Ref NoDD1744
Acc No1744
TitleRecords of Richards plc, textile manufacturers of Broadford Works, Aberdeen
DescriptionThe majority of the records in the collection related to the firm's operations in Aberdeen in the 20th century. There is only one item connected with Richards & Company (DD1744/4/1/1), but there is information on the 19th century business in the corporate history records.

DD1744/1: Corporate records, 1898-2003
DD1744/2: Administrative records, 1900 - 2003
DD1774/3: Financial records, 1957 - 2001
DD1744/4: Operational records, 1879 - 2004
DD1744/5: Sales and Marketing records, 1960s - 2004
DD1744/6: Premises records, 1928 - 1999
DD1744/7: Staff records, 1914 - 2000s
DD1744/8: Corporate History records, 1987 - 1988
DD1744/9: Photographs and Objects, c.1950s - 1990s
Date1879 - 2004
Related MaterialThere are several Building Warrant plans for Richards' Aberdeen site held at Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives, including plans for the New North and South Mills (BW/8596) and the Bastille (BW/8258 and BW/8380). References for other plans: BW/866*, BW/6956, BW/7528, BW/7592, BW/7895, BW/7994, BW/8108, BW/8453, BW/8480, BW/9025, and BW/9051.

Local Studies have Richards Annual Reports for 1921 to 2001 in their Local Studies Reserve Stock at shelfmark Lo 338.650941.

Aberdeen Museums and Galleries have objects from Richards in their collections.

The University of Aberdeen Special Collections Centre hold: correspondence of the Aberdeen Branch Secretary of the National Union of Dyers, Bleachers and Textile Workers relating to Richards Ltd (ref MS 2643/9); notes by Mary Esslemont on linen production based upon an inspection of Broadford Works (MS 3179/6/7/11); and three items of correspondence with Maberly's manager in the James Skene papers, probably linked to the lease of land in Rubislaw (refs. MS 2720/63, MS 2720/167 and MS 2720/168).

The Boulton & Watt Collection at the Library of Birmingham contains drawings of gas lighting apparatus designed for John Maberly by Boulton Watt & Co. in 1814 and 1815 (ref. MS 3147/5/808).

The National Library of Scotland hold two 1834 reports from the Aberdeen Female Operative Union, which was formed in 1834 as the result of wage reductions at Broadford and led a strike action: "Detailed report of the proceedings of the operatives ... at the Broadford Mill ... containing the speeches, etc." and "Third report ... containing remarks on the improper interference of the clergy, correspondence, etc." (reference NE.3.c.27(6) and NE.3.c.27(7) ).

Copies of Parliamentary Reports relating to Broadford are available in the Searchroom at Old Aberdeen House.
CreatorRichards & Company (1832 - 1898)
Richards Limited (1898 - 1982)
Richards plc (1982 - 2004)
Richards of Aberdeen Limited (1989 - 2004)
Extentc. 7 linear metres (1 box, 42 volumes, 111 files, 6 bundles, 20 booklets, 258 documents, 41 photographs, 3 items, 1 plan and 1 envelope)
​Open or Restricted AccessOpen
Access ConditionsOpen for consultation at Old Aberdeen House, open Mon-Wed 9:30-12:30 and 13:30-16:30. It is advisable to make an appointment.
Some items in the collection are in poor condition and are unfit for production. Access to other items is restricted under the terms of the Data Protection Act (1998). In both cases this is noted in the catalogue entries.
Administrative HistoryRichards was a textiles firm based at the Broadford Works in Aberdeen, a site between Ann Street, Maberly Street and Hutcheon Street. The firm spun flax, jute and hemp and manufactured linen, canvas, sailcloth tarpaulin and fire hoses, moving into the synthetics, carpet and knitwear yarn markets in the 20th century. The works closed in 2004 after the firm went into receivership.

The first mill on the site (the Old or Grey Mill) was built for Scott Brown and Company of Angus in 1808, and is the oldest iron-framed mill in Scotland. When Scott Brown was bankrupted in 1811, the site was sold to John Maberly MP, who took on the London banker John Baker Richards as a partner in 1825. Maberly was bought out of the business by John Temple Leader in 1831, and was declared bankrupt the following year. In the same year (1832) the firm was renamed Richards & Company. In 1898 David Douglas took over the firm's management, making it into a publically limited company, Richards Limited (known as Richards plc from 1982). Douglas and his brother William and sons David and Reginald managed the firm until the mid-1930s, when a depression in trade hit the company. A new board of directors, made up of local businessmen, was constituted in 1934 and managed to rescue the company.

From the mid-20th century onwards, the company acquired a number of subsidiaries and operated various holding companies. In the 1950s and 1960s Richards was divided into an Industrial and Domestic Textile Groups. The Industrial Textile Group consisted of Richards and Anderson and Chalmers Limited (acquired in 1956, a sailcloth and canvas manufacturer in Arbroath).

The Domestic Textile Group consisting of: Kilgour and Walker Limited (manufacturers of knitwear and clothing at Berryden Road, Aberdeen); Kilgour & Walker (Sales) Limited (general warehousemen); Glen Gordon Limited (manufacturers of gloves and knitwear in Aberdeen and Dumfries, incorporating Aberdeen Glove Company); John Martin and Company (Anstruther) Limited (manufacturers of knitwear, oil skins and protective clothing in Anstruther and Leven); and Kerr Leid & Co. Limited (general warehousemen in Aberdeen). These companies were acquired in 1962, except Kerr Leid which was acquired in 1963. This group was owned by the holding company Maberly Investments, formed in 1962.

They also invested in a Canadian company, Richmar Hose Manufacturing Limited, in 1962; Australian Fire Hose (Pty.) Limited from c. 1974, and had shares in Aberdare Limited, an Irish synthetics company, from 1971, through a holding company Richards Dublin. These investments were relinquished in 1975.

In 1972 the company was restructured, moving away from domestic textiles, with the parent company Richards Limited overseeing separate subsidiary companies with their own directorates: Richards (Fire Hose) Limited, Richards (Synthetics) Limited and Richards (Industrial Textiles) Limited. In the same year the assets of Maberly Investments, Kilgour & Walker and Glen Gordon were sold. Anderson and Chalmers continued to operate as a subsidiary of Richards into the 1980s.

Further acquisitions were made in the 1980s and 1990s: in 1986 Kingsmead Carpets Limited of Cumnock, Ayrshire; in 1987 the Lovat Group, knitwear manufacturers and distributors of Ayrshire; in 1988 Spence Bryson, a carpet, shirt, handkerchief manufacturer and spinner in Northern Ireland; and in 1990 Bronte Yarns of Yorkshire, a small hand knitting yarn company. In 1989, to accommodate these acquisitions, Richards of Aberdeen Limited was established as a separate company (continuing operations at the Broadford Works site), with Richards plc acting as a group holding company. Spence Bryson was split into four subsidiary companies: Spence Bryson Shirts, Spence Bryson Carpets, Northern Ireland Spinners and Spence Bryson, which produced handkerchiefs, linen fabric and dyed, bleached and finished fabric to order. The carpet company was sold in 1994, and the Shirts and Northern Ireland Spinners were divested in 1998 and 1999.

In 1993 Toweropen Limited, trading as High Quality Contracts (HQC), which supplied house furnishings, particularly carpets and curtains, to housebuilders was acquired. And in 1995 the Floor Coverings International Limited (FCI) franchise operation was established, selling floor coverings direct to consumers in their own home. FCI was sold in 2001. A handkerchief business, C. Blane & Sons Limited, was acquired by Richards in 1998.

The firm fell into difficulties in the late 1990s, entering receivership in January 2002, and was purchased by local businessman Ian Suttie. With support from Aberdeen City Council, the company moved to new premises on Granitehill Road in 2003, but the firm closed in November 2004.

In the 19th century Richards & Co. had bleaching and dyeing works in Rubislaw, a bleach work and mill at Craigo, Angus, and another mill on Mill Street, Montrose (which appears to have continued operating until the mid-20th century). The firm also constructed the Bastille building on the south side of Maberly Street in 1912, for use as a flax store: the site was sold in 1993. A second Aberdeen site, at Garthdee, was opened in 1907 and operated bleaching, dyeing, and waterproofing operations. The Garthdee site was sold in 2001. Broadford Works was listed as a grade A listed building in 1967.

Chairmen of Directors:
Thomas Innes (1899-1911)
David Douglas (1911-1930)
David S.P. Douglas (1927-1933)
H.J. Kinghorn (1933-1941)
W. Watt Hepburn (1942-1952)
Sir Thomas Mitchell (1953-1959)
Dr James Mackie (1959) interim chairman
R.B. Williamson (1959-1976)
A.R. Robertson (1976-1986)
Brian G. Gilbert (1986-1998)
Ian Lakin (1998- 2002)

General Managers/Managing Directors:
David Douglas (1898-1930)
David S. P. Douglas (1930-1934)
David McEwan (1934-1950)
Andrew Milne and W.W. Thomson (1950-1960)
G.H. Hitchen (1961-1983)
Raymond Dinsdale (1983-1998)
David Staveley (1998)
J. Martin
P. White

Managing Director of Richards of Aberdeen Limited
C.K. Symington (1989-2001), initially joint with David Taylor
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