Robert Boyd – calico printer

Robert Boyd was part of a family calico printing firm in Barrhead and Manchester which was run with his brother Thomas Boyd.

Robert Boyd was a founding member of the Baths, being an original shareholder of the Glasgow Swimming Baths Co Ltd and on the first committee of management of the Arlington Swimming Club.

The family firm 

Thomas Boyd & Co was a firm of calico printers established in 1825 in Levensholme near Manchester, England.

So far Robert’s details have been difficult to track down, partly because the Boyd family seems to have been very extensive and had many members, often using the same forenames between the different branches.

From 1867 to 1869, he lived at 10 Somerset Place, again with Thomas, with offices at 91 Mitchell Street. Thomas moved three doors down to 7 Somerset Place between 1869 – 75.

At the time of the 1871 census Robert now aged 30, was also at the 7 Somerset place address though by 1872, and until 1876, he had moved to 1 Huntly Gardens. By 1879 the Boyds are reunited at 11 Clairmont Gardens until 1881.

Page from a Lancashire album of roller-printed cottons, 1871-1874, Downing Collection at MMU, 1994.061. Images © Manchester Metropolitan University, reproduced in Identifying Printed Textiles in Dress 1740 – 1890

“These samples are identified as the product of Thomas Boyd & Company. Although Boyd’s printworks was located at Barrhead near Glasgow, the company also had a warehouse in Manchester explaining why his work appears in this pattern book. Although specialising in printed muslins and delaines, the firm evidently printed high-quality calicos as well.”

Identifying Printed Textiles in Dress 1740 – 1890 by Dr Philip A. Sykas, published by DATS Dress and Textile Specialists, 2007

Thomas Boyd & Co seem to disappear from the Post Office directory in 1881-2, and early in 1883 Thomas died. The firm continued with Robert still involved, as can be seen from this notice in the London Gazette of 27 March 1883.

But six years later the company amalgamated into the Calico Printers Association Limited, when it was founded in 1899.

The Calico Printers Association Ltd was an amalgamation of 46 textile printing companies and 13 textile merchants. By that date, fierce competition in an overcrowded market meant that the individual companies struggled to make the profits they once enjoyed, and they banded together to ensure calico printers could continue “to produce textiles of a high standard at reasonable prices”.  In later years, changing fashions and cheaper imported products decimated the industry.

Researchers: Will Jess, Kay Bryant and Lucy Janes


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