Clydebank and Singer's

Updated Tuesday 20th July 2010

Shipbuilding tied Clydebank into the British Empire, but the town’s global links were cemented by foreign-owned companies in the Clydebank area, especially the I.M. Singer Company.

Singer’s, as they were more commonly known, built a large factory at Kilbowie in Clydebank in 1884-85 to capitalise on the growing worldwide demand for domestic sewing machines.

With both labour costs and raw materials cheaper in Scotland than in the USA, 2,500 workers were employed within months of the factory opening, one of the largest of its kind to be found anywhere in the world at that time.

From then on, Singer’s established a presence in Clydebank that was to last until 1980. In the late 1920s over 12,000 workers were employed in the factory, manufacturing machines that crossed the world. If Singer was a name synonymous with sewing machine production, then Clydebank was a town synonymous with Singer’s. Together with the shipyards, the Singer factory and other engineering firms and industrial concerns, Clydebank was very much a town dominated by industry.

There was little in the way of alternative forms of employment, which meant that when industrial downturn and decline took hold, many in the town were hard hit.

Singer’s and the main shipbuilding companies survived the ravages of inter-war depression, though unemployment among shipbuilding workers reached record levels at the height of the late 1920s depression.However, it was the threat of war and rapid re-armament that came to the rescue of the Clydebank economy in the mid to late 1930s.

Find out more

Inspired by Clydeside's past? Investigate The Open University course Engineering The Future and Introducing The Social Sciences.

More tales from the riverbank

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Interviews: The clothes she wears Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Based on Interdependence Day 2006 design audio icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Interviews: The clothes she wears

Siobhan Wall talks about 'The clothes she wears' - featuring the clothes worn by women in eight different countries worldwide, providing an insight into their lives, socially and economically.

Audio
10 mins
Disraeli on Munich Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: W. & D. Downey article icon

History & The Arts 

Disraeli on Munich

Writing in 1840, Benjamin Disraeli shared his passion for the Bavarian capital.

Article
The City Of The Past: The Earliest Cities Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: OU article icon

History & The Arts 

The City Of The Past: The Earliest Cities

David Barber explains how the first cities began.

Article
A walk around... Glasgow Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC audio icon

History & The Arts 

A walk around... Glasgow

A roaring trade with the Americans and Europeans helped transform Glasgow from a nondescript, small town into a thriving metropolis with huge and expensive buildings. Find out how the Tobacco Lords changed the face of the city with Neil Oliver and guests.

Audio
30 mins
Beyond the slaughter and loss of the First World War Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

History & The Arts 

Beyond the slaughter and loss of the First World War

Michael Portillo asks why we only think of slaughter and loss when we recall the Great War.

Article
War Memorials Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Russell Higgs under CC-BY-NC-SA licence article icon

History & The Arts 

War Memorials

Learn the secrets of the past, revealed by clues on the high streets of today

Article
What have the railways got to do with the 999 system? Creative commons image Icon Ben Brooksbank [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license article icon

History & The Arts 

What have the railways got to do with the 999 system?

Did you know when you dial '999' the origins of this system lie in the railways? Explore the history here. 

Article
The making of Bloody Omaha 2: Meeting our expert Creative commons image Icon peprice under CC-BY-NC-SA licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

History & The Arts 

The making of Bloody Omaha 2: Meeting our expert

Georgina and James visit the deputy head of war studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to discuss the programme about Omaha.

Article
Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Phiz article icon

History & The Arts 

"True" stories of life in the Bastille

British publishers were presumably as disappointed as the French authorities when the Bastille fell, as it had been a source of cheap schlocky copy for years...

Article