The ancestors of Marion Brown

Kyle and Brown weavers in Glasgow

On 3rd December 1738, a weaver named Cornelious Broun married Helen Kyle, the daughter of John Kyle, weaver burgess in Glasgow. In early 1739 Cornelious gained status as a burgess – a freeman of the city, able to work as a master weaver taking on apprentices and hiring journeymen – the record stating ‘Cornelius Brown, weaver B. and G.B. as mar. Helen, l. dau to John Kyle, weaver, B. and G.B. 31 Jan’.

John Kyle had other children, including a son John, who became a weaver burgess and gild (or ‘guild’) brother likewise, and a daughter Janet who married John Chalmers, who became a burgess and gild brother in her right. However John senior was given burgess and gild brother status ‘gratis’ (that is, without requiring to pay, which could mean for some service rendered to the burgh, or simply as part of many ‘gratis’ statuses conveyed in some years of the 18th century) on 11th May 1719. His son gained status on 11 February 1744 through his father (‘conform to Act of Council dated 5th Oct 1743’ according to the burgess records, that order presumably indicating that a ‘gratis’ or honorary burgess could pass status on). There may be items in Glasgow council minutes that are relevant to the elder John Kyle.

Cornelious Brown and Helen Kyle had seven children that I have found, these being John in 1739, Anne, in 1741, Agnes in 1743, John in 1744, William in 1748, Helen in 1750 and Cornelius in 1754. The baptism record of Agnes, 5 June 1743, states ‘Cornelios Broun Helen Keyle a L D Agnes wit Jno Keyle and Jno Broun’. Oddly, the first John is registered (23 September 1739)  as son of Cornelious Broun and Helen Cunningham, but with the same witnesses of John Kyle and John Broun. Is this a mistake on the part of the parish clerk, or could there be another Cornelious Broun with another Helen, and with John Kyle a witness for both? A clerk’s error seems rather more likely here.

Cornelius born in 1754 is likely to be the Cornelius Brown, son of Cornelius, weaver, who is identified in the Register of Burgess and Gild Brethren in 1776 as becoming a barber burgess and gild brother. He married Jean Nilson in February 1776 and one of their chidren was also named Cornelius (b. 1777) , but died aged eight in 1785. Other children were Cathrin (1779), Walter (1780) and Helen (1784). However, in the Burgess register Cornelius the barber is said to be eldest son of Cornelius, weaver burgess; again this could be a clerical or transcription error or his elder brothers, John and William, may have died in childhood, but it leaves some room for doubt here.

Agnes, my direct ancestor, married George Brown – they may or may not have been cousins of some degree – and the marriage entry, from 11 December 1763, identifies her as daughter of Cornilius Brown, Weaver. George Brown’s descent is from a family living in Govan - this will be indicated on a separate page of this website.

Agnes and George had a large family including:

  • David 1764, dying in infancy or childhood
  • Cornelius 1766 – became a weaver, later manufacturer
  • Margret 1768
  • Richard 1769
  • Helen 1771
  • George 1773
  • David 1775 – became a weaver - and my ancestor who married Margaret Anderson in 1798.
  • William 1777 – became a weaver
  • Agnes 1780
  • Bethia 1783
  • James 1785

Witnesses to the baptism of Cornelius in 1766 were ‘David and Corneleous Brown weavers’.  Cornelious senior’s death was in 1768. The baptism of Richard in 1769 was witnessed by John Hutchisn and Jno Wilson, that of Helen in 1771 by James Johnston and James Brown, that of David in 1775 by Alexander Barr and Malcolm Knox (these were apparently weaver burgesses), who also witnessed the baptism of Bethia in 1783. I do not have the baptism records for the other children, as this will have to wait for a visit to somewhere with Glasgow records on film.

Burgess and Gild Brother entries

1719 Kyle, John, weaver, B. gratis  11 May

1724 Brown, John, weaver, B. and G.B. as eld. l son to dec James B., merchant, B. and G.B.  26 Aug.

1726 Brown, David, weaver, B. and G.B., as eld. l. son to dec. James B. merchant, B. and G.B. 27 July

1739 Cornelius Brown, weaver B. and G.B. as mar. Helen, l. dau to John Kyle, weaver, B. and G.B. 31 Jan

1740 Brown, George, merchant, B. and G.B., as eld. l. son to James B., stationer, B. and G.B. [Note: probably the George who died in 1782, who seems to have been quite well off – see note for 1788, below.]

1744 Brown, David, weaver, B. and G.B., as eld. l. son to Andrew B., weaver, B. and G.B. 20 Sept.

1744 Chalmers, John, weaver, B. and G.B , as mar. Janet, l. dau. to John Kyle, weaver, B. and G.B. 8 Aug.

1744 Kyll, John, weaver, B. and G.B., as eld. l. son to John K, weaver, B. and G.B., gratis (2) 23 Feb. (2 Conform to act of council dated 5 Oct 1743)

1748 Brown, George, weaver, B. and G.B. as eld l. son to James B., weaver, B. and G. B. 13 Sept.

1759 Brown, John, weaver, B. and G.B., as eld. l. son to David B., weaver, B. and G.B. 20 Sept

1761 Norris, James, weaver, B. and G.B., as mar. Elizabeth, l. dau. to David Brown, weaver, B. and G.B. 17 Sept

1769 Brown, George, merchant, B. and G.B., as younger l. son to David B., weaver, B. and G.B. 20 Sept.

1776 Brown. Cornelius, barber, B. and G.B., as eld. l. son to dec. Cornelius B., weaver, B. and G.B. 19 Sept  [NOTE this likely to be Cornelius b. 1754 - but he is youngest son of CB weaver not eldest.]

1784 Brown, Cornelius, weaver, B. and G.B., as eld. son to George B., merchant, B. and G.B. 16 sept. [Note: this seems likely to be Cornelius b. 1766 - he would be aged only 18.]

1788 Brown, George, merchant, B. and G.B., as eld. son to dec. George B., merchant, B. and G.B. 10 Jan. [NOTE this is a different George – I have kept this in to demonstrate two George Browns both described as merchants. The elder George, merchant, has a testament dated 1782.]

1822 Brown, John, weaver, B. and G.B., as youngest son to Cornelius B., weaver, B. and G.B. [Note: he was not the youngest, though youngest than George who would be by that time part of the family business.]

1844 Brown, Cornelius, merchant, B. and G.B., as younger son to Cornelius B., weaver, B. and G.B. [1784] 31 July [Note: this is Cornelius son of C B and Isobel Watson, b. 1805, confirmed by the '1784' linking the father's gaining of status, and by later documents, and fitting with other evidence from the 1838 trust deed of Cornelius the spouse of Isobel Watson.] 

Of the children of George and Agnes Brown, Cornelius, David and William became weavers, married, and had families of their own. This was a period of change in weaving in Glasgow and indeed elsewhere in Scotland, from the old system of hand-looms within weavers’ dwellings and weaver burgesses being able to take on apprentices and employ journeymen, to a larger scale of both skilled and unskilled weavers working on power looms within weaving sheds, owned by a ‘manufacturer’ who could employ rather more journeymen, most of whom would not have a way to raise themselves to be craft masters. In the early days, merchants would put out yarn to master weavers, who would return the cloth to the merchant. Later, a few firms established themselves independently of the merchants’ gild, with the breakdown of the burgess system in the first half of the 19th century.  

Browns as Burgesses and Gild Brethren in Glasgow

The story of the Browns seems to hold much of the story of cloth-making in Glasgow – first master weavers with Burgess and Gild Brother status, then with some family members retaining or holding this status and others perhaps working as journeymen for them, and still others eventually not bothering because their work encompassed owning, making and selling in ways that went beyond the Glasgow community. And Glasgow itself was growing, with an influx of hand-loom weavers, particularly from Ireland, but including others such as the first John Pendlebury to come to Scotland. 

In the earlier 18th century, many weavers would not be burgesses, but would work for others. However the system was based on artisan master weavers working on a small scale, taking on apprentices and hiring journeymen. Becoming a master of a craft would require an ‘essay’, a piece of work to be judged by existing masters of that craft, and then there were burgess fees to be paid – usually quite high for someone who became a burgess ‘by purchase’ without family connections, considerably lower for a person whose father or whose spouse’s father was a burgess, or who had acquired their status through apprenticeship to a master within the burgh. As the manufactories developed, several weavers might work for one master, still with their own looms and in their own cottages, being paid a set rate for their production, essentially under a piecework system. Issues arose in the late 18th century with manufacturers attempting to cut rates, leading to strikes and the beginnings of trade unionism in Glasgow. 

By the mid 19th century, most weavers would not be burgesses or master weavers, and much weaving would take place in weaving sheds or factories, though there were still hand-loom weavers working from their cottages, Paisley being one of the last areas to retain these to weave the elaborate ‘Paisley Pattern’ imported from the Indian sub-continent.

There was a further distinction between those who were simple burgesses and whose who also held Gild Brother status, which conferred more priviliges. The Records of Burgesses and Gild Brethren hold entries shown on the right – these of course being secondary data, transcribed from original registers for volumes published in the earlly 20th century and containing some errors. The abbreviations are as in the registers, and are B. for burgess and G.B. for gild brother, with l. for ‘lawful’ relating to a child’s birth. There are many other ‘Brown’ entries, but only ones that seem possibly relevant are included here.

There are some puzzles within the burgess records. It would seem most probable that George Brown who married Agnes either held burgess status or was likely to do so soon, but the most likely incidence is that from 1769 of ‘Brown, George, merchant, B. and G.B., as younger l. son to David B., weaver, B. and G.B. 20 Sept’, acquired, if this is him, a few years after the marriage with Agnes Brown. This matches with the 1784 record of Cornelius Brown (b. 1766) becoming a weaver burgess in light of his father George’s merchant burgess status. (At the time I wrote this webpage, the birth records for a George son of David were lacking - see page for George Brown.) However, the records of the birth of George’s children describe him as a weaver. Also, he was married to Agnes in 1763, but this status, if it’s the same George, wasn’t accrued until six years later. I think that it is the same George, and that it was a decision reached by the family relating to their business.

As said earlier, under the system prevalent in the 18th century a merchant would ‘put out’ yarn to master weavers, who would then return the product to the manufacturer; this meant that the merchant effectively controlled the return on the process, and only the merchant was able to sell on the cloth. Was George trained as a weaver with an earlier apprenticeship (possibly to Cornelious Broun, or to his own father David or another senior member of the weaver community), but subsequently accredited as a merchant trading in cloth, to keep the whole process (and profits) within the family? The making of cloth was the biggest industry in the Glasgow area in the later 18th century, and from the burgess records there seems to have been considerable interaction between weavers and merchants, in the sense of children of weaver burgesses becoming merchants and vice versa. This happened of course with other trades, but weavers constituted numerically the dominant trade group within the Glasgow area.

By the end of the 18th century, steam looms were starting to be run. While much of the weaving was not yet mechanised, the end of the handloom weaver’s trade, and the organisation of labour based in the weaver’s cottage, was in sight.

David Brown, son of George and Agnes born in 1775 (and named for George’s father) was a weaver, but there is no burgess record for him. This doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t a master weaver – even in the mid 18th century, let alone later, there were master weavers who didn’t appear in the register. (I have transcribed a document held in the National Records of Scotland, of a Burgess Ticket for a John Brown, weaver, in 1754 – but he isn’t in the register. This John might or might not be related to our George or Cornelius.) William born in 1777 likewise doesn’t have a mention in the register. Only Cornelius, the eldest surviving son of George and Agnes, does appear. But the focus was changing, and town directories for Glasgow in the early 19th century tell a new tale, that of the larger manufactories, which included the firm of Brown and Watson, and later that of Cornelius Brown and Sons.

Transcript of the Burgess Ticket of John Brown from 1754

At Glasgow the Seventh day of March Seventeen hundred and fifty four years.

The which Day In Presence of the Right Honourable John Brown Esqr. Lrd Provost of the said City James Donald, Archibald Ingram & James Buchanan, Baillies thereof Robert Christie Dean of Gild, and sundry of the Gild Council of said City Mr John Broun Jnr. weaver in Glasgow Is admitted and Received Burgess and Gild Brother of the said City and the whole Liberties privileges and Immunities belonging to an Burgess and Gild Brother thereof are granted to Him in most ample Form Who gives his Oath of Fidelity as Use is Extracted furth of the Gild Books of the said City By

(signature – looks like) G R Gilchrist Dpt Clk thr

Manufacturers and weavers in Glasgow

David Brown, weaver (and father of Marion), was the fifth son and sixth child of George and Agnes Brown. The first, also named David, died very young, and of the third and fourth, Richard and George, I have found no trace. The eldest surviving brother was Cornelius, of whom more below.

David married Margaret Anderson in 1798 – the marriage record has no further information. His next brother, William, weaver, married Agnes McLachlane in the same year. David was a witness to the birth of William’s second child, Agnes, born in Glasgow in 1801, and William was a witness, together with James Anderson (presumably a relative of Margaret) to baptisms of all four of David’s children; Marion, 1799 in Glasgow, and Agnes (1801), David (1803) and George (1805) in Barony parish. 

William’s eldest child Jean’s baptism (1799, Glasgow) was witnessed by his elder brother, Cornelius. There is a long gap in the registered baptisms of William’s children after the 1801 birth of Agnes, with these beginning again in 1814, in Old Monkland (Coatbridge), with sons Alexander Leck, Cornelius, and Robert; unfortunately the Old Monkland baptism record of Cornelius (1816) has minimal information other than the parents’ names and that William is a weaver, with no witnesses named. There is a census entry in 1841 from Main Street in Barony that may possibly show children of William, including Agness (30), Alexander (25) and Robert(20), with a younger David said to be 15. Ages of adults in the 1841 census were of course usually rounded down to the nearest five or ten.

Also in the 1841 census, at 22 Moore Street, Glasgow, there are William Brown, hand-loom weaver and Elizabeth Brown, power-loom weaver, with children Mary, 11, Donald aged 3 and an infant Cornelius, nine months old, in a household headed by Mary McMillan, worsted winder. That name ‘Cornelius’ would seem to indicate some relationship to the Brown weaving family, presumably through William, who might be a child of David, or of William, and born around 1809-1816. There are no apparent births in Old Parochial Registers of a Cornelius or Donald of the right age, but a Mary Ann Brown was born in 1830, with parents William Brown and Elizabeth McMillan, so that the 1841 census is most likely to show this Brown family in the household of Elizabeth’s mother. There is an entry for a later child, Agnes, born 20 July 1846, and a daughter Katherine appears in the 1851 census, when Elizabeth is in her mother’s household, described as widowed, and the children Mary Ann, Katharine and Agnes are said to be lodgers; Cornelius is no longer present. There is a marriage entry for William Brown and Elizabeth McMillan on 18th June 1826, in Glasgow. The baptism of Mary Ann in 1830 was witnessed by David Brown and William Brown senior. It is very likely that William was the son of either David Brown and Margaret Anderson, or William Brown and Agnes McLachlane, with the birth not registered.

The information about Cornelius, eldest surviving son of George Brown and Agnes Brown born in 1766, is rather more detailed, and much easier to find. Cornelius became a weaver, founded his own manufacturing company, and lived until 1837, leaving a trust deed, a legal document concerned particularly with his firm of Cornelius Brown and Sons. Through this and additional inventories, newspaper entries from the 19th century and earlier through a fairly complete set of OPR entries we have some knowledge of his family.

He married Isobel Watson, daughter of John Watson, weaver in Glasgow, and Lilias Coats on 26 August 1787. (Isobel had several siblings, including a brother James Watson born in 1765, who also forms part of the development of the Glasgow manufactories.) Cornelius and Isobel had at least ten children:

  • Lilias born in 1788
  • George  24 October 1790, who died before 1837, leaving two daughters
  • Agnes 5 February 1793, died before 1798
  • Cornelius born in January 1794, dying aged 12 months on 25 Jan 1795
  • Isobel 20 July 1795
  • Agnes 10 April 1798
  • John 12 August 1800
  • James 21 April 1803 – later head of James & Cornelius Brown & co.
  • Cornelius 19 June 1805, merchant in London, then co-head of J & C Brown
  • Margaret 16 October 1809.

Coats in Street Directories

Coats William, merchant, 3d flat corner land north side Gallowgate, above No. I.

Coats William and Archibald, and co. wholesale hardware merchants, warehouse, above No. I, head of the Gallowgate

Coats, Whytlaw, and co. merchants, counting-house, ditto

Coats Archibald, merchant, lodgings west side Charlottestreet

Coats Archibald, and co. wholesale linen merchants, warehouse head of the Gallowgate, above No. I

Coats, Lockhart, and co. muslin manufacturers, counting-house, Trades land head of the Gallowgate

Coats George, merchant, at Messrs. Coats's head of the Gallowgate, above No. I

Coats John, muslin manufacturer, Dove-hill

Some of the associations with weaving can be traced through the Glasgow Street Directories, which display the growth of the manufactories and partnerships. Intermarriage between families of manufacturers and merchants is likely to have helped the rise of family businessess and the related decline of the status of artisan weavers. In Jones’ Directory from 1787, 1789 and 1790-91 there is a firm of Brown, Carrick & Co, muslin manufacturers; also in 1789 ‘Brown, Mrs. dealer in cotton and cotton yarn 1st flat Lang's land, Prince's-street’ and ‘Brown John, and co. yarn shop, High-street, No. 32’. A William Watson is listed as a member of the Trades House representing the weavers. Further 1789 entries include several for the Coats family, presumably related to Lilias Coats the mother of Isobel Watson, with premises clustering around the start of the Gallowgate in the East End (see sidebar). 

The earliest directory, from 1783, lists ‘Brown Carrick and Co. wholesale linen printers, Bell's wynd’, and two John Watsons, manufacturers, one in Stockwell and one in Havanna Street. By 1790-91 there is a John Brown, merchant in Bell’s Wynd, and the linen warehouse of Archibald & John Coats is also given as Bell’s Wynd; William Watson senior, manufacturer, is in Havanna Street.

In 1800, Brown, Carrick & Co. is still in existence, manufacturers in Montrose Street, Archibald and John Coats’ linen warehouse is still in Bell Street, there is James Watson & Co, manufacturers, in Bell Street, Watson (with no other name) manufacturer in Blackfriars wynd, and Watson & Ewing, manufacturers, in St Andrew’s Square.

In 1804 and in 1806 and 1807 Brown, Carrick & Co. remains at 149 Montrose Street, and in 1804 James Watson, manufacturer, is at 92 New Wynd. In 1806 there is also a William Brown, manufacturer, in Kent Street. By this time the list of Browns including merchants and various tradespeople is getting quite long, and this obviously only represents a small number of all the Browns in Glasgow. There is an interesting entry (1806 and 1807) of ‘Watson, James, manufacturer, at Brown & Carrick's’. 

In 1809 (there is no 1808 directory available) there is a new firm of Brown & Watson, manufacturers, 5, Cochrane-str’; and there is no longer a Brown & Carrick’s. In 1810, the address has changed to ‘Brown & Watson, manufact. Albion-co. Albion-str’. Watsons listed as manufacturers in 1809 and 1810 include a James Watson with a house at 98, Rottenrow, Watson & Ramsay at 66, Glassford-street, and John Watson junior at 69 Trongate.

If you have stayed with me for the above rather tedious trawl through street directories, you have done well! 

To summarise, I’m seeing the development of several manufacturing firms, first on the principle of passing out work to handloom weavers, but then starting to centralise production in a factory, presumably that in Albion Street. This firm began with a partnership of Brown and Carrick, gained other partners and finally James Watson, the brother of Isobel married to Cornelius Brown. I was playing a hunch when I first found the Brown and Carrick details, thinking that because it was one of the earliest partnership manufacturers it might be connected – but only when I found the entries for James Watson at Brown & Carricks knew that there was something there. So what I’m seeing is the growth of a family business, of a new type, as part of the development of the capitalist system, through the later years of the 18th century and into the early 19th. Unfortunately for the descendants of David Brown and Margaret Anderson, their names do not appear in these records; David may have been a weaver within this firm, but his wasn’t the controlling interest, which in all probability first belonged to his father George, and then to his elder brother Cornelius and his brother-in-law James Watson. There seems at present no way to know this. It is also very possible that David died relatively young.

But this is not the end of the story of the Browns as manufacturers in Glasgow. The 1815 directory repeats the entry for Brown & Watson, at Albion Court, Albion Street, but also has ‘Brown, Cornelius, Wallace court’. James Watson, manufacturer, is still in his house at 98 Rottenrow. In 1818, Cornelius Brown is identified as ‘manufacturer, Post Office Court’ which may be a house address, with Brown & Watson still at Albion Court, James Watson’s house still in Rottenrow, and a James Watson, manufacturer, at 83 Bell Street.

(There is a firm of Brown & Coleman, during the 1810s, but I don’t know how or if this fits into the same Brown family.)

The 1819 and 20 directories bring some change. First, among the ‘managers of the Trades House’ two weavers are named – in 1820 the second being Cornelius Brown, whereas in 1819 he is first named as Deacon of the trade. In 1819 he has no separate business listing, but in 1820 appears as ‘Brown, Cornelius, & Son, manufacturers, 37, Bell-str.; house, 428, Duke-street’. Brown & Watson are still at 11 South Albion Street, and James Watson still in his house in Rottenrow. In 1819 there is ‘Brown, William, jun, at Brown and Watson's’, and a John Watson, jnr, at 162 Montrose St. In 1822 Cornelius Brown & Son is at 76 Hutcheson Street, with his house still in Duke Street; by 1829 Cornelius Brown & Sons is at 60 Hutcheson Street with house at 7 George Street. By 1834-5 C Brown & Sons are identified as sewed muslin manufacturers, at 47 Cochran Street with house at 11 George Street.

Cornelius Brown, manufacturer, died in 1837, and accordingly in the 1837-8 directory the firm is named James & Cornelius Brown (late C. Brown & Sons), at 47 Cochrane Street with house in Buccleugh Street. 

There are some puzzles within this growth of manufacturing in Glasgow. It isn’t clear who is running the concern of Brown & Watson, aside from James Watson, as Cornelius Brown & Son emerges while Brown & Watson is still in business. There could be questions about why Cornelius, a prominent weaver in Glasgow by that time, developed his own firm, although it could be a simple attempt at expansion, a development of new techniques, a new branch sponsored by the existing firm. However developments after 1819 took a different turn.

The first ‘son’ in Cornelius Brown & son was probably George, born in 1790. The trust deed of Cornelius Brown, in 1837 (acessed from Scotland’s People testaments) indicates that George had by that time died, leaving two daughters, Mary and Isabella, who are inheritors of George’s share in the business. The remaining sons, John, James and Cornelius, may all have become part of the firm by the time the name changed to the plural ‘sons’. But the trust deed reveals something else going on within this family, as it seems to have been authored to ensure that John, born in 1800, despite a previous ‘interest’ in the firm, could not be involved in its running. The deed ensures that John will have an allowance, and a sum of money is set aside for this purpose, but will not share in the business or its management. Son James, manufacturer (b. 1803), appears as the senior partner, and Cornelius (b. 1805) is also part of the firm, currently acting as a merchant in London. The 1844-45 directory shows Cornelius back in Glasgow, living at 145 West Campbell Street, James in Buccleugh Street, and the premises at 47 Cochrane Street.

The remaining history, as far as I have pursued it, shows Isobel Watson dying in 1848, at 99 Hill Street in Garnethill, and later James Brown and several siblings living there. James does not appear to have married. Cornelius the younger married an Englishwoman named Martha Brunsdon, in Bristol, and they had several children born in Glasgow; Cornelius died in 1848, outlived by Martha by several decades. Martha’s nephew, Richard Brunsdon, married a Mary Brown, born in London – possibly a relative of Cornelius. In 1859-60 the firm is still named James & Cornelius Brown, now based at 92 St Vincent Street, and in 1865 one of the partners of J & C Brown & Co. is George Brown – most likely to be the eldest son of Cornelius Brown and Martha Brunsdon, born in 1838, and with a house at 12 Albany Place. (Their second son, Richard Cornelius born in 1841, is with the firm of Peter Kelso & Co., sewed muslin manufacturers at 28 Royal Exchange square., and living at 343 Bath Crescent.) These later Browns appear also in the censuses, though the business is more identifiable within the street directories. 

A Summary, with some questions and linking to charts, is on the next page.


© Jenny Blain 2016    email me