Edinburgh Linen Co-partnery

Scope and Content

Collection includes:

Cash Books, 1745-1760

Journals, 1745-1767

Account Ledgers, 1745-1747

General Ledgers, 1745-1767

Letter Books, 1745-1749

Administrative / Biographical History

The Edinburgh Linen Co-partnery was established in 1745 by Andrew Fletcher (Lord Milton and Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland) and two enterprising linen merchants from Edinburgh, William Tod and Ebenezer McCulloch.

Lord Milton had been involved in the Scottish linen industry for a long time and was a keen promoter. He grew flax on his estate at Brunstane and experimented in yarn dyeing. From 1727, Milton served as Chairman of the Board of Manufactures' Linen Committee. In this capacity, and with Government funds, he was able to encourage the manufacture of linen in Scotland by opening spinning schools, supplying flax to spinners and weavers, encouraging improvements in bleaching methods, and arranging for foreign weavers to provide instruction to locals.

In January 1739, Milton sought to assist the Scottish linen industry further, by forming the Edinburgh Linen Company. Established as a co-partnership with a capital of £3,000, the Company specialised in the import of linen from Campvere in Holland. The linen was bleached in Edinburgh and re-exported via London.

In the 1840s, Milton sought to expand the Company further. He envisioned it as a 'Grand Manufactory', with the twin aim of increasing linen manufacture in Scotland and seeking out new markets in England and the Empire. In July 1844, a new deed of co-partnery was drawn up which provided the Company with a much larger capital of £20,000.

The Edinburgh Linen Co-partnery, or 'The Company for Improving the Linen Manufactory in Scotland' was formally established on 28 March 1745. Its office and warehouses were located in Halkerston's Wynd, off Edinburgh's High Street.

Ebenezer McCulloch and William Tod were appointed as Joint Managers. Each subscribed £2,000 towards the venture. Both had worked previously for the Board of Manufactures, managing one of their linen works, and were excellently suited to the post.

On 5 July 1746, the business of the Edinburgh Linen Co-partnery was acquired by the newly incorporated British Linen Company. This had been deliberately engineered by Lord Milton, who had submitted a petition seeking formation of the company a year previously. Incorporation meant that the co-partnery's investors would be protected by limited liability. Milton also wanted to secure the company additional entitlements, including the right to issue paper credits (i.e. banknotes) and to increase its capital limit to £100,000.

Though founded to 'carry on the Linen Manufactory', it was ultimately the banking side of the British Linen Company's activities that became most profitable. It was eventually recognised as a bank by its rivals, the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland, in 1771 and 1765 respectively.

The use of the word 'British' in its title (as opposed to 'Scottish') was a deliberate move to deflect suspicion of all things Scottish, following the Jacobite Rising of 1745.


The collection is arranged into the following series:

  • ELC/1: Cash Books
  • ELC/2: Journals
  • ELC/3: Account Ledgers
  • ELC/4: General Ledgers
  • ELC/5: Letter Books

Access Information

Access is by appointment only, and at the discretion of the Archivist. Closure periods apply to some records less than 100 years old. Please e-mail archives@lloydsbanking.com for further information.

Other Finding Aids

An item level catalogue is available - please e-mail archives@lloydsbanking.com for further details.

Please note that this catalogue replaces the NRAS survey of the Edinburgh Linen Co-partnery records undertaken in the 1970s (NRAS945).

Conditions Governing Use

Copying of material is permitted at the discretion of Lloyds Banking Group Archives.

Related Material

  • GB1830 BLB1 - records of the British Linen Company (later the British Linen Bank)
  • GB1830 MCC - records of Ebenezer McCulloch and Company, Merchants
  • GB1830 ESY - records of the Edinburgh Stapleary of Yarn
  • GB1830 SAL - records of Saltoun Bleachfield
  • Papers of Lord Milton (1725-1782) held at the National Library of Scotland (Ref. MSS 17560-77; 17579-86; 17594-600; Ch 14879-83)