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Industrial Revolution: 1770s to 1830s

Industry and Technology

Food, Drink and Tobacco

By Ian Donnachie

George Oswald By this period more than half of the British tobacco trade was concentrated on the Clyde and at its peak in 1771 over 47 million lbs. weight of tobacco was imported to Scotland. This was very much an entrepĂ´t trade, i.e. the bulk was re-exported to Europe and consumed mainly as snuff. Until the American War of Independence (1775-83) reduced the tobacco trade, fortunes were made by the Tobacco Lords whose enterprise is commemorated by many street names, such as Glassford, Oswald, Virginia and Jamaica Streets. The more astute merchants began switching their investments into activities in land or other consumer industries.

Tait's Directory p66 Industrialisation and the rapid growth of population generated increasing demand for food and drink. Food remained largely unprocessed, sold fresh directly to consumers by shopkeepers supplied from the city markets. But it was Glasgow's drink trades that pioneered mass-production of consumer products. Glasgow became an important centre of brewing, the leading firm being J & R Tennent which continued a family tradition in the industry dating back to the sixteenth century. The firm, listed in Tait's directory of 1783, began its export trade in the 1790s, mainly to the West Indies and other colonies with Scottish connections. By the time of Pigot's directory in 1825 there were no fewer than twenty-two breweries in the city producing a diverse range of products from table beer to strong ale and porter.

Port Dundas Distilling was another important trade that developed in Glasgow following government efforts in 1784 to encourage legalised distilling in the Scottish Lowlands. Several large-scale enterprises were established, notably by William Menzies at Kirk Street, Gorbals, while John Haig's Dundashill distillery on the Forth & Clyde Canal followed in 1812.

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