Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Alexander Cowan and Sons

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of 24 and 25 Upper Thames Street, London, EC

of Valleyfield Paper Mills, Penicuik, makers of paper

1708 A paper mill was established at Penicuik

1770 Charles Cowan bought the paper mill at Penicuik which he renamed Valleyfield

His son, Alexander Cowan (d. 1859), owned the paper mills at Penicuik, near Edinburgh

1859 His son, Charles Cowan, took over the business on the death of his father

1867 With the introduction of esparto grass, which could only be used to make paper by boiling it in caustic soda, the pollution of the River Esk became intolerable. Following the great pollution case of 1866, which was brought against all the papermakers on the River Esk by the Duke of Buccleuch, Lord Melville and Sir J.W. Drummond of Hawthornden, Cowans built a pulping mill at Musselburgh (see Inveresk Mill). This did not reduce the total amount of pollution but it did allow it to flow directly into the sea thereby by-passing the people most likely to complain about it. Later it was converted into a paper mill.

c.1889 Charles brother, Sir John Cowan, took over the business. He set up a fund through which a proportion of the firm's profits were channelled into philanthropic works and built the Cowan Institute as an educational and leisure facility for the people of Penicuik.

1914 Paper manufacturers, export stationers, account book and envelope manufacturers. [1]

by 1956 the company also operated envelope and commercial stationery factories in Edinburgh, London, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, and Wellington and Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as the Valleyfield mill. The company also owned substantial paper-merchanting organizations.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biographies of Sir John Cowan, and Charles Cowan, ODNB
  • [1] Penicuik papermaking