Dundee Commerce and Industry

Dundee Trade


One of the Earliest Trade Charters between Scotland and England involve Dundee. This was signed by King John of England in October 1199.

John, by the Grace of God, King, Know ye that we have given and conceded, and by this our present Charter have confirmed to the Burgesses of Earl David, brother of the King of Scotland, of Dundee, that they may be free and quit of tolls and of all other dues which pertain to us from all our lands, except the City of London. Wherefore we will, decree and make known, that no tolls or any other dues shall be taken from them or extracted for our lands, save in the foresaid City of London.     Winesses, W. and G. Archbishops of Rouen and York, H. Bishop of Sarnin, W. Marishall and others given by the hand of S. Welleng , archivist and John de Gray, at Roche Andeley, twenty sixth day of October, in the first year of our reign. (26th Oct 1199) from Lamb's Dundee - Its Quaint and Historic Buildings

The old shipping records of Dundee indicate that Dundee was an important trading Town and Port in Scotland. For many hundreds of years Dundee was the second town in Scotland after Edinburgh in terms of population and tax revenue into the Crown finances and was also second port to that of Leith with regards toTrade with Europe. Only after the sacking of Dundee, in 1651, by Cromwell's Forces under General Monk did Dundee loose this position.

The City of Dundee has always been known as the City of Jute, Jam and Journalism. However Dundee was much more than that there was also - The Shipping and trade with the Baltic, Scandinavia and the Low Countries, There was Shipbuilding and Whaling, The Fishing Fleet, earlier on trade in Wool, Beef, Bonnets and many others.

Of course the Textile manufacturing industry had a long and important history in and around Dundee. Much of the city's prosperity in the 16th century was based on wool and then in the 18th century by the importation of flax from the Baltic and the production of the courser linens. By the mid 19th century Dundee had become the biggest jute manufacturing city in the world.

Contemporary illustrations indicate the scale of Cox's works in Lochee, covering 35 acres. 5000 workers were employed on the site which had its own railway, dyeworks, timber yard, stables, and foundry. However, the photographic record recalls the very poor working conditions of the period and widespread practices such as half-time employment. This arrangement allowed a child to be employed for six hours if she went to school for the other "half day", and it is hardly to Dundee's credit that it was the last city in Scotland to abolish that regime. The Big Jute 'Barons' established their great mansions in Broughty Ferry, the Gilroy's, and Grimmonds and Halley's.

Most of the workforce in the Linen and Jute Factories and Spinning Mills were women, many of which became the main wage earners in the family, with many men becoming known as the 'kettle Bilers' (looking after the house and making the meals) Men were mainly employed in finishing part of the process or as the tenters, those required to "tend" the machines, they also were the Mechanics, looking after and maintaining the Machines, also they were the Managerial and Administration Staff. Men also formed the private, factory fire brigades first introduced into the Bow Bridge Works.

Dundee Sailcloth covered the Merchant and Royal Navies, Dundee Canvas and linen provided the coverings for the Waggon Trains which rolled out across America to colonise and populate the great prairies and the West Coast of the United States. Dundee Linen was used for clothing the 'slaves' of the Southern states, for sacking and haversacks and military uniforms.

The Trade with the United States was extensive and important to Dundee.