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Messrs Cox Brothers, Manufacturers

The Cock family originated in the Low Countries, becoming manufacturers in the Lochee area by the late 17th century. The Cox Brothers built massive works in the 1860s and were a dominant force in the jute industry of Dundee.

Subscription value in 1863:

£100

Relative to inflation up to 2020:

£10000

Relative to income compared to 2020:

£80000

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Details and history

Name of company:

Messrs Cox Brothers, Manufacturers

Company address:

30 St Andrew Street, Dundee (office), c.1844-1859.[1]
Works, Foggyley, Lochee, c.1850.[2]
Works/Manufactory, Lochee, c.1853-1857.[3]
Camperdown Linen Works, Lochee, c.1858-1886.[4]
1 Meadow Place, Dundee (office), c.1861-1872.[5]
23A Portland Street, Manchester, from c.1867.[6]
97 Union Street, Glasgow, c.1874-1881.[7]
10 Lawrence Lane/Street, Cheapside, London, c.1878-1881.[8]
27 King Street, Guildhall, London, c.1884-1887.[9]
57 Miller Street, Glasgow, c.1884-1892.[10]
Camperdown Jute Works, Lochee, c.1886-1981.[11]
35 & 36 Aldermanbury, London. from c.1887.[12]
3 Vicar Street, Kidderminster, c.1890.[13]
12 Rumford Place, Liverpool, from c.1890.[13]
130 Ingram Street, Glasgow, c.1892-1894.[14]
153 Queen Street, Glasgow, from c.1894.[15]

Number of employees:

4,500[16]

Nature of business:

Flax and jute spinners, power-loom manufacturers and merchants

Turnover:

Unknown

Date ceased trading:

Cox Brothers became part of Jute Industries Ltd in 1920. Camperdown Works closed down in 1981.[17]

Related Subscribers

Subscriber no.55 – Peter Carmichael – James Cox was also married to a daughter of James Carmichael.

Subscriber no.52 – James Carmichael & Co. – James Cox was married to James Carmichael’s daughter.

Subscriber no.124 – Messrs C. Kerr & C.W. Kerr – James Cox worked for Christopher Kerr as a young man.

Subscriber no.132 – Messrs John and W.C. Leng – James Cox consulted John Leng on his visions for Dundee.

Subscriber no.186 – Messrs Pattullo & Thornton – James Cox collaborated with Thomas Thornton over the Tay rail bridge proposals.

Subscriber no.28 – Right Rev. the Bishop of Brechin – William Cox was a fellow committee member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Subscriber no.156 – T. Weston Miln – on Dundee Royal Infirmary committee with James Cox and William Cox.

Subscriber no.241 – Rev. Andrew Taylor – on Dundee Royal Infirmary committee with James Cox.

Subscriber no.29 – Sir David Baxter – director of Dundee Gas Light Co. with George Addison Cox.

Subscriber no.240 – P.H. Thoms – director of Dundee Gas Light Co. with George Addison Cox.

Subscriber no.136 – William Lowson – director of Dundee Gas Light Co. with George Addison Cox.

Subscriber no.65 – Peter Duncan – director of Dundee Gas Light Co. with George Addison Cox.

Subscriber no.11 – G.Ll. Alison – committee member of local branch of Royal National Lifeboat Institution with James Cox.

Subscriber no.68 – W.O. Dalgleish – committee member of local branch of Royal National Lifeboat Institution with James Cox.

Subscriber no.258 – James Yeaman – committee member of local branch of Royal National Lifeboat Institution with James Cox.

Subscriber no.238 – Anthony Trail – committee member of local branch of Royal National Lifeboat Institution with James Cox.

Subscriber no.56 – Thomas Couper – committee member of local branch of Royal National Lifeboat Institution with James Cox.

Subscriber no.140 – John Machan – committee member of local branch of Royal National Lifeboat Institution with James Cox.

Subscriber no.7 – Patrick Anderson – committee member of local branch of Royal National Lifeboat Institution with James Cox.

 

Comments

The Cox brothers were born into a family already carrying on an extensive and well-established business as bleachers and manufacturers at Locheyefield in the parish of Liff, Benvie and Invergowrie.[18] The four children of James Cock and his wife, Helen Scott, who went on to become partners in Cox Brothers, were James Cock (1808),[19] William Cock (1812),[20] Thomas Hunter Cock (1818)[21] and George Addison Cock (1820).[22] Henry Cock (1816)[23] was not a partner but was associated with the firm over a long period. Another son, Robert Crystal Cock, was born in 1813[24] but does not seem to have been connected with the firm, and a daughter, Helen Scott Cock, was born in 1824.[25] Their mother did not long survive the birth of this last child.[18]

In 1816, there was a catastrophic fire at Locheyefield and it was only through the resourcefulness of James Cock’s wife, Helen Scott, that some of the goods were rescued and sold in Canada. These events seem to have had a very bad effect on her husband and when the lease of Locheyefield ran out in 1819, the family decamped to Foggyley. James junior took a job with Christopher Kerr, writer, Dundee, but also assumed responsibility for the family business at an early age.[18] The fraternal partnership is believed to date back to 1841[pship] but this was probably just two of the brothers, as a letter survives concerning the change of name from James & Thomas Cock to Cox Brothers in 1845.[26] Documents relating to the renewal of the co-partnery in 1864 and 1874 name James, William, Thomas and George.[27]

Under the four brothers, the firm started to build enlarged premises in Lochee in about 1845. Many Dundee firms switched over a large part of production to jute during the Crimean War. Cox Brothers, along with Gilroys, had already geared their works to jute production and thus “gained a head start which they never lost.”[28] During the American Civil War the firm began to import jute directly from India, rather than having it transhipped from London and by 1863, it had its own baling plant near Calcutta.[28] It could be said that “Lochee was virtually a company town.” The works covered about thirty acres. George Addison Cox was responsible for the design which was realised between 1861-1868 “on a truly gigantic scale.” Most of it was single storey but the Sliver Mill was seventy feet high and almost one-tenth of a mile long with a one hundred foot tower with cast-iron cupola at the east end. The Italianate campanile known for evermore as Cox’s Stack stood 282 feet high.[29] A distinguishing feature of the Camperdown Works was their  “a priori planning and design, coupled with enormous ambition.” None of the other jute works were laid out around their own railway siding.[30] By the time of the 1871 census, there were approximately 4,500 employees at the works.[16]

The nature of the business varied over time, starting as linen manufacturers and merchants but expanding over time. In 1853, Cox Brothers were linen manufacturers by hand and power loom and hemp carpet manufacturers. In 1856 they were additionally flax spinners and by 1858 they were flax and jute spinners and power-loom linen manufacturers. The firm was also listed among the merchants. In 1867, a very detailed description as “merchants, flax and jute spinners, power-loom linen and jute carpet manufacturers, bleachers, dyers and calenderers,” gives some idea of the great range of work being undertaken at the Camperdown Works.[31] Cox Brothers also had offices in Manchester, Glasgow and London. They later opened offices in Kidderminster and Liverpool.[32]

In general, relations between the brothers and their workers were very good. New Year suppers for the head weavers was a tradition started by earlier generations of the family and carried on by the brothers. Works outings were also common with 1,100 well-dressed workers accompanied by four bands of music marching from Camperdown on their way to St Andrews in 1859, presumably by ferry, and nearly 2,000 went in two trains to Stirling in 1865. “The close association of the Cox family with the weaving village of Lochee, where they had presided over the textile trade as old-style merchant-manufacturers for generations, earned them an elevated position of respect and influence among the local population.”[33]

In the 1880s, Edward Cox, James’ son, became associated with Camperdown Jute Works and on his father’s death in 1885, he was given a directing hand in its affairs. Following the conversion into a Limited Liability Company in 1893, he acted as Chairman. In 1899 J. Ernest Cox, Edward’s son, joined the firm of Messrs Cox Brothers. In 1920 Jute Industries Ltd acquired companies in the city, including Cox Brothers Ltd. From 1920 until 1948, J. Ernest Cox was a chairman of Jute Industries Ltd and its subsidiary companies.[34]

James Cox, Clement Park and Cardean (1808-1885)

As the eldest son, he assumed responsibility for the family business as early as 1827. He was educated at Dundee Academy and underwent business training in the offices of Christopher Kerr and it was there that he first gained an interest in railways.[35] In the early days of the partnership he lived in Brook Street, Broughty Ferry before moving to 4 Upper Dudhope Crescent[36]/Terrace[37] or Somerville Place, Dundee,[38] as it was variously described. In 1854 he moved to Clement Park, Harefield Road, Dundee, “a twin-towered stone confection of variously plundered styles” designed for him by James MacLaren, architect and located close to the Camperdown Works.[29]

James was made a justice of the peace for the Dundee District of Forfarshire about 1858.[39] He served  briefly on the committee of Dundee Royal Infirmary[40] and for a few years on the local committee of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.[41] He was also appointed a vice consul for Haiti.[42] He was made a director of the North British Railway company in the late 1860s.[43] Along with Thomas Thornton, he took a great interest in the scheme to build a railway bridge across the River Tay at Dundee.[30] He was persuaded to put himself forward for election to Dundee Town Council and after serving as a bailie, he was elected Provost and Chief Magistrate in 1872, serving a full term before standing down from the council.[44] He was said to have “discharged his duties with diligence and dignity.” His time on the council led to him serving as its representative on the Free Library Committee, Dundee Gas Commission, Dundee Water Commission, Forfarshire Prison Board and Forfarshire Lunacy Board. It also led to him being a director of Dundee High School, a harbour trustee and a director of the Royal Lunatic Asylum.[45] He ended up as chairman of the Free Library, Museum and Picture Gallery Committee at the Albert Institute.[46] In politics he was a staunch Liberal and “gave his unwavering support to Russell, Cobden, Bright and Gladstone in those great reforms which have been carried during the eventful years of his long life.”[35]

In addition to his official appointments, James served as a director of the Dundee Chamber of Commerce,[47] on the general committee of the Mars Training Ship,[47] the committee of the Dundee Bible Society,[48] as honorary vice-president of the Dundee Boys and Girls Religious Association,[49] as well as being a director of the Life Association of Scotland. He also found time to serve on the Liff and Benvie Parochial Board,[50] act as chairman of the Tay Bridge Railway Company[50] and president of the Dundee Mission to the Outdoor Blind.[51]

In religion, James was an elder of the Lochee United Presbyterian Church. Along with his brothers, William and George Addison, who were both on the church’s building committee, he helped clear the debt when the cost of the new church exceeded the estimate. He had also provided the site. The firm’s architect, James MacLaren, provided the design. A wheel window of stained glass, a peel of bells and a pipe organ were also presented by the brothers. In later life, James joined the Tay Square United Presbyterian Church.[52] Having purchased the estate of Cardean in 1878,[53] he was also happy to attend the parish church of Meigle when in residence in the country.[35]

James married Clementina Carmichael, daughter of James Carmichael, engineer, Dundee in 1834.[54] They had five daughters and four sons. Four of the children died of scarlatina. At the time of his death on 1 December 1885, James was survived by his son, Edward, and four daughters.[35] The value of his personal estate was £336,100 11s. 6d.[55]

William Cox, Foggyley and Snaigow (1812-1894)

William remained at Foggyley as his Dundee home for most of his life. In 1841 he assumed the position of buyer and seller for the family firm, which occasioned many journeys to London and Liverpool. In 1863 he made his first journey to India and established the Camperdown Pressing Company at Cossipore. He also began the practice of direct shipment of jute to Dundee by chartering two ships in India. The usual route was via London or Liverpool, necessitating transhipment by sea or train to Dundee. He paid a further two visits to India. He was considered a very practical person, adept at all the details of manufacturing, considered one of the “best spinners in the trade” and a “past master of bleaching and dyeing.” He also originated a jute batching and softening machine and an improved device for drying yarn.[56]

He was a member of the local committee of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,[57] briefly on the committee of Dundee Royal Infirmary,[58] a harbour trustee on behalf of the Guildry[59] and a gas commissioner.[59] In 1871 he became a member of the general committee of the Mars Training Ship, a position he would occupy for the rest of his life.[60] In 1874, he became a member of the Dundee board of the Anglo-Indian Christian Union for Promoting the Spiritual Interests of Europeans in India, remaining so until 1891.[61]

William was made a justice of the peace for the Dundee District of the County of Forfar about 1876, at roughly the same time as he acquired the estate of Snaigow in Perthshire, which would remain his country home for the rest of his life.[62] William served as a local director of the Equitable (Fire and Accident) Company[63] and briefly, also the Northern Assurance Company.[64] He was a member of the Tay Square United Presbyterian Church before moving to the Lochee United Presbyterian Church where he was an elder and assisted in the move to a new church in Lochee.[52] He also took a keen interest in the formation and laying out of Lochee Park, the gift of the Cox Brothers to the people of Dundee, but was in the main “an unostentatious giver.”[56] The park was gifted to the town council and opened to the public on 11 June 1892.[65]

William was married twice, firstly to Robina Methven in 1854[66] and secondly to Elizabeth Boase in 1864.[67] Robina had died in 1861 aged 28.[68] He had a daughter from his first marriage[69] and three sons and two daughters from his second.[70] William died at Snaigow on 7 September 1894 aged 82.[71] He left an estate valued at £248,378 0s. 9d.[72]

Thomas Hunter Cox, Duncarse and Maulesden (1818-1892)

Thomas was educated in Lochee and at Dundee Academy before entering the office of James Buist, flax merchant. He joined the family firm in 1841. He was “eminently and above all things a man of business” and “specially fitted for the management of the office”.[73] Thomas spent his early years at Foggyley[74] before moving to Wellhead House, Lochee in about 1856.[75] In 1864 he moved to Duncarse, Perth Road, Dundee[76] to a plain mansion built for George Armitstead in 1858 to designs by Charles Wilson.[29] This would remain his Dundee home although, the obligatory country house was acquired at Maulesden, Brechin in 1872 from the representatives of William Maule. He also acquired the estate of Strathmartine from the trustees of the late Mrs Bradbury.[73]

He served briefly on the committee of management of the Dundee Industrial Schools Society and had a long association with the Liff and Benvie Parochial Board.[77] He served as a director of Dundee Chamber of Commerce, being its president in 1875.[78] Thomas was also heavily involved in Dundee’s investment companies: The Scottish American Investment Trust,[79] The Dundee Mortgage and Trust Investment Co Ltd[80] and the Oregon and Washington Trust Investment Co Ltd.[81] He also served as a local director of the Northern Assurance Company.[82] Thomas was made a justice of the peace in 1880.[83]

In politics he was a “staunch and consistent Conservative”[73] and was a member of the Dundee Conservative Association.[84] In religion he differed from his brothers by remaining an active member of the Established Church. He was an elder in the East Kirk.[73] He purchased the redundant Lochee United Presbyterian Church from his brothers and presented it to the Church of Scotland trustees as a quoad sacra church for Lochee, paying for its renovation and presenting the minister in his position as patron of the church.[52] He left £11,000 to the town council for the provision of a branch free library, reading room, recreation or lecture room, swimming pond and private baths for the use of the people of Lochee,[85] which his brother, William, helped bring to fruition.[56] Another lasting legacy is the T.H. Cox Chair of Anatomy endowed by him at University College Dundee “with the view of encouraging the establishment of a Medical School in Dundee” and which led to his becoming a life governor of the college.[86]

He married Adelaide Campbell Galloway, the widow of William Brown, flaxspinner,[73] in 1866.[87] The couple had no children, but his step-grandchildren were to be found at Duncarse in succeeding censuses.[88] Thomas died on 1 January 1892 and left an estate valued at £435,792 10s. 1d. A further £4,968 15s. was also recorded in the calendar of confirmations.[89]

George Addison Cox, Beechwood and Invertrossachs (1820-1899)

George was the youngest of the brothers to be made a partner. He married Eliza Methven in 1848[90] and appears shortly thereafter at Wellhead House[91] and then Wellbank Cottage,[92] Lochee. By 1861 he occupied Beechwood, very close to the site of the Camperdown Works, which he was responsible for designing on a truly gigantic scale.[29] He was described as “the mechanic of the family” and he devoted his energies to labour saving devices.[93] 

Away from the works, George served briefly as treasurer of the Working Men’s Coffee and Reading Rooms Association,[94] before going on to become a director of the Dundee Gas Light Company[95] and a harbour trustee on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.[96] In 1875 he bought an estate near Callander which he renamed Invertrossachs,[97] although Beechwood remained his Dundee residence. He became a director of the Hansford Land & Cattle Company, a post he would retain for the rest of his life.[98] He was also a director of the Queen (Fire and Life) Company, which became part of the Royal Insurance Company.[99] George was a justice of the peace for the Dundee district of Forfarshire by 1886[100] and after Dundee became a county of city in 1894, he was also made one of its justices of the peace[101] and also a deputy lieutenant.[102]

Along with his brothers, James and William, George was one of the benefactors of the new Lochee United Prebyterian Church and, with William, was an elder and on its building committee.[52]

George died at Tunbridge Wells, Kent on 6 May 1899,[103] having been pre-deceased by his wife and survived by five of his six sons and one married daughter.[93] His estate was valued at £218,499 7s. 11d.[103]

Henry Scott Cox, Cossipore, Calcutta (1816-1886) 

Henry was not one of the partners of Cox Brothers but seems to have been connected with the firm’s activities in India over many years. As a young man he was a linen merchant in Manchester, marrying Anne, second daughter of Edward Preston Esq. of Rose Hill House, Eccles, on 13 July 1844 at the New Jerusalem Church.[104] His career took a blow when he was declared bankrupt in 1847.[105] His involvement as manager of the Camperdown Pressing Company[106] may date back to the time of his brother, William, visiting India in the 1860s to establish the firm’s business interests there. It would appear that he kept up some of his connections in Lancashire as well, being elected to the committee of management of the Ormskirk and Southport Agricultural Society in 1869.[107] The 1874 Dundee Directory devoted space to a full description of the firm and observed that “Messrs Cox are shipowners as well as manufacturers and merchants, and import in their own vessels, a part of the materials they require. They have an establishment on the banks of the Hooghly, near Calcutta, for the storage and shipment of jute…”[96] By 1878, Henry was back living at 9 Windsor Street, Dundee,[108] although at the time of the 1881 census, he was temporarily at Woodstock (West), Logie, Stirlingshire and described as an East India merchant.[109]Henry became a member of the National Liberal Club after his return to Dundee.[110]

Henry was pre-deceased by his wife, Anne, in 1882. After his death at Rosehill, Eccles on 10 March 1866,[111] where he had recently moved, it was noted that “not being a member of the firm of Messrs Cox Brothers, he was not so intimately connected with Dundee as his other brothers but he lived a number of years in Dundee after his return from India, where he had been engaged as a tea-planter.”[112] This last occupation seems at variance with all other evidence and another press report described him as having been a merchant and manager of the Camperdown Pressing Co. Ltd. in India, where he lived for many years.[106] He was survived by a daughter[112] and left an estate worth £10,037 15s. 3d.[111]

Further Information

Nearly all of their descendants (and those of the females after marriage) were taken into the business either as directors or managers and continued to prosper well into the 20th Century. A number of mansion houses were built in Lochee by the main members of the family: Beechwood House (George Cox), Harefield House (Dr. James Cox), Foggyley House (Arthur James Cox), Dryburgh House (George Methven Cox), Lyndhurst House (Edward Cox), Clement Park House (James Cox) and, of course, “The Cottage” (James Cox Cox) venue of visiting artists such as the Pre-Raphaelites. At one point during a strike of millworkers in Dundee where they were locked out, The Cox Bros. voted to return to work on the day the Titanic sank. At this time, Cox Bros. attempted to buy pistols from Harrods to quell the strike![113]

Sources

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  87. Statutory Registers. Dundee Second District. Marriage. 1866. 282/2 402. ScotlandsPeople website.
  88. 1871 Census Scotland. Dundee St Peter. 282/1 ED20 p.22 and 1881 Census Scotland. Dundee St. Peter. 282/1 ED30 p.10. ScotlandsPeople website.
  89. Calendar of Confirmations, 1892. Local & Family History, A.K. Bell Library, Perth.
  90. Old Parish Records. Abbotshall. Marriage. 27 June 1848. 399/40 619. ScotlandsPeople website.
  91. Dundee Directory, 1850. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee and 1851 Census Scotland. Liff and Benvie. 282 ED103 p.29. ScotlandsPeople website.
  92. Dundee Directories, 1853-1859. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  93. Leng, John & Co. (1900) Dundee Year Book, 1899. Dundee: John Leng & Co. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  94. Dundee Directory, 1853-54. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  95. Dundee Directory, 1867-68. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  96. Dundee Directory, 1874-75. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  97. Abridgement of Sasines, Perthshire, 1875 (3498). Perth & Kinross Archives.
  98. Dundee Directories, 1884-1899. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee andLeng, John & Co. (1900) Dundee Year Book, 1899. Dundee: John Leng & Co. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  99. Dundee Directories, 1887-1893. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  100. Dundee Directories, 1886-1899. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  101. Dundee Directories, 1895-1899. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  102. Dundee Directories, 1896-1899. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  103. Calendar of Confirmations, 1899. Local & Family History, A.K. Bell Library, Perth.
  104. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 20 July 1844. British Newspaper Archive website.
  105. Scotsman, 3 July 1847. British Newspaper Archive website.
  106. Dundee Courier, 11 March 1886. British Newspaper Archive website.
  107. Ormskirk Advertiser, 2 December 1869. British Newspaper Archive website.
  108. Dundee Directories, 1878-1886. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee. 
  109. 1881 Census Scotland. Logie, Stirlingshire. 374 ED2 p.18. Ancestry website.
  110. Dundee Advertiser, 16 February 1883. British Newspaper Archive website.
  111. England & Wales Civil Registration. Death Index, First Quarter 1886. Barton-upon Irwell, Lancashire.  Ancestry website and Calendar of Confirmations, 1886. Local & Family History, A.K. Bell Library, Perth.
  112. Dundee Evening Telegraph, 10 March 1886. British Newspaper Archive website.
  113. John Irvine private collection and privately published book by the Cox family.

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The staffs of Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee; University of Dundee Archive Services; Local & Family History, A.K. Bell Library, Perth and Perth & Kinross Archives.

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