In his will of 1902, Robert Jeffrey bequeathed the contents of his library at Crosslie House, Renfrewshire to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. This bequest consisted of ‘all the books that shall belong to me, at the time of my decease, together with the bookcases in which they are contained and the statuettes on the top thereof, as well as the ivory carving statuettes and mosaics on the wall between the principal bookcases and the oriel window in my library at Crosslie House’. 1 An incidental part of his bequest included two portraits one of himself and one of his wife Margaret Jeffrey (nee Reid)
Robert Jeffrey was born into a family of cloth manufacturers whose business spanned the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Robert`s grandfather, James Jeffrey, was a linen manufacturer in Fife where Robert`s father, Robert Thomson Jeffrey was born in 1787. His mother was Margaret Thomson.2 On the 21 December 1813, Robert Thomson Jeffrey married Margaret Jack in Biggar, Lanarkshire. 3 Margaret`s father, James, was a farmer in Roberton. The marriage produced eight children; William born 1816, Agnes 1817, John 1818, James 1820, Andrew Gordon 1822, all born in Biggar. 4 After the birth of Andrew, the family moved to Edinburgh where Robert set up business in the Lawnmarket: ‘Jeffrey, Robert, cotton manufacturer, 300 Lawnmarket.‘5
During their stay of about nine years in Edinburgh, three more children were born; Isobel 1824 and Francis 1830. Robert Jeffrey junior was born on the 4 March 1827 in Edinburgh and christened in St. Cuthbert`s Church. 6 About 1833, the family moved to Glasgow where Robert set up business at 37 St. Andrew`s Street with a house at 16 St. Andrew`s Square later moving to 49 St. Andrew`s Square: 7 ‘Jeffrey, R, stripe, check and linen manufacturer, 37, St Andrew’s St, house 49 St Andrew Sq.’8
With business obviously prospering, the family moved to Wyndford House in Maryhill, Glasgow:‘Jeffrey, R. cotton and linen manufacturer, 37, St Andrew`s Street, house Wyndford by Maryhill’ 9
In the census of 1841, the family at Wyndford consisted of Robert and Margaret Jeffrey, Agnes, William, James and Francis along with Robert Jeffrey junior aged 13. Robert was educated at Glasgow High School and at the Collegiate School which opened in 1842 in Garnethill.10,11 Two family members not on the census were John and Andrew. John Jeffrey had probably left by this time to take over or establish a base for the family business in Kirkcaldy 12 and Andrew may already have moved to Balfron to look after the family`s interests there.
(The Ballindalloch cotton works near Balfron were built in 1790 by Robert Dunmore and sold to Kirkman Finlay of James Finlay & Co. in 1798. They were subsequently sold to Robert Jeffrey & Sons in 1845 after the death of Kirkman Finlay). 13
By 1851 Robert Jeffrey was a linen manufacturer employing 54 males and 114 females.14 The firm exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London: ‘Jeffrey, Robert, Mary Hill, Glasgow, Kirkaldy (sic), Forfar, and Brechin – Specimens of huck, dowlas, ticks, loom sheeting, diaper, &c.’ 15
In that year, Robert and Margaret together with Agnes, James and Robert junior were still at Wyndford. Robert junior was now aged 23 and employed as a clerk of works. 16
On 3 November 1858 the thirty-one-year old Robert Jeffrey, a ‘manufacturer’ married Margaret Reid who was twenty-two. The wedding took place in Hillock House, Govan which was the bride`s home. Her father Alexander Reid was a turkey red dyer who had founded the Govan Dyeworks in 1829; 17 her mother was Mary Veitch. 18 Robert and Margaret moved to 17 Buckingham Terrace, Glasgow with Robert employed in the family business at 118 Brunswick Street. 19
Meanwhile John Jeffrey was overseeing the building of the family`s Balsusney Works in Kirkcaldy 20 with William and Andrew in control of the Ballindalloch Works:
‘an extensive Cotton work on the banks of the Endrick Water, the building varies from one to six storeys in height and was erected in 1789. The machinery is propelled by water of about 30 horse power. This work employs about 250 persons when in full operation, chiefly females. Property of W. and A. Jeffrey, Balfron.’ 21
The works which were employed in cotton spinning would have been supervised by Andrew Gordon Jeffrey who lived locally in Buchanan Street, Balfron.
Robert Thomson Jeffrey was widowed in 1861 when his wife Margaret died at Wyndford on 15 March. 22 In the census of 1861 his address was Garscube Road, Maryhill, still a cotton and linen manufacturer now aged 73 with his daughter Agnes aged 44. Three years later on 6 May 1864 Robert Thomson Jeffrey died at Wyndford House. 23 In his will dated 27 April 1863 24 he left all his assets; ‘in favour of William Jeffrey, manufacturer in Glasgow, John Jeffrey, manufacturer in Kirkcaldy, Andrew Jeffrey, cotton spinner, Ballindalloch, Balfron, Robert Jeffrey junior, manufacturer in Glasgow, all my sons’.
He described his business relationship with his sons as a ‘copartnery. and his four sons were to divide equally the whole residue of his estate between them. There was no mention of his daughter Agnes.
In 1867, Robert Jeffrey, his wife Margaret and brother Andrew sailed from Liverpool to Boston, Massachusetts where they arrived on 9 May. 25 On their return, on 31 July 1867, Robert Jeffrey
‘retired from and ceased to be a partner in the company of Robert Jeffrey & Sons, Manufacturers in Glasgow and at Wyndford near Glasgow, Balsusney near Kirkcaldy and Ballindalloch near Balfron of which he and the other subscribers were the sole partners ‘.
The ‘other subscribers’ were William Jeffrey and John Jeffrey with no mention of Andrew. This was reported in the London Gazette the following year. 26
Robert and Margaret Jeffrey moved to Crosslie House as tenants about 1869 with previous addresses being 224 Great Western Road and 21 Holyrood Crescent. 27 It would be about this time that Robert started to collect books for his library and begin his travels in Europe and venturing as far as Egypt. From the outset, though, he was involved in discussions with the owners of Crosslie House concerning repairs and alterations first of all to the offices and then to part of the building damaged by fire. The Glasgow architect John Baird was employed to draw up plans. This work was completed by 1873. However, later that year Robert intimated that ‘he will renew his tenancy for 11 years provided that certain alterations are made to the house and he ‘wishes permission also to erect vineries, conservatories or glass houses’. The plans give a description of the house and grounds:
‘The house has 3 floors and “a sunk flat”. The Ground Floor includes a Large Entrance Hall and a Large Library (formerly two rooms converted into one) and the First Floor comprises Dining Room, Drawing Room and Bedroom. The Offices consist of Coachman or Gardener’s House (2 rooms and kitchen) Stable 3 stalls and loose box, Coach house for 3 carriages, Washing-shed, 2 Conservatories (Stone Built), Dog Kennel (Modern).The Garden and Grounds extend to 10 acres or thereby, and are beautifully wooded and planted with a fine variety of pines and shrubs.’ 28
The 1871 census confirms that Robert and Margaret were at Crosslie House, Renfrewshire and employed a cook and a housemaid. He was described as a ‘retired merchant’. In the same year, Andrew Jeffrey died of heart disease at Buchanan Street, Balfron. He was Justice of the Peace for Stirlingshire and a Captain of Rifle Volunteers. 29
In 1879 Robert set out a second time to visit the USA. This time on his own. He sailed from Glasgow via Larne and arrived in New York aboard the ‘State of Nevada’ on 24 February 1879 30
The firm of Robert Jeffrey & Sons appears to have ceased trading in the 1880s. The Glasgow Post Office Directory for 1880/81 has the listing:
‘Jeffrey, Robert & Sons, cotton spinners, Ballindalloch Works, Balfron; linen and cotton manufacturers, Wyndford Works, Maryhill; warehouse 110 Brunswick Street’.
However, in the Glasgow Post Office Directories from 1881 to 1887 only the Wyndford Works is mentioned and the entry for 1887/88 is the last for the firm. The year 1889 saw the opening of the Castle Brewery in Maryhill, which was
‘built upon the premises vacated some time since by Messrs. Robert Jeffrey & Sons, Linen and Cotton manufacturers, and the ground, buildings, and accessories cover an area of fully an acre’. 31
On 29 August 1899, Margaret Jeffrey died at Crosslie House. She was sixty two. 32 In the census of 1901, Robert was at Crosslie House, aged 74 and a retired linen manufacturer. A visitor to Crosslie at the time of the census was Francis Barrett aged sixty five. He was Glasgow`s City Librarian and first Librarian of the Mitchell Library. He seems to have guided Robert in his choice of books for his library. Robert Jeffrey died on 18 August the following year at Crosslie House, probably of cancer of the stomach. His death was reported by his gardener. 33 He was buried on 22 August at Craigton Cemetery in Glasgow. His grave (F 630 – 632) 34 is next to that of his brother-in-law Thomas Reid who was the principal shareholder of the cemetery at the time of his death.
Sacred To the Memory of Margaret Daughter of Alexander Reid Of Govan and Wife of Robert Jeffrey Manufacturer, Glasgow Died 29th August 1899 Aged 62 Years
Also The Above Robert Jeffrey Died 18th August 1902 Aged 75 Years.
He bequeathed to the Public And Endowed The Jeffrey Reference Library
In the memorandum written by Francis Thornton Barrett, Robert Jeffrey amassed his collection of books over a period of about thirty years. The collection includes first editions of collected works by Dickens, Scott and Thackeray. There are many works of Scottish history and literature including the Kilmarnock edition of the poems of Robert Burns. Among the many works of natural history there is a double elephant folio of The Birds of America by John James Audubon – apparently a gift from Margaret to Robert. At his death the collection amounted to over 4,300 volumes and had cost about £6,300. It was valued at the time of his death at £4789.5.6. His total estate was valued at £32,901.15.2 35
His will 36 was written at Crosslie House by Johnstone, Renfrewshire. It was presented for registration at Edinburgh on 23 August 1902 and at Paisley on the 26th of February 1903. Francis Thornton Barrett, librarian of the Mitchell Library, was one of the trustees and executors. He was given a legacy of £50 paid annually. Robert`s housekeeper Jessie Robertson was to choose articles of furniture and plenishings from the house to the value of £100. She also to be given £50 per annum. On the death of his wife Margaret Reid he had received about £2000 derived from the estate of her father, he wished this to be returned to her family i.e. her four nieces. and shared equally. £50 per annum was to be paid to Francis Jeffrey and £100 per annum to Robert Milne Jeffrey and William Jeffrey sons of his deceased brother William Jeffrey. It was also evident from the inventory of his estate that he had retained possession of Hillock House, his wife`s former home and that he rented it out with a piece of vacant ground to Mackie and Thomson, shipbuilders.
The bulk of his will is devoted to the disposal of his library. He states that he has bestowed much time, labour and expense on the acquisition of his library of books. He wishes it to be preserved intact and to be called ‘The Jeffrey Reference Library’ and made available ‘for the benefit and instruction of all well conducted persons’… He wishes to hand over all the books….together with the bookcases in which they are contained and the statuettes on the top thereof, as well as the ivory carving statuettes and mosaics on the wall between the (four) principal bookcases and the oriel window in the library at Crosslie House……and that they shall in all time coming be retained and held by the Managers of the Mitchell Library without any power to dispose of them. To be kept separate and apart from other books of the Mitchell Library with a separate catalogue and not added to. If the Mitchell Library refused the gift or failed to meet the conditions, the library was to be offered to the University Court of the University of Glasgow. It was a further condition that whoever accepted the gift of the library had to agree to provide the funds to maintain his burying ground and monument in Craigton Cemetery ‘in all time coming’ in perfect condition. No further internments were to be allowed. His library was to be fully insured against loss or damage by fire, theft or otherwise. It was to be under the management of a Special Assistant whose salary is to be considered as part of the cost of maintenance.
If the Mitchell and the University were to refuse the gift then the library was to be sold and all together with the whole residue of his means and estate to be given to the Royal Infirmary Glasgow subject only to them maintaining his burying ground and monument in Craigton Cemetery. The Mitchell if it accepted the gift was forbidden to try to dispose of any part of it under threat of forfeiture to the University and the same for them to the Royal Infirmary.
- National Records of Scotland, Wills and Testaments, SC58/42/63
- Scotland`s People Death Certificate (Robert Thomson Jeffrey)
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- Robert Jeffrey and his Library, Francis Thornton Barrett, Mitchell Library, Glasgow, AGN 1933, MP (31) 155, 156
- The Ballindalloch Notes Issues of 1830, P. Symes, 1996
- Scotland`s People, Census 1951
- Catalogue of Great Exhibition of 1851
- Scotland`s People, Census 1851
- Slaven, A. and Checkland, S. (eds) Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography, 1860 – 1960, Vol. 1, Aberdeen University Press, 1986, p 395
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- Scotland`s People, Death Certificate
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- Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820 – 1963, ancestry.co.uk
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- https://www.oldglasgowpubs.co.uk › castlevaultsmaryhill
- Scotland`s People, Death Certificate
- Craigton Cemetery Burial Records, Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library
- National Records of Scotland, Wills and Testaments, SC58/42/63