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Bertram Limited, Sciennes

Bertram Limited, Sciennes
Bertram Limited, Sciennes
Bertram Limited, Sciennes was founded in 1821 in Edinburgh and developed into a major manufacturer of papermaking machinery.

The firm was founded by George and William Bertram, who came from a family which had been involved in papermaking in Midlothian for generations. After spending about twenty years in Dartford, Kent learning their craft as papermaking machinery engineers, the brothers returned to Edinburgh to set up their own business, a workshop erected near Sciennes, with a few machines and a small forge. The company moved to new, larger premises around 1859, on the site which it was to occupy for over a century. Another engineering company James Bertram & Son was set up in Leith Walk, by a younger brother in 1845.

In 1860 William Bertram retired after 40 years in the business. He died the same year. George continued to supply not only papermaking machines but other machinery used in the paper making process, including steam engines. David, George's son took over the business from his father. He was the last of the direct line of Bertrams. When he died in 1907, the family name disappeared from the board.

In 1920 Bertrams acquired an iron foundry in Westfield Avenue, Gorgie, and in the early 1930's both firms - W&G Bertrams and James Bertram & Son - came to a joint working arrangement.

Bertrams was very much a family orientated company, and the person most responsible for cultivating this 'family' atmosphere was John Innes Melvin, who served in Bertrams at Sciennes for 53 years, starting as an apprentice clerk in 1869, rising to Managing Director. In addition to acquiring Meggetland sports ground, with bowling green, football and cricket pitches, children's play park and pavilion, Bertrams started to produce the Bertram Family Magazine. One section in each issue was dedicated to the sports clubs which were open to employees ranging from football and cricket to bowls. Their families were also encouraged to use the facilities at Meggetland and the canteen in Sciennes was also used for social activities such as a children's party at Christmas and weekly meetings of the Scottish Country Dance group.

James Bertram & Son of Leith closed in 1974 and the 1980s saw the decline and ultimate collapse of Bertrams with the foundry at Westfield closing in 1981 and the company itself went into liquidation the following year. Bertrams Sciennes Limited, lasted until 1985, when the factory closed.

This collection has been made possible thanks to Bill Hall who followed his father and uncle into the Bertrams workplace and who shared with us many photographs and information relating to the company.