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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Industry and Technology

Consumer Goods

By W Hamish Fraser

When Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) visited the city in 1726 he described it as "the emporium of the West of Scotland". In this period Scots came into contact with a huge new range of goods imported from Europe and from an expanding empire. It was a period when something much more recognisable to the modern consumer was developing. The first fixed shops were beginning to appear, although most people still bought at markets, fairs and stalls.

By the 17th century finer quality wool stockings and soft leather shoes were available. Chairs were replacing stools, wall hangings appeared, and even chests of drawers, or "nests of boxes" as they were called. Someone of moderate means might afford a feather-filled mattress for their bed, although straw and hair was more common. Pewter plates were replacing wooden platters. Merchants would occasionally conduct business at a coffee house. There would be little entertaining at home; even the flats of the well-to-do had only one public room. Men usually went to a club in one of the public houses to meet with friends.

In the 18th century clothes and social class continued to be linked. The red gowns of the wealthy tobacco lords were one of the features of the 18th century town, along with their powdered wigs and cocked hats. Their wives might occasionally appear with an elaborate high head-dress, probably of Flanders' lace, and in high-heeled, pointed-toe shoes. Linen production expanded after the union of 1707 and replaced wool as the fabric for gowns and underclothes. Tobacco and sugar came in from the new markets in the American Colonies and in the West Indies. Glass and ceramics were becoming available not just from abroad but from Scottish works. Tea was still a rare luxury, usually served to ladies; men stuck to ale, imported wine or rum punch.

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