There was significant textile production in Perth and Kinross long before the post-medieval period. As well as making items for local use, the region also exported cloth during the later Middle Ages. The cloth trade in the region was initially focused on woollen fabrics. However, the late 17th century saw a growth in the production of linen, and by the 1720s it was noted that Perth had ‘a vast trade for linen’ (Macky 1723, 146). Over the following decades, the linen industry continued to expand, although by the 1790s an increasing quantity of cotton fabrics were also being made in the region (Scott 1796, 513).
Perth played a major role in the local cloth trade, with a significant proportion of the region’s textiles being woven in the burgh and its immediate environs. At the end of the 18th century, Perth supposedly had ‘above 1,500 looms employed in the town and suburbs’ (Scott 1796, 513). These produced textiles worth about £100,000 a year. However, much of the textiles from the wider region also passed through the hands of merchants in Perth; this amounted to a trade worth a further £120,000 a year (Scott 1796, 513). By the 1820s, textile manufacturing in Perth had grown further and had largely shifted from linen to cotton, with ‘nearly 3,000 looms’ in the burgh ‘employed on ginghams, shawls, muslins, and other cotton fabrics’ (Wood 1828, 307). Yarn for the weavers in Perth was often produced in outlying communities. For example, in the 1790s ‘not less than 200,000 spindles’ of yarn were purchased each year from ‘the country above Dunkeld’ (Anonymous 1798, 430).
Archaeological investigation of cloth production in Perth and Kinross has been limited. There has been some recording of retting ponds – pools of water in which flax was soaked prior to the fibres being separated for making into linen. There are at least 19 locations in Perth and Kinross where possible post-medieval flax retting ponds have been identified. Further study of these features would be of interest. The 18th century also saw the development of small scutch or lint mills for preparing the flax fibres for linen making. The former lint mill at Invervar (MPK13388) has received a degree of study during a wider survey of the shrunken village in which it is located (Dalland 2000, 72).
It is likely that during the 17th and 18th centuries the bulk of textile production took place in and around workers’ homes. Further research into rural textile producing communities should be a priority in both upland and lowland areas of Perth and Kinross. There is also considerable potential for interdisciplinary investigation of weavers’ premises and other sites associated with the textile industry in the burgh of Perth, and further afield, during the 17th, 18th and first part of the 19th centuries. There is evidence that in Milnathort cellar loomshops gave way to a handloom factory for weaving woollens (Watson 2021). Evidence for equivalent cellar loomshops in Perth and other weaving centres would be of considerable interest, as would evidence for loomshops on ground floors and upper storeys.
The archaeology of bleachfields is a topic of particular interest; several of these sites were documented in the vicinity of Perth during the 18th century. Written sources indicate that by the 1790s the bleachfields in Perth and Kinross were not simply processing textiles made in the local area but were also bleaching cloth from Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and even England (Inglis 1796, 638). There was a concentration of bleachfields along the River Almond, an area which is currently seeing significant development. Interdisciplinary study of this industry, drawing on textual sources and, where possible, physical investigation, should therefore be a priority.
|HER ID||Place/Site||NGR||State of Remains|
|MPK2108||Luncarty Bleachworks||NO 0990 2990||Demolished, except the water systems, housing and community buildings.|
|MPK3290||Stormontfield Bleachworks||NO 1056 2976||One building survives that has been converted into a house.|
|MPK5326||Huntingtowerfield, Bleach and Dye Works / Huntingtower Bleachworks; Huntingtowerfield, Bleachwork||NO 0721 2577||Redeveloped into housing with most of the complex removed. Listed clock tower is all that remains.|
|MPK7919||Ruthvenfield Bleachworks||NO 0814 2537||Demolished?|
|MPK7922||Tulloch Bleachworks||NO 1017 2500||Demolished?|
|MPK8022||Cromwellpark Bleachworks||NO 0544 2700||Demolished. One derelict building present in 1977.|
|MPK8023||Pitcairnfield Bleachworks||NO 0683 2581||Some surviving structures, notably the supposed chapel for the workers still stands.|
|MPK10976||Ingleside House||NO 2239 0131||Ruinous/demolished?|
|MPK14206||Stanley Mills East Range||NO 1145 3282||Extant, listed. Works underway 2022.|
By the early 19th century, cloth production was increasingly shifting to purpose-built factories, and several larger textile mills and dye works, such as Pullars on Mill Street, Perth and Campbells at Tulloch, were constructed. Many of these factories remained operational into the 20th century, and substantial buildings still survive. The larger industrial sites have received more recording and study than the remains from earlier phases of the textile industry. In particular, there was extensive research into the complex of late 18th and 19th-century cotton manufacturing buildings at Stanley Mills (MPK8541) shortly before some of them were converted into housing (Cressey and Fitzgerald 2011). However, further research into larger mills and dye works in the region could still be beneficial, with archaeological intervention being particularly desirable if buildings are undergoing significant alterations or conservation work.