-Douglas , and the managing Director was W Calderhead . At that date, the registered office of The United Turkey Red Co Ltd was Levenfield , Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire and there were company offices at 10 Charlotte Street, Manchester , and at 137-141 Regent Street, London . In 1960  , however, the company's assets were purchased by the Calico Printers' Association Ltd , Manchester , which closed the Alexandria works. Calico Printers' Association Ltd subsequently became part of the Tootal Group plc , Tootal House, 19/20 Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2TL.


This material is arranged into series, which consist of numbers of items related by function and/or format. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Gift : Calico Printers' Association Ltd, Manchester : c1962

Private deposit: March 1996 : ACCN259

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom.

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)1635) and London (NRA21578)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

Records deposited with Economic History Department, Glasgow University in c1962. Management of the collection transferred to Glasgow University Archives in 1975.


None expected

Related Material

See source list on Textiles available via the Glasgow University Archives Services home page at

Materials in other repositories:

GB 587 Sample books, order books c1840-c1930 (National Museum of Scotland)

GB 346 T133-1976 Pattern book c1860-c1880 (Victoria & Albert Museum, Department of Textiles and Dress)

GB 422 1973/16/1-3 Export ticket books 1870-1919 (Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester)

GB 1572 Samples and scrap books 19th century-20th century (Colour Museum)

Sample books (Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries, Museum of Costume)

GB 127 Valuations 1912-1951 (Manchester Local Studies Unit)

For contact details of all repositories with a GB code, see the Archon repository search page


Slaven, A and Checkland, S (eds.), vol 1Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography 1860-1960(1986, Aberdeen)

Additional Information

This material is original

Additional details by Moira Rankin , Senior Archivist, August 1998

Updated by Jenny Cooknell , Assistant Archivist, 29 October 1999

Updated by Lesley Richmond , Acting Director, 3 March 2000

Geographical Names