William Watson and Sons, Woollen Manufacturer, Hawick

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Pattern book 1924-1930; unpublished history by J Gordon MacDonald 2005

Administrative / Biographical History

William Lindsay Watson was a dyer in Dalkeith and in around 1800 set up a business in Glasgow. He met hosier William Wilson and in 1804 set up a hosiery firm William Watson and Sons in Hawick in Dangerfield Mills. Both partners had become Quakers and built the Quaker chapel in Hawick. The partnership dissolved due to Wilson's ill health but they remained friends. The firm soon also began to manufacture twill cloth.

According to legend it was Watson's mill that developed the name tweed. In 1832 a clerk in London misread the name twill on an invoice for some of Watson's cloth, calling it tweed. Watson was a canny salesman and exploited the name as a marketing ploy.

William Watson died in 1849 and factory manager John Paterson initially took responsibility for running the mill until his sons Robert Fraser and Thomas Lindsay Watson took over in 1869 and became joint partners in the firm. The firm had dispensed with hosiery manufacture in the 1860s and concentrated on weaving tweed, developing the site at Dangerfield mills. By 1875 the firm had 100 power looms and in 1882 they extended Dangerfield Mills building a new yarn store and weaving shed.

Robert died in 1904, and Thomas in 1915 and the mill was then run by his son Thomas Lindsay Watson. The company benefited from army contracts during WWI but after the war suffered from declining fortunes. Thomas died in 1925 and the firm was taken over by his son Robert Hamilton Lindsay Watson. The company began to decline in the depression and by 1939 he was granted a bond of 10,000 by the British Linen Bank. After this death in 1956 the company continued to decline due to reduced demand for tweed, and to alleviate their fortunes turned back to hosiery manufacture.

In 1982 when the last Lindsay-Watson retired his son decided not to work in textiles and the firm was sold to the Thuleknit Ltd knitwear company. In 1986 the office was set on fire and all the business archives and pattern books held by the firm were destroyed, including the original letter that had established the word 'tweed'. The firm went into liquidation in 1991 and in 1996 International Knitwear took over the mill to manufacture knitwear. Unfortunately in 2003 Dangerfield Mill was completely destroyed by arson and the carding machines from the 1870s were also lost.

Arrangement

Chronologically in accordance with the classification scheme

Conditions Governing Access

By appointment at the Scottish Borders Campus, Heriot-watt University, Netherdale, Galashiels. Closure periods may apply to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing personal information. Access to records in a fragile condition may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

Donated in 2006 as Accession E177

Other Finding Aids

Printed list is available in the search room

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Helen Taylor, Archivist, Heriot-Watt University Archive, Records Management and Museum Service.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Permission to publish material from the Archive must be sought in advance from the University Archivist. Responsibility for obtaining copyright clearance rests with the applicant.

Custodial History

The pattern book had been removed from the mill by a member of the family as a keepsake. As a result at least one archival item from the firm survived the two arson attacks.

Accruals

Not expected

Geographical Names