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The fabric of the toun

Dunfermline people made some of the best linen in the world, building fortunes and an international reputation.

From the eighteenth century Dunfermline became firmly associated with linen weaving, first with handlooms in domestic dwellings and later with a series of steam powered mills around the city centre. At one time their tall chimneys would have been a distinctive feature of the city’s skyline, but the last major mill – Pilmuir Works – closed in 2005.

The fortunes created by the linen industry led to important contributions to Scottish culture. The artist Sir Joseph Noel Paton and his sister the sculptor Amelia Robertson Hill were the children of a Dunfermline damask designer. The wealthy mill owner Erskine Beverage had a keen interest in archaeology, history and photography, and hundreds of his early glass plate negatives were discovered when his St Leonard’s works closed. George Reid, a partner in the linen firm Andrew Reid & co, gifted his collection of medieval books and manuscripts to museums towards the end of his life. The Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries holds a copy of a ‘Missile Romanum’ from his collection, a medieval book with music and text to celebrate Mass throughout the year.

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