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Records of P & W MacLellan Ltd, steel stockholders, Glasgow, Scotland
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
The origins of the company date to 1805 when Donald and Humphrey MacLellan opened a hardware shop at 178 Saltmarket, Glasgow, Scotland. The partnership only lasted four years and in 1809 Donald set up on his own around the corner at 5 The Trongate, as Donald MacLellan, hardware merchant, specialising in supplying pedlars. In 1826, the shop moved to 9 Trongate. As he had no children of his own, Donald planned to pass his business to his nephews Peter and Walter MacLellan, the sons of his eldest brother George. Peter served an apprenticeship with Andrew Liddle, an ironmonger, with premises at 102 Argyle Street, Glasgow, and owner of the Globe Foundry, Glasgow.
Donald died in 1831 and his widow moved the shop to 115 Trongate. On 1 November 1831 , Walter MacLellan joined his aunt in the business. On completion of his apprenticeship in June 1832, Peter followed his brother into the family business. Until the brothers became old enough to run the business themselves, another uncle, also called Peter, took over the stock and furnishings for the sum of £337 from his brother's widow.In 1836, an additional warehouse was opened at 26 Robertson Street, Glasgow. Uncle Peter retired in 1839 and the brothers formed P & W MacLellan . The firm diversified further to respond to the growing needs of Glasgow industries. They continued to supply rural Scotland having an agent in Campbeltown, Argyll & Bute. In 1844, the brothers began manufacturing on their own account, renting a small smith shop in Greenhill Place, Glasgow, before purchasing their own premises the following year at 20 New Wynd, Glasgow. In the Glasgow directory of 1846 they advertised as ironmongers, smiths, gasfitters and bellhangers. They added iron merchanting in 1848 at which time they appear to have started making iron bridges. Construction of their first bridge across Glasgow's River Clyde started in January 1851 and was completed in June 1852. Around 1851-1852, they converted their works in New Wynd into an iron warehouse and purchased premises at 10 Adelphi Street, Kinning Park, Glasgow, for £2500. They named their premises the Clutha Iron Works.
In 1854, the brothers took their youngest brother, Duncan, into partnership giving him a fifth share in the profits. In this year they also added a further activity to their portfolio - the stamping of bolts and rivets. They expanded again in 1856 investing another £1000 in their New Wynd warehouse and purchasing property in Dundas Street, Glasgow, and the Albert Grain Mills which they converted into workshops.
In August 1865, Walter MacLellan purchased the Clydesdale Foundry in Paisley Road, Glasgow. Before the plans for the site were carried out, Peter died on 26 May 1866. Under the terms of his will the remaining partners had to pay out his stake of £33,000 to his widow and children which meant capital was in short supply.In 1867, George MacLellan Blair, nephew of Peter and Walter became a junior partner. In that year, they again diversified taking the lead in the establishment of the Monkland Oil Refinery Co Ltd at Drumshangie, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
In 1867, P & W MacLellan set up an associate business Blair & Gray, to manufacture boilers, build bridges and lighthouses, and undertake other structural engineering contracts. Their premises were at Clydesdale Iron Works, Kinning Park, and the manager was James MacLellan Blair, brother of George. By this time the company had agencies for a number of machine tool and toolmakers and other concerns, like the safemakers, Milner, Chatwood & Tom. Two new P & W MacLellan partners were created in the 1870s - George Scott MacLellan, son of Walter and John P Smith, manager of the Clutha works, in recognition of his success with the patented embossed steel sleeper. In 1876, the firm moved into the teak trade with Wallace Brothers, Britain's main importer. The deal gave P & W MacLellan control of the sale of all Bombay Burma teak on the Clyde and 2.5 per cent commission on the eight to ten thousand loads a year.
In autumn 1876, Walter and Duncan MacLellan embarked on a year long tour of Asia and the Far East. Meanwhile, John P Smith resigned as a partner and manager of the Clutha works and was replaced by T Arthur Arroll, son of the Alloa brewer, Scotland.
In 1877, P & W MacLellan opened a Liverpool branch and also began supplying India rubber products, the rubber probably coming from their sister business George MacLellan & Co. At the same time another associate company, Thomson Gray & Co, was established to own ships and provide marine insurance cover.
During 1878, the West of Scotland shipbuilding and engineering industries slipped rapidly into recession. In the autumn of that year, the whole of Glasgow was shaken by the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank, with whom P & W MacLellan had an account. Fortunately, the firm fared a good deal better than most of their competitors.
Orders began to pick up again in 1879 with Indian State Railways ordering 48 bridges and William Arrol & Co, a Glasgow bridge builder, placing an order for 12,000 tons of steel for the Forth Railway Bridge, Scotland. The Forth Bridge contract however was cancelled when a storm hit and destroyed the Tay Bridge, Scotland. The demand for railway bridges was not greatly dented by the Tay Bridge disaster and in February 1880 the South Indian Railways ordered a further 48. It was also in this year that Walter MacLellan purchased the Carntyne Iron Co, Glasgow, in order to ensure a steady supply of iron. In 1883, the firm won the contract to supply the approaches for a completely redesigned Forth Bridge. This was to be the firm's first experience of working in steel.
The teak business continued to be successful until the shipbuilding industry recession of the early 1880s when it became much harder to dispose of the booked consignments. Orders were scarcer in the 1880s but P & W MacLellan always managed to secure enough contracts to keep business going. Their major contracts during this time were the roof of the new Glasgow Central Station and ironwork for Glasgow City Chambers. The partners managed to remain confident in the future and, in 1885, purchased a foundry in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, Scotland, for £2000.In 1886, they also purchased the Monkland Iron Works and the Chapel Hall Iron Works at Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Their partners in this venture were James Watson & Co, pig iron merchants. Business picked up a little in the later part of the decade but it was not until mid-1889 with major Indian contracts that the bridge business once again flourished. The firm was dealt a blow in August 1889 when Walter MacLellan died leaving a little over £39,000. In order to put the firm on a surer footing, the partners decided to convert to a public limited company.Therefore, in 1890 , the business was incorporated as P & W MacLellan Ltd with offices in the Trongate, Glasgow and 8 Great Winchester Street, London, England. The firm, in 1890, was one of Scotland's most significant businesses, employing over 3000 people at its Clutha Works and Trongate site.
Another slump hit the Clyde shipbuilding and engineering trades in 1891 and P & W MacLellan Ltd had to fight hard to win business. At this point they re-negotiated the teak contract creating the Clyde Teak Pool. Some bridge contracts were secured with William T MacLellan returning from a sales trip to Brazil with large orders for the Penambuco Harbour, but times were on the whole hard for the firm.
During the First World War the Clutha Works were given over to munitions production and producing steel wagons and tracks for transporting goods to the Front. William Turner MacLellan, chairman of the company, moved to the Ministry of Munitions and was responsible for organising steel supplies. Following the war, the business expanded, taking over the Forth Shipbreaking Yard, Bo'ness, Falkirk, Scotland, but the company was hit hard by the recession of the early 1920s, the Clutha works only remaining open by accepting contracts at virtually cost price. However, the company did not make a financially loss until 1932. This loss resulted in large-scale redundancies and the Clutha works were run on a skeleton staff. By 1934, the business was back in profit and with re-armament underway, the company started to produce aircraft hangers for the Government.
The Second World War saw MacLellan producing more hangers and munitions for the war effort and also saw the building of landing craft and other prefabricated vessels at a disused dockyard at Abbotsinch, Glasgow, and the Clutha works.
Post-war activity saw pipework being supplied to various hydro-electic schemes in Scotland along with overseas bridge building contracts and repair work to war-damaged factories. The late 1940s and 1950s saw continued growth for the company and in 1961, new offices and a warehouse were built at the Clutha works to replace the Trongate offices. The early 1960s saw a downturn in profits for the first time since the 1930s, with strike action in 1960 resulting in the Clutha works being closed for 6 weeks. Competition with Japanese and German iron and steel producers lead to further losses and, in 1962, the company undertook major restructuring and cost cutting measures. Further losses saw the closure of the London office, the sale of the Bo'ness shipbreaking yard, and a policy that no large-scale contracts be accepted unless fabrication was sub-contracted.
By 1966 several major contracts, such as the steelworks for Bell's whisky blending and bottling store at Perth, Scotland, saw the company grow in strength. The early 1970s saw the collapse of one of the company's biggest clients, Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, but an upturn in the building market lead the company to look to the building trades for future prosperity. Although the late 1970s saw the company back in profit, demand for fabricated goods was weak and the Clutha works closed in 1980, he company concentrating on supplying fastenings to the building and engineering trades. In 1997, P & W Maclellan plc became Haden MacLellan Holdings plc, changing its name again to Infant plc in 2000.
Source: Moss, Michael,From Glasgow Shop to International Group: The Centenary History of P & W MacLellan Ltd 1890-1990(Surrey, 1990)
This material is arranged into series, which consist of numbers of items related by format and/or function. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically
Conditions Governing Access
Permanent loan : P & W MacLellan Ltd: Glasgow : October 1980 : ACCN 2149
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)2497) and London (NRA17521)
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
This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures
Received directly from the creator
Moss, Michael,From Glasgow Shop to International Group: The Centenary History of P & W MacLellan Ltd. 1890-1990(Surrey, 1990)
This material is original
Revised by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 2 May 2002