Papers of the MacFie Family, sugar refiners, Greenock and Liverpool

Scope and Content

  • Bound volumes, diaries and notebooks 1709-1922
  • Wills 1891-1893
  • Newspapers, pamphlets and presscuttings 1839-1919
  • Photographs c.1860s-c.1900s
  • Correspondence and personal papers 1724-1940

Administrative / Biographical History

The collection is concerned with the business and personal affairs of the MacFie family, sugar refiners of Greenock, Glasgow. The business also had branches in Leith, Edinburgh and Liverpool, Merseyside. Robert MacFie was born in Greenock on 11 February 1746, the son of William MacFie (1710-1789) and Mary Ramsay. On 09 March 1772 he married Mary Andrew, daughter of Captain Andrew of Port Glasgow. The couple had twelve children, four of whom died in infancy. Robert MacFie died on 25 Spetember 1827. Within the collection there is a concentration of material relating to the families William MacFie (1776-1854) and John MacFie (1783-1852), the first and third sons of Robert MacFie. William MacFie was born on 18 May 1776 and, in 1808, married Jessie Johnstone of Port Glasgow. His second son, Robert (1812-1899) married Agnes Fairrie (1813-1900), the daughter of James Faire of Greenock, a member of another prominent sugar refining family. Their son, Andrew Lawrie MacFie (1860-1936), matriculated the arms of MacFie of Langhouse at the Lyon Office on 7 January 1926, Langhouse being the MacFie family seat near Inverkip, Renfrewshire, bought by Robert MacFie (1746-1827) in 1798. John MacFie was born on 6 October 1783. His son, Robert Andrew MacFie (1811-1893) was MP for the Leith Burghs from 1868 until 1874. He married Caroline Eliza Easton in 1840, and their son, John William MacFie was born in Liverpool on 1 December 1844. John William MacFie managed the Liverpool branch of MacFie & Sons, and served as a Justice of the Peace in Edinburgh and Cheshire. He married Helen Wahab (1844-1896) in 1867, and had ten children. The family lived at Rowton Hall, Cheshire and were notable members of Liverpool and Cheshire society. In 1768 Robert MacFie (1746-1827) opened a grocery business at Bell Entry, Greenock, moving to William Street, Greenock in 1770. In 1788 he purchased an eighth share in the new sugar house of Hunter McAlpine and Company, for the sum of £500, and thus began the MacFie Family's connection with sugar refining. When Hunter McAlpine and Company ceased trading in 1800 the partners divided the stock amongst them, rather than selling it off. Thus, Robert MacFie found himself in possession of "3 tons sugar loaves, 4å? tons sugar tips, 15 pounds treacle". In 1801, Robert's eldest son, William suggested the building of a new sugar house, and this Bogle Street Sugar House opened in 1802 under the ownership of Robert MacFie and Sons. The firm continued to expand with the building of the Leith Sugar House in 1804. When the Leith Sugar House was destroyed by fire in 1829 the company purchased vacant premises in a small alley or 'close' off Edinburgh's High Street. These premises had already seen use as a sugar refinery, hence the alley had come to be known as Sugarhouse Close , a name which it still bears today. MacFie & Sons Edinburgh Sugarhouse continued in operation even after the rebuilding of the Leith refinery, finally closing around 1840 . The Liverpool branch of MacFie & Sons was opened in 1838, at Temple Street, Liverpool, and continued to operate under family management for a century, until it was bought over in 1938 by United Molasses, who later transferred its quota to Tate & Lyle. The company was finally wound up in 1946.


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposit : Mr R L Paton : 1984 and then some pamphlets and newspaper cuttings, Deposit : Janet M Main : 1995

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Archivist's Note

Fonds level description compiled by Alison Jasper, Archives Assistant, 18 March 1998

Conditions Governing Use

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

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

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History



None expected

Related Material

GB 138, Liverpool Record Office, 380MAC: a small collection relating to some MacFie family papers and GB 233, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts collection, records relating to Robert MacFie, sugar merchant.

Location of Originals

This material is original


No known publications using this material


Geographical Names