Note: Land and property
“Tenement of land, yard Barch Pots and 6 acres of land.”
A. May have been in the family before David Whyt.
Barch Pots: Schlat House, land with yard and Barch Pots lying on north side of High Street.
West Shell: A croft at West shell.
B. Purchased by David Whyt 1687 - Sold by Alexander Whyt 1725 - Re-purchased by Patrick Whyte 1795.
Tails: 1 ½ acres of land. (purchased from William Esplin);
and 2 butts or riggs (purchased from Charles Dickesone)
The Tan Works – John Whyte & Sons
David Whyt (1640–c1713) made the first purchase of land known as “Tails” for the future family
tannery (possibly also known as “West Shell” at the time) in 1687. The name Tails came from
the animal skins hung over wooden structures during the tanning and currying processes. So,
we can guess that the family had used this location for their leather tanning for a long time.
Canmore Street’s older name was The Limepots, named after the pits where the tanners
cured skins for the famous brogues.
The Whyte leather crafts led over the years to consolidation into a significant local leather
business - the Tan Works of John Whyte & Sons Ltd. In the early 1800’s the currying, tan
works and lime yards were on family land in Spout Street (old name for Castle Street) or
Canmore Street. John Adam Whyte (1830-1906) led the building of the works, engine room
and offices on the west side of Castle Street (see photo opposite).
The Tan Works had become a Forfar industrial focus by the early 1800’s, alongside the rapidly developing weaving industry. However, I have found very few references over the years regarding the Tan Works. The Whyte family eventually sold the Tannery land & buildings, probably early in the 1900’s to Don Brothers. John Whyte & Sons continued in a reduced business sense, as shoe shops in Forfar & Dundee until the 1950’s when the business was finally closed by Alfred Whyte (1897-1963).
1725 Alex Whyt served as heir and disposed to the Forfar Cordiners in 1725 for 2000 merks. (Forfar Burgh records)
1795 The sons of Thomas Whyte (Robert, John & Patrick) purchased these lands back from the Cordiners in 1795. By an 1801 Contract Robert, John & Patrick Whyte held the Tan Works in equal shares.
c1810 William succeeded his father (John) and conveyed his share of the works to Patrick. Court of Session Action was settled on the footing of Patrick taking two thirds and Robert’s heirs one third of the tan works.
1830 The Tan yard was the only place "of the nature of a factory" in Forfar in the 1830’s (letter in Forfar Herald 1906).
1846 Patrick Whyte sold the Tan works – a year before his death - to Thomas Whyte (his 4th son) for £750. I have the contract and some related letters.
1849 Thomas Whyte died 1849 and left the tan works to his nephew John Adam Whyte.
c1855 John Adam Whyte took down the old tan works building and replaced it with large and commodious premises in Castle Street. I have some letters relating to this and plans of the Tan Works.
1902 "Fire at Tan Works", Castle Street (Forfar Dispatch & Herald 1902)
1977 "Tannery building to be demolished" (Forfar Times 1977); demolition of former Tannery (Forfar Dispatch & Herald 1977)
See photo opposite
This long 11 bay building was
designed to fit into a traditional streetscape. The picture shows the three storey front block, with louvers in the top storey to allow a flow of air to dry tanned hides.
Demise of Local Tanneries
Local tanneries (3000 across Scotland in the early 1800’s) together with the related trades such as glovers and shoemakers were gradually forced out of business by the industrial revolution (i.e. arrival of the steam engine and powered equipment) and by bigger, more efficient, centralised manufacturers.
The traditional local hand-made boot /shoe business and leather manufacture declined over the 1800’s with the arrival of inexpensive ready-made boots and shoes from these manufacturers.