Records of William Dixon Ltd, coal and iron master, Govan, Glasgow

Scope and Content

The collection contains a great deal of financial, production and wages records relating to the iron and coal industry.

  • Journals 1849-1952
  • Sales books 1853-1958
  • Wages books 1855-1955
  • Day books 1857-1892
  • Supply analysis books 1882-1939
  • Blast furnace reports 1927-1958
  • Purchase books 1929-1953
  • Ledgers 1932-1952
  • Letter books 1948-1952
  • Time books 1949-1950
  • Wmployers' associations files 1951-1959
  • Legal papers relating to the Dixon family, titles, and business 1631-1975
  • Plans 1957

Administrative / Biographical History

William Dixon (  1753-1822  ), a Northumberland miner, became lessee of the Govan coalfields in  1770/1  ; becoming a part owner in  1813  and the sole owner in  1819  . He purchased the failed Calder Iron Works, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Scotland, for £400 in  1801  and went into partnership with David Mushet, discoverer of the blackband ironstone, to run the works and exploit the Monkland coalfields. The partnership lasted only 2 years after which William Dixon bought the works again for £19,000. He purchased Palacecraig estate, Coatbridge, in  1803  and Faskine estate, Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, in  1819  . He founded the Govan Ironworks, Crown Street, Govan, Glasgow, Scotland, in  1837  for the manufacture of bar iron, the production of iron castings for steam engines and general engineering products. These works were popularly known thereafter as 'Dixon Blazes'. William Dixon died in  1822  and was succeeded in business by his youngest son, William Dixon (  1788-1859  ). By this time the business was the second largest coal and iron concern in Scotland. He purchased, in  1824  , the estate, collieries, blast furnaces and malleable iron works of Wilsontown, South Lanarkshire. The iron works closed in  1842  but the collieries remained in operation until the  1950s  . William Dixon, the second, subsequently purchased numerous estates, including, Carfin, Motherwell, South Lanarkshire; Crosshill, Broomelton, Larkhall, South Lanarkshire; Earnockmuir, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire; Mosesfield, Springburn, Glasgow. He spent over £250,000 on litigation and on his death in  1859  was not insolvent but seriously illiquid. When his son, William Smith Dixon (  1824-1880  ), inherited the business outside involvement was already established in the day to day management of the business, which was firmly in the hands of the Calder & Govan Ironworks, and the overall financial affairs of the business was in the hands of trustees. The business by then operated 8 collieries and 2 ironworks and was the fourth largest coal and iron concern in Scotland. The business was incorporated as a limited liability company in  April 1873  as  William Dixon Ltd with John Mann Thomson, W S Dixon's cousin, as chairman. The company's registered offices were at 1 Dixon Street, Glasgow. In  March 1906  the company was liquidated and reconstructed as a new limited company with the same name. The company's works were situated at Glasgow; Govan, Glasgow; Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire; Blantyre, South Lanarkshire; Calder, North Lanarkshire; Fauldhouse, West Lothian; Carfin, North Lanarkshire; Wilsontown, South Lanarkshire; and Garturk, North Lanarkshire. The Calder works closed in  1921  . In 1922 the company abandoned the use of splint coal and reverted entirely to coke fuel, obtained from their Wilsontown colliery and from other coke makers. In  1934  a modern coke plant was laid down at Govan. By  1936  the company was fast becoming a satellite of the Colville Group of steel companies which had become its major customer. Colvilles Ltd acquired the company from the Iron & Steel Holding & Realisation Agency in  1953  , keeping the blast furnaces and coke ovens in operation until the recession of  1958  when the works closed and the company ceased to trade. It went into liquidation in  1960  .


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.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Gift : Colvilles Ltd, Glasgow: prior to 1966

Deposit : Moncrieff, Warran, Paterson & Co, solicitors : Glasgow : c1983 : ACCN 0043*

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)1622) and London (NRA10828)

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 not been appraised professionally.

Custodial History

Records deposited with Economic History Department, Glasgow University, prior to 1966. Management of the collection transferred to Glasgow University Archives in 1975.


None expected

Related Material

See source list on Mining available via the GLasgow University Archives homepage at

GB 0234 SC96/4379-85 Diary, waste & cash books 1800-1808 (National Archives of Scotland)

GB 1496 Staff records 1946-1952 (British Steel East Midlands Regional Records Centre)

GB 1527 Corporate records 1873-1960 (British Steel Records Centre)

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


Slaven, A,Coalmining in the West of Scotland in the nineteenth century: the Dixon Enterprises (BLitt thesis)(University of Glasgow, 1967)

Peter L Payne, 'The Govan Collieries 1804-1805', Business History, 3, 2 (1961)

Additional Information

This material is original

Altered by Moira MacKay , Assistant Archivist, July 1997

Updated by Jenny Cooknell , Assistant Archivist, 11 October 1999

Updated by Lesley Richmond , Acting Director, 3 March 2000

Geographical Names