The Damask Trade in Dunfermline 1750 - 1885

  • Catherine Chorley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the town of Dunfermline and the success of the damask table linen trade from the mid-eighteenth century until the last quarter of the nineteenth century. I argue that, whilst there were many ways in which industrialisation in Dunfermline was similar to other Scottish and British experiences, a number of factors defined damask production in the town which led to success. Although table linen was favoured by the nobility and privileged prior to the eighteenth century and Dunfermline manufacturers produced some admired goods, from then until the late nineteenth century, particular success lay in stock goods produced for the home market and, in quantity, for America.

I suggest that from the late eighteenth century a group of inventions, international, national and local, improved the design and quality of goods and reduced the human resource required so that linen tableware became economically available to a larger group of consumers. Whilst the importance of technological invention has been widely acknowledged as a key element in growth of textile production, by examining the work of Joseph Neil Paton, this thesis also emphasises the importance of popular artistic design to growing demand for output.

In addition, the thesis demonstrates that the putting out system in operation from the seventeenth century in Dunfermline, built up a wealth of understanding of organisational issues which manufacturers translated into the effective running of the hand-loom factories and, later, into power-loom production. Damask hand-loom weavers were considered to be the élite of the weaving trade and their adoption of new methods of working showed their flexibility and creativity defining their way of working from the heavy linen trades which required less skill. Whilst the lives of Dunfermline power-loom factory employees were, often, no different from other towns, the availability of young women cheerfully willing to work in factories added to the mix of technological advances and design successes that brought art and industry together to produce table linen popular over a number of generations, both at home and abroad.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorChristopher Whatley (Supervisor) & Graeme Morton (Supervisor)

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