Based in Hawick, Peter Scott & Co. was among the largest and longest running businesses that made the Scottish Borders famous for its quality knitwear. Established in 1878 at premises on Kirk Wynd, the company manufactured woollen underwear and fashioned hose. In 1893, to accommodate new automated machinery (patent frames) and an increase in trade, the business moved to bigger premises in Buccleuch Street. In 1898, Peter Scott was the first Scottish firm to introduce an ‘unshrinkable’ process that prevented woollen underwear from shrinking during washing.
From the early 1900s, Peter Scott included outerwear and sportswear in their range of knitted garments. The popularity of these necessitated the opening of two more factories: Commercial Road in 1916, to specialise in hosiery, and Wilton Path in 1919 to meet the increasing demand for outerwear and sportswear. The ‘Peter Scott’ signature was the main company logo, along with the deer image. However, its official trademark ‘Pesco’ became the popular name for the company in Hawick.
Trade and Export
After the Second World War, there was an increase in outerwear sales but a steady decline in the sale of underwear. In the 1960s, underwear production ceased and the company concentrated on the production of knitted outerwear. By 1984, all garments manufactured by Peter Scott were fully fashioned. By the mid twentieth century, Peter Scott was a truly international company with selling agents throughout the world including Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australasia, Iceland and Japan.
From only a handful of workers, the company quickly expanded during the nineteenth century. At its peak, during the first half of the twentieth century, the company employed 800 to 1,000 workers. Although, the introduction of new, faster knitting machinery, and more efficient production techniques significantly boosted production, it meant fewer workers were required. Nevertheless, like many companies in the Borders knitwear industry, Peter Scott struggled to recruit a skilled labour force.
In 1967, a newspaper report noted that Hawick was a woman’s town, because there was a constant demand for their skilled labour. In the mid twentieth century the average number of women working in Peter Scott’s factories (Buccleuch Street, Commercial Road and Kelso Branch) was between 270 and 300. In an effort to attract and retain female workers, Peter Scott opened a nursery, which ran from 1948 until c.1958.
In 2010, facing closure, the company was saved by Gloverall plc. However, this reprieve was short lived and after a 138-year history, and with a workforce of only 54 employees, the factory ceased production in 2016. The Buccleuch Street factory, a landmark site in Hawick, is currently being converted into luxury housing accommodation.
All photographs taken by a member of the F2F team.