Co-partners in the success of the woollen-textile mills were the railways.  A Galashiels rail link to Edinburgh was established in 1849 and later a second line via Peebles to the Scottish capital opened in 1866; local railway staff in 1851 numbered 28 (all males) but thirty years later had increased to 64 (63m, 1f telegraphist).  Without doubt the woollen-textile industry and the railway system were mutually beneficial in their evolutionary years.  The railways instantly reduced the price of coal and the cost of bringing raw wool into the town, but it was their valuable rail network that enabled Galashiels tweeds and worsteds to speedily reach their national and world-wide markets, the annual value of their woollen goods rising from around £1000 in 1790 to nearly £1.25 million by 1890.(10)

 

Conclusions

The pattern of population growth in Galashiels and the development of the town’s woollen-textile industry is an excellent example of the relationship between urbanization and industrialization in the mid-nineteenth century.  This study provides evidence of a classic pattern of inwards migration with some 60 per cent of the population moving into an urban centre from the rural areas of the nearby counties, attracted by job opportunities in a growing town with an expanding woollen-textile industry. 

The study is based on the bicennial reports about the population of Galashiels in the Census Enumerators’ Returns for 1851 and 1881, and their data facilitated the statistical analysis of households and families and made possible an examination of the types of employment that were available over the thirty years.  The classification of occupations are not as definitive as the historian would like, but nevertheless provide valuable evidence of the change that took place in Galashiels as it developed in response to the expansion of its woollen textile industry. 

Evidence in this study indicates:  

  • Woollen-textile occupations show the build up of handloom weaving in Galashiels resulting from the introduction of the mechanised spinning jennies and mules.
  • Occupations also show the dominance of the powerlooms when they were introduced and the impact they had on the structure of employment elsewhere within the mills.
  • Occupations provided evidence of the types of employment and skills that developed in Galashiels in response to local prosperity and through social and environmental changes imposed by legislation.
  • Mechanization of spinning and weaving were processes suited to the skills of women and girls and they became increasingly a larger part of the textile mill workforce, which was encouraged by the millowners because of their lower pay-rates.
  • Above all, this study shows that in the nineteenth century it was the woollen-textile mills that gave Galashiels its distinct identity as a town renowned for its quality tweeds and worsteds.

 

Sources and Methodology

Microsoft Access programme was used to establish and analyse a computer database from data extracted from the Census Enumerators’ Returns for the town of Galashiels, providing 5,919 records for 1851 and 15,300 for 1881.  Data for each person was entered to provide fields for analysis: Autonumber (position within the database), unique personal reference number, address, household size, surname, forenames, status, sex, age, occupation, birthplace Galashiels or if born elsewhere.  There was also a field to record the age of infants under a year old. 

The records for 1851 were ‘typed’ into the database by optical character recognition (OCR) reading from a published transcription(11) of the Enumerators’ Returns; the accuracy of the transcription data verified with the original census records on a basis of 1:150.  The 1881 records were input from data supplied by Economic and Social Data Service database (ESDS)/UK Archive.(12)

Using OCR had mixed benefits.  The system had difficulty in reading certain characters in the typed transcription copy mainly because of the typeface design used.  It was necessary for each page to be carefully checked for literal accuracy before the records could be entered into the databank as invariably corrections were needed.  However, the errors could be anticipated as they followed a pattern, the same letters and figures failing to be read correctly.  Transcription data typed in a sans-serif typeface would have greatly improved the reliability of OCR.

 

 

 

   

 

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