Welcome to NBR Wrinklies





Click Here to see a website with more about the History of Rubber.
We are grateful to Kip Atwall the Business manager of the Company
 "Business History" for allowing us to show it here.



To go to the stories please click line below


Crystal Palace London North British Rubber Shoes Boots Late 1800's


Head Office Future Plans


NBR Centenary Report 1856-1956

Norman McBeath IMPRINTS


Future Plans for NBRC head office building


1920 Picture of Fountainbridge


Changing Face of Fountainbridge


Photos - The Old Factory Area

Pictures from Chambers Street Museum


Sculptured Wellington Boot publicity


Advertisements from 20's

Trench Boots from First World War


Paris Office advert 1924

1924 postcard
from the British Empire Exhibition, near

the Gate of Harmony

Castle Mills building receives £5m Heritage Lottery Grant

Find a small NBR Badge


A New Use for the Rubber Building

Castle Mills 1920's

Castle Mills Today

WEBA Golf Club

James Sykes and family who worked for NBR in the 19th Century
Technical advert  from 1862
Did the name come from Vulcanite ??
The Industries of Scotland--Rubber
War memorial now in Museum in Chambers Street
Portobello Power Station with NBR Conveyor belting
WEBA History
Give it some Welly

This firm supports the Hearts 
Latest on Memories of Margaret Donaldson

Memories of Margaret Donaldson

Two Articles with adverts from the Times of 1916
1860 Presentation to the founder of NBR --H L Norris

Works Fire brigade 1949

CastleMills Circa 1909

180 Long Service Workers Castle Mills --1915

NBR War Memorial at Museum

India Rubber Works Magazine --1909

Latest Situation on War Memorial

Edinburgh had a bus service before London
1957 Annual Report

Evening News article
Rubberized Fabric for the Balloons and airships in WW One

North British Rubber History book
Industry in Fountainbridge
An NBR advertisement -


March 24, 2016Crystal Palace London North British Rubber Shoes Boots Late 1800's

We thank Roy Gutteridge for giving us this photo






November 2, 2015


Head Office Future Plans




October 5, 2015


Copies of the report of the North British Rubber Centenary 1856 - 1956

Click Links below to read this report.


Title Page and Letter to Stockholders

Romance of Rubber

In War Time

A Short History of NBR part 1

A Short History of NBR part 2 

American Origins of a Scottish Industry



September 3, 2015


Edinburgh Printmakers

Norman McBeath. IMPRINTS
12 - 27 September 2015

We would like to invite you and your guests to the Preview of the exhibition ‘IMPRINTS’ by Norman McBeath on  Friday 11 September 2015, 6 - 8pm.

A new folio of ten photogravures by Norman McBeath commissioned by Edinburgh Printmakers as part of its exciting programme of artworks responding to the significant social and industrial heritage of Castle Mill Works; the former North British Rubber Company HQ, in the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh. A poetic and intimate portrait of Castle Mill Works as it stands before work begins to transform what was once part of a powerhouse of manufacturing and technical innovation, into Edinburgh Printmakers’ future home, opening in 2018.

IMPRINTS will be exhibited by Edinburgh Printmakers at St Brides Community Centre in October, alongside workers’ stories, artefacts and other fascinating memorabilia gathered through related community engagement activities.  For more information email Hannah Rye on communitylearning@edinburghprintmakers.co.uk or phone 0131 557 2479.

Galleries open Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 6pm   Closed Monday and Sunday. Admission is free.
If you require assistance with physical access or interpretation, please contact us prior to your visit.

23 Union Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3LR
T 0131 557 2479
E info@edinburghprintmakers.co.uk

Edinburgh Printmakers is a non-profit-distributing company with charitable status registered in Scotland registration number 044723, Scottish Charity registered number SC009015.


August 27, 2015

Future Plans for NBRC head office building

"The charitable organisation Edinburgh Printmakers has secured a grant of almost £5m from the Heritage Lottery to refurbish the former North British Rubber Company (NBRC), later Uniroyal, Head Office at Gilmore Park and turn it into a centre for excellence in printmaking and creative production. The current aim is to open the resulting arts centre to the public in the Autumn of 2018.

In working towards this goal the charity is actively collecting information on the history of the building. As part of this process a NBRC Heritage Sharing meeting was held upon the canal boat 'Lochrin Belle' moored at the Lochrin Basin within sight of the former factory on Friday 7th August. Attendees included former employees of the NBRC/Uniroyal and other parties with a direct interest in the building, both past and present.

Representing the NBRinklies were Richard Bell, John Campbelton and Bruce Stewart. Also present were Mrs June Ritchie and Dr David Ritchie whose husband/father, Mr K M Ritchie, worked in the NBRC Laboratory.

The following photos were taken throughout the meeting."




March 27, 2015


1920 Picture of Fountainbridge


We have been talking about change - but here is a reminder of what it was in 1920

at the east end of Fountainbridge.  Thank you to Andy Wanstall for this picture.





March 27, 2015

Changing Face of Fountainbridge



March 15, 2015


Photos - March 15, 2015 - The Old Factory Area


1 Head Office Building as seen from Fountainbride/Dundee Street

2 Head Office Building facing Gilmore Park

3 Head Office Doorway

4  South facing of Head Office Building around the corner from
Gilmore Park

5 Rear of Head Office Building

6 7 and 8 Photos all taken across from former factory site from Viewforth






March 24, 2015

We have to thank Bruce Stewart for these photos below taken at the Museum in Chambers Street

just to the right of the NBR Roll of Honour a 'glass' case which contains the medals, including 
the Victoria Cross, won by Piper Daniel Laidlaw VC at the Battle of Loos in 1915. The VC is
 one of the highlighted exhibits in the Museum and it attracts a lot of viewers with the NBRC
 memorial being immediately next to the medals







March 7 2015

 Feed  News
War efforts from rubber factory remembered in new sculpture

War efforts from rubber factory remembered in new sculpture

Brightly coloured architecture sur
rounds a singular black Wellington boot.

On a small square within the Bainfield halls of residence, the new sculpture lies.

  (© STV)
via STV via STV

The boot, which is based on the modern Wellington boot, has fallen on its side to reveal a footprint modelled on the original First World War hobnail boot.

  (© STV)
via STV via STV

An imprint on the war and the local community

The boot lies in the centre of a block of student accommodation, land which was once home to The North British Rubber Company.

Established in 1856, the factory was for a long period of time, one of the largest employers in Edinburgh. At one point, it has 8000 people working in the development and manufacturing of Wellington boots, car tyres, hot-water bottles, and even traffic cones.

via STV via STV

A new sculpture has been revealed to remember the soldiers lost during conflict and recognise the efforts factory workers at the former North British Rubber Company had during both wars, especially during the First World War when the factory made millions of pairs of rubber boots for the British Army, which in turn helped to reduce trench foot.

via STV via STV

Artists Maja Quille and Svetlana Kondakova were commissioned by Edinburgh Napier University to create the sculpture, and have been working on the piece of public art for the last six months.

  (© Kondakova & Quille)
via STV via STV

This is the second sculpture for the pair in the area following the installation of the nearby ‘Tree of Knowledge’ in 2014, with the pair leaning on local group NBR Wrinklies to build the narrative around the art.

“Every decision we took mattered,” Maja, 34, said. “We did a lot of research about the rubber factory and found the Wellington boot so interesting given the significance it had during World War One.

  (© Kondakova & Quille)
via STV via STV
  (© Kondakova & Quille)
via STV via STV
  (© Kondakova & Quille)
via STV via STV

“When we spoke to NBR Wrinklies, we realised the rubber factory was really important not just to the area but also that most people who worked there, really enjoyed working there so we thought it was important to commemorate that. It left an imprint on the area.

“We found a picture in an old army book so we made an exact replica then scaled it up. We then had a structural engineer who worked with us to make sure it was totally safe then we created it in steel and had it galvanised and powder coated and the imprints were stone carved.”

The Edinburgh College of Art graduates created the commission at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop in Newhaven and were delighted when a large crowd of students watched as the installation was moved to its new home.

Hundreds of student rooms look out onto the circle grass centre from the newly-built accommodation and Maja says she feels it is fitting to have a reminder about the historic significance the area previously held.

  (© STV)
via STV via STV

“We went on site quite a lot of times - we wanted something that was in style and not too stark a difference to where we were putting it, but we also wanted it to represent the First World War and have a clear link to that," Maya said.

“It was trying to walk the balance between old and new. It was about remembering.”

  (© STV)






February 24, 2015


Some Advertisements from the 1920's



February 18 2015

Trench Boots

A new structure has been unveiled to

commemorate an Edinburgh factory which saved thousands of soldiers from trench foot during World War One.

The North British Rubber Company, which stood for decades beside the Union Canal in Fountainbridge, made rubber boots for the British Army from 1914.

The boots helped to prevent trench foot.

Now two city artists have created a special sculpture on the site of the former manufacturing plant.

Artists Svetlana Kondakova and Maja Quille's work is titled 'Imprint'.

Ms Kondakova, 25, said: "The artwork is contemporary in its aesthetics and construction, but also addresses important historical events.

"The sculpture symbolically bridges the past and present, and mirrors the way the factory left its mark on the local and national landscape.

"In order to highlight the impact of the industrial boom of the 19th century in this area, the boot is based on First World War military aesthetics and finished with rivets. This also links the sculpture to local industrial structures like the Leamington Lift Bridge, which stands to this day on the Grand Union Canal."

Ms Quille, 34, said: "The print revealed by the removal of the boot also brings to mind the progression of developments in the area, referencing how new things arise from the old."
Welly boot sculpture

Artists Svetlana Kondakova and Maja Quille's work is titled 'Imprint'

November 17 2014

A photo of the Company factory in 1924 at Castle Mills Thanks to Roy Gutteridge

From the Paris Office of NBR and it's all in French

October 29 2014

Here are two pictures supplied by Roy Gutteridge ( he purchased them on E-Bay ) We are most
grateful for Roy's efforts and enthusiasm to keep the memory of NBR alive

He has been ably assisted by Martin Hale. I think at one stage they were bidding against each other

We look forward to more


The description on the back of the card tells the whole story--it all happened 90 years ago





 April 4, 2014


Castle Mills building receives £5m Heritage Lottery Grant



The factory famously made over one million wellington boots for British soldiers serving in World War One


The birthplace of the modern Wellington boot is to be turned into an arts centre with a Heritage Lottery Fund
(HLF) grant of almost £5m.


The former headquarters of the North British Rubber Company, at Castle Mills in Edinburgh, is the last

standing reminder of the city's rubber mill.


India rubber was used to create wellington boots for soldiers in the trenches in World War One.


The grant aims to try to regenerate the area as a creative hub in the city.


Build in stages between 1856 and 1897 beside the Union Canal, Castle Mills has a strong industrial heritage

which played a central role in Edinburgh's development and economy.


'Empty and neglected'


At it's peak, the North British Rubber Company employed 8,000 people and covered a 20 acre site.  Even

as late as the 1950's, it was the city's largest industry employing over 3,000 people.


Now on the Buildings at Risk register, the Fountainbridge plant was famous for producing modern car tyres

and pioneering the use of India rubber to make wellington boots, supplying 1.2m pairs to soldiers in the WWI

to help them deal with the flooded conditions of the trenches.


The grant from the Heritage Lottery fund will be used to build/turn the listed building into a modern visual

arts centre incorporating a printmakers, art centre, cafe and learning centre.


Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "Castle Mills was once at the heart of a thriving

community but now stands empty and neglected and whilst much-loved, its restoration presents huge

financial challenges.


"We are delights to be able to help unlock it's potential so that it can once again be a centre for new ideas and

productivity and a catalyst in the regeneration of Fountainbridge."


HLF also awarded a grant of £500,000 to assist Edinburgh Printmakers in developing the project to the next

stage of application process.




December 17, 2013

Find a small NBR badge about Randolph Turpin

The Editor received this e-mail shown below about a badge and the sender
Roger Sims wondered  if anyone with NBR connections has one squirreled
away and Roger, might hopefully catch a glimpse of it again.

Please read Rogers e-mail and if you can help please advise the editor at Editornbrinklies@aol.com


I'm writing to you after finding the NBRC Wrinklies website with a
schoolboy's recollection of one small aspect of your company's history . . . 

Back in the 1950s, as a young lad in South Wales, I followed my father's interest in boxing. In those days the newspapers that fell through the letterbox were the News Chronicle and the Daily Herald and we read of upcoming title fights through the words of boxing correspondents such as the Herald's Tom Phillips and, on the weekend, The News of the World's Frank Butler, both of whom I would get to meet 20 years or so later when I went to work in Fleet Street.

But back to the Fifties and the days when the name Randolph Turpin was on everyone's lips and either the Chronicle or the Herald, in conjunction with a British company, started a fan club and my dad enrolled me. When my membership arrived, with a picture of Turpin, there was also a badge which I treasured. My memory says it was enamel, maybe green and black, and that the North British Rubber Company were his proud backers.

Your company name came back to this wrinklie last evening and today I have looked through your site for a possible connection with Turpin and maybe, a picture of that much-loved badge. Perhaps one of your contributors has one squirreled away and I might catch a glimpse of it again. Thank you too for keeping our industrial past alive.

Regards, Roger Sims 





November 1 2013

A New Use for the Rubber Building

Edinburgh Printmakers have exciting plans to create a new cultural hub within the former NRBC headquarters in Gilmore Park which brings past and future together and will attract thousands of visitors to the area. They are looking to build a world-class centre of excellence for printmaking. The centre will house open access printmaking facilities, public galleries for contemporary art, a shop selling prints, books and contemporary crafts, a café, studios for artists and affordable office provision for creative enterprise start-ups. Edinburgh Printmakers’ programme will deliver high quality exhibitions, talks and lectures, education courses and workshops for all ages and abilities. For more information visit our website: www.edinburghprintmakers.co.uk

As a semi-industrial creative activity, printmaking is an artform that needs a certain kind of building: the former NBRC building fits these needs very well. It also continues a centuries’ old tradition of printing in the area. In restoring the building for cultural use there is also an opportunity to influence the design to tell the remarkable story of the North British Rubber Company and its links to the area’s wider social history and heritage.

It is still early days in development terms but already Edinburgh Printmakers’ proposals have received widespread support from Edinburgh Council, Creative Scotland, Heritage Lottery and FountainbridgeCanalside Initiative board.

Edinburgh Printmakers are currently researching and assessing the heritage value of the building as part of their fund raising plan. They have appointed independent historical researcher and interpreter Elspeth Wills to assist them. The NBrinklies website has already provided her with a wealth of information about the plant and the people who worked there. She would love to hear from you if you have any memories of working or visiting Gilmore Park or of living in the Fountainbridge/Gorgie/Dalry area.

Elspeth can be contacted at Elspeth Wills Research, 3 Browns Place, Edinburgh EH1 2HX Tel 0131 226 6659 email eandmwills@btinternet.com



April 30 2013


A photo of Castle Mills from the early 20's



January 28, 2013


Castle Mills Today

Richard Bell kindly took these photographs of the old site as it is today and made the following remarks:

"The Council have all but cleared the whole site from the East Mill to Gilmore Park, from Gilmore Park

(South Mill entrance) to Viewforth and from Viewforth to Dundee Street (the host plant site).

They have started building a Secondary school on the hose plant site.

All that is left standing is the Head office building on the corner of Gilmore Park and Fountainbridge.

I can't stop harping on about preserving the Gateway into the South Mill as it's gone,

so has Willie Cunningham's lab.


1/  The Head Office Doorway


2/   Looking up Gilmore Park towards the canal


3/   Looking down Gilmore Park


4/ From the bridge at Viewforth the South Mill Site 

5/  Only Head Office left standing


6/  Same, just showing the Canal

"Some photos of the old Castle Mills site as it is today, our thanks to Richard Bell for his photos and comment  to view etc"




June 18, 2012

WEBA Golf Club 

 WEBA Golf Club was founded in 1886 for the staff of the North British Rubber Company.
There were a number of Trophies to play for and this tie which was found by Sandy Kay in his tie rack.
His daughter Marie kindly scanned and copied it and sent  it to the Editor

 It was reported in one of the NB News when Foster Stewart was MD that it was an older Club than any in the USA. 

Hopefully when the articles of history of the Company are finally in the Dumfries County Museum we will have access
and hopefully more information will be found

  March 26 2012

Here is a story about the those who worked hard  to create  NBR and make it a legend in it's time

James Sykes
1855 - 1900

The Great Grandson of a Rubber Worker at Castle Mills, John M F Sykes tells us he has been digging into the history of his family.  John has found that his Great Grandfather James Sykes who was from Eastoft Yorkshire worked at Castle Mills from approximately pre 1881 until 1900. John found this information from the 1881 census. James lived in the St Cuthberts area of Edinburgh at the time of the Census

In addition John has now found that James’s son also called James, worked at the Mill starting in 1895 at the age of 15.

John then tells us that a number of relatives who were married into the Sykes family worked at Castle Mills They were Robert Tulloch, Martha Goodfellow. & her father, William Gray Goodfellow plus the Heywood family. 

John today lives in Canberra Australia and has enjoyed reading about the work his Great Grandfather did at the North British Rubber Company’s Castle Mills Factory in Edinburgh Scotland

February 5 2012


Below is a part of an advertisement in a Technical Journal telling of the goodness of 
NBR Products It would appear that the date was 1862

November 17 2011

Did the name come from Vulcanite ?

Robert Forsyth has been trying to research the life of his grandfather. In so doing he has trying to find out the origins of the
Vulcan Cycling Club. It would appear that the name Vulcanite could well have come from the NBR Vulcanite company which was operating around the turn of the 20th century in the Edinburgh area. Robert’s comments about the relationship with the Heart of Midlothian Football Club are very informative of the history of the enjoyment employees of that time had using the hearts facilities. Please read on :

Robert said
I came across your most interesting website by chance and I wondered whether you may possibly be able to help me? I am undertaking some serious research into the life of my grandfather, Thomas Forsyth, who was born in Broxburn in 1885. As a young man, he (and his brother) used to cycle for the Vulcan Cycling Club, and won several prizes and trophies for the club between 1903-1907. I have endeavoured to find more about the club, but this has proved very difficult! It has been suggested to me that the club was known as ‘Vulcan’ after a type of bicycle, but this seems to be incorrect.

Recently, I have been in touch with the historian of the Heart of Midlothian FC, who has advised me: ‘There are no books in the club archive relating to The Vulcan Cycle Club, but I can confirm from Hearts income records that the cyclists rented the track on a regular basis from around July 1903 until it was removed in 1907. Hearts did have a long connection with the North British Rubber Works and this company did have a vulcanite operation at Fountainbridge, near Tynecastle. The company regularly rented Tynecastle for sports; football; and fetes. It would not surprise me if the Vulcan CC was connected to the works as it had other sporting groups.’

I have some photographs of my grandfather with his trophies and prizes (some of which survive), as well as a photo of members of the club. As an aside, Thomas’ elder brother, William, who was also a member of the Vulcan Club, broke the motorcycle speed record between John O’Groats and Edinburgh in 1910!
‘Tommy’ left Scotland around 1910, after being a pupil at George Watson’s College followed by an apprenticeship at John Croall’s, the coachbuilders in Edinburgh. After a spell in England as a chauffeur, he found his way to Egypt working for the Royal Arsenal, but where he eventually made his fortune as a representative for several leading British companies in North Africa and the Middle East. My mother (his eldest daughter) was born in Cairo and spent the first 17 years of her life there, while my industrious grandfather built up his burgeoning businesses. From the extensive collection of family photos taken in Egypt between 1914-1956, they seemed to have enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle on ‘the edge of empire’. Unfortunately however, much of his fortune was lost at the time of the Suez Crisis in 1956. ‘Tommy’ died in England in the mid-1960s.

Below is the photo of the group
Ultimately, I am hoping to produce a publication on Tommy’s life for my family.

Robert  Forsyth
West Sussex


The Editor comments that if anyone can throw any light on this can they please get in touch with Robert whose e-mail is forsyth@chevronpublishing.co.uk


Below is an article from Electric Scotland.com --a fascinating organisation
             showing many industries apart from Rubber

February 21 2011
The Industries of Scotland
Manufactures in India Rubber

IN the year 1735 M. de la Condamine, who had been sent to South America by the French Government on a scientific mission, communicated to the Academy of Sciences at Paris an account of a resinous substance collected from certain kinds of trees, which was used by the natives of Brazil for various purposes, such as making boots, syringes, bottles, and vessels of different kinds for containing liquors. M. Condamine stated that he had found the substance useful in forming waterproof coverings, which were made by simply coating canvas with the liquid as it exuded from the trees. That was the first intimation received in Europe of the existence of caoutchouc, or, as it is more commonly called, india-rubber, a material now extensively employed in the arts. It was first brought to England about a century ago; and a treatise on perspective drawing by Dr Priestley, published in London in 1770, contains the earliest reference to its introduction and application to a useful purpose in this country. Dr Priestley says,—" I have seen a substance excellently adapted to the purpose of wiping from paper the marks of a black-lead pencil. It must, therefore, be of singular use to those who practise drawing. It is sold by Mr Nairne, mathematical instrument maker, opposite the Royal Exchange. He sells a cubical piece of about half-an-inch for three shillings, and he says it will last for several years." It was from the property it possesses of removing pencil-marks that the name of india-rubber was given to it. 11r Thomas Hancock, in his interesting "Personal Narrative of the Origin and Progress of Caoutchouc or India-rubber Manufactured in England," says that the substance came first into notice in this country in the shape of bottles and animals, that it was sold at the rate of a guinea an ounce, and was used for rubbing out pencil-marks. Up till about the year 1820 it was applied to no other purpose.

Mr Hancock was the pioneer of the manufacture of india-rubber, and it has been said truly that few departments of manufacture have owed more to the ingenious contrivances of one man than that of india-rubber owes to him. Mr Hancock became impressed with the idea that a substance possessing such peculiar qualities as india-rubber might be made available for other purposes than removing pencil-marks, and in 1819 he began to make experiments. He first tried to dissolve the rubber, expecting that it might become useful in a liquid form; but his attempts were not satisfactory. He then took to cutting the rubber into thin bands, and in 1820 obtained a patent for the application of these to articles of dress in the form of braces, garters, &c. In cutting the rubber into suitable shapes a large proportion had to be cast aside as useless parings. Mr Hancock's next care was to devise means whereby such waste might be avoided, and after several failures he succeeded in constructing a machine which kneaded the scraps into a solid mass. This machine he called a " masticator," apparently out of respect to the process by which schoolboys reduce to the consistency of putty the India-rubber which they assert to be an essential part of their academical equipment. The machine consisted of a cylinder and casing, both furnished with spikes which tore the rubber into shreds. During the operation sufficient heat was generated to cause the shreds to amalgamate, and thus fresh blocks were formed. The masticator was the first machine applied to the manufacture of india-rubber. From 1820 till 1847 Mr Hancock continued his researches with a wonderful degree of success, and in that time obtained no fewer than fourteen patents. Almost simultaneously with Mr Hancock, the late Mr George Macintosh, of Glasgow, began to make experiments with india-rubber, and discovered that naphtha, obtained from coal tar, had the power of dissolving the rubber. The solution thus obtained he applied to cloth, which was thereby rendered waterproof. In 1824 he took out a patent for the manufacture of "waterproof," made by cementing two folds of cloth together by means of the solution. Coats made of that material, and bearing the name of the inventor, soon became famous. Mr Macintosh formed a partnership in Manchester, and began to manufacture waterproof garments, &c., on an extensive scale. The firm thus created still exists, and their productions are widely known. Mr Hancock worked some of his inventions in conjunction with Mr Macintosh, and ultimately entered the partnership.

Encouraged by the success which had attended the researches of Messrs Hancock and Macintosh, many persons took to experimenting with india-rubber, and the result was a rapid increase in the variety of its applications. Mechanicians hailed the rubber as a sort of missing link in their code of materials for machine-making; and such was the rage for introducing it, that it was frequently found in most unsuitable positions. Now it forms an essential part of many machines, and even the steam-engine has been rendered more perfect in its action by the introduction of rubber valves and stuffing. The manufacture attracted attention in America soon after it had been brought to a degree of perfection in this country, and many novel applications of the substance have had their origin in the United States. Mr Goodyear, an American gentleman, has had a career in connection with the manufacture of india-rubber somewhat akin to, though less brilliant, than that of Mr Hancock in England, and both made independently one of the most wonderful discoveries bearing on the treatment of caoutchouc. The great obstacles to a more extended use of india-rubber were the clammy adhesiveness of the substance, its liability to be affected by changes of temperature, and its sensitiveness to oil and grease. Mr Hancock had tried to remove these obstacles, but without success, until the year 1843, when he discovered the vulcanising process. In 1842 Mr Goodyear sent an agent to this country offering for sale the secret of a mode whereby the desired qualities could be imparted to the rubber; but as no explanation of the process was allowed to be made until after purchase, the agent returned without accomplishing his purpose. Mr Hancock saw some of the specimens which had been sent over, and became convinced of the practicability of changing the nature of the rubber. He thereupon renewed his experiments, and in the course of a year had solved the problem, and protected his process of vulcanising by a patent.

The increase which has taken place in the consumption of india-rubber during the past forty years may be seen from the following statement of the quantities imported into Britain in various years:—

Granada, and the price ranges from L.120 to L.260 a-ton. The value of the raw and manufactured rubber exported annually now amounts to nearly L.1,000,000. Our best customers are France and -- Australia.
Two of the largest and finest manufactories of india-rubber in the world are situated in Edinburgh; and a description of these, and the operations conducted in them, will illustrate the nature and capabilities of caoutchouc. The establishments stand near each other on the bank of the Union Canal, on the south-west side of the city, and belong respectively to the North British Rubber Company and the Scottish Vulcanite Company (Limited).

In the year 1855 an enterprising American gentleman brought to Edinburgh the machinery and capital necessary for an india-rubber manufactory, and organised the North British Rubber Company. Possession was acquired of the fine buildings known as the Castle Mills, which had been erected at Fountainbridge as a silk manufactory, and had long stood vacant, owing to the projectors not having succeeded to their expectations. The establishment consists of two large blocks of five floors each, and a number of subsidiary buildings.

The india-rubber arrives at the manufactory in various shapes, according to the mode in which it is collected by the natives of the different countries which produce it. The finest qualities generally come in the shape of curiously formed bottles, and the coarser kinds in roughly kneaded balls about four or five inches in diameter. It is no unusual thing to find stones and other heavy substances mixed with the rubber, for the collectors have learned the art of adulteretion. The rubber is carefully examined with a view to the detection of deleterious substances before it is subjected to the processes of manufacture. After being softened by steeping in hot water, the rubber is passed through the breaking and cleaning machines. The first of these consists of two strongly-mounted iron cylinders, one of which is grooved diagonally, while the other has a smooth surface. The balls of rubber are fed in between the cylinders, which crush them out into thin pieces. These pieces are then operated upon by a machine similar to the first, except that both cylinders are smooth. The rubber is sent through again and again until it is thoroughly broken and assumes the form of a web. If it be desired to reduce it still further, the rubber is sent through a third set of rollers. On examining the stuff as it comes from the breaking-machine, it is seen, especially in the case of lower qualities, to contain a mixture of bark, leaves, and other foreign matter; and it is to rid it of these that the washing or cleaning machines are employed. Such is the adhesive nature of the material, that it would be impossible to break or clean it in a dry state, and consequently jets of water are made to flow on the rubber and cylinders when the machines referred to are in operation. The water, besides carrying off the impurities set free by the action of the rollers, causes the rubber to assume a granulated appearance, and, under the pressure of the cylinders, it is formed into a web. Simple though this process appears to be, it is thoroughly effective in purifying the rubber. The webs of washed rubber, which are made only three or four yards long, are taken to a drying-room, where they are hung up in a warm atmosphere for several weeks.

From the drying-room the rubber is taken to "the mill," which occupies two entire floors of the principal block. The floors are covered by machines of the most powerful construction; for the rubber is stubborn stuff, and submits only to a degree of force that would destroy almost any other non-metallic substance. The grinding-machines, to the operation of which the rubber is next subjected, consist of two cylinders, one of which is slightly heated by steam, and the webs formed by the washing-machines are kept revolving round and round the cylinders until all appearance of granulation disappears and the stuff becomes quite plastic. At this stage the rubber has incorporated with it sulphur, or other chemical substances, which determine its ultimate character, and is then made up into rolls of seven or eight pounds each. There are steam-pipes through all the place, which prevent the rubber from becoming hard again until it receives its final shape.

The further treatment of the rubber depends on the purpose to which it is to be applied. To produce articles of solid rubber, the material is rolled out into sheets of various thicknesses, which are by subsequent operations brought into the desired shape. The company do an extensive trade in shoes, and a considerable portion of the machinery in the mill is devoted to the preparation of the materials used in that department. Large quantities of waterproof fabric are also made, and several machines are employed in. spreading the rubber on cloth for that purpose. Some of the cloth used is silk, but more commonly calico constitutes the base. It must be of even texture, and free from knots; and in order to ensure that it is so, it is carefully examined and picked before being placed on the spreading-machines. These machines consist of a series of metal rollers, one of which takes up a supply of rubber and transfers it to the cloth. No solvent is employed in this process, the rubber being simply softened by the heated cylinders of the machines. Driving- belts and hose are composed of layers of canvas impregnated with rubber forced into the texture under immense pressure. The preparation of the canvas is among the operations conducted in the mill.

There is great variety in the goods produced; and as the appliances required in the production of each kind are special, the manufactory is divided into a number of departments, each with a distinct set of workpeople. One of the upper floors of the main building is occupied by the shoemakers. This department is to the casual visitor, perhaps, the most interesting in the establishment. Boots and shoes of all sizes are made; but the articles most in demand are the galoshes which ladies wear over their boots. Four classes of operatives are employed in completing a shoe from the materials as they are sent in from the mill. The first of these are the cutters, who shape the soles, uppers, &c., with great rapidity. They spread out before them a web of prepared cloth, or a sheet of rubber, and laying thereon a metal pattern, cut round it with a sharp-pointed knife The linings are shaped in a different way. A number of folds of the cloth are laid one over the other, and cut in a hydraulic press by means of a die. All the work up to this stage is done by men. Ten pieces of cloth and rubber are required to make one shoe, and as the parts are cut out they are transferred to young women, who coat the edges of some of them with a solution of india-rubber, and pass them on to the upmakers, all of whom are young women. The rapidity with which the pieces are put together is astonishing. The women sit at long tables, over the top of each of which is an iron rack for holding the lasts. In order that they may withstand the heat to which they are subjected while the shoes are being vulcanised, the lasts are made of cast iron. Taking one of the lasts from the rack, the operative rests it partly on the table and partly on her knees, and lays the pieces on one after the other, rubbing each smooth with a small roller. No stitching is required, the adhesive power of the rubber and solution being sufficient to bind the parts together. An expert worker has turned out as many as seventy pairs a-day; but at the usual rate of working from thirty to forty pairs a-day may be taken as the average. The productive power of the establishment is equal to making 7000 pairs a-day, or upwards of 2,000,000 pairs a-year. As the work goes on the shoes are collected by men and taken to the varnishing shop, where they are coated with a liquid which gives them a smooth and glossy appearance. They are then arranged in a travelling framework of iron and placed in the vulcanising chamber or stove, from which they are brought forth ten or twelve hours after ready for use.

On another floor are the makers of coats, leggings, cushions, bags, &c. The drab or cream-coloured overcoats for India are the finest articles of clothing made in the establishment, and for lightness, durability, and elegance are unsurpassed. The cloth is cut by men, and the parts are put together by young women, who employ a mode of joining them that is more expeditious than the sewing-machine. All the seams are formed by cementing the edges with "solution," and then overlaying them with a fillet of rubber. When the coats are completed they are placed in the vulcanising chamber, and there undergo a change which prevents heat or cold from having any effect upon them. As made by the old process, india-rubber waterproof coats lost their elasticity in frost, and got so soft under the influence of heat that it was no unusual thing to find that a coat which had been folded away during the summer had actually melted and become useless by the softened surfaces adhering together. No such mishap can befall a coat made by the process adopted by the North British Rubber Company. The mode in which leggings, travelling-bags, and other articles of that kind are made need not be described, as it closely resembles that by which shoes and overcoats are produced.

The mechanical applications of india-rubber are numerous and varied, and the importance of the material in this respect is daily increasing. Its use in the form of carriage-springs was patented so early as 18223 but little farther progress in that direction was made until about ten or fifteen years ago, when rubber began to be employed extensively in the shape of tubes, springs, washers, driving- belts, valves, tires for wheels, &c., the making of which now constitutes an important branch of manufacture. The North British Rubber Company have paid much attention to the development of this section of their trade; and the mechanical department occupies one of the main blocks of their factory. As already stated, the base of hose-pipes and driving-belts is composed of canvas impregnated with rubber. Though known as india-rubber belts, the chief part of these articles consists of canvas, the quantity of rubber used being merely what is sufficient to fill up the texture of the cloth, make the respective folds adhere firmly, and form a shield or wrapper to confine the whole and protect it from moisture. The canvas having been pre¬. pared in the mill is cut into stripes of the desired width, and two, three, or four stripes are laid one over the other, and made to adhere by being passed between pressing rollers. The shield or envelope is then put on. It consists of canvas similar to what constitutes the core, but one side of it bears a strong coating of rubber. The wrapping completely surrounds the core, and the edges of it are firmly united by an overlapping fillet fixed with solution. The completed belt looks like a piece of solid rubber, but its strength is infinitely greater—in fact, a belt made of rubber alone would be almost useless in transmitting power on account of its elasticity. The belts are made in lengths of 300 feet, and of various breadths and thicknesses, but there is no practical limit to the dimensions. Hose and other pipes are made in a somewhat similar way. They are formed on mandrels, and have a coating of rubber both inside and out. A pipe one inch in diameter, composed of four folds of canvas with the usual proportion of rubber, will bear a pressure equal to 1000 lb. on the square inch. Suction pipes, which have to be so constructed as to withstand the atmospheric pressure, have a layer of wire inserted into them. The wire is spun into a spiral form on a machine, and the tubemaker, after covering the mandrel with a rubber lining, puts on the wire and fills up the interstices with soft rubber. The canvas and wrapper are then applied. The vulcanising ingredients having been incorporated with the rubber in the mill, all that now remains to be done in order to complete the work is to place it in an oven, so that the heat and cold resisting powers of the rubber may be developed. Among the uses to which india-rubber has been recently applied may be mentioned the formation of rollers for lithographic and calico-printers and paper-makers, insulators for telegraphs, and cells for galvanic batteries, all of which purposes it suits exceedingly well. The other articles produced in the mechanical department are too numerous and their purposes too varied for enumeration; but one piece of work merits notice on account of its novelty and unprecedented size. Mention has been made of the road steamer invented by Mr R. W. Thomson, of Edinburgh, and the new application of india-rubber embodied therein. The peculiarity of Mr Thomson's carriage is that the tires of the wheels are composed of huge rings of vulcanised rubber. The tires were made by the North British Rubber Company, and are the largest pieces of the material ever manufactured, each tire weighing 750 lb.

India-rubber is admirably suited for door-mats, which are made by piercing thick sheets or slabs of rubber in geometrical patterns. A new variety of mat has just been produced, into which the name or monogram of the owner is introduced. The forms in which india-rubber is most widely known are those of elastic-cords, ribbons, and webs, and in that department of the manufacture a number of hands are employed at the Castle Mills. The rubber is cut by machinery into threads, which are then, having been deprived of their elasticity by a simple process, either braided singly or woven with cotton and silk yarns in a ribbon-loom. The looms in the weaving shop are each capable of weaving eight ribbons of elastic at a time. The braiding-machines are beautiful pieces of mechanism. The thread of rubber is held in a vertical position, while a series of bobbins move round it, and round each other in an exceedingly curious way. Thus the rubber is enclosed in a casing of silk or cotton, which protects it from abrasion, and renders it applicable to a thousand useful purposes.

The company employ 600 workpeople in their establishment, but in the preparation of the cloth, thread, &c., used in the manufacture, as many more are employed in an indirect way. The health and comfort of the operatives are carefully provided for. All the women are paid by piece. In no department can it be said that the labour is heavy, and the work assigned to the women is peculiarly suited to them.

The Scottish Vulcanite Company (Limited) was formed in 1861 by a number of shareholders in the North British Rubber Company, but the two concerns are quite distinct in every other respect. The company began operations on a small scale under an American patent, and with machinery and instructors brought from America. They built a factory on the bank of the Union Canal near that of the North British Rubber Company, and their machinery was started in 1862. In consequence of the novel nature of the work, many difficulties were encountered at the commencement. A set of workpeople had to be trained, and that was found to be a slow operation, entailing the waste of much material. Under admirable management the company overcame all preliminary difficulties. Their original factory has already had a fourfold increase, and they now employ about 500 persons. The factory consists of a large central block 230 feet in length, and seven smaller detached buildings. The main block has four floors, and the others two floors each. A beautiful engine of 120 horse power, erected in one of the most elegant of engine-rooms, supplies the motive power. Everything required for upholding the establishment is made on the premises by the workmen of the company.

The machines used in breaking, washing, and kneading the rubber are similar to those employed in the North British Company's factory. Only the best quality of rubber is used, and the first process peculiar to the establishment is the conversion of it into "vulcanite" by incorporating with it certain chemical substances, and submitting it to the action of heat in an oven. After the chemicals are put in, the rubber is rolled out into sheets about three yards long, half a yard wide, and of various thicknesses. The sheets are laid on canvas-covered frames or trays, which are piled one above the other until the oven is filled. When the rubber is removed from the oven, it is found to have undergone a complete change. Each sheet is then cut into two, placed between metal plates, and subjected to a greater degree of heat. The effect of this treatment is to convert the rubber—which, when it went into the oven in the first instance, bore a close resemblance to putty—into a hard, black, glistening substance, applicable to a great variety of purposes. The change is a very mysterious one; indeed, in the whole range of chemistry there is scarcely a more wonderful thing than the production of the hard horny substance called "vulcanite" from elements which, in their unmixed state, are so unlike it. The idea of producing such a substance was one that could not have been arrived at by any amount of reasoning on the known properties of caoutchouc and the other ingredients; and unless it had been brought about by accident, it is probable that vulcanite would not yet have been known.

The story of Mr Goodyear, the American manufacturer who invented the process of vulcanisation, is very interesting. After having brought the manufacture of india-rubber to a degree of perfection, he undertook to supply india-rubber mail-bags to the Government. As the substance was then treated, it was not suited for that purpose, and the bags became soft, and failed altogether in a short time. The result was most disastrous to the manufacturer, who was forced to abandon the trade. Mr Goodyear did not despair of discovering a mode of so treating the rubber that it would not be readily affected by heat. He tried to attain his object by mixing certain substances with the rubber. He was in his abandoned factory one day, along with several friends; and after showing them the hopeless product of his experiments, he stood near a stove while he discussed matters with them. He retained in his hand the compound of rubber, &c., which he playfully held against the stove, little dreaming that he was making an experiment that would render his name famous. On removing the rubber, he observed that it had become charred, and was hard and tough like leather. Further experiments completed the discovery, and the fortune of Mr Goodyear took a sudden turn. As already stated, Mr Hancock of London discovered Mr Goodyear's secret, and patented it; but there is no doubt that the vulcanising ingredients were suggested to Mr Hancock by discovering traces of them in some specimens of india-rubber which had been vulcanised by Mr Goodyear.

There are three departments in the Vulcanite Company's factory, which produce respectively combs, jewellery, and miscellaneous articles. In the comb department, the first operation is to convert the sheets of vulcanite into pieces of suitable size, which is expeditiously done by a cutting-machine. The pieces intended for the finest quality of dressing-combs are placed in heated moulds, and have a plain or ornamental rib raised on the back part, which at once increases the strength and improves the appearance of the combs. The slips of vulcanite so formed are then taken to the cutting-room—a large apartment, around which are arranged a number of beautiful little machines for forming the teeth of the combs. Each slip of vulcanite makes two combs, the teeth of one being cut out from between the teeth of the other. The machines are fitted with metallic tables, kept hot by branches from a steam-pipe which passes round the room. A pile of slips are deposited on the heated table, and are thus softened, the operative withdrawing the lowest slip, or that which is most pliable each time he supplies the machine. One slip is operated on at a time, and is laid on a travelling plate, which moves forward under a pair of cutters. The cutters rise and fall with great rapidity, and with the assistance of an expert workman each machine will produce from 130 to 200 dozen combs a-day. When the slips are withdrawn from the machine, the operative, by a dexterous pull, separates the two combs, which, in the soft state to which the material has been reduced, appear utterly useless, looking indeed as if they were made of leather, the teeth being twisted in all directions. A moment's pressure on the hot plate makes all right again; and when the combs cool, they are perfectly straight. Such is the minuteness of the division of labour in the establishment, that after the cutting is completed, the combs have to pass through a dozen departments before they are ready to be sent out. It is not necessary to follow them through all these, but one or two of the principal operations to which they are subjected may be mentioned. The cutting-machine gives a wedge-like point to the teeth; but it is necessary that they should also be tapered on the outer surface. For that purpose the combs are sent to the grinders, who reduce them to the desired shape on a stone. On examining a comb, it will be seen that the teeth are sharpened towards the edge, so that they have a diamond shaped section. The operation by which they are thus sharpened is called "grailing," and is performed by hand, the workmen using a broad file, which they apply with astonishing rapidity and certainty. The backs and ends are rounded on the grinding-stone, and then the combs are "buffed," to give them a smooth surface. They are next washed, dried, and polished, after which they are sent into the packing-room to be examined and packed up. A cheap and strong kind of comb is made with a brass or white metal mounting on the back. The metal is shaped by means of a die, and is attached to the comb by compression and by being clenched at the ends. Fine combs—or, as they are vulgarly called in Scotland, "sma'-teeth combs"—are made in a different way. The vulcanite is formed into plates the size of a comb, rounded at the ends, and thinned towards the edges. The plates are then placed singly into a machine, which cuts the teeth. The department devoted to this branch of the manufacture is situated in an upper room, open only to privileged visitors, as there are certain specialties connected with it which the company have introduced at much cost, and consequently desire to retain to themselves. It may be mentioned, however, that the teeth-cutting machines, of which about fifty are in use, are exceedingly beautiful and ingenious. They are arranged on a long table, and each does not occupy more than the space of one square foot. Each machine consists of two parts—a small circular saw and a travelling carriage, in which the plate of vulcanite is fixed. The carriage has three motions—one forward towards the saw, one backward, and the other from left to right. When a plate is inserted and the machine started, the carriage advances, and one interspace is formed by the saw; it then retires, moves the thick-ness of a tooth to the right, advances again to the saw, and so on. The machine is very rapid in its movements, and can cut the teeth on both sides of a four-inch comb in two minutes. A couple of women keep the machines supplied with plates. The saws, which are little more than two inches in diameter, are sharpened by a self- acting machine peculiar to the establishment. All the machines are driven by steam. Besides dressing and fine combs, a variety of others are made, much taste and ingenuity being expended on ladies' back combs, which are mounted with metal, glass, porcelain, or ornamented with carving, &c., in vulcanite. The company was created chiefly for the purpose of making combs, and that department is the most important in their establishment. No fewer than 24,000 combs are made every day, or about 7,500,000 a-year.

Vulcanite is the only material that has successfully competed with jet for making black jewellery. In appearance it closely resembles jet, and has the advantage of being stronger and cheaper. Dining the past four or five years vulcanite jewellery has attained immense popularity, and the demand for it is rapidly increasing. Owing to the brittle nature of jet it is difficult to work, and articles made of it will always be costly and delicate. Vulcanite, on the other hand, may be readily moulded, carved, or stamped into almost any form. Among the articles of jewellery made of it are ladies' long and Albert chains, necklets, bracelets, gauntlets, buckles, and coronets. The chains are composed of variously shaped links, but the mode in which they are made is alike in all cases. The vulcanite is first cut into slips about eighteen inches in length and one inch in width. It is then taken to a room in which are a number of punching machines worked by girls. The links are punched out at two operations, the first making the opening in the centre, and the second cutting out the circumference. The punched edges are rough; and in order to smooth and polish them the links, after being fixed on an iron rod, are ground down to a standard size, and polished on the "buff" " wheel. They are then ready for being put together, for which purpose they are transferred to women who sit at benches fitted with hot plates. After lying for a few minutes on the plate, the alternate links are cut open at one end with a knife, and these are readily opened and slipped into their neighbours. Many ear-rings are made by combining links in. various ways; links are also introduced into some kinds of back combs, bracelets, &c.

In the miscellaneous goods' department a great variety of articles are made. Owing to the power which vulcanite possesses of resisting the action of acids, it is of much value in the construction of surgical and chemical instruments, and is now being extensively applied in the manufacture of tubes, syringes, flasks, stoppers, &c. A large trade is also done in making vulcanite cells for galvanic batteries. Knife-handles, card-trays, neckties, girdles, and gauntlets are among the other products of the factory. The vulcanite knife- handles are exceedingly pretty, and are superior to ivory, bone, horn, or whalebone handles, in that they cannot be detached from the blade unless they be smashed off, and that they are neither split nor discoloured by immersion in hot water. The card-trays are chiefly made up of thin sheets of vulcanite ornamented with designs in fretwork. Among the greatest novelties are the neckties, which look exactly like silk, the texture being closely imitated by some peculiar process. They are made up in a variety of styles. There appears to be no limit to the uses to which this wonderful substance may be put; and were the raw material more abundant, and consequently cheaper, it would be employed as a substitute for wood, paper-mache, and like materials, in the construction of many articles of ornament and use in the shape of furniture.

In a manufactory of this kind the making of packing-boxes constitutes an important department. In the shop in which the paper boxes are made seventy young women are employed, and they are aided by a number of beautiful cutting and moulding machines. The boxes and goods are brought together in the warehouse, where they are made ready for sending out.

All the departments of the factory are kept thoroughly clean; and the rooms are lofty, well lighted, and well ventilated. For the convenience of the women who reside at a distance, there is a large dining-hall, comfortably furnished and heated by steam-pipes. Nearly all the operatives are paid by piece, the women earning from 10s. to 14s. a-week for 57½ hours' work. Some of the men earn a high rate of wages, a journeyman comb-cutter making about L.2 a-week when employed on certain kinds of work. It is a fact worthy of mention, that the men who are employed in mixing the chemicals with the rubber, and in conducting other operations in vulcanising, are peculiarly healthy, and never suffer from diseases of an epidemic type.



January 26 2011

January 24 2011

Here we have the description of the Portobello Power Station in Edinburgh
the year is 1954
to read the page one  please Click Here
for page two please Click Here


Alas no longer


December 20 2010

The editor is indebted to Jim Finlay for finding the picture 
and then scanning and forwarding--Thanks Jim

This item is copied from the Edinburgh Evening News Calendar 
April 2011


Workers at the North British Rubber Company put the finishing touches to a batch of wellington boots in 1951.  At it’s peak, the factory at Castle Mills, Fountainbridge, employed more than 3,600 people making rubber products as diverse as hot water bottles and golf balls.’

October 23 2010
The following is from the October 9 1958 issue of the Scottish Daily Express 
As can be seen it is Albert Mackie's column
  The heading was 
This Firm supports the Hearts

February 22 2010

Lorna Kinnaird the Great Grandaughter of Margaret Stewart Samuel Donaldson who worked with North British Rubber Company has sent us this very interesting piece of history which the Editor is delighted to show on this History page of  www.nbrinklies.com web site 
It also serves
to acknowledge the hard work and many years service that Lorna's Great-Grandmother did for the Rubber company.

Lorna writes 
My Great Grandmother Margaret Stewart Samuel Donaldson, m.s. Milne worked with the NB Rubber Company during the First and Second World Wars.  Around 1920 she worked in the North British Rubber Co Ltd in Dundee St, and  while there she and another lady made special shoes for Queen Mary’s daughter (Princess Mary), and then went down to Buckingham Palace to present the shoes to her.  When World War II broke out, she became a Post Woman.  Later returning to the Rubber Mill and then retiring after many years’ service after a presentation of a Carriage Clock (which still works and is in the possession of her daughter, 95 years old this year).  Margaret continued to live at 73 Angle Park Terrace, Edinburgh , until she became ill and stayed with her daughter and husband at 34 Shandon Crescent , Edinburgh .  Margaret Milne or Donaldson is pictured here on the left of the picture.  



“The Princess was also pleased to accept a pair of model patterns made by the last working pattenmaker of the City of London .  He died in the year 1904, and carried on his trade in Bartholomew Place until within a few years of that date.  The Master was accompanied by Sir Philip Dawson, M.P. L.C.C., the Renter Warden ; the Renter Warden Select, and hon. Secretary of the Rubber Boot and Shoe Manufacturers’ Association of Great Britain; Mr Charles Fitch, Clerk of the Company; and Miss Lena Brown, Miss Harriet Carran, Mrs Margaret Donaldson, and Miss Nellie Pendleton, who had been selected by their fellow employees in the various factories to represent them, and who had personally assisted in making the galoches and other rubber footwear comprised in the presentation.”


Lorna is working on scanning from the original paper another picture and news cutting of the ladies with the whole footwear presentation  Lorna also said: "We would be honoured if this would be possible as my Great-Grandmother was such a courageous and well-loved person within her community.  She will always hold a special place in my heart"

April 21 2010

Thanks to Lorna who scanned the newspaper from 88years ago --quite a feat--

We now have the newspaper cuttings from the City Press Saturday February 25 1922--these have
 been sized to be able to read as cuttings--the whole of the left hand column is shown plus a the 
photograph FROM THE PATTERNMAKERS COMPANY for Princess Mary


Below is the photo of the four ladies mentioned Miss Lena Brown, Miss Harriet Carran, 
Mrs Margaret Donaldson and Miss Nellie Pendleton who had been selected by their fellow 
employees in the various factories to represent them, and who had personally assisted in 
making the galoches and other rubber footwear comprised in the presentation

Lorna tells us :

I found another photograph of my Great-Grandmother and the North British Rubber Company – 
that you might want to put onto your website.  This was again in my Great-Grandmother’s 
collection and I doubt very much if there is any copyright attached to it.  Certainly there is 
nothing on the front or back of the photograph.  She is standing on top of the vehicle second
 from the left.


October 25 2009
We are grateful to our friend Pablo in Barcelona for unearthing these stories


The fIrst is the Royal Warrant from the Spanish King 

and below is the urging during the First World War  to buy British







October 13 2009

Laurie Norris-Coccio, an American  descendent of Henry Lee Norris,  the founder 
of the North British Rubber Company in 1856 has traced her family tree back
 to Edward Norris, b. 1550 in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. She has very kindly 
sent these three photos which are shown below

We are indebted to Laurie Norris-Coccio for this piece of history


Description of Picture of Henry Lee Norris

On the picture (lithograph):

on the left of the oval:  A. Arnst

below the picture:  H. L. Norris

on the right of the oval:  W. H. McFarlane Lith. Edinburgh

  Silver plaque inside the back of the frame:


Mrs. Henry Lee Norris

The singular worth and estimable

qualities of MR. NORRIS as a

Gentleman, and his unsurpassed

abilities as a man of business

commands the admiration of all

who know him



You his most worthy partner for

yourself and for your lovely family

will honor us by accepting this

testimony of our regard.

EDINBURGH, 14th MARCH, 1860.


Signatures around the silver oval:

W. Firth,  T.G. Douglas,  L.L. Hyatt,  J.B. Harris,  Henry Collett,  W. Hewison,  
I.W. Morison,  J. Seston,   Andrew Ogg

  IncAugust /12/09


Thanks to Martin Hale we learn that Laurie and her husband Chris really enjoyed 
their visit to Scotland and below are two photos of their visit. The first showing off the "Hunter" boots purchased in Grantown on Spey, plus a photo of Laurie and Chris 
half way up Ben Nevis--Thank you Laurie for taking the time and trouble to send the 
pictures of Howard Lee Norris and the photos of you and your husband--Editor

February 22 2009
The North British Rubber Company Fire brigade of 1949

60 years ago

The photo was kindly loaned by Ron and Margaret Scott
Margaret's late father A. Crosbie, the Blacksmith, 
is shown in second row of photo

(Ron was the G&M W U Chairman at both Castle Mills and Newbridge)



February 4 2009
Thanks again to Pablo of Barcelona we have two old pictures--
Castle Mills and Workers with long service


The picture below is of workers who had long service, 
in some cases in excess of 50 years--read on


September 17 2008

We are grateful to our friend Pablo in Barcelona for unearthing this story written in the India Rubber Works magazine of April 1909--close to a hundred years ago. It brings out several stories of the very competitive nature of the business and the payment by Dunlop of £973,300 to the North British Rubber company for the Bartlett patent , leaving them the right to make and sell tyres under the same patent. (In todays terms I am told that this would be in excess of a £100million)





July 24 2008

The War Memorial

Stewart once again keeps us up to date and I quote

"As promised I can  confirm that the war memorial plates are now featured 
prominently near the entrance to the new permanent exhibition entitled
 "Scotland :A changing Nation "
on level 6 of the National Museum of Scotland in 
Chambers Street Edinburgh.
They have cleaned them up nicely and I believe that this will be their resting 
place for at least the next year thereafter I don't yet know but the  exhibition 
curator has promised to keep me informed.

 Thank you Stewart Segrott



June 20 2008

We have to thank Stewart Segrott for updating us with 
regard to the   War Memorial

The original memorial plates were moved to Newbridge from Castle Mills around the early 1970's  
where they were placed on a Granite plinth just inside the factory gates .In 2000 when Continental 
handed over the Newbridge site to the developers we arranged for the plates to be removed from 
the plinth and they were stored in a retained warehouse in Broxburn for another two years.

Stewart then arranged for them to be delivered to the The Scottish War Museum .Stuart Allan at 
the Museum has advised Stewart that the plates are still in storage at the Museum depot in Leith 
but they have been catalogued and photographed.

 It is still proposed that they will now feature in a 20th Century Industrial heritage room which is to 
be opened at the National Museum for Scotland in Chambers Street Edinburgh  at the end of 2008.



February 1 2008

This really is a part of History from the June 1957 NB News





January 30 2008
From the June 1957 Annual Report

throughout the year
Below is the remainder of column one


October 15 2007


The Edinburgh Evening News published an article on the subject of the tyre plant fire at Castle Mills in January 1966.
 It is not practical to show it as it was in the newspaper as it would have been unreadable size wise. We have included all 
pictures and text
Our thanks are due to Mike and Val Barrie for all their hard work in making it happen. It is also encouraging to note that 
many more 'hits' to the site have been recorded since September 29 2007 when the article was shown. 
Thank you to the Edinburgh Evening News 


The heading across the page read

Landmark city tyre plant set ablaze after blast started by 
oxy-acetylene torch




Blazing Drama--The North British rubber mills Uniroyal factories in Viewforth after 
explosion rocked the building starting a massive fire back in January 1969





                                        Factory goes up in Smoke

by Andrew Davies-Cole
       Thick pungent smoke belches skyward from the tonnes of flaming tyres set ablaze by a huge explosion in the heart 
of Edinburgh's largest factory. In January 1969, and the frosty air is soon to be fractured by three more explosions 

further calamities caused by the dropped acetylene torch that had sparked the first.
       This was the scene that met scores of firefighters as they rushed to save the North British Rubber Mills at Uniroyal 
factories in Viewforth. They would have had fair warning of the extent of the damage. The surrounding area had

been blanketed with smoke and the incident could be seen from as far away as the West End.
       Incredibly there was only one injury to a worker who leapt 15 ft from a window to escape the blaze.
       The factory had a long history which began more than 150 years ago when the American Industrialist Henry Lee 
Norris sailed a merchant ship loaded with skilled workers across the icy Atlantic to Edinburgh.
       It was 1856 and these hundreds of men and women were not the only precious cargo on board---the ship also 
carried machines . The industrial revolution was at its height and the skills and steel, of American mass production 

as well as the vision of Henry Lee Norris, gave birth to Scotland's first vulcanised rubber plant--The North British 
`Rubber Company.
       By 1857, the company had progressed from making rubber boots and shoes, to rubber belting and hose. And in 
1869, it was employing 600 operatives and turning out a vast variety of articles.







In 1870 the development of the road steamer or traction engine, started the tyre trade. From then on the story of 
the North British Rubber Company is one of steady expansion.  One picture from 1913 shows how the Braid Hills 
Golf course played host to an advertising stunt  on behalf of the factory. The huge golf balls drew attention to another 
product that was key to the factory's trade, while the advertising airship rises eerily as a portent of things to come the 

year after.

       When war broke out in 1914 the firm cemented it's reputation. As wartime memories abated the company looked 
towards expanding in different ways. And in 1951 Edinburgh's largest factory was built at castle mills, Fountainbridge, 
to hold the 3664 workers that were employed by the firm.

       The 1960'swere a key time for the company whose factory was once a significant Edinburgh landmark Whilst 1965 

saw the company win a belting order numbering 600,000 for cast mining in Russia, 1966 brought the name change to 
Uniroyal Ltd.

       Over the next seven years the reputation for quality and excellence, which castle mills had long held , was absorbed
 into the new organisation , but the factory itself was closed in 1973

       Former Personnel Manager, Mike Barrie was the man who locked the doors of the factory for the last time. He said; 
"I felt nostalgic when i closed the doors. I thought of the dozens of people who had given more than 40 years of service 

in the place. You just don't get that these days".







August 5 2007

Rubberized Fabric for the Balloons and airships in WW One

   This is a fascinating story of the past and we have to thank Jim Sinclair for taking the time and trouble to do the leg work to get this information from the Library in Edinburgh. His efforts enable the rest of us to learn from the text

Jim tells me that the copy of the lecture booklet is 24 pages but one is only able to copy six pages However the six are full of good and informative stories—thank you Jim


 From a lecture in 1924 by W.W.Williams whom I presume to have been an employee of North British Rubber during the First World War

The NBR Company had been dealing with German companies 
and in particular Continental  prior to 1914   The story we have leads in :

     In the countering of another form of German culture, the Edinburgh factories were heavily called upon , and under when speed of production and reliability were essential to meet the call of the unexpected. We were totally unprepared and with no appliances or equipment , as has been recorded elsewhere , to meet the German gas attacks, and the demand was made for immediate supplies of anti-gas equipment in the form of respirator tubes , breathing valves and anti-gas mask fabrics. These were all forthcoming and with the latter the Victoria Rubber company were actively engaged . I am informed by them that they produced for the fighting services just on half a million square yards of this special fabric for the manufacture of gas masks as a protection to our men against this hideous form of warfare.

    From these references to our participation in the special forms of warfare in the sea and on the land, let me pass to the air where the technical knowledge available here was of such material assistance in both the offensive and defensive aspects of the campaign, and was on more than one occasion able to assist in difficulties, where apparently help from other quarters was unavailable. Such a statement sounds incredible, but history has shown that as a nation we were unprepared in many ways , and as far as our lighter-than-air craft equipment went , the question of supplies to the services was certainly in a dangerous position. For some years prior to the war we had made repeated efforts to obtain orders for gas-bag material for the construction of airships and balloons, and although we were actually supplying material to the French Government from the Edinburgh factory for airship construction, we could not get our people to encourage us with a single order.

     As affairs turned out, it was fortunate that we had continued our efforts in spite of these rebuffs, which were most discouraging, as the only source of supply our own people would use was German, the bulk of their requirements being obtained from Continental Company of Hanover.

     With the outbreak of war in August 1914, supplies naturally ceased, and the navy, who at this period were solely responsible for lighter-than-air craft, were left without the means of continuing their construction. At this stage someone remembered that in the north possibly lay the solution of the difficulty, and the speaker spent the best part of night in the constructional sheds at Walney island, getting the particulars of the gas-bag material that was needed to complete two ships of the Parseval type, numbers 6L and 7L,which were urgently required for service. The requisite fabric was supplied within a few weeks,  

     As, fortunately, from our experience of the French ships, we had technical knowledge to enable us to proceed at once with the work. Although I have no actual knowledge of their performance, both ships went into commission and, no doubt, rendered a good account of themselves, being used  for coast patrol work on the East Coast and carrying out a great number of night cruises. As far as our participation in their completion was concerned, I am afraid we received little recognition. It was all in the day’s work so to speak, and the only acknowledgement of the situation I should like to quote appeared in a book, “The British Aircraft industry” published immediately  after the war. Speaking of these early days it states, “the first obstacle was the supply of suitable fabric. The only British firm with a knowledge of balloon fabrics at that time was the North British Rubber company of Edinburgh”

     You may be interested in the general particulars of design of these Parseval ships. Their length was 312 feet, width 57 feet, height 70feet, gross capacity 36,000cubic feet, 360h.p.maximum speed 40 miles per hour, with an endurance of1,000 miles at full power.

     The necessity in the land campaign of close observation  of troop movements, and particularly the spotting and controlling of artillery fire, produced an ever-increasing  demand for captive or kite balloons. The demand was first made in 1915, again quoting the publication just referred to, it stated that the first British kite balloon manufactured  was from cloth supplied by the Victoria Rubber Company, Edinburgh. The advantages of this method of observation were quickly realized, and brought a heavy demand upon the Edinburgh factories. Up to this period, spotting had been done entirely by aeroplane, and many a good aeroplane pilot had wasted hours in flying  in a single circle watching a certain spot, waiting for the German guns to disclose their positions. Occasionally, I am told, our battery with which they were working became bored and moved their position whilst their observer was still in the air , and when he did signal it was to a friend who was not there. It was found better policy to send up kite balloons and so free an aeroplane pilot for work more suitable. An artillery officer, more experienced in fire control, did much better in the balloon, being in direct   telephone communication with his battery and not fluttering round sending signals to a deserted hole in the ground.

     With the increasing size of our Army the call for balloon material became greater than the factory capacity at Castle Mills, and was incidentally the cause of much indignation from residents in Edinburgh as to why, when such stringent regulations were imposed as to the showing of lights at night, the North British rubber Company were allowed to have a glare at Fountainbridge that could be seen for many miles around.  The explanation is a simple one and was a case of necessity.  It was decided that a new block of buildings had to be erected and time was an important factor.  A four-storey building, 190 feet by 55 feet, built of reinforced concrete and brick, as steel was unavailable, was erected.  

     The instructions were received in September  1916, and the building and machinery had to be ready by the following Spring; that was the order!  Building had to be proceeded with, therefore, during the winter months and with reinforced concrete was no easy undertaking.  Night and day work was resorted to, and you will realize brick laying cannot be successfully done in the dark.  The whole operation was accordingly illuminated at night by large electric lamps out in the open, and, in addition, fires were kept going around the concrete work to keep off the frost, which we were unfortunately troubled with.  Hence the complaints and letters in the papers, etc., suggesting pro-German tendencies, illustrated by the beacon to attract the enemy air raiders.  But fears were groundless.  The lights were controlled by one service switch which could plunge the place into darkness instantly and the fires doused in a few minutes.  

     The speaker was in telephone communication with the Scottish Defense, who used to ring up at all odd hours, sometimes, I thought, for their amusement.  The call was “Field Marshal’s call only”; that meant “all right, do nothing,” and to be pulled out of your bed at any uncomfortable hour to receive this call produced anything but a good opinion of the Field Marshal, whoever he may have been.  I did omit to answer the call on one or two occasions, but then my front door bell was furiously rung shortly afterwards by a policeman who came to enquire what I was doing.  Apparently the explanation sufficed, and I suppose they realized I was human and must sleep sometimes, as no dire penalties befell me.

          For a period, practically the whole of the requirements of the kite balloon service were supplied by the Edinburgh factories, but as the importance of this arm of the fighting services increased, and also the demand, it was necessary for security of supplies not to be dependent on one factory from which the bulk of the material was obtained, with the danger of this manufacture being cut off by fire or air raid.  Consequently, when these further additions were completed, the ever-increasing demand over this output was spread to other works around the country.

          One interesting matter I might mention in connection with unexpected and sudden demands was that occasioned by the entry of America into the war.  We were informed they were not in a position to equip themselves with balloons and we should need to help out the United States Army.  No doubt some of this was done, but we in Edinburgh were able to give such assistance that, whilst not manufacturing the balloon fabric, we could give America just that information to enable them to manufacture quickly for their own requirements.  We took into The North British Rubber Company representatives of the American Air Force, who were also technical rubber men, and showed and told them all we knew.  Further, when their instruction, which was of the intensive kind, was complete, we sent back with them to America   a practical man to see their plant operating properly.  It was fortunate also that we had supplied to America, from our works here in 1911, machinery of the type suitable for this class of work, so that no delay was met with in the shipping or building of machinery.  By this means we did out bit in giving the United States Army their eyes to see with.

         One other achievement in this sphere was the manufacture of a special type of fabric which successfully withstood the severe climatic conditions of the Palestine and Mesopotamian campaigns.  The balloons that were used in the European fields of operation were found to be quite unsuitable for the East, and gave a very limited service.  This difficulty was overcome by a special protective manufacturing process, a product of the factory research staff.

       The facts of a little game of bluff we practiced on the Germans by means of decoy or miniature balloons may be of interest.  The real kite balloon had a capacity of 37,000 cubic feet, and was flown at a height of something like 4,000 feet and upwards well behind the trenches, generally several miles.  To make the enemy think he was under observation, and to induce him to fire his batteries and disclose gun positions, exact miniatures of these full sized balloons were flown.  They were of a capacity of 600 cubic feet and reached an altitude of 1,000 feet, a doll being put in the basket to represent the observer.  To make the illusion perfect they were let up from the forward trenches in the halt light of early moaning.  The stunt was, I believe, quite effective for a time, until the enemy got wise and shy of early morning I>B> efforts.

        Altogether during the war the Edinburgh factories manufactured over 2 ¼  million yards of balloon cloth, and at the time of the Armistice were turning out something like 50,000 yards per week, part of which was being concerted into the finished balloon, and balance being sent elsewhere to balloon constructors.  The control wok in the hands of the aeronautical laboratory, which was installed at Castle Mills to supervise and test the manufacture, was no mean achievement.  Time is not available to refer to this in any detail, except to say that at the height of productive capacity eighty diffusion tests for checking hydrogen leakage and some hundreds of tensile tests were carried out every twenty-four hours.  The rapid development of kite balloon manufacture was one of the marvels of the war, only possible through the research work of a private enterprise which also promptly responded to the requirements of airship construction and made possible the wishes of the Air Department under conditions of emergency and great difficulty.  

This is the Vintage Bertrams Calendar 
which operated effectively from 1857 until 1970
113 years of service

         With that, ladies and gentlemen, I must bring my discourse to a close.  Time has not been available to give you many details which have been necessarily omitted, and with others touched on my remarks have been simply in outline and can convey to you nothing but a sketchy description of the subject.  I trust, however, it has been sufficient to give you an intelligent history of the growth of the rubber industry in our city, and to indicate that our efforts have not been without their effect for the good of the industry as a whole.  In times of emergence we were able to take our full share in the Empire’s call for assistance, and in the help we gave to America we were able to repay any debt of sentiment to that country, occasioned by the enterprise of a few of their citizens establishing the rubber industry in “Edinburgh”.

February 2007
North British Rubber Book

Below is the Front page of a 30 page booklet all about 
North British Rubber 
Click here to view all the pages of the Booklet


  Below is a quote from a web site www.edinphoto.org.uk/10/12

Industry in Fountainbridge

Fountainbridge was, once a major industrial area close to the centre of Edinburgh.

-  The North British Rubber Works had a large manufacturing plant beside the old canal basin.

-  St Cuthbert's Coop had a dairy, with the stabling for their horse-drawn milk deliveries nearby

-  William McEwan's established  Fountain Brewery in Fountainbridge in 1856.  The company merged with Younger's in 1931, then with Newcastle Breweries in 1960 to form Scottish & Newcastle. 

S&N opened a new Fountain Brewery at Fountainbridge, on a 22 acre site beside the Union Canal in 1973.  The company also retained their older premises on the opposite side of the main road, Fountainbridge.

In 1995, S&N took over Courage to form Scottish Courage.


March 12 2007
This is a NBR advertisement --probably from a time between 1920 and 1939 but the Editor is only guessing if  anyone knows better please let me know  It is also interesting to note the mention of the 5 line telephone  exchange--how times have changed ! ! 

In order to be able to read the information it has been sectionalised and 
the parts are shown below


        In order to assist you in reading this advert below is shown the parts in larger type

             Top Left shown Below                                                            Top Right shown below

                                                         Top Right shown below

       Bottom Middle part shown below

     Bottom left                                                                               

   Bottom Right


March 2007

An interesting record from the Scotsman  from 75 years ago of a royal visit to Castle Mills