The principal manufacture of this place is soap. It was here that first in Scotland the making of brown soap (made of oil, tallow, rosin and a caustic solution) was brought to its present degree of perfection.
This manufacture commenced about the year 1770 and has since been carried on with varying success. From the year 1783 to 1789 it was a flourishing and extensive trade. There were four large works whish employed from 20 – 30 labouring men and paid an excise duty from 8,001 to 10,001 per annum. In the year 1789 the soap trade in Scotland met a considerable check. It was for some time almost annihilated here. It has since, however, happily revived and is now carried on with great deal of spirit.
“The manufacture of Soap is extensively carried on and three kinds are produced, White, Brown and Soft Soap. Tallow, Oil and Alkali are the ingredients which constitutes this article, the whole being subjected to the process of boiling.
White Soap is made of tallow and a solution of alkali rendered caustic by lime.
Brown Soap is made of oil, tallow, rosin and the caustic solution.
Soft Soap is a compound of oil and a solution of potash.
The manufacture of soap is carried on in all principal towns in Scotland, the demand for domestic purposes being considerable, as well as that for bleaching and exportation. The soap making is generally combined with that of candle making, the finer kind of tallow used for candles and the coarser for soap. A great quantity of tallow is imported from Russia. The shores of the Baltic and South America, but the ordinary slaughter of cattle generally supplies what is required by the inland and less populous districts.”
This indicates the decline of the soap manufacturing in Queensferry.
The National Archives hold the records of the Sun Fire Office, a company specialising in Fire Insurance, (it continues to this day as the Royal and Sun Alliance). The Sun Fire office records contain the following entry for 1791;
Insured Thomas Jameson, Andrew Paton, Ninian Paton and James Brown, Queensferry Soap Boilers.
In 1798 Ninian Paton, Soap Boiler tired of the slow and tedious work of carrying water to his works sought permission to lay pipes along the South side of the street from Thomas Fairlies well to his factory near his dwelling house, with leave to pump the water at the well only when water was plentiful.
In 1819, Campbell Innes, Soap manufacturer and Bailie of the burgh, received permission to draw water from the Town’s main to his works, the connection being made at his own expense. For the privilege of this supply a charge of 1 guinea a year was imposed. Campbell Innes and his wife Jean had several children born in Queensferry. Campbell who ws Provost of Queensferry from 1833 until 1839, is listed as clerk to John Taylor & Sons on his first Daughter, Jane’s, birth record of 1798.
The Salopian Journal, a Shropshire newspaper reported in October 1813:
“Upwards of a fortnight ago, a boy, between 11 and 12 years of age, disappeared from the burgh of Queensferry. After public advertisement and the most diligent search, no trace can be found to lead to a discovery of this most serious circumstance. Several days having elapsed some of the men in the employ of Messrs. Taylor & Sons, soap boilers of that place while clearing out a waste lee-receiver found the skeleton of the unfortunate youth. Not a particle of flesh could be perceived, the penetrating Leys having completely reduced it, even the bones were soft as wax.”
The Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh) of May 6th 1815 has an entry stating that among convicts sent from the Tolbooth to the docks in Leith, to be embarked for the hulks in the Thames, for transportation on 16th March, was a George Paterson of Edinburgh, convicted for 14 years for stealing soap from Queensferry. The Scots Magazine, 1815, also has the report and adds “by violent means, he feloniously and wickedly carried off several parcels of soap belonging to the proprietors of the said works, aggravated by being a servant of the works. (He sailed for New South Wales, Australia, in July 1815 on the ship ’Mary Anne’ – Ancestry). The Mary Anne arrived in New South Wales on 19th January 1816 carrying 101 passengers. The average sentence was 8 years with 29 Life sentences.
"The Queensferry Soap Story" researched and written
by Frank Hay, a member of
Queensferry History Group