Welcome to the History Channel. We have extensive pages showing the history of Healthcare, Shipbuilding, Education, Singer's Sewing Machine Factory, Housing and the Clydebank Blitz.

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Why Clydebank?
So, why
did the World Market Leader in Sewing Machines come to of all places, Clydebank?

Well, in 1867 they decided that UK demand was high enough to justify opening a small plant there. Glasgow was initially chosen as the region was famous for iron making industries, and had plenty of cheap labour.

The General Manager of the US Singer Sewing Machine Co. at the time was Scots born George Mckenzie, who obtained a lease for land near to Queen Street station. Machinery was shipped over from the US, and a small number of workers started in October 1867. By the end of that year 30 sewing machines were being produced every week.

Many parts of the sewing machines were imported from the US, in a semi-finished state. As demand grew the US production plants could not keep up, so the company decided that the UK operation must be expanded. A new factory was built near to Bridgeton Cross, which was completed in 1873. Demand continued to grow, and by 1881 Singer employed over 2,000 people in Scotland alone.

Finding a new home

Still demand grew faster than machines could be produced, so it was decided that a brand new huge factory had to be built on a totally new site, where everything required to build a Singer Sewing Machine could be carried out in one place. So, the Singer Sewing Machine Co. purchased 46 acres of what was then just farmland at Kilbowie, ideally placed for transportation with railways north and south, and the main Glasgow Road only yards away.

The ceremonial cutting of the first turf was performed by George McKenzie (soon to become President of the Company) in 1882.

The new factory

Two main buildings were constructed initially, 800ft long, 50ft wide and three storeys high. These were connected together by three wings, with a huge 200ft high clock built above the central wing. Two and a half miles of railway line were laid into the site, connecting the various departments (foundry, boiler shop, storage and shipping to name but a few) to the Glasgow, Dumbarton and Helensburgh line (what we now call the "Singer" line).

The factory was designed to be fire proof, with sprinklers installed practically everywhere. It was considered that the contractor at the time Robert McAlpine & Co. had built one of the most modern and extensive factories in Europe.

As the buildings were completed, workers were moved from the old sites to the new one at Kilbowie. The factory was completed in the summer of 1885 by which time around 5,000 workers were employed there.

The US management were so pleased with the performance of the Clydebank factory that they setup the Singer Manufacturing Company Ltd. This was founded in 1905, and was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Singer Company.

Supply and demand

Demand continued to exceed the production capacity of the worlds largest factory - Singer's Clydebank, so each building was expanded upwards to six storeys high. To help with the expansion the railway line north of the factory was moved about 200 yards further north, and a new station constructed (what we now call Singer station).

The Clydebank factory produced an incredible 36 million sewing machines from its' opening in 1884 until 1943. Singer was the world brand leader, and sold more machines than all of their competitors combined. This virtual monopoly meant that the factory was producing as much as could be sold, and contributed greatly to the growing wealth and stature of Clydebank.