T. C. Barlow

T. C. Barlow, Flag and Tent Maker and Pyrotechnist, 103, Bath Street.—

    It is not often that trades apparently so little associated naturally as lithographer and firework maker, engraver and tent manufacturer, block and letterpress printer, and banner painter, will be found to be carried on within the limits of one establishment. Mr. T. C. Barlow has done this at the above address for over forty years, employing some sixty men and boys, and a fourteen-horse power engine in the undertaking. Of a necessity such a business did not, mushroom-like, at once spring into existence : it has been the result of continual extension and constant accretion; commencing as a pyrotechnist in 1846, the flag, banner, and tent making were gradually added. Some fifteen or sixteen years ago the lithographic and printing departments were included, and Mr. Barlow is one of the largest block-printers in the country.

    His premises in Bath Street, which serve alike as offices, shop, warehouse, and manufactory, are very extensive, the greater part being six stories in height. The ground-floor of the front building is given up to the purposes of the public and private offices of the warehouse and to the general wholesale and retail shop. Many of the trade and ecclesiastical banners executed by Mr. Barlow have been of the most elaborate and highly decorative character. Nine sewing-machines are in constant use in this one department.

    The largest trade is in ensigns, jacks, and signals. The signals, an international code adopted chiefly through the exertions of the late Sir William Mitchell, the proprietor of the Shipping Gazette, about thirty years ago, are made in six sizes, three for ships and three for yachts, and they are nineteen in number, and are capable of transmitting seventy-six thousand messages. Yacht clubs, steam ship companies, and others, have also their own special designs for flags, which are called house flags. Flags are invariably made of a woollen fabric called “bunting”, which, from its texture, toughness, and durability, is well able to withstand the hard usage to which it is subjected by the breeze. The painting of designs on flags partakes very much of the nature of a trade secret, the art of laying colour in a permanent manner on a material of such loose texture being known but to comparatively few. In Mr. Barlow’s premises the whole of the process of flag making is continually in progress, from the tiniest little banderol, used as a boundary marker by a football club, to the immense sheet one often sees flying over a modem hotel. In the shop, so large is the stock always kept in hand, it is possible to obtain bunting of all kinds and for all purposes. Mr. Barlow’s name is connected with the subject throughout Scotland, his manufactures float in almost every port in the world.

    The basement of the front building is given up entirely to storage purposes, tents, marquees, and tent fittings, over one hundred and twenty being ready for hire at any time, together with over a thousand flag and banner poles. The rear building is devoted to printing purposes, and is fitted with the most modern forms of presses and type. The basement contains the boiler and engine, the waste steam from which is utilised to heat the whole building, and the engineers’ and mechanics’ shops. The ground floor is the printing office, containing ten superb machines, from a small “Minerva” to a double super-royal, all worked by steam. The floor above is used as a composing room, and contains numerous varieties of type suitable for general work. The third floor is the lithographic section, and contains the usual presses, &c. Mr. Barlow grinds his own colours. The ink mills are on this floor, and driven by a separate horizontal engine. The fourth floor is the block storeroom, and contains at least six thousand engraved blocks, all so carefully referenced and indexed that any individual one can be handed down at a minute’s notice. The top story, by reason of its excellent light and comparative seclusion, forms the especial domain of the designers and engravers.

    Mr. Barlow’s firework factory is situated at Teuchar Hill, Govan, and covers about six acres of ground. Every precaution has been taken to guard against accident. The premises are licensed under the Act of Parliament, and are constantly visited by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Explosives, &c. Each department is distinct ; there are magazines, mixing rooms, packing rooms, filling and charging rooms, rocket rooms, and many others. In all the greatest precautions are observed. Copper or bronze is the material used for all appliances, not iron. “No matches”, “special shoes”, and similar rules apply equally to the employers as to visitors. Bombay lights, Roman candles, signal rockets, &c., for ship purposes, are produced here in the same degree as the tiny squib or cracker. A very large trade is done in exportation, the goods being put up in cases of various sizes, representing various amounts, from half a guinea upwards. Salesmen are supplied from stock with goods which can be retailed at set prices. Chinese lanterns, torches, and an oil mixture for bonfires are all items of the stock-in-trade. Altogether, in his various establishments, Mr. Barlow has created a most remarkable business, noticeable not only for its magnitude but for its variety and the manner in which all departments combine to promote so successful an undertaking.

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