|Victorian Dundee | | |
|Jute, Jam & Journalism | | |
|[pic] | | |
Towards the end of the Victorian era, Dundee was famous for its three Js –
Jute, Jam and Journalism.
In the 18th century the city was already an established centre of
textile production, mainly in linen, and made huge quantities of sail
cloth for Europe. By the 1830s, jute was produced to supplement linen
production and gradually took over until the city became known as
‘Juteopolis’. The rapid rise in the industry was matched by the growth
in population: Dundee exxpanded fourfold in the 19th century and 50,000
people were employed in the mills and factories at its height. Jute
production declined in the 1920s mainly due to fierce competition from
the Indian jute industry. The Dundee industry is now completely gone
and the city has suffered badly as a result.
• The Verdant Works is a restored 19th century jute mill and a living
museum preserving Dundee’s long association with the Jute Trade. Find
about the beginnings of the jute trade in India, experience the harsh
conditions workers weere subjected to in the mills through film shows
interactive computers, and discover why the industry fell into
The story goes that it was a Dundee woman, Janet Keillor, who
marmalade in the late 1700s. She came upon the recipe through trying
find a us
James Keillor, who opened Keillor’s factory, famous the world over for
producing jams and marmalades.
DC Thomson, publishers of The Beano, The Dandy, The Sunday Post and
the People’s Friend, was established in 1905 and still employs around
2000 people to this day. The home of Dennis the Menace and the Bash
Street Kids is the Courier Building, headquarters of DC Thomson on the
west side of Albert Square.
• Albert Square itself has the grandest Albert Memorial outside London,
built by the city’s merchants and industrialists in 1867. Beside the
memorial is the McManus Galleries, the city’s main museum and Art
• Dundee was also a major centre of the whaling industry in Victorian
times and whale oil was used in jute production to soften thhe jute
fibres before weaving. This became less viable by the late 19th
century when excessive hunting exhausted the Arctic’s whale stocks.
• Dundee’s expertise in constructing whaling ships that could withstand
extreme weather conditions led to it becoming the ‘City of Discovery’.
In 1899 the National Antarctic Expedition Committee commissioned the
Dundee Shipbuilding Company to construct an adapted whaler: the Royal
Research Ship, Discovery. In March 1901 the ship was launched, taking
Captain Scott on his first voyage to the Antarctic. The ship is still
in Dundee today at Discovery Point, wh
Scott’s polar expeditions, including the ill-fated attempt of 1910.
• The other landmark which dominates the city of Dundee is her bridge
over the Tay. The Tay Rail Bridge was opened in 1878 and was the
longest bridge in the world on completion at over two miles long. It
was a mammoth undertaking and cost a massive £300,000 to build.
However, in December of the same year, the centre of the bridge
collapsed during a storm while a train was crossing – 75 people were
killed. An enquiry found the bridge had serious design faults.
Incredibly, girders from the collapsed bridge were salvaged and used
in the construction of a new railway bridge, which was completed in
1887. You can still see the piers of the original bridge beside its
Scotland’s fourth-largest city is tied to the nation’s mythic characters
including William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Mary Stuart, Queen of
Scots. The town’s fame is defined as “The Three Js”: jute, jam and
journalism. Jute was milled here and an award-winning museum memorializes
its heyday. Jam refers to Janet Keiller’s famous marmalade created in 1797
after a ship laden with Seville oranges wrecked here. The company still
makes marmalade in white-glass jars. Journalism also still thrives in the
D.C. Thomson publishing firm. In the 19th ce
whaling were important industries. Captain Scott’s Antarctic ship RRS
Discovery was built here and is now a museum
The City of Discovery
Dundee was historically famous for three things: Jam, Jute and Journalism.
Whilst the first two remain a mere memory and the third is now only
represented by D.C. Thomson, there is much more to this city now, which
will spark interest for the visitor.
You can approach the city from the south passing Perth and through central
Scotland, or from the East over one of the two impressive bridges which
span the “Silvery Tay”. One is a road bridge built in the 1970’s and the
other is a rail bridge which was rebuilt after the famous rail disaster of
1879. Using either of these bridges will expose you to a impressive first
look at the city. Having travelled through the rolling and winding
countryside of Fife, your first sight of Scotland’s fourth largest city
will show up against the dramatic backdrop of the twin hills of Balgay and
Law. These hills provide not only an impressive backdrop but are probably
one of the first places you should visit, providing as they do, a stunning
panoramic view of the city below.
Once you have entered the City, you will notice that whilst the great
industrial days are no
visitor to the city can leave without hearing the term “3 Js” used or
without visiting or seeing evidence of this former glory. The association
with jute is all around, the mighty chimney “stacks” tower over you,
serving as a very clear reminder of the heavy industry which was widespread
in the city. You can visit one of these former mills – the Verdant Works.
Or you can just marvel at the remaining architecture which clearly shows
the former mill sites.
The jam reference started when James Keiller (a Dundee grocer) bought a
cargo of Seville oranges very cheaply from a Spanish ship sheltering from a
storm in Dundee harbour. However they were so bitter that he couldn’t sell
them and his wife, Janet, very cleverly made them into a jam rather than
waste them. International fame and fortune for her family and descendants
followed, who still make it today.
The final “J” is that of journalism. The City is home to a great tradition
of journalism and two of its most famous “residents” – Desperate Dan and
Denis the Menace – were created for Dundee-based DC Thomson’s comics and
papers. D.C. Thomson is still in business and you can still buy their
newspapers such as the Dundee Courier, the Sunday Post and the Weekly News
all around the world.
This Victorian industrial boom not only created a rich industrial heritage
but left the city’s public art collections and museums generously endowed
with gifts from wealthy citizens. Again there are relics of this today and
if you visit one of the many museums and galleries around the City you will
find a wealth of interesting and historical exhibits.
One of the most famous museums is in fact an old sailing ship. The RRS
Discovery was built in Dundee around 1900 and its claim to fame was when it
took Captain Scott on his Antarctic expedition. The ship has now returned
to where it started its journey and after restoration, it is now open to
the public for viewing. The ship and its history is well documented on its
quite magnificent ,but the sensation of actually standing on the ship is
This history apart, the modern Dundee has much to be proud of – a recent
quality of life survey among UK cities ranked Dundee head and shoulders
above many of the rest, despite some unfair criticism and “jokes” from some
of Scotland’s comedians. Its clean air renowned to be low in pollution,
“sunshine hours” and drier climate provides quite literally a breath of
fresh air for visitors.
The City centre it could be argued is a shopper’s paradise, where major
department stores co-exist with specialist shops tucked away in side
streets. You will be seduced by the tempting aromas emanating from some of
the UK’s finest bakers and if you step inside you can sample delicious
bridies, speciality pies, tempting butteries and the famous “Dundee Cake”.
The City also has a major student population and because of this if you are
looking for nightlife you will be well catered for with a lively pub and
If “clubbing” is not really your thing then you also have choices that any
modern city will provide you with. There is “The Rep” theatre and other
smaller theatres producing an extensive programme of high calibre events.
The newest addition to this cultural side is the Contemporary Arts Centre,
which opened in 1999.
Sport is also a major contributor to entertainment in the City. Whilst the
football teams may not be as well known as say Glasgow Rangers or Celtic,
the rivalry (although relatively friendly) is almost as bitter. If you can,
soak up the atmosphere in a local derby game. Other sports are well catered
for with a large municipal sports centre and a plethora of local golf
course of a good standard.
Taking everything into consideration Dundee is certainly a city worth
|Dundee from the East |
Dundee is Scotland’s fourth-largest city and lies on the north bank of the
Tay estuary. A city with an ancient history, Dundee has had to rebuild and
reinvent itself three times in the last 350 years. It sees in the third
millennium as it emerges from its most recent period of regeneration, and
with a confidence not felt since the end of the 1800s.
|Discovery Point |
|Desperate Dan |
|Dundee & the River Tay |
Dundee was probably used as a supply base by the Romans during their brief
spell in Northern Scotland after AD 83 (see our Historical Timeline). It
certainly seems to have existed as a port the following century under the
By 1180 a town was well established on the north bank of the Tay here, and
in the 1200s a small harbour was built. In 1239 a school was established in
Dundee, with an early pupil being William Wallace. Wallace returned in 1297
to capture Dundee Castle, built on Black Rock, just to the west of the end
of the modern Tay Road Bridge. The castle was repaired by Edward I, only to
be completely destroyed by Robert the Bruce in 1312.
The 1300s and 1400s saw the steady growth of Dundee, fuelled largely by
trade with Baltic ports. Town walls were built in 1545, but they did little
to protect Dundee from the English fleet, who bombarded the town in 1547,
destroying much of it. The town suffered again in September 1644 when the
Marquis of Montrose and his Royalist forces besieged it.
Worse followed during the Civil War. General Monk, commanding Cromwell’s
forces in Scotland, captured Dundee on 1 September 1651, and his troops
spent a week pillaging the town and killing up to 2,000 of Dundee’s 12,000
inhabitants. Most of Dundee was destroyed in the process, as were 60 of the
ships owned by the town’s merchants.
It took a century for Dundee to rebuild and recover, and its population in
1755 was little more than it had been in 1651. Meanwhile it was common to
see buildings in Dundee in which gable ends and stair towers from destroyed
buildings projected well above the poorly rebuilt structures attached to
them. The second half of the 1700s saw the city start to grow again, and
the population more than doubled as imported flax started to fuel a linen
industry. Meanwhile the harbour was improved, and four whaling ships began
to operate from Dundee.
The city is known for being built on “Jute, Jam and Journalism”. 1797 saw
James Keiller & Son set up a jam factory in Dundee, while in 1801 the
Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser was established.
|Ornate Stone Stairs |
|Clydesdale Bank |
|Claypotts Castle |
By 1835 Dundee had 36 steam powered flax spinning mills, employing a
significant proportion of the 40,000 population. Meanwhile life expectancy
in this heavily polluted city had shrunk to 32 years, just two-thirds of
the average in Scotland at the time. 1835 also saw the first imports of
jute from India, which then started to replace European flax for carpet
backing and for sacks: important in a world in which almost everything was
carried in sacks.
Railways and trams arrived in the mid 1800s, and by 1860 Dundee was
producing vast quantities of linen for sailcloth and jute for sacks. In
that year the textile industry employed over 35,000 people out of a total
population of just over 90,000. Meanwhile James Keiller of Dundee was
successfully selling marmalade made from Seville oranges in the London
By 1870, Dundee was a chaotic and squalid city that had grown to no central
plan. Its second reinvention came with the 1871 City Improvement Act, which
swept away most of what had gone before and replaced it with an imposing
Victorian city centre, much of which remains on view today. 1878 saw the
building of the Tay Rail Bridge, which collapsed with the loss of 75 lives
the following year and was replaced in 1887. And by 1870s Dundee was the
main British whaling port, being home to 10 steam whalers.
Jute went into a long decline from 1914, mostly because it could be
processed more cheaply in India. Its final demise in Dundee came in the
1960s. Meanwhile a shipbuilding industry that had produced, amongst many
others, the RRS Discovery, finally came to an end in 1961. In the same year
the steamer service from Dundee to London ceased.
Dundee’s third regeneration probably began in the 1960s, with the
completion of the Tay Road bridge in 1966 and the opening to the public in
1968 of HMS Unicorn, the oldest British built warship still afloat. And
although the 1980s saw the final demise of jam and marmalade manufacturing
in the city, they also saw the return of Scott of the Antarctic’s ship, RRS
Discovery, to the city of its birth. And also on the bright side, D.C.
Thomson has remained in the city as a force in newspaper and magazine
Today’s Dundee has a great deal to offer the visitor. The city centre has
an excellent range of shops and some fine buildings. And the city’s past is
celebrated in a number of ways. These include Discovery Point, where RRS
Discovery is on view, and the Verdant Works, one of Dundee’s best know jute
mills recreated to reflect the everyday experience of so many past