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 Ports and Towns in the Flax Trade

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  Website design, maps and photos by Ged Dodd - Director of The PeaceHavens Project.

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    ABERDEEN  Situated on the North Sea coast, between the Rivers Dee and Don, Aberdeen forms a natural port. Aberdeen's geography is reflected in the name: meaning “mouth of two rivers”. A weekly Sunday market had been established in 1222 and an annual fair in 1273. The local economy was based on fishing and the processing of wool and leather. Aberdonian merchants travelled to England and the Low Countries, trading fish, wool and hides for wines, spices and other luxuries; similarly, they sailed to the Baltic for flax, timber, iron and grain. In the 17th century (and perhaps earlier) Aberdeen was Scotland's second city. But while political power resided in the south, Aberdeen was the kingdom's economic dynamo. The catalyst for Aberdeen's development was the port. Aberdeen exported salted fish, hides and, by the 13th century, was Scotland's major exporter of wool to the continent. Making use of its status as a Royal Burgh, the city forged trading links with Germany and the Baltic, as well as becoming increasingly involved in trade around the British Isles and to the Scandinavian zones to the north, which at this time included the northern isles. By the 15th century, Aberdeen was Scotland's leading exporter of salmon. From about the 1850s, whaling became a major industry. Aberdonian whalers sailed as far as Greenland in search of these giants of the ocean until the practice was restricted by the 1946 Whaling Convention.

  Aberdeen was an early member of the Hanseatic League, along with such other northern-European seaports as Bruges, Lubeck, Danzig, Riga and Novgorod. Until the Union of the Crowns in 1603, England was more-or-less closed to Scotsmen. By the 18th century Aberdeen's industry was thriving. Paper, first made in Aberdeen in 1694, reached new heights of production. The woolens, linen and cotton industries gave employment to many Aberdonians. At the same time locally quarried granite began to be exported around the world. Flax-spinning, jute and comb making factories also rose to prominence in 18th century Aberdeen while the distillation of Whisky reached industrial proportions. Shipbuilding was another industry which employed many Aberdonians. However, the distance of the city from iron fields meant that when the industrial era started to grip Scotland, Aberdeen was not in a position to compete with cities such as Glasgow in central Scotland. After Glasgow industrialised, Aberdeen lost its position as Scotland's 2nd city. Nonetheless, many of those industries which developed in the 18th century, and before, still contribute a great deal to the local and national economy.

Broadford's Flax Mill; Broadford Firehose And Canvas Works.   Opening in 1808, the Broadford Works became the longest running iron-frame mill in Scotland. The oldest iron-framed mill in Scotland and the fourth oldest known to survive in the world (after others of 1796, 1804 and 1805, all inter- related). The adjoining South Mill may be the third iron framed building in Scotland.  Built for Scott Brown and Co (of Angus), 1808, bankrupt 1811 and sold to Sir John Maberly MP, entrepreneur, speculator and introducer of jute to the UK. Maberley rapidly developed Broadford Works, adopting the first gas lighting of an industrial complex in Scotland, by Boulton and Watt in 1814-15, and Scotland's second power loom linen weaving factory in Scotland in 1824. Maberly was himself bankrupt and in 1834 the works passed to Richards and Co, who had a bleachworks at Rubislaw and branches at Montrose, produced canvas tarpaulins and as a particular specialism, fire hoses. (This fire hose technique was also adopted by the Bentham Mills in Yorkshire). Latterly man- made fibres for carpet yarn etc. has replaced flax.   Once Aberdeen’s single largest employer with more than 3,000 employees at the height of the 20th century, the building became an iconic city landmark. The factory was the last remaining textile mill in The Granite City before closing its doors in 2004. Of the 4 and 5 storey mills in the centre of the site, Old Mill (7 bays) 1808, South Mill (8 bays) circa 1820, New Mill (14 bays) 1850-60 there was a large group of textile manufacturing and storage buildings, granite and brick-clad, of iron-framed or reinforced concrete construction, with streets between them and Slate or flat concrete roofs. Examples of Flax seals from Aberdeen.

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ARBROATH The harbour at Arbroath originally built by the Abbot of the Abbey was one of the keys to prosperity for the town when the processing of flax came along and trade between the Baltic Ports developed. The River Brothock on which the town stands and got its name eventually provided the flowing water for the many huge mills which sprang up producing textiles, principally coarse linen (Osnaburg*) and with the advent of steam the flax industry grew until in 1817 the Arbroath was Scotland’s biggest sailcloth producer.   *Osnaburg was a coarse type of plain fabric, originally made from flax yarns, it has also been made from tow or jute yarns, and from flax or tow warp with a mixed or jute weft, the finer and better qualities form a kind of common sheeting. It began to be woven in Scotland in the later 1730s as an imitation of an imported German fabric from Osnabrück and was a coarse lint or tow-based linen cloth. It quickly became the most important variety in east-central Scotland and Arbroath exported mainly to England, the Netherlands, and Britain's colonies in America, Some rough fabrics were called osnaburg as late as the twenty first century.  In the Atlantic plantation complex, prior to the abolition of slavery, Osnaburg was the fabric most often used for slave garments and every wagon used to cross the plains by settlers had double Osnaburg covers, to protect its contents from the sun and weather.  Note that in the 1881/2 table of imports the only lead flax, tow or hemp seals being found were from Archangel Port because faith in the quality of Baltic States goods had disappeared. This seal is 3rd sort Cheska flax in 1851 from Archangel.

  Below is the entrance to Arbroath Harbour.

Click here for the Arbroath Page

Flax, Hemp & Tow Imports

for Arbroath 1881 - 1882

imported from

type

tons

seals

Riga

Riga

Riga

flax

hemp

tow

13,505

   369

   111

none

Pernau

Pernau

flax

tow

 1,815

   131

none

St Petersburg

St Petersburg

flax

tow

 1,953

    97

none

Cronstadt

flax

   436

none

Reval

Reval

flax

tow

   860

   226

none

Memel

Memel

flax

tow

   818

     1

none

Narva

Narva

flax

tow

   200

     1

none

Konigsberg

Konigsberg

flax

hemp

   157

    27

none

Libau

flax

   194

none

Archangel

Archangel

flax

tow

   604

   369

2

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CROMARTY.  Click here for the Cromarty page

   Cromarty Harbour was built between 1781 and 1784. In the 1780’s it was the principal harbour for the Cromarty Firth. However, trade declined for Cromarty after the construction of a harbour pier at Invergordon in 1828, the location of the Portlich Storehouse, 106 feet long, built in 1765 for the Commissioners of the Annexed Estates for the princely sum of £317 Sterling. As well as the grain rents from the tenants of the New Tarbat estate, it held the flax being imported by Sandeman of Perth and Forsyth of Cromarty for locals to spin into yarn.. An industry which flourished in the parish in the l8th century - as it did all over the Highlands - was the manufacture of linen.

 

 In addition to the spinners and the weavers, this industry absorbed a large number of the parishioners, as a quantity of the flax used was grown in the parish, and between the sowing of the seed and the weaving of the yarn there were many processes. A strip of reclaimed land in the centre of the parish, between the farms of Polnicol and Garty, is still reminiscent of those days, being known as the "Lint Pools". Here it was the custom for the flax to be steeped. The centre of the industry was the village of Milntown (also called Milton or New Talbat). William Sandeman, a manufacturer in Perth, was the chief organiser of the linen industry in the Highlands, especially upon the annexed estates. A rival of Sandeman in the trade appeared in 1763 in William Forsyth, of Cromarty, who claimed to have been the first to introduce the spinning of linen yarn into the counties of Cromarty and Ross, and this as early as 1748. There certainly was a factory in Milntown in that year, for we find in a summons of that date, "James Ross, master of the linning manufactory at Milntown". In 1764 it was decided that a house should be built at Portleich, Barbaraville "to serve as a granary for part of the Estate of Cromartie, and also as a storehouse for the manufacturers, Sandeman and Forsyth. The boats used at Portleich were flat-bottomed cobbles, and they worked with the tide. They ceased to ply there when Balintraid Pier was built. Linseed was being sold in 1767 at cost price to the tenants of New Tarbat for them to grow flax for spinning, thereby cutting out the amount needed to be imported.

  A Russian lead hemp seal bracked by Inspector P.Kochevskoi at 235 post.

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  DUMFRIES by order of the Queen in Council dated St. James's Jan. 05 1710, for leave to the "James of Dumfries" to unlade her flax and iron from Dantzic, she having loaded there long before the plague broke out and has performed her quarantine in the port of Dumfries and her crew in good health: all on the petition of John Crosby, owner, and James Wilkie, master thereof.

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  DUNDEE  At the start of the 19th century St Petersburg was Dundee's most important trading partner with 28 vessels arriving from Russia in 1815. This trade was mainly flax and remained important throughout the century but the raising of prices and poorer quality led to a relative decline. By 1829, imports of flax and hemp from St Petersburg were around 80000 cwt but this was half that coming from Riga. The same pattern can be seen in Arbroath. If flax trade decreased, it was replaced by animal skins with more than 1400 reaching Dundee from St Petersburg in 1829 on the 35 ships docking from that port. The number of ships more than doubled by 1836. St Petersburg was one of the few European ports to which Dundee exported in the early 19th century with three of four vessels sailing each year. Most of the figures for St Petersburg - Dundee trade in the 19th century combine the figures for St Petersburg and Kronstadt. St Petersburg was an awkward port to enter, nothing deeper than 8ft 9in could pass the bar so the larger vessels, which could not sail up the Neva, were loaded and unloaded at Kronstadt. The seal is a quartered crossed shield used by all the Baltic Ports with from 0 to 9 pellets in each quarter. The Grower/Owner/Agent initials are W.M with 12 high grade Krown flax plants in the bale.

 See more Dundee lead seals here      For a large list of Ship Arrivals and Departures at Dundee click here

The 1300s and 1400s saw the steady growth of Dundee, fuelled largely by trade with Baltic ports. Town walls were built in 1545, but they did little to protect Dundee from the English fleet, who bombarded the town in 1547, destroying much of it. The second half of the 1700s saw the city start to grow again, and the population more than doubled as imported flax started to fuel a linen industry. Meanwhile the harbour was improved, and four whaling ships began to operate from Dundee.
The city is known for being built on "Jute, Jam and Journalism". 1797 saw James Keiller & Son set up a jam factory in Dundee, while in 1801 the Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser was established. By 1835 Dundee had 36 steam powered flax spinning mills, employing a significant proportion of the 40,000 population. Meanwhile life expectancy in this heavily polluted city had shrunk to 32 years, just two-thirds of the average in Scotland at the time. 1835 also saw the first imports of jute from India, which then started to replace European flax for carpet backing and for sacks: important in a world in which almost everything was carried in sacks. Railways and trams arrived in the mid 1800s, and by 1860 Dundee was producing vast quantities of linen for sailcloth and jute for sacks. In that year the textile industry employed over 35,000 people out of a total population of just over 90,000.

Jute? At its peak in the 1860s and 1870s the jute processing industry in Dundee employed some 50,000 people in over 60 factories scattered across the city. The Verdant Works lies just to the west of Dundee city centre. It was once home to three steam engines running 70 power looms and 2,800 spindles. And 500 people were once employed preparing and spinning jute here and weaving it in another factory across the road. So why did jute become so important to Dundee in the mid 1800s? Well the city was already home to a textile industry that could easily be adapted to the new raw material, and to workers who could quickly be retrained to process it. And flax supplies from the Baltic were becoming increasingly problematical. Meanwhile the whale oil needed to soften jute was readily available in the city; the East India Company was looking for new markets for its jute; and Dundee could build the ships needed to transport the jute from India at speed, and the products to every corner of the globe. Jute went into a long decline from 1914, mostly because it could be processed more cheaply in India.

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  GOURDON in Aberdeenshire.

The village of Gourdon is located on the north east coast of Scotland, within Kincardine and Mearns, the most southerly of the six administrative areas of Aberdeenshire. It lies within the Parish of Bervie, 1.5 km to the south of the Royal Burgh of Inverbervie. An historic sea port and fishing village, the settlement grew up on limited flat ground around a natural Harbour. Inland a single access road rises up the steep coastal slope to the A92. This main arterial route links the village to the main towns and villages to the north and south and to its agricultural hinterland.
  The main Harbour was built around 1819 to a design by Thomas Telford and was extended in 1842. The Gutty Harbour to the east was added in 1859. Large granaries and warehouses were built adjacent to the Harbour. A herring fishing station opened in 1830 and resulted in a large number of vessels from other ports visiting the Harbour and in the development of many occupations engaged in the herring industry. Other developments included a clay pit and a brick and tile works in 1844. Further expansion and development occurred in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1908 the Selbie Works were erected and continued in operation until 1997, by which time it had become the last working flax spinning mill on mainland Britain.  The historic heart of the village, the Harbour and the land immediately surrounding it, lie at the base of a steep slope which is characteristic of this part of the east coast, between the estuaries of the Rivers Bervie to the North and the North Esk to the south.
The Selbie Works is a moderately sized textile mill complex situated next to the beach in the village of Gourdon in Kincardineshire. It comprises a main block of predominantly single-storey buildings (mostly with slate roofs), built from mainly pink sandstone. A long single bay forms the main facade of the works onto 'East End', the bulk of the factory being contained in a large north-lit spinning shed to the rear. Other buildings include the brick-built single-story office (also facing onto 'East End'), and some ancillary buildings such as the Boiler House (containing Cochran's of Annan 'Wee Chieftain' 4), and a pair of brick-built raw flax/jute warehouses detached from the factory to the East.
   The mill had previously been owned by William Peters, whose brother James owned a mill at neighbouring Inverbervie. Selbie Works was taken over by Murray Scarlet, in the 1950s, and was converted to produce light jute yarn, allowing for a transition to flax spinning if required (in this instance, 'Tow' which is short-fibre flax). In the post-war years, there was a rejuvenated demand for flax caused by the need for tarpaulins both for rail and road transport. Scarlet also diversified into synthetics (such as Rayon), and into carpets (also using synthetic fibres). His business merged with Jute Industries Limited in the 1970s, eventually becoming Sidlaw Industries. Selbie Works then specialised in flax spinning alone, emerging as the only flax spinner in mainland Britain, producing yarn for a variety of uses, including curtain and upholstery fabrics.
 The surviving elements of Sidlaw Industries became J & F Spinners following a management buyout in 1994-5, the jute business failing in 1996, and the flax at Selbie ceasing in May 1997 after a steep fall in demand, probably caused by the demise of the Laura Ashley chain of shops. Much of the flax machinery has since been sold to Belgian companies (information from works; Murray Reid, Manager, 30 January 1998). To the north is the small town of Inverbervie which boasted the first working flax mill in Scotland around 1790.

The Selbie Works

 

 

   

Gourdon Harbour with fishing boats

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  INVERBERVIE in Aberdeenshire.

    Inverbervie is a Flax Town of Scotland to the north of Montrose. A Royal Burgh from early days, A small harbour in the town was important in early years but despite improvements by Thomas Telford in 1819, it disappeared by 1830 owing to the build up of the shingle bar at the mouth of the river Bervie. “The first flax spinning mill in Scotland was established here at the Haughs around 1790 and by 1910 there were nine in operation with 500-600 workers. As over 2,500 around the turn of the 20th Century but has since declined owing the downturn in that industry.” The first water powered flax mill in Scotland. Just to the south is the small town of Gourdon which boasted the last working flax mill in 1997.

The harbour

IDS
1123

АРХ. БР (Archangel Bracked)
 ДЕСЯТЪ
ЕГОРЪ  ТЕВЛЕВЪ

(EGOR TEVLEV)

APX. БP
ЧЕСКА
2.COPTЪ
H.C. 1894

ARKH.BR
CHESKA
2nd SORT (flax)
N.S. 1894

Shona Pickering
Inverbervie
Aberdeenshire

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  KINGHORN in Fife. Click here for the Kinghorn page

In 1793 three flax-spinning mills were erected at Kinghorn, and the two large spinning mills belonging to a Kirkcaldy firm having long been operative in town. The mills were steam and water powered with the water coming from the Loch of Kinghorn and there was an extensive bleaching field at Nether Tyne, belonging to the owners of St Leonard's Mill, which enabled them to prepare the thread and yarn in a purely white state for the market.  The owners employed daily at their mill 200 females, 54 males, flax dressers, 21 mechanics, with machine makers, and 12 male superintendents with other duties. About 70 were employed in the bleaching of yarn. There were two other mills in Kinghorn, at both of which were employed about 130 females and 50 males, including 36 flax dressers. Girls above fourteen years of age, who were spinners could earn 4s to 6s per week. Mechanics had from 12s to £1 per week and Flax dressers were paid by the cwt (hundred weight) of dressed flax; they got a fair price for their work, and could make a good livelihood when fully employed. The St Leonard's Mills were built by the Aytons, and succeeded in turn by Mr John Fergus and Swan Brothers. Several generations of the inhabitants having been employed by these firms, and by Arthur Brothers, whose mills were situated in the Nethergate.

Kinghorn Mill                  -             Kinghorn Mill           -                      Nethergate                -        St Leonard's Place

 

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MONTROSE has one of the few natural harbours on the east coast of Scotland. It is formed by the estuary of the river South Esk which is scoured twice daily by the surge of water from four square miles of tidal basin behind the town. There is little evidence for Montrose's trade until the later middle ages, but it had an aggressive merchant community, as in 1289 the magistrates of Banff complained that the Montrosians were invading the fair at Aberdeen. Montrose had its own fair from the 13th century; unlike weekly markets which served for an exchange of local produce, fairs could last several weeks and were centres of international trade. By the 14th century Aberdeen, Dundee, Andrews and Leith are known to have established regular commercial links with Copenhagen, Hamburg, Leubeck, Bremen, Rostock, Wismar, Greifswald and Stockholm, while Ny-Lodose (Gothenburg), Danzig, Elbing and Konigsberg had Scots communities before 1500. Montrose had contacts similar to those of the more prominent east coast ports.  In 1655, Montrose was sixth in the shipping league behind Leith, Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Aberdeen and Dundee. With 12 vessels totalling 370 tons, she came close behind Aberdeen (9 vessels totalling 440 tons and Dundee (10 at 377 tons.) In 1689 from the Baltic came flax in 3 voyages from Konigsberg, flax and hemp in 2 from Riga. Several prominent merchant families had branches in the Baltic. The Rennys were wealthy flax importers and had members of the family in Riga sending undressed flax to Montrose, which was already noted for flax spinning by hand and as a yarn market for north-eastern Scotland. In 1662 Thomas and Andrew Renny joined the business and were successful; in 1709 it was Andrew who was chosen, as one oft he more prominent citizens of Riga, to hand over the keys of the city to Peter the Great when the Russians conquered Livonia from Swedes. Andrew was succeeded in business by a grandson, Patrick, who exported flax to Dundee and Montrose in the 1720s. The Ouchterlonies were also established in Riga. John Ouchterlony, a merchant there, retired to Montrose in 1736 and continued his interest in the flax trade. In the 18th century, traditional trading patterns held firm; the growth of the linen industry from the 1790s meant increasing flax imports mainly from Riga but also from St. Petersburg and Archangel.  In the later 18th century a wide variety of linen textiles.. sailcloth and finer clothing textiles (most of it of local manufacture), oak staves and spruce beer were brought from Memel and Konigsberg, while skippers of vessels bringing flax from Riga nearly always carried a mast or two and some small timber home. During the 18th century the town was a major smuggling centre. Many flax seals have been found in the Montrose district, the one here is of  BA.Ardamaski resident in StPB (St Petersburg) in 1848.

Vessel Ship Arrivals and Departures for Montrose Cargo
Eliza and Jessie

26-02-1831

Departed

Dundee

to

Montrose

Flax

Jasper

01-01-1890

Arrived

Montrose

from

Riga

Flax

Garry

04-01-1890

Arrived

Montrose

from

Dundee / Reval

Flax

Jasper 05-01-1892 Arrived Dundee from Montrose / Riga Flax
Sapphire 09-01-1893 Arrived Montrose from Riga Flax
Sapphire 11-01-1893 Departed Montrose to Burntisland Flax
Envoy 31-12-1893 Arrived Montrose from Reval Flax

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  PAISLEY  in Renfrewshire, sits on the White Cart Water about 3 miles upstream from its confluence with the tidal River Clyde, and 7 miles south-west of Glasgow. The early flax trade was replaced by cotton goods. From the 17th century Paisley was engaged in trading coal and lime for trade and slate from the Highlands, and the burgh had a weekly market where farm produce and homespun cloth were bought and sold. The burgeoning textile industry in Paisley took off after the 1707 Act of Union introduced free trade with England. The earliest large-scale production was of coarse chequered linen and striped muslin. In 1726 the first mechanised flax mill was built in Paisley, and in 1759 the production of silk gauze started. The manufacture of shawls was begun in Paisley at the height of the muslin trade, in the 1770s, and shawls became the product for which the town was most famous, especially after a swirling pattern based on Kashmiri designs, later named 'Paisley pattern', was introduced to the town in 1805. By the 1790s cotton production was beginning to replace flax production, and in 1812 the first steam-powered thread mill was opened in Paisley, by William and James Carlisle. Steam-powered cotton mills were built across Paisley in the 1820s, and factories and premises associated with the textile industry, such as bleach fields and chemical plants, also proliferated. Perhaps the most famous works in Paisley were the Ferguslie thread mills of James Coats, built in 1826 to the west of the town. Coats was a name that became internationally synonymous with thread manufacture. Russian Lead flax bale seals have yet to be found here.

 Johnstone, nearby, had a Flax Mill on the Millbrae. There is a footbridge shown linking it to Barbush Flax Mill  on the north bank of the White Cart. Over the years both sites were owned by Finlayson, Bousfield and Co Ltd, the Linen Thread Co. Ltd and  Playtex. The site has been cleared and is no more.

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    PORTSOY is a seaport in the shire of Banff, and parish of Fordyce. It is 178 miles north of Edinburgh, 8 miles W. by N. of Banff and 80 miles east of Inverness. It is situated on a tongue of land, which, projecting into the Moray Firth, forms a small by safe harbour. Of all the many ports along the Aberdeenshire and Moray coasts, Portsoy was one of the earliest to be established and capable of admitting vessels of 150 tons although after an extremely violent storm in January 1839 it was later rebuilt in 1884 to hold 12 vessels of 100 tons.

 The town is small and irregularly built, but as a port it is in a thriving condition ; the point of land on which it stands forms the safe harbour, which has now been greatly improved and is now sufficiently deep to moor vessels of upwards of two hundred tons burthen. Besides the proceeds of the herring fishery, which has been actively prosecuted for some years, it enjoys a trade in the export of grain and serpentine marble stone, and the importation of coal. Fish-curing, flax-dressing, a woollen manufactory, and a distillery, are prominent branches among the general domestic business, which, combined with the current revenue resulting from the traffic of its port, has elevated Portsoy into rather a consequential position as a commercial town.

The harbour they built at Portsoy comprised a massive breakwater on the seaward side and a number of quays. The construction uses large stones set vertically, apparently because it was believed that this made them less likely to be washed away by the sea. The theory seem to have worked, because the Old Harbour you see today is largely the harbour that was built in 1692. Around the Old Harbour are a number of impressive buildings that date back to the end of the 1600s or early 1700s. The trade in Portsoy's early days was very varied, and included the import of coal for domestic fires and the export of locally produced thread and linen to England. A particular speciality was locally quarried green Portsoy marble or serpentine. This was extracted from a quarry to the west of the town, and some of it found its way into the fixtures and fittings of Louis XIV's Palace of Versailles. Portsoy marble is still worked locally and a range of products are on view in one of the warehouses overlooking the harbour.

   A lot of coal was landed at Portsoy and a trade was carried out with the Baltic with vessels bringing bone and returning with herring. Grain is also shipped but no mention can be found of imports of flax or hemp from the Baltic. A survey on June 3rd. 1776 found Portsoy manufacturing stocking threads, for the London and Nottingham markets, and carried on to a great extent.

 In some seasons three hundred tons of flax are there imported from Holland; (no mention of Russian flax) with Cullen, Huntly, Keith, and other manufacturing villages, also supplied thence: this therefore an expense of twenty or thirty thousand pounds a year, which might be evaded by raising flax at home. There are generally from fifteen to twenty vessels belonging to the place, from forty to a hundred and fifty tons burden: for some of these profitable employment is found, at the fisheries among the Western Isles; each is equipped with three boats, and require eighteen hands: they sail early in the spring, about the beginning of February, for Loch Gairloch; and apply to the cod-fishing there until the first of May, when it is usual to go to the banks of Barra-Head, where they catch Ling. All the fish which they take are salted and dried on the spot; and the vessels return in August, on purpose to send their cargoes to the proper markets along with salmon. The vessels which carry these to the coasts of Spain and Portugal, or up to the Mediterranean; together with those which have been sent out with grain; return with wines, salt, flax, wood, iron, and whatever other articles are required, either for home consumption, or those branches of trade in which the inhabitants of the place are engaged. Many Scottish boats were attacked by pirates in the 14th/15th centuries while trading to the Baltic and even as late as 7th Aug 1780 a report said that a French Privateer held 14 on board for ransom, some of them for large sums; had sunk one vessel, and sent four hemp and flax vessels to Norway for sale..  Actions like these could account for the occasional lead flax seal being found in Norway. By 1797 the people are in general disposed to industry. Since the failure of thread-bleaching at Portsoy, there is no manufacture of consequence carried on within the parish. But most of the inhabitants raise as much flax, and weave as much linen cloth, as serve their families. Perhaps 1000 yards of the cloth manufactured in it are sold out of the parish.

   Portsoy Old Harbour was built at Portsoy in 1692 was a vast breakwater on the seaward side and a number of quays. Large stones were set vertically as it was said this made them less likely to be washed away by the sea. The Old Harbour can still be seen today and is mostly the harbour that was built in 1692. Portsoy’s first harbour was considered to be the safest in the North East, which meant that it had a thriving trade with both England and the Continent. The new harbour was built between 1825-28 to meet the demands of the herring boom and the volume of trade going through Portsoy. Throughout the nineteenth century a herring boom brought further prosperity to Portsoy, with a herring fleet totalling 57 boats at its peak, though usually averaging 40-50 boats in harbour employing 108 resident fishermen and boys. The harbour was washed away in an extremely violent storm in January 1839 and was only rebuilt in 1884 to hold 12 vessels of 100 tons, though most ships visiting the harbour were much smaller. The main imports were coal and bones from the Baltic, and the chief exports grain, herring, and potatoes. Aside from industries around the harbour, other industries in the town at the end of the nineteenth century were a small rope works and a bone mill, and in the neighbourhood there was a wool mill, and the Glenglassaugh distillery which was built around 1875. The trade in Portsoy's early days was very varied, and included the import of coal for domestic fires and the export of locally produced thread and linen to England.

From all accounts the imports from the Baltic were bones not flax and no flax seals have been found here, yet.

 

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