Galashiels History

Woollen-Textile Mills and Population Growth

Demographic Study 1851-1881 THIS STUDY by Joe Brown BA(Hons) analyses the growth and the changes in population that occurred between 1850 and 1880 in Galashiels, a town in the Scottish Borders.  Dorothy Wordsworth in her Journal of a Tour made in Scotland describes Galashiels in 1803 as a village ‘pleasantly situated on the banks of the stream; […]

Woollen Textile Mills

Galashiels nestles in a valley with the Rivers Tweed and the Ettrick, the town divided by the Gala Water which is the historic boundary between Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire, the town partly lying in both counties.  Uniquely, local born population were listed in the Census as either born ‘Galashiels, Roxburgh’ or ‘Galashiels, Selkirk’ until changed in […]

Population and inward Migration

With this rate of enterprise it is clear why Galashiels expanded so rapidly as an urban centre, its population rising from 5919 to 15330 during the thirty years from 1851 to 1881, showing an increase of 159 per cent.  It was a rate of growth spurred on by employment opportunities attracting incomers to the town […]

Population Profile

The change in the population profile during the thirty years of urban expansion is shown in Figure 1.  The broad base of 1881 not only reflects the increase in population but indicates a community with a large proportion of children up to 14 years age; this age-group having more males (2921) than females (2786) and […]

Population and employment

Table 5         In 1851, 2645 (44.7 per cent) of the Galashiels population were listed as having employed occupations, a ratio of 70 males to 30 females (1857 males, 788 females); the youngest employed was aged six (a message boy) and the oldest a widow aged 84 (lodginghouse keeper).  Without ‘an employed occupation’ were 3274 (55.3 […]

Woollen workers

It can be reaily identified from the data in the 1851 and 1881 Censuses that the dynamics for the growth and prosperity of Galashiels derived from its woollen-textile cloth industry, demonstrated by the expansion in the number of mills and the increasing number of people they employed.  In 1851 there were 1364 woollen-textile workers accounting […]

The Railways

 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).  […]


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 […]


To record my appreciation to Southall, H.R., et al., and the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS/UK Archive) for allowing me to download the Scottish Parish Population Statistics for 1881 from the Great Britain Historical Database: Census Data: Parish-level Population Statistics, 1801-1951 [computer file]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], August 2004. SN4560.To acknowledge and […]