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D & W Robertson, Iron Merchants

William Robertson began his business as an Iron Merchant when a relatively young man of 19 years. Through enterprise, toil and a flair in business acumen, he established an extremely successful concern and became a prominent and prosperous citizen of Dundee.

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Details and history

Name of company:

D & W Robertson, Iron Merchants

Company address:

14, 16 & 18 Exchange Street, and 36 Castle Street, Dundee:[1][2][3]

also traded at

44, 46 St Enoch Square, and 33 Adam's Court Lane, Glasgow[4][5][6] as Robertson Brothers & Co., Iron Merchants, Glasgow:

Number of employees:

Unknown - advertisements were placed in local newspapers for positions such as Warehousemen, Porters and Blacksmiths

Nature of business:

Iron Merchants trading in Bar, Plate, Hoop, Sheet, Rod, Beam Iron: Gas, Water and Steam Tubes: Steel, Files, Tin Plates: Agents for Scotland for the Kirkstall and Milton Ironworks, Yorkshire



Date ceased trading:

1881 - Business, premises and stock purchased by Peter Saunders Brown & James Tawse.[7] At that time D & W Robertson were listed as 'Wholesale and Export Iron and Steel Merchants, 14, 16 & 18 Exchange Street and at London and Sydney.[8]


William Robertson, the youngest of 10 children, was born 1830 in the Parish of Newtyle. At the age of 19 years he was in business as an iron merchant (the sole partner in the firm of W Robertson & Co) in Castle Street, Dundee.[9] At 25 years he had established a second branch in Glasgow.[10] He retired from the firm of D & W Robertson, Iron and Steel Merchants, in 1878 at the age of 48.[11] The business was transferred to his two sons, William Fleming Robertson and James Stewart Robertson. This they carried on in Sydney, Australia.[12]

Business History

In 1849, William Robertson acquired the business of Iron Merchant and Draper at 36 & 38 Castle Street, Dundee, on the death of Robert Davidson Esq. William traded as William Robertson & Co. – he being the sole partner.

By 1851, William was joined in partnership by his older brother David who, up to that point, had been employed as an accountant in Edinburgh. Together, their business traded under the name of D & W Robertson – Iron Merchants & Draper, 36 – 38 Castle Street, Dundee.[13]

1855 witnessed a shift in their trading pattern. D & W Robertson relinquished their business as clothiers and hatters at 38 Castle Street in order to confine attentions exclusively to trading in iron and steel.[14] At this time, they also opened a branch at 14 – 16 East Nile Street,[10] in Glasgow (later transferring to St Enoch Square in 1861[15]).

In 1859 Mr David Stewart joined D & W Robertson as a partner. The partnership was severed in 1875. Also joining the firm as a partner was Mr John S Davidson, son of Wm. Robertson & Co’s predecessor – Robert Davidson.[16]

By the 1860s the business was flourishing but a major disruption was experienced by the death of David Robertson in 1863.[17] He died aboard the Lincolnshire, on voyage to Melbourne, Australia (his sister Helen lived in Geelong).[17] At the time of his death, the value of David’s one half share as a partner of the firm of Robertson Brothers, Iron Merchants in Glasgow amounted to £1,221.16.1p. His share as a partner of the firm of D & W Robertson, Iron Merchants in Dundee, amounted to £3,246.10.2 1/2p. He also had a share of heritable property in Dundee Exchange.[18]

The following year 1864, witnessed extensive alterations and improvements (both internal and external) to D & W Robertson’s premises in Exchange Street, Dundee. Internally, saw an excavation of a floor to form a large pit. The purpose of the pit was to store various kinds of heavy iron, such as shafting. Externally, a handsome office fronting Exchange Street was erected. A large archway was formed at the East end of the warehouse to enable the easier entry of vehicles for loading and unloading. The building was topped with a heavy, stone cornice which ‘will add materially to the appearance of the building – indicating a gratifying state of our local trade’.[19]

In 1865, William Robertson commissioned the building of his future residence by architects Peddie & Kinnear and, by 1870, Taypark Villa in West Ferry was completed.[20] The family resided at Taypark (now demolished) from 1870 until leaving Dundee in 1881.

From 1875 to 1878, the business continued with William Robertson again the sole partner. Thereafter, his two sons continued the business, trading in Dundee from 1878 – 1881, and also in London and Sydney.[11] In 1880, they purchased the Pyrmont Iron Works in Sydney, Australia. The brothers continued to receive accolades in Australia where they concentrated in supplying construction materials, particularly for railways. They were credited with having been the contractors for the building of a railway bridge over the Murray River, linking New South Wales with Victoria.[21]

Having retired to Devon, William Robertson, the founder and partner of D & W Robertson died in Paignton, Devon on 23-0- 1903 [22] having been predeceased by his wife Jane Fleming in 1896. It was said of him that he was ‘formerly an iron and machinery merchant and exporter of Dundee, Glasgow and London and retired with a fortune, acquired by thirty years of industry out of nothing and Chairman of several important public companies in London’.[2]



  1. Dundee Postal Directory, 1861-1862. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies
  2. Dundee Advertiser. 23 August 1892. Findmypast website
  3. Dundee Postal Directory, 1867-68. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies
  4. Glasgow Postal Directory, 1861-62. National Library of Scotland website
  5. Glasgow Postal Directory, 1862-63. National Library of Scotland website
  6. Glasgow Postal Directory, 1863-64. National Library of Scotland website
  8. Dundee Directory 1880-81. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies
  9. Dundee Postal Directory, 1850. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies
  10. Glasgow Postal Directory, 1855-56. National Library of Scotland website
  11. Dundee Courier. 08 January 1878. Findmypast website
  12. Dundee Advertiser. 26 May 1882. Findmypast website
  13. Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser, 19 December 1851. Findmypast website
  14. Dundee Courier. 21 March 1855. Findmypast website
  15. Glasgow Herald. 04 January 1861. Findmypast website
  16. Dundee Courier. 23 March 1859. Findmypast website
  17. Dundee Advertiser. 14 April 1863. Findmypast website
  18. Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. 02 January 1864. Ref SC36/48/50. ScotlandsPeople website
  19. Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 12 July 1864. Findmypast website
  21. Dundee Advertiser. 18 April 1882. Findmypast website
  22. Dundee Evening Telegraph. 24 March 1903. Findmypast website

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.