Thursday, 19 July 2012

Notes on Baxter Brothers Co. and People's Park

Baxter Park was originally donated to the inhabitants of Dundee in 1863 by Sir David Baxter, Mary Ann Baxter and Eleanor Baxter. Some notes below to do with history of Baxter Brothers & Co. firm, and their part in the textile industry. As well as a little about the donation of the 'People's Park,' Baxter Park.
Some other links at the bottom of the page.

Dundee In Old Picture Postcards, D37.92 – Local History Section of City Library
27. Baxter Park Pavilion, “Baxter Park opened amid great rejoicing and a public holiday – but a planned balloon ascent in front of the assembled crowd of 60,000 failed to get off the ground because of wind speeds.”

Trustees of Baxter Park, Minutes Book 1 MS/105/11, Dundee University Archives

September 4th 1863
“Taking into consideration the extensive mercantile connection which our late father William Baxter Esquire of Balgarves and his family have had with the town of Dundee and in grateful acknowledgement of the worldly means bestowed on us by a kind Providence sometime ago resolved to present to the Inhabitants of Dundee a Public Park in the immediate vicinity of the Town with the view of affording to the working population the means of relaxation and enjoyment after their hard labour and honest industry and as a common ground where all the Inhabitants of that large and busy town may meet in mutual acknowledgement of their dependence the one upon the other.”

Baxters of Dundee, Ian McCraw D37.14 – Local History Section of City Library
Early 1800’s - William Baxter & Son was the partnership with William Baxter and his son Edward Baxter
1826 – Edward Baxter left the business. David, John and William (Edward’s brothers) became partners with their father, the firm became Baxter Brothers and Co.
1833 – Upper Dens Mill is built and Peter Carmichael works with the business.
1836 – Due to innovations of Peter Carmichael, Baxter’s became “first firm in Dundee to succeed in establishing power-loom weaving for linen.” This altered work force considerably and meant that many more unskilled labourers were employed – e.g. women and children.
1852, 1853 – William Baxter’s sons William and John died. New partnership contract drawn up with William, David and Peter Carmichael.
1854 – William Baxter died. William Ogilvy Dalgleish (who married a granddaughter of William Baxter) joined firm.
1864 – Largest  firm in town, 4000 workers, 19744 spindles and 1200 power looms, [Cox Brothers of Camperdown – 3220 workers, 10,017 spindles, 560 power looms.]
1863 – Sir David Baxter and his sisters Mary Ann Baxter and Eleanor Baxter donated Baxter Park, the ‘People’s Park’ to Dundee.
1872 – Sir David Baxter died, leaving £1,200,000. Sir William Ogilvy Dalgleish took over firm.
Towards the end of 1800’s business wasn’t quite so prosperous, eventually firm began to follow the trend towards using jute, which was cheaper.
1880s – firm’s use of jute to flax almost 1:1
1891 – Peter Carmichael died, Baxter Brothers changed to a Private Limited Company.
Business wasn’t stable, some years making losses.
Eventually, on Jan 22nd 1924 Baxter Brothers became part of the Low and Bonar group.
1978 – production at Dens Works (original Baxter Brothers Mills) “finally ceased in the summer of 1978.”

Dundee A Short History, Norman Watson.
P103-4: Dundee made a lot of money from providing linen for slaves clothing in late 18th and early 19th centuries

P108-9: Between 1841-1861 population increased by 30,000 but ‘only 568 new houses were built for the working classes. Tenemented properties were divided then let, then sub-let, then filled six to a room.”

P144: In 1834 “raw jute was £12 ton while Baltic Flax averaged around £50.” Meaning that jute generally took over from linen in, though, “Baxter Brothers of Dens Works remained loyal to linen.” [Until late 1800s, early 1900s when they brought jute into use as well. 

Baxter's of Dundee, Ian McCraw D37.14]
P149: In 1911 “half of the working population of Dundee, some 41,000 people, were employed in textiles.”

A Baxter’s Letter-Book, Shelia Bye
P33: Working hours in 1830s Baxter’s Mills, and other linen mills. “When trade was brisk – thirteen hours and twenty minutes with fifty minutes each day for meals.”

P36: In 1881 workers, “had only six days holiday each year – (2 days at each holiday and a fast day in April and September.)”

P54: Thomas Kinnear said of 1867, “There were only 5 W.C.s in Dundee, 3 in hotels and 2 in private houses. Privies (1,000 of them) were 4 or 5 holes in the ground into which filth and foul liquid was poured. They were emptied by scavengers in seaboots at 4am. Filth was deposited in heaps on streets until it was carted away later in the day.”

P75: “The southern portion was laid out in grass for games of cricket and football with walks and shrubberies, grottoes and grassy hillocks forming ‘a most agreeable summer promenade affording beautiful recreation and pure air to all classes.’ A pavilion was erected in the centre of the park in which was placed a marble life size statue of Sir David, the statue having been paid for by public subscription. The park was formally opened on September 9, 1863 by Lord Russell, the Prime Minister. There was a procession of public bodies, trades and volunteers about two miles long and about 70,000 people attended.”

The River Tay and Its People, Graham Ogilvy, 941.2 OGI
In 1911 2/3rds of the working population was employed in manufacturing. By 1932 and the Depression, of which textiles and engineering were the greatest casualties, 37,000 Dundonians were out of work. 35% unemployment.

Baxter family started making money from flax around 1790. British Empires need for sails, gun covers etc.

The Scots: A Photohistory, 941.1 Mack
P136: “The notion of ‘separate spheres’ was not as universal or entrenched as some casual observations might indicate. Even before 1914, female labour dominated in certain trades, especially in textiles and clothing manufacture. Here however, it was costs that drove the trend, for in a traditionally cut-throat sector lower female wages offered the prospect of a substantial saving to owners. Female employment was most pronounced in the Dundee jute mills, where by 1900 women between the ages of 20 to 45 outnumbered men by a ratio of three to two. In 1921, 24% of married women in Dundee were in employment, some four times the average of Edinburgh or Glasgow. This situation started young, despite contrary legislation, for before 1914 some 5000 girls of 12 to 14 years of age were given dispensation to leave school (or attend evening schools) to go to work in the mills. It was a situation deplored by both social reformers and Socialists, who considered it corrosive of ‘proper’ family life and evidence of the malignancy of Capitalism.”

Upper Dens Mills 2008
Upper Dens Mills when still in use.


Women weavers at their looms, in Dens Works circa 1908:

Older Photos of Baxter Park:

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