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William Kerr Esquire

William Kerr was an engineer and founder, a partner in the successful firm of 'John Kerr & Co.' Their firm carried on an extensive business from Douglas Foundry in Blinshall Street, Dundee, manufacturing machinery for various industries, including the jute trade.

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Personal details and history

Full name

William Kerr

Date of birth

Circa 1810[1]

Place of birth




Marital status


Name of spouse

1 - Elizabeth Guthrie (wed in 1847):[4][1] 2 - Margaret Monro (wed in 1857):[5][1] 3 - Isabella Blyth (wed in 1866):[6][1]


Catherine Kerr[7]

Home address

2 Springfield (1858-61)[8][2]

1[9] / 2 Dudhope Place (1862-66)[10]

Ashbank (Villa) (1867-77)[11][12]
East Newport

Age at death:

67 years[1]

Place of death:

Ashbank Villa, East Newport[1]

Date of death:



Western Cemetery, Dundee[13]; his third wife is buried elsewhere

Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Married in the United Presbyterian Church in 1857:[5] Later, married within Church of Scotland in 1866:[6] Made bequests to the Home Mission Fund for the Free Church and the Deacon's Court of the Free Church in Newport:[14]

Political affiliation

Not known

Clubs / societies

Honorary member of Dundee Choral Society from 1866 - 1874[15]

Public offices

None known

Related subscribers

Subscriber  122 – John Kerr – brother of William Kerr

Subscriber 243 – William G Thomson – business partner of William Kerr

Career and worklife





Place of work

John Kerr & Co[16]

Work address

Douglas Foundry[16]
Blinshall Street

Career to date:

William Kerr was an engineer who, in his earlier years, worked in various parts of Germany, supervising the erection of machinery. At the same time, his brother, John Kerr was in business with William Umpherston in Dundee. William Umpherston died in 1846.[18] Thereafter, around 1848, William Kerr joined his brother, John, as a partner in 'John Kerr & Sons,' Douglas Foundry, Dundee. A further partner, William G Thomson, who had been in John Kerr's employ, was incorporated into the firm around the same period.[19] Their partnership was dissolved in 1866 when both brothers, John and William Kerr retired.[19] William Kerr spent his retirement in Newport.[20][21]

More information

Early life and marriage

The son of William Kerr, a leather merchant and his wife Isobel Cuthill,[1] William Kerr was born in Aberdeen about 1810.[2][3] He married three times and had one surviving daughter[1]. He first married Elizabeth Guthrie in 1847,[1] with whom he had one daughter, Catherine. Elizabeth Guthrie died of consumption in 1850.[22] William then married Margaret Monro in 1857,[5] who died in 1862 from ‘disease of the ankle joint about one year, amputation, pneumonia 18 days.’[10] Lastly, he married Isabella Blyth in 1866, who outlived him. At the time of pledging his subscription to the Albert Institute, William Kerr had been newly widowed for a second time.

Working life and achievements 

William Kerr, an engineer,[2] worked in various parts of Germany supervising the erection of machinery before going into partnership with his brother John Kerr.[20] The engineer and millwright firm traded as ‘John Kerr & Co.’ at Douglas Foundry, Dundee, manufacturing a wide range of different machinery for all the mills in Dundee, ranging from power looms to turbines and hydraulic presses.[23]

Some long standing manufacturing firms were already well known for their flax spinning and weaving machinery. However ‘John Kerr & Co.’  a much newer firm, was fast becoming a strong competitor in the field, especially with their calendering machinery.[24] The firm was very successful and exhibited a 5 roller calender for finishing cloth, in Section 7 of the International Exhibition in 1862.[24][25]


William Kerr’s working partnership with his brother John was dissolved in 1866 when both retired. William then moved to Newport where he had a grand house, Ashbank, built for his use (now known as 72 Tay Street).[20][21] The 1867-68 Valuation Rolls indicated that Mr Kerr was also the proprietor of three other properties in Newport – 5 James Street, 68 Tay Street and 70 Tay Street, all three had tenants.[26]

William Kerr, a wealthy man, died in Newport on 5 April 1877 and left £17,152,17s 8d.[27] The Dundee Evening Telegraph, dated 5 April 1877, described him as being “greatly respected for his amiable and honourable character” in Newport, which is certainly a great tribute to him.

The newspaper also declared that “ it is to be regretted that he did not live to see the opening of Blyth Hall.” William Kerr was said to have had a strong interest in his third wife Isabella’s plan to donate the Hall and the Fountain to the community in Newport, in memory of  her brothers, Henry, Charles and Thomas Blyth.[20]



  1. Statutory Registers. Forgan. Deaths. (1877). 431/ 17. ScotlandsPeople website.
  2. Census Returns. Dundee. (1861). 282/2 17 31. ScotlandsPeople website.
  3. Church Records. St Nicholas Church, Aberdeen. (1810). Births and Baptisms.
  4. Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Marriages. (1847). 282/ 230 224. ScotlandsPeople website.
  5. Statutory Registers. Brechin. Marriages. (1857). 275/ 18. ScotlandsPeople website.
  6. Statutory Registers. Dundee. Marriages. (1866). 282/ 2 116. ScotlandsPeople website.
  7. Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Births. (1848). 282/ 190 338. ScotlandsPeople website.
  8. Post Office Dundee Directory, 1858-59. p.146. National Library of Scotland website.
  9. Post Office Dundee Directory, 1864-65. p.140. National Library of Scotland website.
  10. Statutory Registers. Dundee. Deaths. (1862). 282/1 838. ScotlandsPeople website.
  11. Post Office Dundee Directory, 1867-68. p.373. National Library of Scotland website.
  12. Post Office Dundee Directory, 1876-77. p.488. National Library of Scotland website.
  13. Western Cemetery Burial Lair Records. Western Cemetery. (1877). Lair number 87,c,88,a. Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
  14. Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. Cupar Sheriff Court. (1877). SC20/ 50/ 50. ScotlandsPeople website.
  15. Dundee Choral Society Honorary Members. Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
  16. Post Office Dundee Directory, 1861-62. p.160. National Library of Scotland website.
  17. Montrose, Arbroath & Brechin Review. 18 September 1868. p.7. British Newspaper Archive website.
  18. Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 22 May 1846. p.5. British Newspaper Archive website.
  19. Montrose, Arbroath & Brechin Review. 18 September 1868. p.7. British Newspaper Archive website.
  20. Dundee Evening Telegraph. 8 April 1877. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
  21. Location: 72 Tay Street. Newport, Wormit & Forgan Archives website.
  22. Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Deaths. (1850). 282/ 280  p.317. ScotlandsPeople website.
  23. Grace's Guide to British Industrial History website.
  24. Warden, Alexander Johnston. (1864). The Linen Trade Ancient and Modern. London, Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green, p.754.
  25. Hollingswood, John. (1862). The International Exhibition of 1862. The illustrated catalogue of the Industrial Department, British Division. Her Majesty's Commissioners, London.
  26. Newport, Wormit & Forgan Archives website.
  27. Testamentary Records. Cupar. 1877. Calendar of Confirmation and Inventories. Ancestory website.

The information above about William Kerr 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.