Harrisons of Edinburgh

Scope and Content

Financial and sales records, pattern books and publicity material.

Administrative / Biographical History

The firm was founded in 1863 by the noted philanthropist Sir George Harrison, who later became Lord Provost of Edinburgh, when he bought out an existing firm of Edinburgh woollen merchants called J & A Ogilvie. The firm were situated in the North Bridge where the firm remained until 1957 when they moved to Chambers Street. Harrison had originally begun his career as a tailor and had started his first business venture with a firm of wool drapers, hatters and hosiers in 1838. At this point until the 1970s the firm was known as George Harrison and Co.

The firm created all their own designs and in particular were the first to apply the name District Checks to checked tweed designs. The fabric was woven in the Scottish Borders, in Hawick and then Galashiels (by Ettrick and Yarrow Weavers), and finished in Edinburgh because of the close proximity to the port of Leith. The firm also designed exclusive patterns for Estates and clients throughout the world. Most recently the firm also created the Burns Check for the Burns Association to celebrate the bi-centenary of his birth.

The firm began to export cloth in 1900. This was initially to the United States and the Thistle logo was created to distinguish the cloth. The overseas trade became a large part of the market and the firm was one of the few who had a license to export during WWII. This is reflected in the type of fabric produced until the 1950s which included many lightweight fabrics designed for a tropical climate. After the war they became partners with the firm Porter and Harding. This had been set up by John Porter and Bill Harding in 1947 and specialised in sports cloth which at that point Harrisons did not produce. Harrisons now specialises in cashmere and Super 100 Merino cloths for suiting and jacketing as well as tweed.

Porter and Harding was bought out by Lear Browne and Dunsford Ltd in 1993 who subsequently bought Harrisons in 2006. Both firms still trade with their existing brand names.

Access Information

The collection is located at the Scottish Borders Campus.

Other Finding Aids

Computerised database is available in the search room.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Helen Taylor, Archivist, Heriot-Watt University.

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.

Location of Originals

The collection is original