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Messrs Henry Smith & Co

A Family Firm of spinners, merchants and manufacturers, which lasted for almost 100 years. Thomas Smith, the senior partner, was an influential person who played a crucial part in establishing the Albert Institute.

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Details and history

Name of company:

Messrs Henry Smith & Co

Company address:

47 Cowgate, Dundee, c.1842-1850.[1]
57 Cowgate, Dundee, c.1853-1854.[2]
Panmure Street, Dundee, c.1856-1865.[3]
14 Panmure Street, Dundee, c.1867-1868.[4]
10 Panmure Street, Dundee, c.1871-[5]
Polepark Works, Polepark Road, Dundee from 1871.

Number of employees:

466 persons in 1871[6]

Nature of business:

Linen Manufacturers and merchants[4]


Date ceased trading:


Related Subscribers

Subscriber no.18 – Edward Baxter – Thomas Smith’s former employer.

Subscriber no.139 – John Mitchell Jnr. – partners with Mitchell’s father in Smiths, Mitchell & Co.

Subscriber no.142 – John Mitchell of Arngask – partners in Smiths, Mitchell & Co.


Henry Smith, the founder of the firm, first appeared in the local directory as a manufacturer at 64 Seagate with premises in Cowgate. By 1837, he had moved to Princes Street, Wallace Feus,[9] before making his home at 2 Albert Street.[10] In 1841, the 50 year old Henry was living there with his 47 year old wife, Elizabeth, his three sons: Thomas, 22, linen manufacturer; Henry jnr, 19, linen manufacturer and James, 16, clerk and one female servant.[11] His son, Thomas, joined the firm about the same time[12] and moved out of the family home, to 5 Wellington Street, about 1845.[13] Thomas had gained valuable experience working for John Baxter of Idvies and then Edward Baxter before joining his father’s firm.[14] Younger sons, Henry junior and James, who joined the firm about 1850,[15] were described as cloth merchants in the 1851 census and were still living at 1 Victoria Street with their parents.[16] Thomas had by this time moved to West Clepington House[15][17] before settling at Prospect Place, Constitution Road, Dundee for the next decade.[18][19] James moved to Earl Place, Camperdown Street, Broughty Ferry[20][21] for a few years and then to 6 Constitution Terrace, Dundee.[22]

At the time of the subscription to the Albert Institute, Thomas Smith was the leading partner. His father had died, aged 68, in 1857[23] and, along with his brothers, he kept the family firm going. He was a prominent local citizen and had been a Town Councillor in 1850, a Bailie in 1852 and was Dean of Guild in 1855.[24] In 1860, he was President of the Chamber of Commerce.[24] He was a director of Dundee Royal Infirmary, Dundee High School, Dundee Industrial Schools Society, Dundee Orphan Institution and was also Deputy Chairman of the Savings Bank.[25] He was a member of the Established Church and a founder director of the Dundee Young Men’s Christian Association.[25][26] He was also on the committee of the Association for Distributing Religious Tracts,[2] the committee of management of the Royal Lunatic Asylum[27] and the committee of the Model Lodging House Association.[28] According to Thomas’s obituary in the People’s Journal, he took a ‘leading part along with the late Rev Dr Watson and Dr Baxter, for the transfer of the Albert Institute to the town.’[24]

After his father’s death, Henry junior stayed at 1 Victoria Street for a while[29] before moving to Maryfield[30] and then Brackenbrae, Broughty Ferry.[31] About 1864, the three brothers also became partners of Smiths, Mitchell & Co. along with John Mitchell of Arngask, the long-term proprietor and manufacturer of Polepark Mill, Polepark Road, Dundee.[30] This partnership ended about 1870 and thereafter Henry Smith & Co., spinners and manufacturers, were the proprietors of the Polepark Mill.[32]

Thomas had moved closer to the works at Viewbank, 7 Dudhope Terrace[33][34] and James moved to the neighbouring Fernbank, 14 Dudhope Terrace[35][36] shortly afterwards. By this time Thomas was described as a millspinner and manufacturer of flax and jute[34] and James and Henry jnr as linen merchants.[36][37] This may give some indication of the division of labour within the company. Thomas became a local board member of the Queen Insurance Co.[38] Henry jnr died in 1874, aged 57,[39] leaving an estate valued at £53,713 17s. 7d.[40] Ultimately the lure of Broughty Ferry proved too strong for the remaining brothers and Thomas moved to Ashwood, Harecraig[41][42] and James to Ballinard.[43][44] James died in 1882, aged 62,[45] and Thomas died in 1885, aged 71,[46] and was survived by his widow, 2 sons and 6 daughters. His estate was valued at £105,357.[47]

On Thomas’s retirement, two years before his death, the business had passed to his son, James Nicoll Smith, and nephew, George Kidd Smith.[25] These representatives of the third generation had been members of the firm from about 1878.[48] The works remained open until 31 December 1930 when it fell victim to the depression of trade experienced worldwide. It was noted at the time that the works were one of the oldest in Dundee. All 300 staff were to be paid off, from the manager down. It had normally employed over 800 people.[8] Having lain empty for several years, the works were bought by Dundee Town Council to be demolished, in order to build 78 dwelling-houses in three-storey tenements. The cost of purchasing the disused mill was £2500.[49]

Thomas Smith’s Family

Thomas Smith married Elizabeth Nicol in 1845[50] and they had the following children:

Elizabeth/Eliza (c.1846),[17][19][34][42] Jessie (c.1848),[17][19][34] Jane A.( c.1849),[17][19][34][42] James (c.1852),[19][34][42] Isabella (c.1855),[19][34][42] Agnes (c.1857),[19][34] Thomas (c.1860)[19][34][42] and Carolina (c.1862).[34][42]

James Smith’s Family

James Smith married Jane Kidd in 1853[51] and they had the following children:

George Kidd (1854),[52][21][36][44] Jessie N. (c.1860),[21][36] Archibald W. (c.1863),[36] Jeanie N. (c.1865),[36] James H. (c.1867)[36] and Grace (c.1869).[36][44]

Henry Smith’s Family

Henry Smith married Mary Wedderspoon in 1863[53] and they had one child:





  1. Dundee Directories, 1842-1850. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  2. Dundee Directory, 1853-54. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  3. Dundee Directories, 1856-1865. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  4. Dundee Directory, 1867-68. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  5. Dundee Directories, 1869-1886. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  6. 1871 Census Scotland. St. Mary, Dundee. 282/2 ED7 p.34. Ancestry website.
  7. Dundee Directory, 1930-31. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  8. Dundee Courier, 2 December 1930. British Newspaper Archive website.
  9. Dundee Directory, 1837-38. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  10. Dundee Directories, 1842-1857. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  11. 1841 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED96 p.17. Ancestry website.
  12. Dundee Directory, 1842-43. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  13. Dundee Directory, 1846-47. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  14. Dundee Chamber of Commerce Centenary Souvenir, 1936. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  15. Dundee Directory, 1850. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  16. 1851 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED61 p.12. Ancestry website.
  17. 1851 Census Scotland. Dundee. 282 ED47 p.1. Ancestry website.
  18. Dundee Directories, 1853-1862. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  19. 1861 Census Scotland. Dundee First District. 282/1 ED18 p.64. Ancestry website.
  20. Dundee Directories, 1853-1859. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  21. 1861 Census Scotland. Monifieth. 310 ED2 p.2. Ancestry website.
  22. Dundee Directories, 1861-1865. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee. 
  23. Statutory Registers. Dundee First District. Death. 1857. 282/1 106. ScotlandsPeople website.
  24. People's Journal, 8 August 1885. British Newspaper Archive website.
  25. Dundee Courier & Argus, 11 August 1885. British Newspaper Archive website.
  26. Evening Telegraph, 7 August 1885. British Newspaper Archive website.
  27. Dundee Directory, 1856-1857. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  28. Dundee Directories, 1856-1859. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  29. Dundee Directories, 1858-1862. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee. 
  30. Dundee Directory, 1864-1865. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  31. Dundee Directories, 1867-1872. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  32. Dundee Directory, 1871-1872. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  33. Dundee Directory, 1864-1877. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  34. 1871 Census Scotland. St. Mary, Dundee. 282/2 ED7 p.34. Ancestry website.
  35. Dundee Directory, 1867-1879. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  36. 1871 Census Scotland. St. Mary, Dundee. 282/2 ED7 p.37. Ancestry website.
  37. 1871 Census Scotland. St. Andrew, Dundee. 282/4 ED1A p.20. Ancestry website.
  38. Dundee Directories, 1871-1877. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  39. Statutory Registers. St. Andrew, Dundee. Death. 28 January 1874. 282/4 84. ScotlandsPeople website.
  40. Wills and Testaments. Henry Smith, merchant in Dundee. 16 May 1874. Dundee Sheriff Court. SC45/31/25. ScotlandsPeople website.
  41. Dundee Directories, 1878-1885. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  42. 1881 Census Scotland. St. Andrew, Dundee. 282/4 ED41 p.49. Ancestry website.
  43. Dundee Directory, 1880-81. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee
  44. 1881 Census Scotland. Monifieth. 310 ED7 p.3. Ancestry website.
  45. Statutory Registers. Monifieth. Death. 28 May 1882.310/49. ScotlandsPeople website.
  46. Statutory Registers. St. Andrew, Dundee. Death. 7 August 1885. 282/4 718. ScotlandsPeople website.
  47. Evening Telegraph, 17 September 1885. British Newspaper Archive website.
  48. Dundee Directory, 1878-79. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  49. Dundee Courier, 10 April 1935. British Newspaper Archive website.
  50. Old Parish Records. Kirriemuir. Banns. 15 June 1845. 299/30 248 and Dundee. Banns. 17 June 1845. 282/230 160. ScotlandsPeople website.
  51. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Banns. 282/230 455. ScotlandsPeople website.
  52. Old Parish Records. Monifieth. Baptism. 310/60 201. ScotlandsPeople website.
  53. Statutory Registers. Kinnoull, Perthshire. Marriage. 1863. 369/2. ScotlandsPeople website.
  54. Statutory Registers. Dundee First District. Birth. 4 July 1865. 282/1 1225. ScotlandsPeople 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.