George Roberts and Co., Woollen Manufacturer, Selkirk

Scope and Content

Records of Production 1874-1967; Records of Pattern Design 1984-1964; Records of Sales 1842-1849.

Administrative / Biographical History

In October 1838 the whole feu of Forest Mills, Selkirk was sold to George Roberts, clothier and Andrew Dickson, manufacturer in Galashiels to build a spinning mill. The first manager of the spinning mill was George's brother Tom. The original purpose of erecting the mill was to provide yarn to the principals to further their own businesses as clothiers.

In 1870 the company acquired Philiphaugh Mill and installed ten new sets of carding machines of the latest design. George Roberts carried on the business with his brothers Tom and James after Andrew Dickson died. When George died in 1877, he was succeeded by his sons Thomas, Alexander and George, his nephew Frank and Benjamin Cox. These became the principal shareholders when the firm became a limited company in 1892. In 1894 grandson John joined the firm and played a major role in the development and continuity of the business until he retired in 1956. Major additions to the machinery were made at both mills between 1880 and 1912, and again in 1929.

Between 1902 and 1914 the firm enjoyed great prosperity and was one of the leaders of the Scottish woollen industry. However, the business began to decline along with others in the 1950s. An abortive attempt was made in 1960 to join forces with other Selkirk manufacturers to concentrate local manufacture in profitable mills. Eventually in 1962 George Roberts & Co merged with Robert Nobel of Peebles and Walter Thorburn of Hawick, but this arrangement failed eventually to produce enough business to make the group fully viable and the weaving interests of the combine were disposed of to Henry Ballantyne of Walkerburn. The weaving mill closed in 1967 after a period of 137 years activity.

The wool store, dyehouse and spinning sections of the firm continued to operate until 1973 when they closed down and the production of knitting machine yarns was moved to the company's mill in Huddersfield which had been acquired in 1965 after a fire had destroyed Thorburn's spinning mill in Peebles. The Huddersfield mill was sold to the Nottinghamshire Manufacturing Company in 1975.


Arranged chronologically by classification scheme

Access Information

By appointment at the Scottish Borders Campus, Heriot-Watt University, Netherdale, Galashiels.

Acquisition Information

Deposited with Heriot-Watt University as Accessions 1996.1 and E130.

Other Finding Aids

A printed finding aid is available in the search room.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Helen Taylor, Archivist, Heriot-Watt University Archive, Records Management and Museum Service

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Permission to publish material from the Archive must be sought in advance from the University Archivist. Responsibility for obtaining copyright clearance rests with the applicant.


Little Guide to Selkirk Mills. Scottish Borders Museum Service.

Corporate Names