Jute Manufacture

Jute Manufacture

Verdant Works

Verdant Works


Verdant Works, also known as Scotland's Jute Museum @ Verdant Works, is a former jute mill in the Blackness area of Dundee, Scotland. It was purchased in 1991 by the Dundee Heritage Trust. The trust restored the buildings and opened them in 1996 as a museum dedicated to the textile industry, an industry that once dominated the city's economy. The Verdant Works was given Category A listed building status by Historic Scotland in 1987. This is the highest category for listing in Scotland, denoting a building of national architectural importance. It is a rare surviving example of a courtyard-type mill, with its original building layout and many original features remaining. It is one of a declining number of industrial premises in Dundee and east-central Scotland remaining little-changed from the 19th century.


Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is produced primarily from plants in the genus Corchorus, which was once classified with the family Tiliaceae, and more recently with Malvaceae. The primary source of the fiber is Corchorus olitorius, but it is considered inferior to Corchorus capsularis. "Jute" is the name of the plant or fiber that is used to make burlap, hessian or gunny cloth. The word 'jute' is probably coined from the word jhuta or jota, an Oriya word. Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers and is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibers. Jute fibers are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose and lignin. It falls into the bast fiber category (fiber collected from bast, the phloem of the plant, sometimes called the "skin") along with kenaf, industrial hemp, flax (linen), ramie, etc. The industrial term for jute fiber is raw jute. The fibers are off-white to brown, and 1–4 metres (3–13 feet) long. Jute is also called the golden fiber for its color and high cash value.


For centuries, jute has been an integral part of the culture of East Bengal, in the entire southwest of Bangladesh. Since the seventeenth century the British started trading in jute. During the reign of the British Empire jute was also used in the military. British jute barons grew rich processing jute and selling manufactured products made from jute. Dundee Jute Barons and the British East India Company set up many jute mills in Bengal and by 1895 jute industries in Bengal overtook the Scottish jute trade. Many Scots emigrated to Bengal to set up jute factories. More than a billion jute sandbags were exported from Bengal to the trenches during World War I and also exported to the United States southern region to bag cotton. It was used in the fishing, construction, art and the arms industry. Initially, due to its texture, it could only be processed by hand until it was discovered in Dundee that by treating it with whale oil, it could be treated by machine. The industry boomed throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ("jute weaver" was a recognised trade occupation in the 1900 UK census), but this trade had largely ceased by about 1970 due to the emergence of synthetic fibers. In the 21st century, jute again rose to be an important crop for export around the world in contrast to synthetic fiber, mainly from Bangladesh.


By the time the High Mill of Verdant Works was built in 1833 Britain’s Industrial Revolution was reaching its climax. England’s ‘dark satanic mills’ were in full production, and in Scotland fortunes were being made and then multiplied a hundred fold. Towards the end of the Victorian era Scotland was producing a third of Britain’s railway engines, a third of its steel, a third of Britain’s ships and half of its engines. It is against this historical backdrop that the incredible story of jute in Dundee was played out.


In 1820 the first twenty bales of jute were unloaded at Dundee docks. It was to change the city’s destiny forever. So how did the fortunes of a Scottish city and a faraway region of the Indian sub-continent become so intertwined? The answer, in part, lies in Dundee’s industrial traditions. Weaving, whaling and shipbuilding were the three vital ingredients that made Dundee the jute capital of the then modern world. Weaving was an important occupation in Dundee as far back as the 16th century so the skills were already in place to adapt to jute processing. The local whaling fleet provided the whale oil needed to soften the jute and make it workable. And Dundee’s ship building industry (another offshoot of the whaling heritage) was put to work to construct the big, fast ships that brought the jute from India. On top of which new, worldwide markets were opening up for jute products, a fact the enterprising merchant community was quick to recognise.


Work in the Dundee jute mills of the 19th century offered little but drudgery, exhaustion, low wages and constant danger. Most of the workers were women and children (they cost less to employ) and employment law was virtually non-existent. In this day and age it’s hard to imagine the working conditions. Everybody would be covered in dust or ‘stour’, clogging eyes, mouths and noses. The noise of the machinery created an ever-present, ear-splitting din, with the result that many workers went deaf. Women outnumbered men three to one in the mills, an imbalance in the labour market that gained Dundee the nickname of ‘she town’. It created a unique and tough breed of women, born out of being the main providers for the family. The mill girls were noted for their stubborn independence. “Overdressed, loud, bold-eyed girls” according to one observer and often ‘roarin’ fou’ with drink – characteristics that caused consternation among the ‘gentlefolk’ of Dundee. Working alongside the women would be thousands of children. Again they commanded only low wages, and being so small meant they could pack the machines closer together. Children under nine would work as ‘pickers’, cleaning dust from beneath the machines. Health hazards were unavoidable. The heat, dust, grease and oil fumes caused a condition known as ‘Mill fever’, which would lead to respiratory diseases like bronchitis. And there was always the risk of accidents with the machines, graphic descriptions of which were common reading in the local newspaper.


The story of Juteopolis is a tale of two cities, both of them Dundee. One was a city populated by the mill workers living in overcrowded squalor. The other was the world of the wealthy Jute Barons, with their mansions and estates. With so many women working in the mills it was left to the unemployed men to become ‘kettle bilers’ and look after the babies and cook the meals. The diet was meagre in the extreme. Meat was a rare luxury. Potatoes and porridge were the staple diet for a 19th Century Dundonian, with ‘bread meat’ for the babies, an unwholesome mix of bread and boiling water. The early 20th century saw the introduction of so-called ‘convenience foods’ like margarine, white bread and sugar, more expensive but easier and quicker to prepare. Poor diet was a contributor to the low life expectancy, which, in 1863, was just 33 years for a man. The living conditions didn’t help either. The average number of people to a home was eight, often sharing four to a bed. Water was often polluted and cholera and typhus epidemics swept the city. Small wonder so many sought solace in the pubs. All this was in stark contrast to the privileged lives of the mill owners. Well educated, well fed and well off, theirs was a genteel existence. However, they also felt a sense of duty to the community and gave much money to be spent on philanthropic works in the city.


Jute would come into the mill as a pucca bale weighing 400 lbs. Packed tight it would feel hard as wood. From here it would go through nine different processes, finally emerging from the mill as the finished woven product. 1.BATCHING & SOFTENING - The jute is batched by quality and colour and hand twisted into bundles or ‘heads’. It is then put through a softener and sprayed with a mixture of oil and water to penetrate the fibres. 2.CARDING - The combing action of the pins on the carding machine ‘fleeces’ the jute before condensing it into a loose fibre called ‘sliver’. The process also further mixes the fibres. 3.DRAWING - The drawing frames make the sliver more uniform, straightening and reducing the fibres to a suitable size and weight for spinning. 4.ROVING - Roving machines draw out the sliver even further and add a slight twist to strengthen the fibre. The twisted rove is then wound onto a bobbin for transfer to the spinning frame.


5.SPINNING - Spinning frames draw the fibres to the specified thickness or ‘count’, twist the fibres to bind them together in a continuous thread and wind the resulting yarn onto bobbins. 6.COP & SPOOL WINDING - The bobbins are passed to the winding department where the yarn is wound onto spools to provide the ‘warp’ thread and onto ‘cops’ which fit into the shuttle and provide the ‘weft’ thread for weaving. 7.BEAMING - The spools from the winding department are loaded onto a frame from which the threads are drawn and wound onto a wooden reel or ‘swift’. Next the ends from the swift are pulled onto a beam, ready for fitting to the loom. 8.WEAVING - On the loom a picking arm carries the weft thread in the shuttle backwards and forwards across the loom, interlacing the weft with the warp threads. 9.FINISHING - The cloth is sent to the finishing department where it is cropped to shear off surplus fibres. The cloth is then ‘calendered’ by passing it under high pressure through heavy rollers to give a smooth, pressed finish.


Verdant Works is so called because when it was built for merchant and flax spinner David Lindsay in 1833 the area was surrounded by green fields. The ready availability of water (the Scouring Burn) made it a perfect location for a mill. In 1864 the Works ran three steam engines driving 70 power looms and 2,800 spindles. 500 people were employed, making Verdant the 16th biggest employer in the Dundee jute industry of the time. In 1883 one fifth of Dundee's workforce was under 15. In 1904 50% of Dundee men who volunteered for the army were refused as unfit. In 1911 70% of the people in Dundee still lived in one or two rooms. Between 1841 and 1901 the population of Dundee tripled from 45,000 to 161,000. in 1883 over 1 million bales of raw jute were unloaded in Dundee.


The Verdant Works are the only dedicated jute museum in the United Kingdom. As a museum, the Verdant Works tell the story of Dundee's textile industries, focusing primarily on the jute and linen industries. The production of textiles was the dominant industry in Dundee for many years, directly employing 50,000 people in the city (half the working population) by the end of the 19th century, as well as many more thousands in associated trades such as shipbuilding, transportation, and engineering. At the time Dundee supplied the majority of the world's demand for jute products, meaning it was also of importance for both Scottish and British histories. The jute collections cover the entire history of the jute industry. It covers topics such as manufacturing, research and development, end products, quality control, textile engineering, the industry's Indian connections, and the lives of the workers. Objects include machinery patterns, jute and flax products, small tools, technical drawings, plans, and quality control and testing equipment. The archives and photographic records of various mills and their workers have considerable historical research value. As well as the large machinery objects, the collections cover the fields of industrial history, social history, fine art, archives, business papers, photographs, costumes, and numismatics.


Designated parking spaces are available on the right hand side of the street as you approach the museum down West Henderson’s Wynd. There is no charge for these spaces. However, please note that they are not bookable. Scotland's Jute Museum @ Verdant Works also has a free car park for customers although there are limited spaces (entrance from Blinshall Street from which there is level pavement access to the museum. Scotland's Jute Museum @ Verdant Works has an historic cobbled courtyard entrance which is passable with care. There are ramps throughout the museum whenever there is a change in floor level. There is a lift to the first floor Social History gallery. This lift also provides access to the conference rooms. Wheelchairs are available for loan at no charge. Due to the restricted width of current doorways users of large motability scooters may find access to the reception area difficult. There is a variety of seating throughout the museum. Adapted toilets are available. There is a Sennheiser Infra-red hearing system in place wherever there is significant audio content in the museum displays. Either headphone or ‘necklace’ units are available to borrow from Museum Reception depending on the nature of the hearing disability. Assistance dogs are welcome.

HMS Discovery

HMS Discovery

trapped by the ice in McMurdo Sound

trapped by the ice in McMurdo Sound

Discovery Point



At the beginning of the 20th Century Antarctica was still an uncharted wilderness. Exploration was a daunting task, involving a long voyage through remote and tempestuous seas just to reach the continent. The 1901 British National Antarctic Expedition was the vision of Sir Clements Markham, President of the Royal Geographical Society. Naturally cautious, Markham saw the aims of the expedition as purely scientific. Being the first to reach the South Pole was never one of the objectives. By 1900 Markham had raised the necessary funds, now all he needed was a ship, and a man to lead the expedition. As a major whaling centre Dundee’s shipyards had long experience of constructing ships robust enough to travel through the Arctic pack ice. It was this expertise that Markham harnessed to build RRS Discovery, the first vessel to be constructed specifically for scientific research. While the design was based on the great Dundee whalers, there were some modifications to be made. Magnetic surveys were to be an important part of the scientific work of the expedition. To be sure of complete accuracy an exclusion zone round the magnetic observatory was created, with no iron or steel allowed within 30 feet of the area. As leader of the expedition Markham wanted “a naval officer in the regular line... young and a good sailor with experience of ships under sail. He must have imagination and enthusiasm... be calm, yet quick and decisive in action.” His search ended with a young naval officer he had first encountered twelve years earlier, Lieutenant Robert Falcon Scott. Devon born, Scott had joined the navy at thirteen. Following a chance reunion with Markham, Scott applied for the post of expedition leader. He was appointed in June 1900 and promoted to Commander RN at the age of just 33. Though a rather shy man he was also steady, strong and, as later events were to prove, immensely courageous.


Scott took personal charge of all preparations for the expedition. On 6th August, Discovery was finally ready, slipping her moorings at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, to begin her epic journey. It was a journey not without incident. En-route to New Zealand the vessel was lashed by gales and high seas, throwing her like a toy boat. Then tragedy struck on departure from Lyttelton Harbour in New Zealand. A young seaman, Charles Bonner, fell from the main mast, hurtling headfirst to his death, his skull crushed on the iron deckhouse. Forty-nine men started the journey south, each one hand-picked by Scott. Scientists apart, the complement was a mixture of merchant and naval seamen, a decision Scott came to regret as tensions broke out between the codes. As well as Scott two other senior crewmembers stand out in particular, Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson. Despite being invalided home, Shackleton’s first visit to the Antarctic left him obsessed with this bleak desert of ice. He was to return to the Antarctic three times including the ill-fated Endurance expedition which earned him a place in Polar history. Wilson, the expedition’s zoologist, was to die with Scott on the fateful journey to the pole in 1912. Scott had worked tirelessly to ensure no detail was overlooked. No one knew for how long the expedition would be cut off from the outside world. Everything had to be taken on board with them. Exhaustive provisions lists for three years were made – tropical and polar clothing, sledges, tents, furs, tools, explosives, signal rockets, a library of over a hundred books, lamps, candles, medicines and alcohol, described aptly as medical comforts! Many of the food stores were supplied free by firms with an eye on publicity – custard powder from Bird & Sons, lime juice from Evans, Lesher & Webb and two tons of Cocoa Powder from Cadbury’s. As almost every man smoked, tobacco was vital so 1,000 lbs of the pernicious weed was duly stowed. Further stores were taken on board in New Zealand. On the day Discovery left, the deck was a melee of twenty three howling dogs, a flock of forty five terrified sheep (a gift from the farmers of New Zealand) all milling around countless packing cases, sacks of food and timber for huts. An extraordinary scene indeed.


After five months at sea, Antarctica was eventually sighted on January 8th 1902. The main purpose of the expedition was scientific – to make magnetic surveys and carry out meteorological, oceanographic, geological and biological research. Five scientists carried out the work: zoologist Edward Wilson, biologist Thomas Hodgson, geologist Hartley Ferrar, physicist Louis Bernacchi and the ship’s senior surgeon and botanist Dr. Reginald Koettlitz. Hauling sledges through blizzards in temperatures as low as minus 45º, they risked frostbite and snow blindness to take measurements and collect specimens. The work was truly groundbreaking. Over five hundred new kinds of marine animals, spiders, shrimps, star and shellfish were discovered. The expedition was the first to sight an Emperor Penguin rookery and obtain an egg of the species. Many hundreds of miles of unknown coast, towering mountain ranges and glaciers were mapped. Invaluable magnetic measurements, auroral observations and seismic recordings were made. The body of work was massive when the research had been analysed and the Royal Geographical Society came to publish the results, ten large, weighty volumes were filled. It represented a major contribution to the understanding of the Antarctic continent, a feat made all the more remarkable considering the extreme conditions endured by the heroic scientists of Discovery. On November 2nd 1902 Scott, Wilson and Shackleton set off to cross the Great Ice Barrier and explore the frozen desert beyond. With them were nineteen dogs pulling five sledges laden with 1,853 lbs of supplies and equipment. On November 25th they had passed latitude 80º south, charting new lands and features every day. But there was a heavy price to pay. One by one the under-nourished dogs began to die. The men too were beginning to suffer dreadfully. They carried on until December 30th, when, at latitude 82º 17’, they reluctantly turned for home. Shackleton was in the advanced stages of scurvy, incapacitated and coughing up blood through his congested throat. Against near impossible odds they arrived back at Discovery on February 3rd 1903. They had trudged over 950 miles in 93 days, travelling further south than any man before them.


By December 1903 there was 20 miles of ice between Discovery and the open sea with no apparent way out. On January 4th 1904 two relief ships arrived, Morning and Terra Nova. Finally, on February 16th controlled explosions were used to blow Discovery free from her icy prison and the expedition headed for home. Landfall was made at Spithead on September 10th 1904 to a rapturous reception. Scott was acclaimed as a national hero and awarded numerous honours. RRS Discovery’s adventures continued, first with the Hudson Bay Company, then running munitions to Russia during the First World War. She was to make two further voyages to Antarctica before being laid up in London. In 1986 she made her triumphant return to Dundee and her final berth, a fitting memorial to the heroes of Antarctica. In 1925 Discovery set sail for the Southern Seas once again. The expedition’s mission was to research whale stocks, the migration pattern of whales and provide a scientific basis for regulation of the whaling industry. As on Discovery’s last trip south, important scientific breakthroughs were made. The expedition was crucial to our understanding of the whale and saw the beginnings of conservation thinking. Expedition The British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Expedition was Discovery’s third and final trip south. The brief this time was two fold: to chart the coastlines, islands, rocks and shoals between Queen Mary Land and Enderby Island and to “plant the British Flag wherever you find it practicable to do so.” Whole new lands were discovered and charted, and a mass of geological and zoological samples was collected, as were several chunks of territory on behalf of the British Government. By 1979 Discovery was in a serious state of dilapidation. The first stage of her restoration was funded by a grant of £1/2 million from The Maritime Trust. In 1986 a new home was offered by Dundee Heritage Trust and on April 3rd Discovery berthed at Victoria Dock, welcomed by thousands who lined the shores of the River Tay. Today, over 100 years after leaving Dundee, Discovery sits proudly as the centrepiece of the Discovery Point Visitor Centre.


Please note that due to the ongoing Waterfront Development and the construction of the V&A at Dundee they do not have disabled parking at present - please park in the Discovery Car Park which is at the side of the building. Parking is free if you display your disabled badge. There is a level entrance to Discovery Point and all the museum galleries are on the ground floor. A lift to the first floor offices, conference rooms and education suite is available. RRS Discovery is an historic ship and the nature of her construction means that full disabled access is not possible. There is a ramp that can be placed at the top of the gangway that provides access to the main deck. Access to the Bridge or the lower decks is by narrow stairs. Once below decks there are many changes in level and more stairs. On the quayside before you board Discovery is a film show of a tour of the ship, above and below decks. This film has both an audio commentary and written subtitles on the screen. Wheelchairs are available for loan at no charge. There is a variety of seating throughout the museum. Adapted toilets are available. There are induction loops fitted to the audio displays. Guide dogs, hearing dogs and other recognised assistance dogs are admitted. Concession rates are available and carers are admitted free. As Discovery Point has an extensive range of audio visual displays and hands-on interactives as well as the ship itself, they recommend you allow up to 2 hours for your visit.


Location : Scotland's Jute Museum @ Verdant Works, West Henderson’s Wynd, Dundee DD1 5BT

Location : Discovery Point, Discovery Quay, Dundee DD1 4XA

Transport Verdant Works: Dundee (National Rail) then 15 minutes or bus. Bus Routes : 9, 17, and 22 stop near by.

Transport Discovery Point: Dundee (National Rail) then 2 minutes. Bus Routes : Next to Dundee Bus and Coach Station.

Opening Times Verdant Works : November to March, Wednesday to Saturday 10.30 to 16:30; Sundays 11:00 to 16:30

Opening Times Verdant Works : 21st March to October, Monday to Saturday 10.00 to 18.00; Sundays 11:00 to 18.00

Opening Times Discovery Point : November to March, Wednesday to Saturday 10.00 to 17:00; Sundays 11:00 to 17:00

Opening Times Discovery Point : April to October, Monday to Saturday 10.00 to 18.00; Sundays 11:00 to 18.00

Tickets Verdant Works: Adults £9.25;  Concessions £7.25;  Children (5 - 15) £5.50

Tickets Discovery Point: Adults £9.25;  Concessions £7.25;  Children (5 - 15) £5.50

Tickets Verdant / Discovery: Adults £16.00;  Concessions £11.75;  Children (5 - 15) £9.00

Tel : 01382 309060