The ground shakes when the factory thunders into life. Carding machines, drawing frames, spinning machines and weaving looms comb, stretch, whirl, spin and weave the very same thread for which Dundee was once famous. Jute. In the late 19th century the Scottish port had more jute factories than anywhere else in the world. One of them was the Verdant Works. The last working jute mill in Britain is now an exciting museum. Here visitors can find out more about the past history of the local textile industry at first hand. In the offices they can eavesdrop on the clerks. Later they can travel alongside the bales of jute in the hold of a clipper from India to Dundee before being confronted with the appalling factory conditions under which children were forced to work. They are then given the chance to contrast this to the luxurious lives of the Jute Barons and their families. As was usual in the local factories it was mostly women who manned the machinery. With its films, inter-active computer programmes, audio-visual scenarios, the smell of oil and the noise of running machines, Verdant Works is a place where the power of the industrial past is made vividly present.
You can make a whole variety of products with jute. From wagon coverings to sacks, sand bags, wall coverings, yarn, rope and even carpets. Thanks to the rapid growth in world trade in the 19th century it was especially in demand as a packing material. Dundee moved in to satisfy the general needs. All the right conditions were there. The port was one of the most important loading and unloading centres in Scotland. The local linen industry was in such a poor shape that it was easy to persuade it to move into jute production. And the local wharves ensured there was a prolific fleet of clippers. The raw material from the jute fields in the sub-continent of India was exported all over the world. Around 1900 there were about 50,000 workers employed in Dundee’s jute industry. This in turn gave rise to thousands of jobs in shipbuilding, transport and engineering. Verdant Works is the best example of this. Much of the machinery was made in Dundee and the surrounding towns. The factory started production in 1833 and was later extended by the addition of warehouses and offices. At first it was a linen factory like many other factories in the town. But it was not long before it switched to jute. Up to 5000 workers were employed here including many women and children. Women especially were in the clear majority in the factories of Dundee, a fact which earned the town the nickname of “she town” for a while. The dawn of the 20th century heralded the end of the Scottish textile city as the world-wide centre of the jute industry. By this time India, the traditional supplier of jute had itself become a much more powerful producer. This had made itself noticeable at the Verdant Works as early as 1893. From then on jute was only recycled here, and this only in one section of the factory. The rise of the polypropylene industry gave the final death blow to jute production. The machines remained in place. And since 1996 they have been up and running once again at the heart of the present-day museum.
|Recommended duration of visit:||2 Hours|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||Available|
|Infrastructure for children:|
|Visitor centre on site:||yes|
|Gift and book shop on site:||yes|
April to October:
Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm
November to March:
Wednesday to Saturday 10.30am-4.30pm
closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, 1st and 2nd January