The Industrial Revolution was partly a result of the change which had taken place in the agricultural landscape and shared many features with it. As the 18th and 19th centuries progressed the major impact of new developments was increasingly felt in the fields of manufacturing, mining and transport.
Grain mills were the largest early industrial sites and these, and most other devices, were primarily powered by water, although some windmills did exist in the Borders in the 19th century. Water and wind driven mills were initially used to grind grain, however, as both technology and industry developed these power sources were adapted to run machinery for textile production or to operate saw mills. In the 19th century water and wind power were increasingly supplemented or replaced by steam powered engines. Other machines and cunning pieces of equipment were created as agricultural aids: threshing and winnowing machines, horse gins and many other forerunners of modern farm appliances.
The traditional basis for commerce in Scotland was the production of goods made by hand at home. Markets where such commodities could be traded were based in the burghs and much of the consumption was local. The Industrial Revolution transformed production, taking it from the cottage to the factory and massively increasing the output by using powered machines to replace traditional handicrafts.
By the 18th century industries in Scotland and throughout Europe had developed from rural origins where every farming family contained members who could weave wool to make clothes, build tools to use around the farm and perform a variety of other occupations. There was, as yet, very limited technological development and many manufactured goods still arrived as foreign imports. Each town tended to have its specialities; Selkirk was renowned for its shoes, so much so that Bonnie Prince Charlie demanded 2,000 pairs of shoes from the town in 1745 and inhabitants are still known as “Souters” (shoemakers).
The main rural industry was based on wool. However, in the late 18th century the Borders textile industries were still small-scale, cottage-based and scattered among hill farms in many cases, with much of the production taking place during the slack periods in the farming calendar. In an effort to concentrate and encourage weaving some of the more ambitious Borders landowners created planned villages. Of these Gavinton (Langton: 1760) was the first, Newcastleton (Castleton: 1793) was the largest, while developments at Carlops (West Linton: 1784) were on a more modest scale.
A Manufacturers’ Corporation was established in Galashiels in 1777 and in 1788 Alexander Brodie built the first modern textile factory, equipped with such English machinery as Arkwright’s water frame and Crompton’s spinning mule, at Caerlee Mill (Innerleithen: back cover). By that time output of manufactured woollen goods had begun to rise significantly and by 1828 the Gala Water was running at capacity, supplying ten mills in Galashiels and obliging manufacturers there to expand into Selkirk (fig.4). The industry reached its peak in the 1880s after which it suffered from the imposition of import duties by the United States. Textiles continued to dominate the Borders economy throughout most of the 20th century and have only gone into serious decline in the 1980s and 1990s.
The rise in industrial output and the increased size of many of the farm holdings brought about a shift in living patterns and employment throughout Scotland. Male and female workers were displaced when leases to tenants were not renewed or farms were amalgamated. Often unable to find other agricultural employment, these men and women were forced to move from the countryside and to seek employment in the new mills and factories in the rapidly growing towns. Coupled with this was a rise in the birth rate, but more importantly a decline in mortality rate, particularly amongst infants. This was due, in no small way, to the introduction of vaccinations against diseases such as smallpox (1796) and a rise in food production which made death through famine far less common.
In order to accommodate this expanding (and increasingly sedentary) workforce landowners began to provide improved accommodation in planned villages such as Carlops, Newcastleton and Gavinton, while the factory owners built rows of terraced houses. The dwellings in the new planned villages were often custom-built to encourage and facilitate the weaving of cloth. There were also other benefits of this ‘building boom’. The need for stone and other materials for housing encouraged other industries such as mining, brick industries and quarrying.