Records of Blackwood, Morton & Sons Ltd (BMK), carpet manufacturers, Kilmarnock, Scotland

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Records relating to the management and day to day running of the company and its subsidiaries and records relating to the design process. Includes:  

  • Design archive:
  • catalogues 1930s-1990s;
  • contract designs 1950s-1980s;
  • design photographs 1930s-1980s;
  • design lithographs 1920s-1960s;
  • design sketches 1920s-1940s;
  • pattern cards 1930s-1980s.
  • Corporate archive:
  • minutes, 1992-1998;
  • photographs, 1955.

The description of the Stoddard International Group plc Archive is divided into the following sections, each with its own separate description:  

Administrative / Biographical History

Blackwood Morton & Sons was a company that comprised of two Kilmarnock families that had a long tradition of weaving. The Blackwoods were cotton, worsted, and wool-spinners as early as the 1750s. By 1819 Robert Blackwood was a woollen manufacturer in the Kilmarnock area. The Kilmarnock and Riccarton Post Office Directory for 1846-47 listed Robert Blackwood as a wool-spinner and manufacturer in Wellington Street. Robert's son James Blackwood was listed as a wool-spinner and manufacturer in Brougham Place. There were also two wool-spinning companies listed in the directory. These were: Blackwood R & J, Manford Lane; and Blackwood, Wilson & Co located at Back Causey. In 1860 James Blackwood took his brother Robert Blackwood Junior into business with him forming Blackwood Brothers. In 1880 the company acquired Burnside Works and produced Scotch or Kidder Carpets made of both cotton and wool.

By 1882 the brothers split from each other to form their own companies. James Blackwood took his son Henry D. Blackwood into business at the Townhead Mills factory. This company was named Blackwood Brothers & Co. and continued to manufacture carpets until 1909. Robert Blackwood Junior also took his sons, William Ford and James Blackwood into partnership at the Burnside Works site. They continued to manufacture Scotch or Kidder Carpets of all qualities under the name of Robert Blackwood & Sons. Robert passed away in 1895 and his son James retired from the company in 1900. This left William Ford Blackwood as the sole partner. It was William who joined with Gavin (Guy) Morton to form Blackwood Morton & Sons in 1908.

The Morton family appear to have been involved in carpet manufacturing for many generations. In 1844 Alexander Morton was born in Darvel, East Ayrshire, nine miles away from Kilmarnock. His father Gavin Morton was a woodman and weaver. In 1850 Gavin Morton passed away and Alexander had to work as a herder for his aunt. Alexander returned home at the age of 10 to learn the weaving trade. At the age of 15 he bought his first loom.

In 1867 Alexander's brother-in-law, William Bowie passed away and Alexander took over the running of the company with his sister-in-law, Mrs Bowie. The Bowie's company originally involved manufacturing plain grey curtains that would be sold on to merchants to be dressed. Alexander decided to add a warp twist weft which improved the quality of the curtains. He also decided to dress the curtains himself and sell them straight to the clients. These changes proved profitable and Alexander founded Alexander Morton & Co in 1870. By 1874 he had bought his first curtain factory in Darvel. In 1895 James Morton, Alexander's son joined the business as a partner. By 1898 the company purchased a second factory in Killybegs, County Donegal to produce hearth rugs. Gavin (Guy) Morton, nephew of Alexander, joined the company as a designer during the 1890s. In 1906 the company launched James Morton's invention of 'Sundour Fabrics' which were designed to never fade.

Blackwood Morton & Sons formed in 1908. William Ford Blackwood and Gavin Morton joined together after William had been commissioned to weave for Alexander Morton & Co. During World War I the company produced service blankets to help the war effort. By 1918 they were producing reversible wool-rugs and Chenille Axminster carpets. The company continued to grow under the helm of Robert Morton who became the director in 1930. Chenille Axminster became so popular that the factory had machinery replaced so it could concentrate all its production on Chenille and Spool Axminster carpets. In 1938 the company were able to buy majority shares in Cooke, Sons & Co. of Liversedge, Yorkshire.

World War II caused the ingenuity and capability of Blackwood Morton & Sons to be put to the test. Before the outbreak of the war the company had been selling 5,000 carpets, 12,000 rugs and 20,000 yards of piece-goods every week, however, like all carpet manufacturers in Britain the government placed restrictions on production. Initially they were asked to produce service blankets for the army. However, between 1939 and 1945 Blackwood Morton & Sons produced 19 different items for the armed forces. These ranged from 20mm ammunition Oerliken shells, to F.Q. RAM Coils, and the salvage and repair of radio interference suppressors. To be able to accomplish this task the staff needed to be retrained for each item and often old machinery would need to be stripped out replaced.

At the end of the war Blackwood Morton & Sons bought another factory at Finaghy, near Belfast, to produce Chenille Axminster carpets. In 1948 they purchased their second company which was the Victoria Spinning Company Ltd in Dundee. Success continued and in 1959 the Riverside Mills factory was built in Kilmarnock. In 1966 another factory was built which was specifically for tufted carpet production. In that same year Robert Morton resigned from the company.

By the 1980s Blackwood Morton & Sons produced Axminster, wire Wilton, and tufted carpets, as well as underfelt. However, in 1981 the company fell into financial difficulties and by 1982 they were taken over by John Logue. In 1992, trading under the name of 'BMK Limited', the company was bought up by the Stoddard Group, then trading as Stoddard Carpets Ltd.

Arrangement

The records have been arranged within two main series: the design associated records and the corporate archive. Records are arranged chronologically in series within these two main headings.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

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

Bibliography

From Loom to Lathe - and Back Again: The Story of Wartime Achievement (Kilmarnock, 1946)

Additional Information

Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999and 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.

Design archive descriptions compiled by Sam Maddra, Project Archivist (Stoddard-Templeton Design Archive), June 2011. Corporate archive descriptions compiled by Kimberly Sommerville, Project Archivist (Stoddard-Templeton Corporate Archive), May 2011.

Geographical Names