Roslyn Woollen Mill

Roslyn Woollen Mill, Dunedin (1879)

A major secondary industry

Woollen milling was one of our first large secondary industries. Arthur Burns opened the first mill at Mosgiel in 1871 and others followed, especially along the east coast of the South Island. Dunedin city had two mills. John Ross and Robert Glendinning began as drapers and warehousemen in Dunedin in 1862, Ross working from London between 1870 and 1902, Glendinning from Dunedin. They lent money to the proprietors of the Kaikorai Woollen Factory in Kaikorai Valley in 1874 and five years later opened their own mill further along the same valley. By the turn of the century 500 people worked in this massive red brick complex.

Ross and Glendinning were innovators, claiming to be the first worsted manufacturers ‘south of the line’ (the equator). The company was an early example of a vertically integrated business. Much of the wool came from company-owned sheep stations, was processed here and warehoused at Dunedin, Invercargill, Christchurch, Wellington or Napier. Next to the Provincial in Dunedin’s Stafford Street they had a big hat and clothing factory that still stands. Kaikorai, however, remained the heart of the R&G empire. Here, they boasted, they ran a cleaner, more benign ship than the smoky sweatshops of ‘the Old Country’. The company paved over the Kaikorai stream, planted English trees, built workers’ cottages and ran a workers’ bank and benefit society.

Mosgiel Woollens Ltd bought the Roslyn mill from UEB in 1969 when the woollen industry was rationalising itself to meet the challenge of synthetics. For the Mosgiel group, the reprieve was only temporary. Roslyn closed in 1980 after Mosgiel went into receivership. It is now the Rosyln Mill Industrial Estate, tenanted by a variety of businesses.

Further information

This site is item number 56 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.

Website

Books

  • S.R.H. Jones, Doing well and doing good: Ross & Glendinning, Scottish enterprise in New Zealand, Otago University Press, Dunedin, 2010
  • Peter J. Stewart, Patterns on the plain: a centenial history of Mosgiel Woollens Ltd, Mosgiel Woollens Ltd, Dunedin, 1975

Community contributions

2 comments have been posted about Roslyn Woollen Mill

What do you know?

Robertina Downes

Posted: 20 May 2018

Does anyone have information relating to a Rugby Jersey made by Roslyn it is styled like the 1905 All Blacks originals jersey but does not have the fern but an Otago University bade

Margaret Charlett (Muir)

Posted: 24 Jan 2018

Was there ever a Roslyn Exhibition, at which products were shown? I have a blanket bearing a woven label' Roslyn Exhibition', which belonged to my father.