The Kilbarchan Linen Merchants, 3: Barbour Family Descendants in Ireland, USA and England

In Ireland John Barbour (1752?- 1823), a younger member of the Kilbarchan Barbour family, built Plantation House and set up a linen thread manufactury at Ballymullen, near Lisburn, Co. Down, in 1784. His son, William, built Hilden Mill (see image above) in Lisburn, Co. Antrim, in 1824,  and later built workers’ houses and a school for workers’ children at the factory gate. His firm, William Barbour and Sons, operated for almost 200 years. It closed in 2006.

In the 1850s William sent his sons, Thomas and Samuel, to America as import agents for his threads manufactured in the Hilden Mill. This venture met with considerable success, and the Barbours bought large mills in Paterson, New Jersey. Business prospered and expanded. By 1888 William Barbour and Sons had become ‘the largest manufacturer in the world of tailors’ thread and shoemakers’ thread for hand and machine sewing’. The American Barbours became millionaires. However, they appear never to have forgotten their Scottish roots. In 1910 Robert Edwards Barbour, a grandson of William Barbour of Hilden, built a 42 room mansion house on his estate in Paterson, New Jersey, and  named it ‘Kilbarchan’.

Kilbarchan Mansion House, Paterson, New Jersey

(click to enlarge)

The three sons of Humphrey Barbour (Baillie John Barbour’s youngest son) set up prosperous businesses in England. Humphrey’s eldest son, John Barbour, became a Liverpool shipping agent, and his second son, Robert Barbour, in partnership with the youngest son, George Freeland Barbour, became a cotton merchant in Manchester. Robert Barbour amassed a large fortune and is remembered as a generous benefactor to the city of Manchester. George Freeland Barbour later returned to Scotland and resided in Gryffe Castle in Bridge of Weir.

Around 1900 the Irish Barbours’ business interests later extended back to Renfrewshire in Scotland. John Doherty Barbour, the eldest son of William of Hilden, was the inspirational founder of the Linen Thread Co. Ltd. in 1898. This company was an amalgamation of thirteen firms in Ireland, Scotland and America. One of the three Scottish firms was Finlayson Bousfield & Co. Ltd. in  Johnstone.

© 2022  Helen Calcluth

(Further information on the Barbours is contained “Baillie John Barbour and his Descendants”, available on the website “Publications”.