Caldrum Works

The last of Dundee's textile factories still in operation, Caldrum Works is a historic jute mill located on St. Salvador Street in Hilltown, a half-mile (1 km) north of the city centre. The building comprises a two-storey milk-chocolate sandstone facade in front of extensive single-storey mill sheds, lit through partially-glazed piended slate roofs. Dating from 1872 and designed by local mill engineers Robertson & Orchar for jute spinners Harry Walker & Sons, this was said to be the first fully integrated, single-storey jute works, which grew to become the second largest jute mill in Britain in the 1920s (Cox's Camperdown Works was the largest). The facade was added 1912, including a board room on the first floor. By this time the works had been extended to cover an area of 3.2 ha (8 acres) with 9500 spindles, powered by overhead line shafts. The original engine house was replaced by a larger one in 1900, although its lofty chimney stack is now gone. Caldrum Works were integrated, whereby raw jute entered in the east of the plant and was spun, woven and finished under one roof, emerging as finished cloth.

John C. Low and George Bonar formed a partnership in 1903 and adopted the wise policy of retaining profits to see their firm through difficult times. While the First World War brought a boom in jute production with the need for sacking for sand-bags, webbing and backpacks, the downturn that followed proved problematic for the industry. In 1920, they took over Jute Industries Ltd., the world's largest jute producer, which had absorbed Harry Walker & Sons Ltd. In 1924, they acquired another Dundee giant, Baxter Brothers. The Second World War brought more orders, with jute, cotton, flax and hemp being used to produce canvas, sacking, webbing and bags.

After the independence of India in 1947, protections for the British industry were lost and jute was being spun and woven close to its source, in the areas around the Ganges Delta. By the 1950s the industry in Dundee was in terminal decline and Low & Bonar began to diversify. By the 1960s, the mill began extruding polypropylene yarn for carpet-making and later to make astroturf. Subsidiary companies once based in Africa and Canada were replaced with offices, warehouses and factories in Abu Dhabi, the USA and Belgium. The last member of the Bonar family to be involved with the company retired in 1990. Now headquartered in London, Low & Bonar Group still produce polypropylene yarn for carpet backing at Caldrum Works, having sold their Abu Dhabi-based artificial grass yarns business in 2016.

The buildings are now B-listed, but their most prominent feature is the stainless-steel polypropylene silos built in the 1980s on the site of the former starch-house. The easternmost section of the plant has been demolished and replaced with housing.

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