Records of James Finlay & Co Ltd, textile manufacturers, tea planters and merchants, Glasgow, Scotland

Administrative / Biographical History

In  1750 James Finlay (1727-c1792) established the firm of  James Finlay & Co in Glasgow, Scotland. He operated in a number of overseas and UK markets, entering into a number of trade agreements. After his death, his son,  Kirkman Finlay (d. 1842), one of the most influential merchants of his generation, became senior managing partner of the firm. The other co-partners were; William Finlay, John Wright, James Frederick Gerock, Leitch & Smith per Archibald Smith, David Russell, John Gordon, Gordon & Co and Alexander Gordon. In  1798  the company purchased mills at Ballindalloch, Balfron, Stirling, Scotland, and soon became major textile manufacturers, later purchasing additional mills at Catrine, East Ayrshire, Scotland in  1801  and Deanston, Perth & Kinross, Scotland, in  1808 . The firm also established many trading connections overseas, initially in Europe, but later further afield. These trading operations were facilitated by a staff of travelling agents and by the formation of branch establishments in major trading centres. These establishments included  Finlay & Co (Manchester, England,  1799  ),  John Thomson & Co (Heligoland,  1807  ),  Struthers, Kennedy & Co (Malta,  1809  ),  Finlay Hodgson & Co (London  1809  ). Also acquired was  Easton, Alston & Co, exclusive exporters of cotton and other goods to Nassu, New Providence, Bahama Islands, for the supply of Spanish, West Indies and South American markets. This connection led to the establishment of houses in the USA at New York, New Orleans and Charlestown. In 1816, they were the first merchant house in Scotland to open up direct connection with India, opening up a branch with  Ritchie Steuart & Co , in Bombay.

Gradually the company's trading activities outstripped their textile manufacturing business and in  1844  the works at Ballindalloch, Stirling, were sold. In  1858  the company merged with  Wilson, James & Kay . Their Indian business connections were strengthened in  1862  when  Finlay Clerk & Co was established in Bombay, known as  Finlay Muir & Co from  1870  when and a branch was opened in Calcutta. In around  1882  the firm began to diversify into tea estate management and by  Finlay, Muir & Co 1901  was managing extensive tea estates in India and Sri Lanka. The Assam, Sylhet, Cachar, Dooars, Darjeeling and Travancore estate covered over 270,000 acres, 77,000 acres of which were planted with tea. At this time the firm employed 70, 000 native Indians and a large staff of superintendents, managers and assistants from Scotland. They were the leading Indian tea suppliers in the UK market. In  1909  the company became incorporated as a limited liability company,  James Finlay & Co Ltd , with head offices at Nile Street, Glasgow. Two jute mills for spinning and weaving jute were established on the banks of the Hooghly River near Calcutta. The last tea estates in India were sold to  Tata Tea Co , Bombay, in  1982.  In 2000, James Finlay plc has its main tea growing interests in Kenya, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Development Corporation, Uganda. The group trades worldwide in black tea, instant tea and decaffeinated tea. It packages tea in Sri Lanka for a number of international customers (including Taikoo Sugar), and in Bangladesh for the local market. In the UK, a subsidiary, George Payne, does private label packaging of black tea and coffee. Since 2000, the company became a fully owned subsidiary of the Swire Group and continues to trade as  James Finlay & Co Ltd .


The records are arranged into series, reflecting the functions of the company and the locations these functions were carried out.

Access Information

Some files in this collection are subject to Data Protection legislation as they contain sensitive information and material under 30 years old is closed to access. It is advised that you should contact the Duty Archivist before visiting:

Acquisition Information

Loan : James Finlay & Co Ltd : September 1974-1985

Private loan : 6 December 1985 : ACCN 074* (Additional deposit)

James Finlay plc : October 1995 (Additional deposit)

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)1816) and London (NRA23054)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

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

Any work intended for publication that is based on research from this collection must be approved in advance. Apply in the first instance to Archives and Special Collections, email:

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures. Duplicates have been removed.

Custodial History

Received directly from the creator


Accruals possible

Related Material

Material in other repositories: GB 059 Finlay Campbell & Co and Finlay Muir & Co (British Library: Oriental and India Office Collections)


Stewart, R E,Scottish Company Accounting 1860-1920, PhD Thesis GUL 7436 , (Glasgow University, 1986)

Additional Information

This material is original

Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives,ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999 and National Council on Archives,Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names

Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Created from an EAD template in MS Word by the running of Visual Basic macros by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, on 1 March 2002. Amended by Sam Maddra, Assistant Archivist (cataloguing), 28 August 2017.