Summary and questions about the Brown weavers in Glasgow

Apparently several of the Brown weavers of Glasgow persisted in their trade, with some becoming manufacturers and merchants of cloth. Others – like David and William, sons of George and Agnes Brown -  do not appear in the civic or burgess records. Did they remain as journeymen, as skilled handloom weavers, working for the elder brother Cornelius, at least for a while? Were they part of Brown & Watson’s? Did they take part in the developing family manufacturing business, or try to found their own?  William moved to Coatbridge (Old Monkland parish), another weaving town.

David’s children were Marion, Agnes, David and George. Of these, Marion married weaver John Pendlebury in Paisley, in her 30s, and George, also a cotton weaver married Elizabeth Blair, moved to Kirkintilloch, and various children were born there. George returned to Glasgow, and his son Cornelius became a master flesher (butcher) there, and so again the name ‘Cornelius Brown’ starts to appear in the street directories (e.g. 1875). George’s elder son William also became a flesher (and there may be a connection here to be pursued further, with three sons of George pursuing this trade) before his emigration to New Zealand. There is a discrepancy in records: George’s death entry from 1855 gives his occupation as ‘cotton weaver’ and the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to James Whitehill in 1858 (with witness John Pendleburgh) describes George as ‘weaver’, but the marriage of son William to Mary Carswell, also in 1858, gives George as ‘carter’. The 1841 and 51 censuses have him as a hand-loom weaver. The marriage of his youngest child, George, flesher journeyman in 1875, has father George as ‘carrier’ as does the marriage entry of daughter Agnes to George McDonald in 1866 and that of Cornelius, flesher, in 1871. The death register entry for Elizabeth Brown or Whitehill, much later in 1909, states that her father George was a weaver.

It does seem evident that George Brown, weaver, and George Brown, carrier or carter, are one and the same person – from the records of his children, including Cornelius, and his wife’s name. Did he adopt a second trade at a time when weaving work was scarce or rates being cut, and hand-loom weaving giving place to power loom operation in weaving sheds?

A further query lies over the deaths of David Brown and Margaret Anderson, parents of George and of Marion with whom this inquiry began. On the death entry for George, in 1855, they are not described as ‘deceased’, but simply as David Brown, Cotton Weaver and Margaret Brown, Maiden Name Anderson. The statutory entries are usually very sound on this point. David would in 1855 be aged 80, Margaret presumably around the same age. However, there is no sign of them in Scottish statutory death records, or in the 1841 or 51 censuses. If they were living, they may have been in England or elsewhere, but I think this is doubtful. It’s just another question mark.  Only four children appear in registrations, and while there could be others unregistered, there are no clues to this. And, who is the David Brown witnessing the birth of Mary Ann Brown in 1830, daughter of William junior?  Could this be the elder David, or is it his son?  There is much that might be revealed by the remaining records, but much that remains obscure.

All in all, the history of this family reflects the history of the development of capitalism and the industrial revolution in Glasgow, in the 18th and 19th centuries. It seems likely that several different positions are represented, from that of the larger manufactories to those of the declining independent hand-loom weavers, finding their livelhood increasingly difficult to maintain and their standard of living dropping. What positions do we, their descendents, take?  Whose side are we on?

The charts linked from this page shows four generations beginning with John Kyle, gratis (honorary) Burgess of Glasgow, and four generations beginning with David Brown and Marion Anderson. There is however a possibility that David Brown married twice, his second wife being Isabella McKendrick who died in 1842 aged 63, having had children Andrew Brown in 1819 and James McAdam Brown in 1822. Andrew is in the household of George Brown (son of David and Margaret) in the 1841 census, as a weaver, and in later censuses appears to be by turn a flesher (butcher) and a carter or carrier, these trades occuring also in George’s family.


© Jenny Blain 2016    email me