Return to Subscriber listings and search...

J & D Lawson

J & D Lawson was a family business. The early work of the firm benefitted from the introduction of gas lights in streets and public buildings. The original partners were both dead before the Albert Institute came into being.

Subscription value in 1863:


Relative to inflation up to 2024:


Relative to income compared to 2024:


Click Image to Enlarge

Details and history

Name of company:

J & D Lawson

Company address:

35 & 36 Murraygate/Narrows of the Murraygate, Dundee (James Lawson), c.1824-1834; (James and David Lawson), c.1837-1838.[1]
57 Murraygate, Dundee, c.1842-1850[2]
81 Murraygate, Dundee, c.1853-1868.[3]
Works at 7 and 9 Meadow Entry , Dundee, c.1856-1869.[4]
126 Nethergate, Dundee, c.1869-1870.[5]

Number of employees:


Nature of business:

Furnishing ironmongers, tin and copper smiths, gas fitters, brassfounders and blacksmiths.[6]



Date ceased trading:

about 1869.[7]


Note: J & D Lawson had no direct connection with (Provost) Alexander Lawson’s tinsmith and ironmongery business which operated in the High Street over the same period.

The original partners were: James Lawson (1800-1854)[8][9][10] and David Lawson (1804-1862).[11][12] After David Lawson’s death the business was run by James’s son, David Lawson junior, who joined the business about 1853,[13] and Thomas Nicoll junior, who joined the business about 1864.[6] Following David junior’s death in 1864[14] it became part of the Nicoll family business, although the name was retained for a short period. By 1871 the business is being operated solely by Thomas Nicoll junior, ironmonger, from 79 Murraygate.[15]

James Lawson, 40, and his wife Elizabeth, 35, were living with three children at their house in Meadow Street, Dundee in 1841: Margaret and David, both 15 and Jamima, 4.[16] David Lawson, 49, was living with his sister, Catherine, 46, and five of his children at Meadow Entry in 1851: John, 14; James, 12; Mary, 9; Jane, 6 and George, 4, and one female servant.[17] Ten years later David and his son, John, are described as master ironmongers at 1 Meadow Entry along with younger siblings Mary, Jeanie and George and one female servant.[18]

James Lawson was listed in the local directory as a tinsmith in 1824.[19] By this time the Gas Light Company was established so his employment prospects were bright. James was listed as an ironmonger in 1829[20] and James and David were listed as ironmongers in 1834, both at the narrows of the Murraygate.[21] A few years later their range of business had expanded as both men are described as ironmongers, tinplate workers and gas fitters.[22]

J & D Lawson as a firm first appeared in the directory of 1842.[23] The business flourished in the narrows of Murraygate until around 1856 when the shop moved into larger premises at 81 Murraygate with works in 5 and 7 Meadow Entry. In January 1867 notices appeared in the local press intimating that the shop and the two flats and attics above, together with additional buildings and open ground, were to be sold. When the British Linen Company bought the property, effectively doubling the size of its bank, the tenants, J & D Lawson, were given two months to find alternative premises. Accordingly the shop closed in May 1868 and relocated to 126 Nethergate in November.[24]

James had lived in Perth Road in the late 1830s[22] before moving to 19 Meadow Street[23] and then Howe’s Close, 55 Murraygate, adjacent to his business premises, along with his brother, David.[25] The brothers then went to separate houses: James to 126/127 Murraygate[26] and David to 1/2 Meadow Entry.[27] The alternative address was probably Murraygate, as shortly after his death the flat lately occupied by the late David Lawson in the Murraygate was advertised to let at £18 per annum. It was said to comprise “six large apartments, w.c. and other conveniences.”[28]

James Lawson died at 141 Princes Street,[8] which was where his son, David Lawson junior was living[13] when he first joined the firm. He moved to 21 Constitution Road,[29] then 40 Blackscroft[30] and closer to work at 79 Murraygate.[31] He eventually moved across the River Tay to West Newport.[6][32]

Thomas Nicoll junior, was the son of James Robertson Nicoll, iron merchant of Dundee and Glasgow. James Robertson Nicoll was also the older brother of Thomas Nicoll, iron and steel merchant, Yeaman Shore (house: Alma Cottage, Craigie Terrace). Thomas Nicoll junior was living at 3 Manor Place[6] when he first joined the firm but had moved to 38 Peddie Street by 1869.[5] Thomas Nicoll junior went on to become the inspector of weights and measures later in life.[33]

The advertisements for J. & D. Lawson in the local press are a good indication of the steady development of coal and gas appliances for domestic heating and lighting. The number of advertisements also indicates an exponential growth in retail trade. The figures for the Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser (latterly the Dundee Advertiser)[24] are as follows:

  • 1839 – 1849     2
  • 1850 – 1859     34
  • 1860 – 1869     143


  1. Dundee Directories, 1824-1838. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  2. Dundee Directories, 1842-1850. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  3. Dundee Directories, 1853-1868. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  4. Dundee Directories, 1856-1869. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  5. Dundee Directory, 1869-70. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  6. Dundee Directory, 1864-65. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  7. Dundee Directories, 1869-1872. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  8. Dundee Courier, 1 November 1854. British Newspaper Archive website.
  9. Howff Burial Ground, Dundee. 1854. Find A Grave Index. FamilySearch website.
  10. 1841 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED108 p.13. ScotlandsPeople website.
  11. Statutory Registers. Dundee First District. Death. 282/1 178. ScotlandsPeople website.
  12. 1841 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED18 p.1. ScotlandsPeople website.
  13. Dundee Directory, 1853-54. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  14. Statutory Registers. Forgan. Death. 431/ 17. ScotlandsPeople website.
  15. Dundee Directory, 1871-72. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  16. 1841 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED108 p.13. Ancestry website.
  17. 1851 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED69 p.28. Ancestry website.
  18. 1861 Census Scotland. Dundee First District. 282/1 ED9 p.25. Ancestry website.
  19. Dundee Directory, 1824-25. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  20. Dundee Directory, 1829-30. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  21. Dundee Directory, 1834. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  22. Dundee Directory, 1837-38. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  23. Dundee Directory, 1842-43. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  24. Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser (latterly the Dundee Advertiser), 1850-1869. British Newspaper Archive website.
  25. Dundee Directory, 1844-45. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  26. Dundee Directories, 1846-1850. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  27. Dundee Directories, 1846-1862. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  28. Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 21 February 1862. British Newspaper Archive website.
  29. Dundee Directory, 1856-57. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  30. Dundee Directory, 1858-59. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  31. Dundee Directory, 1861-62. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  32. Wills and Testaments. Cupar Sheriff Court. 8 March 1865. SC20/50/37. ScotlandsPeople website.
  33. Dundee Directories, 1887-1891. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.

The information above about has been collated from a range of digital and hard copy sources. To the best of our knowledge it is correct but if you are relying on any information from our website for the purpose of your own research we would advise you to follow up the sources to your own satisfaction. If you are aware of an inaccuracy in our text please do not hesitate to notify us through our Contact page.