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15 Feb 2021

Working from home, then and now

Written by Ana Sanchez-De la Vega, Visitor Services Supervisor
Black and white photograph of an old woman sitting at a large spinning wheel.
With so many people currently experiencing the pros and cons of working from home, we look back to the past to see how the people of Kilbarchan managed to do it almost 200 years ago.

During the 1840s, the little town of Kilbarchan was at the centre of Scotland’s thriving weaving industry. There were more than 800 looms in the town, where every aspect of the weaving process was carried out by families who lived and worked in the same space.

Kilbarchan had good communication and trade routes, being close to the ports of Irvine, Greenock and Port Glasgow. So at the beginning of the 1800s, the town grew quickly with hundreds of weavers’ cottages, where ‘working from home’ was the norm.

Weaver’s Cottage was built in 1723, and over the years it was home to between three and four families in separate dwellings around a central close. The residents of the cottage would work together using the workshop in the basement – it must have been a busy place, with much to do in a very small space.

Families, often large and including several generations, lived in a single room. There was no privacy and everything happened within the same space: cooking, eating, entertaining and teaching. Sounds familiar?!

Here are a few of the things we have learned from them:

Today, the loom shop at the cottage houses the last working handloom in the village and one of the few remaining in Scotland. It’s a source of knowledge of past generations from which we’re still learning today.

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