Down Memory Lane

Henry Widnell and Stewarts' carpet factory in Bonnyrigg.
Henry Widnell and Stewarts' carpet factory in Bonnyrigg.

Over the last few years, my husband and I have been researching the history of carpet making in Midlothian.

As one of the major employers in the area, Henry Widnell and Stewart Ltd had factories in Lasswade, Roslin, Bonnyrigg and Eskbank. Whilst I was able to get a lot of the technical details about the carpet manufacturing process from the archives of Bonnyrigg and Lasswade Local History Society, what I really wanted to know was, “What was it like to work for the company in the various trades?”

I discovered that carpet making in Midlothian first started when Richard Whytock and Co, who were located at Queensberry House in the Canongate, Edinburgh, moved to St Ann’s, Lasswade, and opened a carpet mill in a converted brewery between 1833 and 1834.

Later, Whytock formed a partnership with Henry Henderson who came from Dunfermline and they continued manufacturing, but now under the name of Whytock and Henderson. When Whytock died, Henry Widnell of Kidderminster joined the firm as a partner and it then became Henderson and Widnell.

In about 1856 Henderson left the business leaving Widnell in control and the firm became Henry Widnell & Co.

Helen Stewart’s full feature appears in this week’s Advertiser. On sale now.