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Published: 20 November 2021

By Andy Ross

James Templeton and Company

In the heady days of the Victorian era, when innovation and development progressed at break-neck speed in Britain, carpet manufacturing underwent an unlikely revolution. 

In 1837, James Templeton and William Quigley worked on a new process for processing chenille. This fabric was used to make shawls and the process meant that complex patterns could be created while preserving the shape of the tufts characteristic of the material. The young James Templeton, who had made enough money in Mexico to open a shawl manufacturing business on returning to Scotland, immediately saw that this process could be used to make carpets, and in 1839 the firm of James Templeton and Son was established in Bridgeton, east of Glasgow's city centre. 

The company became iconic, and not only for their production of picture carpets such as The 12 Apostles, exhibited in Paris at the Exhibition in 1867 (picture left). Frustrated by the continued refusal of the council to grant permission for an extension to the weaving factory on Glasgow Green, James commissioned William Leiper, a leading architect, to design a flamboyant building that was based on the Palazzo Ducale in Venice. Despite a terrible accident that resulted in the death of 29 women weavers who were trapped by a collapsed wall, the factory was completed in 1892 and is so well-known that it was featured on a stamp to celebrate Glasgow's City of Culture status in 1990. 

Sadly the company, which had made carpets for royalty, the White House, Westminster and the Titanic in its day, did not survive, having survived buyout and mergers over the years, but its collection of designs and samples, now known as the Stoddard-Templeton collection, is held in archives.  You can see some of the pieces here on Glasgow School of Art's Flickr page. There is also more information along with some pictures on this page from GSA and in this article about an exhibition from 2013