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John Gordon Esquire

John Gordon, hailing from Montrose, became a resident of Broughty Ferry and a well-known and respected Dundee businessman. He was a merchant, spinner and manufacturer, owner of the Grove Mill and the Douglas and Anchor Mills.

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Personal details and history

Full name

John Gordon

Date of birth


Place of birth




Marital status

Married[2] - marriage took place 23 June 1850 in Montrose

Name of spouse

Harriet Anne Hoile[2] - daughter of Henry Hoile, Surgeon in the Forfar Militia


Harriet:[3] Isabel:[4] Henry Hoile:[5] Madeline Jane:[6] William John:[7] Philip James:[8] Margaret Ogilvy:[9] Fanny:[10] John Edmond:[11] Caroline:[12]

Home address

Fox Mount[13]
Reres Road
Broughty Ferry

Age at death:

51 years[14]

Place of death:

Foxmount, Broughty Ferry[14][15]

Date of death:



Montrose Cemetery - 4 March 1878 - lair number unknown[16]

Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Presumed Established Church as birth and marriage records were found within Old Parish Registers

Political affiliation

Not known

Clubs / societies

John Gordon was appointed a Director of the Albert Institute[17]

Public offices

None known

Related subscribers

Subscriber  89 – Messrs Gourlay Brothers – John Gordon’s daughter, Fanny, was later to marry Charles Gershom Gourlay, son of Gershom Gourlay

Subscriber 121 – John Kirkland – John Gordon’s brother in Law, John Hoile, married John Kirkland’s daughter Catherine

Subscriber 173 – George Ogilvie, a solicitor who married John Gordon’s daughter, Harriet

Career and worklife


Merchants and flax spinners:[13] / Merchants, spinners and linen manufacturers:[18]



Place of work

John Gordon & Co[19][20]

Work address

Anchor (Anchor Lane) and Douglas (Douglas Street) Mills:[21][22]
Grove Mill (Lower Pleasance):[23]
Flax Warehouse in Trades' Lane:[24]

3 Royal Exchange Place[13]

Career to date:

By 1863, John Gordon had been identified with the staple trade of Dundee for a number of years. As a younger man, he had been associated with the firm of Aberdein, Gordon & Co., spinners and manufacturers, of Montrose. This was a firm of which his father had been a partner.[25] John Gordon then came to Dundee in 1856[26] and set up business as a flax merchant on his own account. His business, 'John Gordon & Co.' appeared in the Dundee Postal Directory of 1858-59 at 51 Cowgate, while he lived in Broughty Ferry.[19] After some time, he acquired both the Anchor and Douglas Mills in 1862,[21] thereby extending his business ventures to include flaxspinning.[15][27]

More information

John Gordon is a very common name. We have researched John Gordon of ‘John Gordon & Co.’ as being the most likely to have subscribed £100 to the Albert Institute due to the amount of money listed against his name in the 1865-1866 Voters’ Roll.[28]

Birth of John

John Gordon: Birth Date 02 April 1826: Christening Date 19 April 1826: Christening Place Montrose, Angus.

Father’s Name: William Gordon: Mother’s Name: Jane Mackie/Mackay.[1]

Birth of wife, Harriet

Harriet Anne Hoile: Birth Date 12 Mar 1832: Christening Date 11 May 1832: Christening Place Montrose, Angus.

Father’s Name: Henry Hoile: Mother’s Name: Margaret Ogilvy.[29]

Marriage of John Gordon & Harriet Hoile

John Gordon married Harriet Anne Hoile on 23 June 1850 at Montrose, Angus.[2]


  • Harriet Gordon: Birth Date 12 May 1851: Birthplace Montrose, Angus.[3]
  • Isabel Gordon: Birth Date 12 Dec 1852: Birthplace Montrose, Angus.[4]
  • Henry Hoile Gordon: Birth Date 09 Feb 1854: Birthplace Montrose, Angus.[5]
  • Madeline Jane Gordon: Birth Date 29 Nov 1855: Birthplace Montrose, Angus.[6]
  • William John Gordon: Birth Date 02 Dec 1857: Birthplace Montrose, Angus.[7]
  • Philip James Gordon: Birth Date 02 Jun 1859: Birthplace  Montrose, Angus.[8]
  • Margaret Ogilvy Gordon: Birth Date 26 Feb 1861: Birthplace Monifieth, Angus.[9]
  • Fanny Gordon: Birth Date 20 Sep 1862: Birthplace Monifieth, Angus.[10]
  • John Edmond Gordon: Birth Date 24 Aug 1864: Birthplace Monifieth, Angus.[11]
  • Caroline Gordon: Birth Date 28 Mar 1873: Birthplace Monifieth, Angus.[12]

Valuation Rolls

  • 1855 Gordon, John. Esquire. Tenant Occupier. Charleton Mansion House and Grounds. Estate of Charleton and Kinnaber, Montrose[30]

Life of John Gordon

Refer to obituaries in the newspapers.[27] [15]

Newspaper research indicates that:
• John’s son, Phillip, obtained an MA Degree from University of Edinburgh.[31]
• John’s mills frequently donated to worthy causes in Dundee. Due to the odd pennies in the donations, suspicions were that they were donations from workers.
• John’s mills were frontrunners in installing Smoke Consuming Apparatus.[32]
• John Gordon Esq subscribed £100 in the first subscription of the Albert Institute.[33]
• John Gordon & Co subscribed £50 to the second subscription of the Albert Institute.[34]
• John Gordon was appointed Director of the Albert Institute.[17]

Death and Burial of John

John Gordon died on 28 February 1878 at home, Foxmount, Broughty Ferry, aged 51.[14][27]

He was buried on 4 March 1878 in Montrose Cemetery.[16]


John’s will went through the courts three times.[35][36]

Death and Burial of Harriet

Harriet Anne Gordon died on 5 January 1917 at Edzell.[37]

She was buried on 17 January 1917 at Rosehill Cemetery, Montrose.[37]

Other Information

John Gordon was born to William Gordon, a merchant, and Jane Mackie/Mackay.[1] His father William was a partner, with a third share, in the firm of ‘Aberdein, Gordon & Co,’ shipowners and flax spinners in Montrose.[25] The other partners were John Aberdein and Archibald Foote.[25] He also had shares in a number of vessels,[25] plying local and foreign trade (largely Baltic). In his will, William Gordon stipulated that each of his sons would be enabled to use half of their respective share of his estate (over £36,000) if they were inclined to venture into business.[25] John Gordon and three older brothers were all to become involved in the flax trade.

John Gordon’s obituary indicated that he entered into his working life, associated with the firm of ‘Aberdein, Gordon & Co,’[27] before arriving in Dundee in 1856.[26] His older brothers George and Alexander had both become partners in the self same firm. However, by 1847, it was announced:

‘Notice is hereby given by the executors of the late William Gordon Esq., Montrose, that from and after the 26 day of May, 1847, they ceased to be partners of the Company of Aberdein, Gordon & Co., Manufacturers and Flax Spinners, carrying on business at Montrose, Logie and Arbroath, all in the county of Forfar.’ – signed by John Aberdein, Alexander Gordon, George Gordon and Archibald Foote.[38]

It is interesting to note that in 1847, John Gordon’s older brother George, by now in his 30s, had married John Aberdein’s daughter, Ann.[39] His brother Alexander, in his mid 20s was soon to marry and, most importantly, John himself had by this point reached his majority and was then entitled to his share of his father’s healthy estate, providing him with the financial resources to enter into business on his own account.

John Gordon (and his brothers George and Alexander) moved from Montrose to Dundee. His oldest brother, George, was living in Broughty Ferry by 1851, listed as a flaxspinner. However, his wife, Ann, died in 1858. George and Alexander, became associated with Burnside Mill in Arbroath from 1847.[40] After the death of his wife in 1858, George Gordon withdrew from the firm around 1869[40] after which he left Scotland for a life in England with his second wife. Alexander Gordon purchased the Ashludie estate in 1864[40] and had the impressive Ashludie mansion house built thereon.

At the time of pledging a subscription towards the building of the Albert Institute, John Gordon had recently acquired both the Douglas and Anchor Mills. A report of the sale appeared in the local press:

‘The sale of Douglas and Anchor Mills at £15,000 was announced this afternoon. These works were in the occupation of ‘John Duncan & Co’ up to the time of their disastrous failure last year. The name of the purchaser has not yet transpired but it is understood that he has been, for a number of years, connected with the manufactures of this quarter.’[21] the mystery purchaser having turned out to be John Gordon.

It would appear that John Gordon then added to his acquisitions by becoming the first owner of the Grove Mill in Lower Pleasance, this circa 1864-67. Grove Mill was described as having comprised a 1 storey tow and flax mill with 3 sheds.[41] This mill ought not to be confused with South Grove Mill, also in Lower Pleasance.[41] South Grove Mill, also known as Ramsay Works, was owned by John Gordon’s brother in law, John Hoile,[41] although John himself became a partner in his brother in law’s less successful venture. He was also associated with works at Hillbank.

At the time of John Gordon’s death in 1878, he, as well as operating his firm of ‘John Gordon & Co.’ as a general merchant, spinner and manufacturer, was also a partner in the firm of ‘John Hoile & Co.’[42] John Hoile was the only other partner and died in 1877.[42] There had been no contract of co-partnery between the two men and the firm was thus dissolved by Hoile’s death, although John Gordon continued to carry on the business in the same premises and under the same name[42] – not for long however, as John Gordon died the following year.

Both Mills in Lower Pleasance were ultimately purchased by Messrs Barclay, Osborne & Matthewson by 1880.[41]

As for his other works, the Douglas and Anchor Mills, John Gordon had declared in his holograph will…….‘and I desire that, if possible, my son Henry may be enabled to carry on business in the Douglas Mill’[35]…..this he was able to do as Henry Hoile Gordon (the eldest son), went on to become the owner of both mills.

However, it could be assumed that John Gordon was not spared the trials and tribulations associated with running a business in the flax trade, also declaring:

‘If I do not mention others of my family by name, it is not for want of affection but that owing to a series of misfortunes, I am debarred the satisfaction and pleasure of leaving them individually such token of my love for them and such moderate independence as I could have desired.’[35]

John Gordon died at the relatively young age of 51 years.[14] It was reported of him that he was respected for his qualities as a gentleman and for his integrity and activity as a man of business.[27]


There is a public family tree for John Gordon.[43]

There is also a public family tree for John Gordon’s son, William John Gordon, 1857 – 1923.[44]



  1. Old Parish Registers. Montrose. Births. (1826). 312/ 100 123. Scotlandspeople website.
  2. Old Parish Registers. Montrose. Marriages. (1850). 312/ 110 453. Scotlandspeople website.
  3. Old Parish Registers. Montrose, Angus. Births. 12 May 1851. 312/ 100 673. Scotlandspeople website.
  4. Old Parish Registers. Montrose, Angus. Births. 12 December 1852. 312/ 100 673. Scotlandspeople website.
  5. Old Parish Registers. Montrose, Angus. Births. 09 Feb 1854. 312/ 100 673. Scotlandspeople website.
  6. Statutory Registers. Montrose, Angus. Births. 29 Nov 1855. 312/ 1 396. Scotlandspeople website.
  7. Statutory Registers. Dundee, Angus. Births. 02 Dec 1857. 282/ 1 1691. Scotlandspeople website.
  8. Statutory Registers. Dundee, Angus. Births. 02 Jun 1859. 282/ 1 829. Scotlandspeople website.
  9. Statutory Registers. Monifieth, Angus. Births. 26 February 1861. 310/ 42. Scotlandspeople website.
  10. Statutory Registers. Monifieth, Angus. Births. 20 Sep 1862. 310/ 147. Scotlandspeople website.
  11. Statutory Registers. Monifieth, Angus. Births. 24 August 1864. 310/ 150. Scotlandspeople website.
  12. Statutory Registers. Monifieth, Angus. Births. 28 Mar 1873. 310/ 77. Scotlandspeople website.
  13. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1867-1868. p.133. National Library of Scotland website.
  14. Statutory Registers. Monifieth. Deaths. (1878). 310/21. ScotlandsPeople website.
  15. Dundee Evening Telegraph. Monday 04 March 1878. Obituary. British Newspaper Archive website.
  16. Burials. Montrose Cemetery. 4 March 1878. Deceased Online website.
  17. Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser. 02 February 1864. British Newspaper Archive website.
  18. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1869-1870. p.138. National Library of Scotland website.
  19. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1858-59. p.134. National Library of Scotland website.
  20. Dundee Post Office Directory, 1864-65. p.127. National Library of Scotland website.
  21. Dundee Advertiser. 9 June 1862. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
  22. Dundee Courier. Thursday 11 April 1872. British Newspaper Archive website.
  23. Dundee Courier. Friday 10 May 1878. British Newspaper Archive website.
  24. Dundee Courier Monday. 21 August 1865. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
  25. Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. Forfar Sheriff Court. (1838). SC47/ 40/ 12. Scotlandspeople website.
  26. Dundee Advertiser. 21 May 1886. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
  27. Dundee Courier. Friday 01 March 1878. p.2. Obituary. British Newspaper Archive website.
  28. Dundee Voters Roll. 1865-1866. Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
  29. Old Parish Registers. Montrose, Angus. Births. 12 March 1832. 312/ 100 673. Scotlandspeople website.
  30. Valuation Roll. Montrose. 1855. VR00580000. Scotlandspeople website.
  31. Dundee Evening Telegraph. Monday 29 April 1878. British Newspaper Archive website.
  32. Dundee Courier. Friday 19 April 1872. British Newspaper Archive website.
  33. Dundee Advertiser. Wednesday 23 December 1863. British Newspaper Archive website.
  34. Dundee Advertiser. Friday 04 August 1865. British Newspaper Archive website.
  35. Legal records. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. 26 October 1878. SC45/31/28. ScotlandsPeople website.
  36. Legal records. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. 21 March 1884. SC45/31/33. ScotlandsPeople website.
  37. Statutory Record. Edzell, Angus. Death. 1917. 285/1. ScotlandsPeople website.
  38. Edinburgh Gazette. 16 June 1848. p.1. British Newspaper Archive.
  39. Old Parish Registers. Montrose. Marriages. (1844). 312/ 110 355. Scotlandspeople website.
  40. Dundee Courier. 28 June 1911. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
  41. Watson, Mark. Jute and Flax Mills in Dundee. (1990). Tayport. Hutton Press. pp.210. 222.
  42. Dundee Courier. 13 March 1878. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
  43. Family Tree. William John Gordon. North Isles Family History website.
  44. Brown Family Tree. Ancestry website.


Thanks to team leaders, Larry and Tom whose guidance, expertise and vast knowledge of Dundee made this research a success.

The information above about John Gordon 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.