Welcome to NBR Wrinklies

The Business



In order to read the stories please click on the heading


Work and Methods

Goods in Progress
Accounting 1959
The Telex Machine
Head Office Operating

Vulcanite Tower Topples

Vulcanite 1952

Modernisation Plan hits the headlines--July 1957

Amsterdam Agency

The end of an Era


January 15 2011
Work and Methods

January 15 2011

September 2010 

Accounting 1959

This is evidence of the progress that has been made in the collection and analysing
of payroll information over the last 50 years


Click here to read the first page of the Accounting article

Below is page Two of the article

September 27 2010 

The Telex Machine

Below we have an item from 1959 showing the 
progress of the Telex machine half a century ago

Click Here to see the Telex article

This article is in Adobe Acrobat format so you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader 
(you can download it free) It does take a little longer to load.
 You will see at the middle bottom of the screen after you actually
Click Here a percentage number EG 128% and a + and – sign You can use it
to increase or decrease the size of the print to suit your eyes



Head Office Operating by John Stuart
from the February NB News of February 1961

November 25 2010

Who has been with the company since 1920 and who is associated with the Invoicing Department for many years . In addition we have Nan Mitchell and Bunty Mcfarlane  who between them have 77 years service with the Company and whose experience is invaluable: and by no means least we have Mrs Sadie Gifford, our chief invoicing typist , who has been with the Company since 1948 and who sets an excellent example of how to deal with the problems of typing our invoices when exceptionally heavy shipments have been made and the schedule is in danger. Under the managership of Irvine Archibald, our Head Office Operating Department has welded itself into an efficient and enthusiastic tean who contribute in no small way to one of the vital functions of the Company's operation



April 18 2008

Progress report on the 3 Million Pound 
modernisation plan at Castle Mills




April 18 2008

North British News of May 1952


North British News of July 1952




February 1 2008

 Our £3 Million Modernisation Plan

              Hits the headlines
July 1957

An aerial view of the western end of Castle Mills, occupying about a third of the whole area , which will be largely demolished to make way for re building. The Vulcanite block with its dominating tower alongside the Union Canal will disappear.

How the New building will look
The artists impression of the reconstructed area with it's one-story building of 
145,000sq.ft adjoining the New Hose Room at the extreme end.That and the Reclaim 
buildings are all that remain of the present lay-out. To the residents in close proximity 
to that part west of Viewforth it will be quite a change--certainly more pleasing 
to the eye


January 19 2008


Amsterdam Agency 
This is a report from NB News in the late 40's 


Below is the final piece from the NB News



May 18 2006

                       THE END OF AN ERA---


                       A SHORT HISTORY OF CASTLE MILLS

November 16, 1973,
saw the end of an era in Scottish history.  After 117 years, which encompassed many social and industrial changes, and gigantic leaps in the progress of mankind---Castle Mills is no more.

A panoramic view of Castle Mills

From the year the Castle Mills story began for us in 1856, when Queen Victoria was on the throne, until its closing in 1973, this great factory has been the backcloth for many exciting developments and many human dramas, outlasting the life-spans of vast numbers of its workers.

What has Castle Mills seen during its long and distinguished life?

The story begins on a grey day in January 1856, when an American merchant ship, the Harmonia, arrived in the Clyde with a cargo of machinery and skilled workers who were to found the first vulcanized rubber plant in Scotland.

The man in charge of this pioneering venture was an American, Henry Lee Norris, whose descendants still hold an interest in our company.  How Norris happened to come to Scotland at all is to be found in the history of patents in the rubber industry.  Charles Macintosh, the man who brought the word Macintosh in to the English language, discovered the use of purified naphtha as the solvent for raw rubber in 1823 and set up his water-proof factory in the vicinity of Glasgow.  Charles Goodyear started using the sulphur vulcanization process in 1839, and Thomas Hancock, of Charles Macintosh & Co., Manchester, in 1843.  In the battle for patents, Goodyear, who had been forestalled by Hancock in England, took advantage of the requirements that a separate patent was necessary for Scotland and beat Hancock North of the Border in 1844.  Norris and Co. acquired from Goodyear the right to make the improved rubber products in Scotland.

Henry Lee Norris engaged for his Edinburgh mills four New Yorkers skilled in the manufacture of rubber footwear---Louis Dixon, Sophia Terry, Hannah Dixon and Walter P. Dunn.  It was something of a fluke that he chose Edinburgh for the new enterprise and not Glasgow, for Norris had looked unsuccessfully for accommodation in Glasgow.  Finally, he took over the Castle Silk Mills, which had been vacant for a while on the north bank of the Union Canal near its terminal in Ports Hamilton and Hopetoun.  The feu-duty, a piece of land granted forever on payment of an annual rent, for the silk mills was “two pennies on the pint of ale in favour of the City of Edinburgh”, which suggests that the location had been intended at one time for a brewery.  How wry a stroke of fate that the Scottish and Newcastle Breweries are taking over the factory site now…

Norris and his group of New Yorkers ( the women earning a dollar a day and men a dollar and a half), using the   370-worth of machinery they had brought with them, began teaching the trade to Edinburgh workers.  By 1857, the company had been registered as the North British Rubber Company Limited, and from making boots and shoes, they rapidly progressed to rubber belting and hose.  By 1869, the firm was employing 600 operatives turning out a vast variety of articles, and in 1870 a new type of demand came in when the development of the road steamer, or traction engine, started the tyre trade.  A milestone, indeed.

A group of workers at the Factory during
the early part of the last century


It was a Scotsman, R.W. Thomson, who introduced his “road steamer”, the wheels of which were covered with rims of vulcanized rubber.  The tyres, weighing 750 lbs., were made by the North British Rubber company.  The first set was fitted to a four-wheeled traction engine, and was tested on roads between the factory and the outlying village of Balerno in 1875.  The traction engine was used for farm work in the Balerno district for many years.  It led to the beginning of an export trade, several sets of tyres being sent abroad to India.

Another major breakthrough came in 1890 with the invention of the detachable pneumatic tyre by the company’s own Managing Director, W.E. Bartlett.  This was the basis of all subsequent tyre development.  It was known as the “ClincherTyre” and manufacture was started at Castle Mills that year.

From then on, the story of the North British Rubber Company is one of steady expansion.  One commodity after another was added to the extensive list of their enterprises, until finally it became the largest industrial unit in Edinburgh, occupying 22 acres, right in the heart of the city.  Over these many years, just about everything that can be made of rubber (except, oddly enough, tennis balls) has poured from this great factory:  giant hoses, rubber sheeting, conveyor belting, tyres, equipment for heavy industry, for hospitals and shipbuilders, motor and aircraft industries, water, gas and electrical engineers---all these, and many more, reight down to hot-water bottles, golf balls, combs and even fruit jar rims!


The turn of the century came and went.  Queen Victoria dies;  The Edwardian days gave promise of never-ending prosperity.  In 1910 the North British Rubber Company purchased the Scottish Vulcanite Company, formed in 1861 for the purpose of making vulcanite combs.  And in 1911 the started  to manufacture gold balls.  By 1914, the Company was able to furnish a room and the International Rubber Exhibition with nothing but rubber.  The walls were paneled in rubber. The floor was covered in Rubber---even the curtains were of a fine rubber fabric.  All the furniture was of processed rubber, as were the pens and ink-stands.

But then came the holocaust of the first world war.

Like other great industrial concerns, the North British Rubber Company was called upon to make a quick and drastic adjustment when the war broke out.  The response was magnificent.  Between 1914 and 1918, without pause, the Company produced in enormous quantities equipment as vital to victory as guns and shells.


At the outbreak of war in August 1914, 440 men from Castle Mills immediately joined the colours, and later a total of 500 joined up during the course of the war, some never to return to Castle Mills.  There were 106 employees of the Company who gave their lives for their country.


The mills were running night and day.  Flooded trenches called for special measures, and the Company was asked by the War Office to construct a suitable boot, very strong and of the finest material.  Eventually they were turning out 2,750 pairs of boots a day, and produced a staggering total of 1,185,036 pairs.  Apart from trench boots, the Company supplied for the Admiralty and War Office 70,000 pairs of boots and shoes; 248,326 pairs of gymnastic shoes; and close on 47,000 pairs of heavy snow boots for the French Army.

Calendering fabric

Fabric used in making tyres for war purposed reached two million square yards; 863 miles of balloon cloth; immense quantities of hose for pumping out trenches, in connection with gas attacks.  These, and many other items, were a tremendous part of the war effort, and a part of the Company’s history which will always command respect and admiration.

With the end of hostilities---for 20 or so years, at least---came the uneasy peace.  Along with the flappers and the Charleston, Oxford bags and Rudolph Valentino, came sweeping social change.  During that period, the British rubber industry had a secure hold on the world market.  It earned millions of pounds, and the North British Rubber company was a major contributor to the country’s economic welfare.

North British Rubber Company float
in an Edinburgh Carnival in 1928


Those days saw an increasing levelling of the “class” system.  Shorter working hours meant more leisure, and there was no shortage of activities and sports facilities available to members of the Company:  the Football Club commanded strong support even then; tennis, golf on the Braids, bowling at West Meadows, and an annual sports day, all had their enthusiasts.  And indoors, regular dances and whist drives were held, as well as billiards and table-tennis matches.  Motor cars, too, were no longer the prerogative of the very rich and most families had at least a bicycle---all needing tyres, thereby increasing North British Rubber company’s output. 

His Royal Highness then spent some time in the factory of the North British Rubber Company (Ltd) in Fountainbridge, which occupies about 30 acres and normally employs 5,000 people of whom 50% are women. The Company’s business connections are world wide and they have branches in many countries, and the Prince saw in the making products varying from vulcanite combs and golf balls to floor matting, footwear and motor tyres….before leaving , the Prince placed a wreath at the Works War memorial , which contains the names of 210 men who fell in action, and finally His Royal highness had a novel experience of seeing from the iron gallery over the yard the human lunch-time which pours from the factory when the midday buzzer sounds. His Royal Highness was cheered by a large crowd on his departure flood
From The Scotsman January 20 1932

The mammoth enterprise continued to flourish earning Royal recognition on several occasions, the last being the visit of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1960.  Her Majesty Queen Mary visited the factory in 1924, and Prince George in 1932.  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the factory in 1941, but by this time the second world war was in its second year, and the Royal visits to industrial centres were part of their morale-boosting support in the war-effort programme.

Rubber Shoe making shop

The physical laboratory

During the 1939-1945 war, the North British Rubber Company again made an important specialized contribution.  With the outbreak of war, 80% of their entire output consisted of war materials.  The list is extensive.  It included 7,000,000 gas maks, 10,000,000 air raid precaution sundries, 18,500,000 pairs of protective footwear, 1,000,000 rubber life belts, 8,000,000 yards of ground sheet, balloon and dinghy material, 7,500 miles of rubber tubing and 4,300 miles of hose.

In the active field of battle, the Company introduced many important items:  for warships, a rubber composition deck covering which was jointless and non-slip.  With the invasion of Holland and warfare that followed D-day, the Forces assigned to the task of clearing Holland of the enemy had to deal with flooded conditions.  There was an urgent and imperative call to the North British Rubber Company to provide large quantities of Wellington boots and thigh boots.  Vast quantities of “Q”

 hoses were sent to the Far East, where the fighting was often amphibious.  Bullet-proof tanks for aeroplanes created a very large demand for sponge rubber in sheet form, and thousands of yards were produced in Castle Mills.

With the war finally over Castle Mills set about coping with post-war demands for the home and export markets.

In 1946, the North British Rubber company entered into a close technical agreement with United States Rubber  Company, one of the largest manufacturers in the world and, indeed, the largest manufacturer anywhere of mechanical goods.  This exchange of “know-how” enabled the Edinburgh firm to keep in the van of progress.

Progress was such that by 1950, despite an acute labour shortage, new production and conveyor methods were allowing Castle Mills to secure a much larger volume of output.

By now the economical production methods at Castle Mills were paying dividends. Cost reductions were obtained, particularly in boots and heavy footwear, the increased production of heavy duty tyres to serve the increasing demand from Europe.

Mold making for Tyres

In 1955 the US Royal tyre was launched from Castle Mills and formed a firm base upon which the company built it’s tyre market. By 1959 a hose plant the most modern industrial hose manufacturing facility in Europe was in production.

Hose being manufactured at Castle Mills

In 1956 the controlling interest passed to the American firm—fitting perhaps, since it had been founded by a group of Americans and there had been continuous British and American investment throughout it’s existence.

The North British floating hose being tested


New products were introduced for the benefit of British industry and the public. The Powergrip Timing Belt was launched and was immediately accepted by industry : Royalite , a thermoplastic product, was introduced with marked success in the motor industry: and a new waffle-pattern carpet underlay came on to the market, the success of which can be measured by the position Treadaire holds in the carpet industry at the present time.


The early sixties saw further expansion. Between 1962-64 the Castle Mills plant won a belting order for 600,000 for open cast mining in Russia. Suction and discharge hose was provided for the 41/2 million Firth of Clyde Drydock, and Butyl Rubber fendering was used extensively in the modernization of Avonmouth Docks.

Farewell Dinner: 
Castle Mills employees at the dinner-dance
   in the Baron Suite Edinburgh--
a last get together before the parting of the ways

In 1965 the purchase of a site at Newbridge was negotiated with the intention of locating a modern tyre factory there and a factory to produce other rubber and plastic goods which were being produced at Castle Mills.


On February 1, 1966 the company changed its name to Uniroyal Limited.  Over the next seven years the reputation for quality and excellence, which Castle Mills had long held, was absorbed into the new organization; and although the great factory itself was closed in 1973,
 its “soul goes marching on”.

At the end of the day, Factory Manager Walter Nutt, hands over the keys of the main gate of the Castle Mills plant to Mr Slater, General Manager of Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.

It marked the end of Uniroyal's involvement
in the Castle Mills area after 117 years