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James Prain, Mill owner – Larchfield Works


James Prain was born at Inchture, Perthshire in 1802. His parents were called William and Catharine (nee Fender) Prain. [1]

It is thought that James Prain went on to be a farmer of flax at the Rawes in the Carse of Gowrie. They put out flax to be spun and woven at the local cottages. This information about his early life comes from discussions between E Gauldie and a Prain descendant. [2]

This must surely have been a successful endeavour because there followed a natural progression after some time when it was possible to have a Mill built in Dundee for the manufacture of linen. The construction is thought to have been completed in 1818  which was called Larchfield Works. This mill whose address was Walton Street is occasionally referred to as Walton Works. [3]

This must surely have been a successful endeavour because there followed a natural progression after some time when it was possible to have a Mill built in Dundee for the manufacture of linen. The construction is thought to have been completed in 1818  which was called Larchfield Works. This mill whose address was Walton Street is occasionally referred to as Walton Works. [3]

There is also mention of the early existence of Larchfield Works in the early 1800s in a book about the linen trade by A J Warden. [4]

In 1928 it is known that the “Company of James & Sons has been wound up and reinstated as James Prain & Sons Ltd.” This move would have been common at the time following the Companies Consolidation Act 1908[5]

According to Mark Watson Prain’s Mill at Larchfield Works was built circa 1866. It might be that the original buildings from an earlier time were expanded. Referring to “Larchfield Works, The Mill (building), Watson mentions that “tiles in the attic floor served to minimise the fire risk and withstand the vibrations of the winding frames”. There is evidence that Larchfield Works expanded in 1880 when James Prain & Sons bought a one storey mill that had been used as a preparing block as part of the Coffin Mill. It was situated between Walton Street and Brook Street. [6]

The information in Watson’s book is supported by an announcement in the Dundee Courier 1867. The article says “A new powerloom factory, recently built in Walton Street and belonging to Messers Prain and Sons was started on Saturday last. The new work is three storeys high and gives employment to a large number of operatives”.[7]

James Prain’s Family History

There is a record of James Prain’s marriage to Barbara Sutherland (born in England, daughter of John Sutherland) on 02-06-1831 in the St Mary’s District of Dundee. [8]

At this time they are living at 25 Hawkhill.[9]

James and Barbara Prain had 8 children:

*Elizabeth Easton Prain , born 1834, d-19-03-1876

*Barbara Prain, born 1835, d 21-10- 1848, age 13 -(“water in the head”)

*Agnes Prain, born 1838, d 21-08-1909.

*John Easton Prain, born 1839.

*James Prain, born 1840

*Euphemia Prain, born 1844, d 20-01-1865

*William Prain, born 1846 died 1847 age 8 months – ( “water in head”)

Prain Baptism

Jean Prain was born in 1847 (also died that year age 1 month – “debility”) [10]

Barbara Prain, wife of James Prain sadly died 14 -12-1854 at 31 Park Wynd, age 48 – cause of death “disease of heart”.

Barbara Prain (nee Sutherland), wife of James Prain, Barbara Prain, William Prain and Jean Prain, children of James Prain were interred at New Howff cemetery also known as Constitution Road Cemetery.[11]

Prain Deaths

Prain’s residences in Dundee

By 1853  Dundee Post Office Directories confirms that James Prain was living at 31 Park Wynd, Dundee. At this time James Prain’s occupation is stated as Manufacturer of Linens.[12]

Previously the 1851 census tells us that there was an Elizabeth Elder or Sutherland  also living there at that time named as “grandmother” . It is possible she was there help to take care of the children if their mother’s health was failing and after the death of Barbara Prain.[13]

There is also record of James Prain being associated with numbers 29 and 33 Park Wynd during the time period (1853- 1864). This is further explained by an entry in the classifieds column of the Dundee Courier 1864 where James Prain is selling two tenements with garden ground behind in Park Wynd. One is described as a dwelling house and the other as warehouses suitable for conversion into dwelling houses at little cost which “could command good tenants.”[14]

In  the 1881 Census James Prain (age 78) is residing at 5 Dudhope Terrace. At this time he is described as a Flax and Jute Merchant employing 50 men, 320 women, 55 boys and 10 girls. He has in his employ two servants Mary Salmond age 24 – servant and cook and Mary Jarron 19 – housemaid. Also living at this house in 1881 were his daughter Agnes Prain (age 43) and son James Prain (age 40). In the same 1881 census his son John Easton Prain is living in Albany terrace, one of the streets behind Dudhope Terrace.[15]

James’ passing

James Prain died on 6th April 1890 at 5 Dudhope Terrace. In his obituary the Rev Dr Short of Ward Chapel said “.. though he had lived a long life and had had his trials yet on the whole he had enjoyed a happy life. His cheery courageous heart kept up to the last”.[16]

There are Prain family plots at Longforgan Parish Church graveyard. However on searching the records from the Friends of Dundee City Archives – Howff Graveyard Dundee, one finds the listing for James Prain, manufacturer refers to the entry for his wife Barbara Sutherland so it seems likely that he was laid to rest beside her and his children. This graveyard is also closely associated with Ward Chapel, James Prain’s church of 55 years. The burying- ground, on the west side of Constitution Road, was opened in 1836, the Ward Chapel itself having opened in 1833.[17].

In one of the three book records  by Sidney Cramer of The Constitution Cemetery held in the Central Library, Dundee,  there is a hand written reference to all the Prain family.

Credits:

Staff at Dundee University Archives
Staff at Dundee City Archives
Louisa Attaheri, Curator Dundee Heritage Trust
Lily Thomson, former weaver, volunteer at Verdant Works Jute Museum

Staff at Blackness Library

Photopolis

Sources:

1.Old parish registers Births 359/20231 Inchture. National Records of Scotland via Scotland’s People.

 Referencing  Gauldie, E. co author of (1969). Dundee and its textile industry, 1850-1914. Dundee: Abertay Historical Society.

 3. Larchfield Works 1818- Lythe, C., Lythe, C., & Gauldie, E. (1969). Dundee and its textile industry, 1850-1914. Dundee: Abertay Historical Society, p.115

 4. Warden, A. J. (1867). The linen trade: ancient and modern (2nd ed.). London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green, p.657

5. Dundee Evening Telegraph  27/01/1928

 6. Watson M (1990) “Jute and Flax Mills in Dundee”, Scotland, Hutton Press)

7. Dundee Courier Saturday 12th October 1867 Entitled “Starting a new Factory”

 8. Old Parish registers, Marriages, 282/22046, Dundee). Dundee old parish registers list – describing districts and district reference numbers – St Mary’s – 282/01

9. Dundee Post Office directories 1831/32

10. Ancestry.co.uk

11. FDCA records from Howff graveyard of Dundee

12. 1853  Dundee Post office directories – Dundee City Archives

13. 1851 Scotland Census – Ancestry.co.uk

14. Dundee Courier 26/02/1864  Classifieds.

15. 1881 Scotland Census via Ancestry.co.uk

16. Dundee Courier of Monday 14 April 1890

17. http://www.scottish-places.info/towns/townhistory399.html

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