Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,470 pages of information and 233,895 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Michael Nairn and Co

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of Kirkcaldy, Scotland

The first floorcloth factory in Scotland was built by Michael Nairn in 1847-48 in the Fife town of Kirkcaldy his place of birth.

1804 Michael Nairn was born.

1828 Nairn started to produce canvas to sell to the floor-cloth trade.

1847 Company was established when he set his factory to manufacture floor cloths.

1851 Nairn exhibited his Scottish Floorcloth at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. Although he won no prizes, he was determined to succeed.

1858 Michael Nairn died, but the company, Michael Nairn and Co, continued to expand, run by his widow Catherine, son Robert and a manager.

1861 Michael Barker Nairn, another son, joined the company, and was granted patents for his inventions relating to floor-cloths, power looms and linoleum.

At the 1862 Exhibition in London and the 1867 Paris Exhibition Nairns Floorcloth came into its own and won the prizes Michael had tried for before his death.

1870 Nairn and Co built a six-storey factory in Kirkcaldy.

1877 With the introduction of linoleum, Kirkcaldy soon became the largest producer of the new floorcovering in the world.

1893 Incorporated as a limited company.

1900s The Nairns continued to manufacture linoleum through the early 1900's, and their business flourished.

1914 Linoleum and floor cloth manufacturers. [1]

1920s The family joined forces with a supplier in Erie, Pennsylvania, which manufactured a three-foot wide simulated wood grain product used to border area rugs and linoleum. This product was known as "Congoleum", because the asphalt materials used to make it came from the Belgian Congo in Africa. The new company called itself Congoleum-Nairn.

Congoleum-Nairn continued to sell "Congoleum Gold Seal Rugs" and "Nairn linoleum" through the late 1930's, until its researchers started experimenting with a new material called vinyl. However, further research into developing vinyl flooring was interrupted when World War II began. Following the war, the company continued to grow in the rapidly expanding housing market of that period.

2008 Forbo-Nairn is now the UK's only linoleum manufacturer. Forbo-Nairn have their own website. [1]

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [2] The Fife Post
  • [3] Friends of Beamish
  • [4] Congoleum Company History
  • Trademarked. A History of Well-Known Brands - from Aertex to Wright's Coal Tar by David Newton. Pub: Sutton Publishing 2008 ISBN 978-0-7509-4590-5